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Lactofermented Granola

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We're going to make granola by soaking all the ingredients together, letting lactic acid bacteria ferment everything, then dehydrating it rather than baking it.

Lactic acid bacteria are a group of bacteria including the genus Lactobacilli and others, who can tolerate a lower pH than other bacteria. They occur naturally on food and in your gut where they help you digest food. They eat up sugars and produce lactic acid. "Probiotic" foods contain certain species of lactic acid bacteria intended to aid digestion and promote healthy "gut microflora."

In steps 4 and 5 I'll explain why we're fermenting and dehydrating as opposed to normal granola which is baked.

For more info on all kinds of fermented food and drink, I recommend the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz.
 
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Step 1: Ingredients

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Of course you can use any ingredients that you want in your granola. Basically we want grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc. As for amounts, just eyeball it. Or you could use a granola recipe as your basis.

Here's what I'm using:

rolled oats - Oat groats that have been rolled flat. Rolled oats are sometimes lightly steamed or baked to pasteurize them, and often have the nutritious bran removed. Since I'm using organic Amish-grown oats, I trust that nothing too weird has been done to them. Quick oats will work fine as well.
raw almonds - Use whatever nuts you like. They don't have to be raw.
raisins
raw sunflower seeds
flax seeds
sesame seeds
blackstrap molasses - Molasses is the byproduct of extracting sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets. There is light, dark, and blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap is the one with the most sugar removed, so it has the highest amount of vitamins and minerals relative to the sugar content. I'm only putting in a spoonful. I think the molasses will be a good food for the bacteria and help it get started fermenting, but that's just a feeling.
stevia - An herb that's really sweet but doesn't contain sugar or calories. I haven't tried it in granola but I like in other stuff.
cinnamon - not in the picture

Other ingredients you might consider:
honey
ginger
nut butter
shredded coconut
fruit - dried or fresh. I bet blueberries would be good.
oat bran - this would replace nutrients lost in the removal of the bran from the rolled oats.

Step 2: Smash nuts, grind flax

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Any nuts or seeds that you want in smaller pieces, grind or smash them however you want.

For the almonds, I'm smashing them into largish chunks inside a bag with a hammer.

I always grind up flax, because whole flax seeds will pass right through you without giving you any nutrition. I use a small coffee grinder. You can also get flax meal (they grind up the flax for you and hike up the price).

I'll leave the sunflower and sesame seeds whole.

Step 3: Mix it up, add water

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Put all your ingredients in a glass or ceramic container like a jar or bowl. You don't want to use plastic because the increasing amount of acid can react with it. I'm not sure about what metals are reactive, so I'm avoiding metal containers, too.

Stir it up.

Add water - Use non-chlorinated water, because it will kill the bacteria that we are trying to promote. I used tap water that I set out in a bowl for a day to let the chlorine evaporate out. Maybe you have some better water.

Pour water over the dry ingredients until it just covers the surface. In a few hours the oats, nuts, and seeds will absorb some of the water and expand, so the water will not cover the surface anymore. We want a consistency of a thick oatmeal (it basically is just thick oatmeal).

Cover the container with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.

Optional - You could add a spoonful or two of active yogurt or soy yogurt to the mix. This would introduce those specific bacteria strains. I think it's unnecessary because the bacteria naturally present on the food and in the environment will do the job, and they are much more diverse.

Step 4: Ferment

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Put the container somewhere that's about room temperature. Slightly warmer temperatures may speed up fermentation and cooler temperatures slow it down.

As this stuff soaks, Lactobacilli and other lactic acid bacteria will consume sugars and starches producing lactic acid, lowering the pH of the mixture. This acid environment is inhospitable to the bacteria that cause spoilage and food poisoning.

You'll want to let it soak for at least 24 hours, or let it go for as long as a week (maybe longer, but I'm not sure what will happen to it). The longer you let it ferment, the more acidic it becomes and the more sour it tastes. It will begin to smell sour, too. Bubbles may form, because Lactobacilli also create CO2 as a waste product.

You may want to stir up the mixture every day or so, mainly so the stuff on the top doesn't get dry.

At any point along the way, you can just eat this stuff as oatmeal. In fact this is the same way I make oatmeal, I just don't dehydrate it.

Why Ferment?

-Grains, nuts, and seeds contain phytic acid, a form of phosphate that is not bioavailable to humans (we can't absorb it). Additionally, phytic acid binds up minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, and the vitamin niacin. Because of this it is considered an "anti-nutrient." Lactobacilli contain the enzyme phytase which breaks down phytic acid, freeing up nutrients so we can absorb them. According to Wikipedia, lactofermentation is more effective than cooking at removing phytic acid.

-Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent them from sprouting in adverse conditions (dryness). If eaten in great quantity, this can supposedly strain your digestive system. Soaking the nuts neutralizes the enzyme inhibitor (the nut thinks it's getting rained on).

-Starches are broken down into simple sugars and into lactic acid which are more digestible. It's the same thing that happens in your digestive tract, but this way we get it started in a jar first.

-There's a ton more info out there about why lactofermented food is good for you, but no need to list it all here.

-Lactic acid preserves food. I would expect our end product to stay good for a really long time, but of course I don't know because I always eat them pretty fast (I guess baked granola lasts plenty long as well).

-I like the taste better, you might not.

Step 5: Put the batter on the dehydrator

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I let this batch ferment for about 48 hours. It smelled good and sour, and I could see bubbles of CO2 in it.

