Category Archives: Fermentation

Homemade Wine

Homemade Wine

Crates and crates of Mouvedre grapes fresh from Berri South Australia were emptied into a crushing machine as participants of Healthy Country Life’s free workshop, ‘Make Wine The Natural Way’ gathered around for a closer look. The workshop was held at Contadino Farm, Falls Creek, NSW on Saturday, 9th April.

homemade wine



Amanda Peek, 45, from Worrigee cheekily asked if they were going to crush grapes with their feet, the traditional way, and got a stern, “No!” from Bruno Morabito, 62, owner of Contadino Farm, who has been making wine for the consumption of his own family and friends for 38 years.



homemade wine
Bunches of grapes being crushed 

Bruno  demonstrated how the machine discards the stems and crushes the grapes. As the crates passed, Bruno and his assistants grabbed a few bunches of grapes and passed them around sparking off the workshop’s glorious tasting sessions that began with grapes and moved on to free flow of wines, cheese, salami, olives, olive oil and bread.



“We simply had to see for ourselves how wine was made the natural way,” said Chris Armstrong, 35, owner of Nowra Steakhouse at Nowra, NSW who was there with his partner Nikki Edwards, 29.

Homemade Wine
Bunches of mouvedre grapes being passed around for tasting

The ‘natural way’ had caused the workshop to be postponed from the date first announced because the grapes were not ready. For wine-makers who emphasize purity without using any additives or preservatives, the date of picking the grapes is crucial because the sugar level has to be perfect.

Homemade wine
Bruno stirring the crushed grapes in the drum

“It is easy to make commercial wine because they add sulphur and potassium metabisulphite and other additives into the grape juice to regulate acidity and taste. They even have a chemist on site!

“We have to work with nature and that is why the grapes dictate when we have the workshop. So even if we have to disappoint people we can’t work on their timetable. We can only work on nature’s timetable,” said Luke Morabito, 54, who drove all night with his precious cargo of grapes from South Australia to Falls Creek just for the workshop so everyone would have fresh grapes to see, touch and taste.


Homemade wine
crushing machine also destems
Homemade wine
crushed grapes in the drum















“The grapes need to be crushed and left for three to five days before they are pressed and the skins removed. We have done all this using our machines so all the workshop participants need to do is just purchase the grape juice and take them home to ferment themselves to make wine,” added Bruno.

Homemade wine
filling up participants fermenting vessels with juice of pressed grapes so they could take the vessels home and start the fermentation process to make wine

Dennis O Reilly 69 from Vincentia had been bottling cheap wine he has been buying in bulk since the 70s and was eager to try his hand at making quality wine on his own for the first time at this workshop.

Homemade wine
pressing machine from which we also got to taste the grape juice that has been fermenting several days. The pressing process also removes the skins

Summah O’Donnell, 29, from Ulladulla, is allergic to commercial wine and was amazed when there was no adverse reaction when she drank of the free flowing wine at the workshop, both red and white made without any preservatives. The white are made from Muscat grapes also grown by Bruno.

Shelly, 31 who came with Summah expressed how she saw great benefits in eating whole, fresh foods. Not only does she see the health of her children improving but their behaviour has improved too.

Homemade wine
gathering around the pressing machine



Homemade wine
pressing machine from which we also got to taste the grape juice that has been fermenting several days. The pressing process also removes the skins













Homemade wine
tasting the juice fresh out of the Press























Orieta Garcia and her husband Raphael in their late 40s from Vincentia are originally from Chilli, South America.Home wine-making is also in their culture and they were so excited to attend the workshop.

Homemade wine
free flow of natural wine cheese olives olive oil bread salami

“I have only recently started to have health issues and I realize I need to eat well to stay healthy. We grow our own vegetables such as kale, tomatoes, carrots, onions and we don’t use any pesticides. I’m very interested in natural nutrition and was excited to hear about a workshop that taught us how to make wine the natural way,” said Orieta.

