Well, this is one case of where the picture doesn’t really tell the story. First, from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, I think my favorite ever food and cooking book, I picked up on fermenting oatmeal. Somewhere else perhaps I read about how in various part of Scotland, in days of yore, people set aside a lower drawer in their kitchen for fermenting oatmeal where it would stay for months. I just soak cracked oats or groats which I purchased from Speerville Flour Mill for a few days. They are fine after a few hours, but after 2-3 days they become very sour. If you are not used to fermenting things you might think they are rotten but they are not: just as with sourdough fermentation of bread grains (mainly wheat, rye, spelt), the more fermentation you have, the more acid is produced at which point germs (bacteria) cannot feed on it. Or to put it another way: it won’t rot. There could be a little mold on the top at some point, but I think that depends on the temperature and substance. Anyway, the main thing about this post is to mention fermenting oatmeal.
Just as with bread grains, fermenting oat grains greatly increases the availability of the nutrients whilst boosting vitamin and other levels, partly from releasing them from being bound in a dormant seed, partly from the germination process initiated by soaking (at room temperature of course), but also I believe partly from the micro-organisms themselves – they are living things filled with vitamins, minerals and so forth.
Fermentation aside, I’ve always liked oatmeal. It’s not something you rave about, rather a solid friend or neighbour whom you know well and can always count on. Solid. Simple. True. My favorite oatmeal is from steel-cut oats, soaked overnight, then cooked very slowly and served with butter, cream and maple syrup. I remember doing a 6 week meditation retreat in the Rocky Mountains during winter one year. I was in a small, but well designed one-room cabin without electricity or running water. The toilet was a hole in the ground not far from the cabin. Heating was from a kerosene heater. Lights from kerosene lamps. It was very snug. I would wake up at 3.30 or 4.00 am to start practice and then around 6.30 or so break for breakfast, at which point the oatmeal, which had been simmering slowly all along, was now ready. They I could go out on the porch, often covered in a new blanket of fresh high mountain (very dry) snow, brush it away, and have my morning oatmeal with a strong black tea (with cream and sugar), and life was grand. Yes, oatmeal is a true friend.
Here is the (playful) recipe for my Fermented Power Oatmeal, which although far more complex and even dramatic (the Maca Root), is really not as deeply pleasing to me as the steel-cut version described above):
1 cup fermented oatmeal
1.5 cups of water/fresh almond milk*
4 TBS left over ground almond meal (from making the milk)
cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
pinch of sea salt
table spoon of Maca Root (very cheap if purchased at Bulk Barn)
After it is cooked, which doesn’t take long if has been soaked for more than a day: add in some gloopy flax milk, and 2 tbs fresh-ground flax.
With a sour oatmeal like this (which is sweetened considerably by the almond and flax milks), I find you don’t need or want sugar, but if you do, try adding in some dates or apples (cooked with the oatmeal), or simply drizzle local honey on top.
* the amount of water to add varies with each batch, largely dependent upon how long you have soaked it. I throw away the extra soak water to reduce sourness, and also there might be phytic acid concentrate in it (I don’t know how that works with oatmeal), but if it has been soaked a long time, it seems about 1.5 to 1 is enough water, but earlier on it is more like 2.5 to 1. You have to keep stirring oatmeal anyway so if you see it is getting too dry, just add some hot water from the kettle a little bit at a time and when it stops absorbing any more, you have enough water or milk.