Once you've decided that it's fermented enough, stir it up so the consistency is even, then spoon globs of it onto the dehydrator trays. If you don't have a dehydrator, or even if you do, it would be sweet to build a solar dehydrator. It looks pretty easy to make.

Last time I made this stuff, the dried granola stuck to the trays a bit, so on one tray I'm spooning the glop onto wax paper and poking some holes to let the air circulate. We'll see if that helps. I suppose a nicer dehydrator with Teflex sheets would be ideal for this.

If you wanted, you could just put a portion of the glop on the dehydrator and let the rest ferment longer. You could put more on each day, so you could taste how it changes as the fermentation progresses.

Why dehydrate?
If you were to bake this instead of dehydrating it, it would still be more nutritious and digestible than its unfermented counterpart, but by dehydrating it we get all the benefits that come with not cooking food. Cooking destroys digestive enzymes, adds carcinogens, and so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah.

Step 6: Done

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It took almost 2 days for the globs to dry out completely. The ones on the wax paper took slightly longer, but they did come off the paper easier than the other ones came off the tray.

The end product is crunchy and tasty. The raisins retained their chewiness and sweetness which is good. This is good travel food. I'll take some on a bike trip. It should keep pretty long, but again I haven't waited long enough to find out.

I would assume that most of the bacteria die without having moisture, so I would hesitate to call this food "probiotic."

Other Variations
-I made one batch with a mixture of rye flakes and oats. It came out tasting like rye bread. I'd like to try that again, adding caraway seeds, onion, and garlic.

-Maybe it could be done with ground up oat groats.

-I'm sure it could be done with several other grains.
where do you get the lactic bacteria from? Or are you just letting the naturally occurring bacteria do it.?
Tarps (author)  thematthatter6 years ago
Yes, you let the naturally occurring bacteria do job. Alternately, you can add some active cultured yogurt.
Chanio Tarps3 years ago
Nice idea!

Please, check out that your fermentation is not occurring just with the stevia leaves since you are not using any milk (the lacto part).
I use to prepare a sort of kombucha that only uses stevia as a sweetener and as a starter. I don't know why, but after some days, the drink starts to bubble like a kombucha, as if the stevia is 'eating' the natural sugar of the fruits... Yes, and it tastes bitter.

Also, I ask myself if when you are trying with rye flakes it doesn't become a sort of 'LSD fungus'. Since that was the starting point of Hoffman's LSD discovery. He was investigating the poisoning of a german town at the middle ages because of badly cooked rye bread, if I remember correctly.

I'll give it a try.
Thank you.
jsa413946 years ago
I don't know anything about this, really, but isn't it dangerous that harmful bacteria could grow in the jar (while fermenting the stuff) because it wasn't killed by the acid. I've heard of many deadly bacteria that grow in warm, closed off spaces, with food (the fermenting jar), and I believe that probability says it's impossible for ALL the bacteria to die in the acid. I think this can be related to when they used to mke vacines (they'd kill bunches of viruses, etc) but there would always be some people that would still get sick (not all he pathogens had been killed). I'd appreciate if someone could respond and prove me crazy or not
The one we hear about most is Botulism. This one grows in low acid, oxygen-free conditions. That's why it's a problem in canned food. soaking vegetables or grains in water doesn't create the right conditions for botulism. The grains create an environment where souring bacteria and wild yeasts flourish. Molds might grow on the surface if you left it long enough but these kinds of fermentations are generally regarded as safe. The easiest way to tell if your fermentation is safe to eat is to smell it. If it smells sour and good, eat it. If it smells rotten, huck it.

For lots of information on the subject, have a look at the book Wild Fermentation.
cfuse jsa413945 years ago
Our modern food processing generally aims to give you a food totally devoid of any living components - everything in a can has been pasteurised and has an acidic profile that bacteria hate. This is the diametric opposite of what fermentation is about.

Think of bacteria as an ecosystem, what you are trying to do is create an environment where the target bacteria is the one that becomes dominant, rather than creating a near sterile environment. You are relying on bacteria to keep other bacteria (molds, fungus, etc.) in check, rather than trying to kill absolutely everything there.

Whilst it is possible to create something that will harm or kill you (whilst still being palatable enough to consume), it is unlikely (if you are otherwise healthy and observe good practice during the production of the foods).
ELF5 years ago
I have a few questions if you don't mind :)

I don't have a dehydrator, but I have an oven with air circulation that can stay at about 40C/100F, which seams to be the maximum you can heat food and still preserve the nutrients. Is that good enough?

How long will these stay good after drying? Since the bacteria is dead I guess it is relatively easy for other bacterias to "invade", no?

And won't you obtain the energy in them faster when they have been "broken down"?
Wow what a great idea, these must be really nice treats, good for camping too.
randint6 years ago
Nice jar. What kind is it? Was it manufactured with a specific purpose? Where did you get it?
Tarps (author)  randint6 years ago
I don't know. It came from a thrift store.
sarah051486 years ago
can you dry this in your monitor??
flio1916 years ago
I must try sometime! haha, and right next to the kombucha in step four! at least.. i think its kombucha...
ewilhelm6 years ago
When I make sauerkraut, I'm careful to make sure the cabbage is below the level of the water to prevent spoilage. I assume you don't notice anything wrong with your above-the-water portion?
Tarps (author)  ewilhelm6 years ago
Right - I haven't had any problem with that.