Homemade wine
Participants get to taste the different stages of fermentation as Bruno explains the process














Ninette Prospero was quite the star of the workshop when she arrived in her Harley Davidson and everyone was curious how she would take her container of grape juice away on her sleek motorbike. She adeptly secured it to the back and rode off without much ado, waved on by the impressed crowd.

Homemade wine
Ninette Prospero who rode her Harley Davidson to the workshop geared up to ride off with her container of grape juice to ferment into wine at home

The juice the participants have bought will be fermented in the convenience of their own homes and in 40 – 50 days it should turn into wine.

Homemade wine
Ninette Prospero who rode her Harley Davidson to the workshop geared up to ride off with her container of grape juice to ferment into wine at home









Tom Yam Pizza

Tom Yam Pizza

All my pizza bases are freshly made with sourdough starter. I grind the wholegrains and use fresh flour. Flour does not last long. Flour sold commercially has had the bran and germ removed [the most nutritious part of the wheat containing the vitamins and oils such as tocopherol or Vitamin E] so it will last longer. Over 25 nutrients found in wholegrains are absent from white flour. In addition I ferment the flour with sourdough starter for hours to break down phytic acid so the body is able to easily absorp these nutrients. Please read “WhySourdough Starter?” to learn more.

Tom Yam pizza

Tom Yam Pizza Base


200 gm starter

600 gm (22 oz) wholegrain flour or spelt flour

400ml (14 fl oz) filtered water

2 tsp (10 gm) saltTom Yam pizza

Tom Yam Pizza Paste


Makes 3/4 cup [180 ml]

  • 4 Tbsp lemongrass
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger or galangal
  • 1 fresh red chili or cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1/4 cup [60 ml] lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar [22 gm]
  • 2-3 spring onions, sliced



Pizza base

Tom Yam sauce


Red onions

Pumpkin, steam till partially soft

Fresh basil leaves

Tom Yam pizza
Chemical-free Swiss Browns from Shoalhaven Mushrooms


  • First make the Tom Yam paste by simply blending all the ingredients in a food processor. To make the pizza sauce dilute the paste with a little water and add salt. You can keep this paste in the fridge and use the next time you make Tom Yam pizza or any other dish that requires Tom Yam paste. I don’t add salt when making the paste so I can adjust the salt in the different recipes in which I use this paste. Besides, ingredients such as shrimp paste, soya sauce and fish sauce in this paste already contain salt.
  • To make Tom Yam pizza base pour filtered water into a bowl. Add active sourdough starter. As I use a dough starter it won’t dissolve easily. You will need to just mash it into the water with the back of a spoon but it does not need to be completely dissolved.
  • Add the flour and roughly bring it all together like a lumpy mass. Don’t knead just yet. For the wild yeast to work effectively I prefer to leave this lumpy mass for about an hour before I add salt. Salt can hinder fermentation. After an hour or hour and a half, add the salt. Don’t leave it for longer than two hours before adding salt.
  • Once salt has been added, knead the dough till it is silky smooth – about 5 to 10 mins should be sufficient.
  • Leave at least four hours to proof. After proofing you are ready to shape it. For pizza, I never use a rolling pin. I just pull off enough dough to make a round ball and then press down on the ball of dough starting from the middle outwards, evenly on all sides into the shape of a disc. Don’t worry if it is not a perfect round shape. In fact true artisan pizzas are irregular shapes. This is more rustic and does not conform to the standard, uniform round shapes you would get from pizza parlours.
  • Leave the shaped dough anywhere from 30 mins to an hour [depending on how warm your kitchen is] for the final rise. If it is very warm 30 mins will do. Meanwhile heat the oven to 200°C for at least 15 mins. Then bake the pizza bases only till it rises and NOT till it browns. It should take about 10 mins. Then take out the bases.
  • spread the Tom Yam sauce over the pizza bases.
  • Slice the steamed pumpkin and spread out over the pizza base on top of the Tom Yam sauce. Add red onions and mushrooms. Finally the cheese.
  • Return the pizza to the oven to complete the baking. Rotate the pizza around so the bread will bake evenly and bake through until bread base is brown and cheese melted. Then turn off oven and take out the pizza and garnish with basil leaves and let it sit in the heat of the oven that is turned off for five minutes. Now the pizza is ready.


Probiotic orange juice

Probiotic orange juice 

The reason we all love soft drinks or soda is for the thirst-quenching fizz. But more and more health conscious people are rejecting these nutritionally empty beverages that are harmful to the body. In addition to the high sugar content they also have preservatives, colourants and other dangerous additives such as brominated vegetable oils (BVO). There have been reports that over time, as BVO builds up in the body, it can cause memory loss and skin and nerve problems.

probiotic orange juice
water kefir grains

Putting the fizz into probiotic orange juice

The good news is that we can bring back the fizz in our beverage through water kefir grains. With water kefir grains you can make fizzy orange juice called probiotic orange juice, ginger beer and put the fizz into any other fruit juices.

Kefir grains is made up of different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast living in a symbiotic relationship. As they consume the sugar in the liquid they produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide and ethanol. This is what causes the fizz. A probiotic juice made of water kefir grains can contain a range of B vitamins and vitamin K and folic acid.

probiotic orange juice
fizzy pro-biotic orange juice

No one knows the origins of kefir grains except that it originated from the North Caucasus Mountains in Russia, widely used among the Nomads and passed down from one generation to another.

In this rush to jump on the bandwagon of healthy food there are commercially produced water kefir grains being sold that are not as effective as the authentic ones.

Authentic water kefir grains propagate in time as it keeps fermenting one batch after another. These are the grains we should use to produce water kefir.

Commercial grains are sold as “authentic kefir” or “authentic kefir grains” but they are lab produced and lack the proper symbiosis of the different strains of bacteria and yeast and many beneficial strains are also missing which can only occur in a natural setting.

Despite many attempts to produce kefir grains from pure or mixed strains of the bacteria and yeast, no successful results have been reported to this day.

When kefir grains are not authentic they might even be able to culture only for a time like 7 or 8 times before you need to buy fresh grains again. Authentic kefir grains last a lifetime and will grow when they are actively used.

probiotic orange juice
All natural oranges have blemishes

I have been making probiotic orange juice with my water kefir grains. Oranges are in abundance this time of the year and I have been fortunate to get some from a friend’s farm.

This is how all-natural oranges look like. They have defects and blemishes.

Not something you would see in supermarket bought oranges. A worry because you wonder what chemicals and pesticides go into producing these uniformly “perfect” looking oranges.

I’m happy with my friend’s oranges as I know they don’t use chemicals on their tree.

probiotic orange juice
naturally grown orange


Leave the water kefir grains in sugary water for about 24 hours at room temperature before adding the freshly juiced orange. This is because orange is acidic and it is best to let the grains have an active start by feeding it in sugary water at room temperature and then add the orange juice and leave for another 24 hours at room temperature. Then your probiotic orange juice is ready.

Strain out the grains and store the probiotic orange juice in a bottle in the fridge.  I put mine in a glass bottle. If you tighten the cap on the bottle you will cause the juice to fizz. If you are not going to drink straight away, you need to open the cap after 24 hours to prevent build-up of gas. Drink this healthy probiotic orange juice straight out of the fridge whenever you like.

Water kefir grains are to go back into their sugary water and remain there in the fridge when not in use. Once a week replenish the sugar if not in use.

Why sourdough starter

Why sourdough starter

Why sourdough starter? It is the all natural way to ferment grains before they are consumed so our body can access all the vitamins and minerals in those grains.

Grains contain phytic acid which is the principal storage form of the mineral phosphorus, a vital mineral for strong bones and teeth. However, because the phytic acid in grains is in a form of phytates, a molecule which our bodies cannot readily absorb, much of it is removed as waste and up to 80% of the phosphorus is not available to us. Not only this but the phytates bond with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and removes them from our bodies. This explains why some people who follow a diet loaded with grains, cereals and commercial bread have high tooth decay. This effect of leeching minerals from your body is even present in raw muesli, which is generally considered a healthy breakfast [soaking the raw muesli overnight is a way to minimize this problem].

why sourdough starter

The phytates in grains also inhibits enzymes such as pepsin and trypsin in our bodies from breaking down proteins and starch into sugar. This is why people complain about feeling bloated and develop a bloated belly from consuming too much commercial bread. These undigested gluten build up in the body can eventually become toxic resulting in many illnesses because the digestive system has been compromised. The digestive system in our bodies contain 70 – 80% of our immune cells that fight diseases.

why sourdough starter
Long fermentation for a healthy sourdough bread

The wild yeast in sourdough starter breaks down the phytic acid so our bodies can absorb vital nutrients

When we use sourdough starter to make bread, we are introducing wild yeast and bacteria to our grains/flour. The long fermentation process which can take anywhere from 4 – 18 hours is what makes the final bread a living food that allows our bodies to absorb the complex B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fibre which are rich in the grains.

The wild yeast and bacteria break down the phytic acid thereby releasing these vitamins and minerals for easy absorption. Fermentation is the key to consuming grains in a way that is beneficial for us. Many gluten intolerant people are surprised that they can eat properly fermented gluten bread and cake without any problems.


Use only freshly ground grains


Grains that are freshly ground gives the final seal of approval for the perfectly nutritious bread. Grains are made up of three parts; the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fibre. The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats. The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Grains lose their nutrients quickly after the outer shell (the bran) is broken. In commercial milling the bran and germ is removed from the flour because the germ gets rancid very quickly once the outer shell is broken. The bran is sold off as food for livestock and only the endosperm is ground into flour. I grind my own flour and I don’t remove the bran and germ as done commercially. In an airtight container in a cool pantry the flour should be good for up to 3 months and in the freezer for up to 6 months

In the 1900’s in the United States the local mill in each community ground only enough flour each day to meet the demands of the people in the area. The flour could not be stored for long, and the people were, for the most part, eating fresh whole-wheat flour every few days. In 1873 there were 23,000 commercial mills in the United States. After the industrial revolution, this decreased and today there are only around two hundred commercial mills in the United States.

With this industrial revolution we also saw the advent of the common instant or dry yeast which most people use today, saccharomyces cerevisae. It was a strain of wild yeast which Louis Pasteur isolated and managed to commercially create in a laboratory and package for home and commercial use because it is predictable, reliable and fast-acting.

The problem with this is that wild yeast comprises a multitude of strains and each one complex in its own way. So to isolate just one strain to facilitate commerce and industry and getting people hooked on fast, instant and consistent results came with the price of poor health. You will also notice that Louis Pasteur is the father of the pharmaceutical industry. While this industry may be needed for many people, it’s encroachment upon food is detrimental to health. All drugs have side effects and the best way to cure your own body is to strengthen the immune system with the right food.

why sourdough starter

Sourdough starter has been the only leaven used to make any bread at all until just 150 years ago before instant yeast was introduced to the world.

Grains have much to offer us in terms of health. It has been consumed for hundreds of years by all our forefathers and in Biblical times the breaking of bread was significant as Jesus Christ called Himself the bread of life. From Egyptians to Indians to Westerners bread has always been a staple diet. Yet today it has been demonized and called bad for health and people are advocating a gluten-free diet. The answer is not to go gluten-free but instead prepare grains through proper fermentation to allow our bodies to fully benefit from them.


Probiotic Juice

Probiotic juice is becoming popular among fermented food lovers and many are making them at home because it is so easy. All you need are the fruits and vegetables, sugar or raw honey, a large, clean jar and a lot of patience because the best ones are those you can ferment for the duration of at least 4 months. However, it is not necessary to wait that long and you can start using them at two weeks old.

probiotic juice
Cold pressed coconut oil at the Tropical Farm
probiotic juice
Labelled Jars of probiotic juice at the Tropical Farm, Penang

Consume probiotic juice only in small portions, anywhere between 1 – 4 tablespoons at one time, preferably an hour before taking any food. As the microflora in the juice break down the sugar or honey it makes the vitamins and minerals in the fruits and vegetables readily available to our bodies.

I use probiotic juice in my cooking too. I don’t cook them but pour it over the dish once I have finished cooking and turned off the stove. For instance I did this with my Anchovy Sambal dish. I skipped the brown sugar and poured the onion probiotic juice over the sambal when I had finished cooking it and gave it a good stir. It adds the sweetness I need for the dish while introducing good bacteria into it too.

probiotic juice
Jars of probiotic juice lined up against the walls of the store at the Tropical Farm, Penang, Malaysia
probiotic juice
My home-made onion probiotic and pumpkin, avocado and banana probiotic
probiotic juice
Pumpkin avocado banana probiotic 3 weeks old

I came across the largest display of probiotic juice I have ever seen under one roof at the Tropical Farm in Teluk Bahang, Penang. It has 250 different species of exotic tropical fruit spread out over 25 acres. The farm’s shop is lined up wall to wall with jars containing much of these fruits bubbling and gurgling in their own liquid at various stages of fermentation.

There must have been over a hundred jars. The Farm calls these Living Enzymes and sells them in bottles. I tasted a two month old probiotic juice and 4 months. Both tasted fantastic but there was a sharp difference in taste with the four-month juice being better in the way wine gets better with age.

Today I am starting to find probiotic juice sold at health food stores in Australia too. Whether in Malaysia or Australia, they are not cheap especially the longer they have been aged.  In Malaysia a 750 ml bottle could cost RM40 (AUD13) and if brewed longer such as four months like the one bought at the Tropical Farm, cost about RM110 (AUD36). The same size in Australia can cost about AUD40 and that too has no indication how long it has been fermenting. So why not make some at home?

probiotic juice
My paw paw and banana probiotic juice. I stopped the fermentation at two weeks.

I give you some samples of my choice of fruits and vegetables used for the probiotic juice and you can use the same method in different combinations.

Normally, these are made only with fruit but you can use vegetables too. I prefer to mix the two.

probiotic juice
You can ripen bananas by putting them in a brown paper bag with apples

When I returned from Malaysia, I had found my home-grown bananas had nicely ripened in their brown paper bags.

I usually take them off the tree while still green but with the fingers a reasonably large size to ripen indoors.

To start my first probiotic juice, I used some store bought paw paw and my own bananas. I let it ferment for two weeks and then salvaged the juice.

Next I moved on to make two 2.2 litre bottles of onion enzyme and then one four litre jar of home-grown pumpkin, bananas and avocados.

Banana and Papaya Probiotic Juice


1 kg banana

500 gm paw paw

1 kg raw honey or 4 cups sugar

Onion Probiotic Juice


1.5 kg red onions

1 kg of of raw honey or 4 cups of sugar

4 litre clean jar

Pumpkin Probiotic Juice


Whole pumpkin weighing about 2 kg

2 – 3 avocados

1 – 2 kg of bananas


1. It is important that the fruits and jar are absolutely dry. So if you must wash the fruits, wash before cutting and then leave to dry completely on clean plates, overnight if possible. One person who could not wait is said to have used a hairdryer to complete her drying off segment 🙂

2. Ensure all utensils you use are clean and dry.

3. The idea is not to let any water get into the mixture.

4. Place the fruits and vegetables in one layer in the bottle. Then cover with a layer of honey or sugar. Then top that with another layer of fruits and vegetables. Place another layer of honey or sugar on top of that. Keep layering this way. The final layer at the top should be the honey/sugar.

5. Ensure the jar is only 80% full because the fermentation will be bubbling due to the activity of the probiotic liquid and could spill over if too full.

6. Leave the top loosely shut. Do not tighten as the fermentation releases gasses and bottle could explode [I’ve heard it has happened though not to me]. Every few days open the cap of the bottle to release the gas and close it. Do not leave it open for longer than a minute.

7. Store in a dark, cool place to ferment. You can also wrap the jar with aluminium foil if you like.

8. During the first week it is best to stir every day or every other day because there won’t be enough liquid yet to immerse the fruits and veggies and stirring helps prevent mold.

9. If you do see a whitish mold at the top over the next few days and weeks, don’t worry. Just scoop it off and stir. If the mold is blackish it is a different story. It could be contaminated.  This could be anything from rotting fruit to water particles having entered. You might want to check the odor and if it is suspect then get rid of the enzyme.

10. Most people stop the fermentation at the third week. I stopped my paw paw and banana fruit enzyme at two weeks, 2 litres of my onion enzyme at 3 weeks. I am still fermenting my other 2 litres of onion enzyme and will stop that in a month which will be in three days time. As for the pumpkin, banana and avocado I am hoping to go the full nine yards and take it to 4 months. At one month old today, it is doing good and smells alcoholic but sweet and only mild mold which I just scooped off and stirred.

11. Store in old wine bottles that you have washed clean and dried. Some people store in ordinary jars and keep them in the fridge.

If you are not sure why you should drink probiotic juices, please read my article Make Fermented Food Part of Your Regular Diet



Baking with sourdough starter

Baking with sourdough starter

Sourdough starter is just wild yeast. As most bakers would use commercial yeast for baking, I use sourdough starter instead. Whether you bake professionally or at home, you will be familiar with commercial yeast usually sold in dried, powdered form. This yeast is saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast, man-made in a laboratory to control the activity of yeast so as to produce a consistent result at all times.

sourdough pizza base
sourdough pizza base

The problem with this is that our bodies are missing out on the variety of bacteria and wild yeast that are made up of many different strains and not just one. This rich diversity cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

Many people use both sourdough starter and commercial yeast but all my bread recipes use ONLY sourdough starter. I also use starter in some of my cakes and anything at all that requires grains/flour [Please read “Why Sourdough?” to learn the health benefits of doing this].

To bake with sourdough starter, obviously you need to have some starter. Click here for guidance to make your own starter. If you don’t have the time or find it is too much trouble, you can buy a starter from those who have already established theirs. I will be giving out my starters FREE to those who sign up for bread-baking classes with me. Otherwise you can purchase the starter.

sourdough starter
An active starter should look like this. Bubbly with some holes and about double in volume after feeding

For loaves that are about 800 gm to 1 kg, use about 200 gm of dough starter. Dough starter is a starter that has one part water to two parts flour. It is more stable, stores longer between feedings and develops more fully in taste over time. As it is also stronger, you get a better rise in the bread.

Using the sourdough starter

Once you own a sourdough starter, you will need to maintain it with regular feedings. Click on the same link above on how to make a starter to learn how to maintain one. The starter should remain in your refrigerator when not in use. I would say a dough starter can keep comfortably for a month or month and a half without feeding in the fridge. Having said that it takes a lot to kill a starter[but that’s another article in itself 🙂  ]

There are techniques to knead a bread properly to get the best rise. I will teach this in my classes or you can watch video tutorials posted by others online.

For all the sourdough bread recipes I give you on my website, these are the key things you need to remember:

1. As this is a website for healthy food I never combine commercial yeast with wild yeast

Nutrients in Wheat

2. All my flour is freshly milled as grains quickly lose their nutrition from the moment they are milled. The milling process is also very important. Commercial milling usually heat the flour destroying vital nutrients. They also remove the bran and germ which contain valuable nutrients because it gives the flour a longer shelf life. The flour you buy commercially that has been transported over days weeks and sitting on supermarket shelves has actually very little, if any, nutritional value.GrainParts_300x338_WGC

3. You start every bread recipe by mixing the starter with the liquid and then add the flour. Just loosely mix without turning it into a dough yet. Leave it to sit for an hour before you add salt and then knead into a dough.

4. Dough should be allowed to prove for a minimum of 4 hours. Advanced bakers like to extend this period through what is called retardation or slow fermentation in a fridge overnight for longer hours to develop the complex flavors of the bread.

5. Contrary to popular belief, sourdough bread need not be sour at all. Only if you leave it to prove for a long time will you get this sour taste.

6. You can bake bread quite successfully in a conventional home oven but ensure you have a tray of water in the oven just above the bread to allow for steam and moisture while baking.