Keep your Christmas dinner healthy with some fermented mustard

Valerie O’Connor says sneaking a few ferments onto the Christmas dinner table will provide some probiotic food.    

CHRISTMAS is coming and everybody including the goose is getting fat. 

Sneaking a few ferments onto your dinner table is a great way of accidentally getting some probiotic foods onto that huge plate of delicious grub.

Granny and granddad will be dunking their croquettes into fermented ketchup (maybe slightly unusual for Christmas dinner but I’m sure there’s many a bottle of the red stuff for the kids’ dinners across the country). 

Fermented wholegrain mustard is fabulously zingy and amazing with that salty, fatty ham.

Good old beetroot kvass is a star in my column, as it is by far the easiest ferment to make and a great support for your liver which is sure to be axed heavily during the festivities. 

You can warm up some sauerkraut and have it with your dinner instead of braised red cabbage which takes much more effort to make.

Fermented foods are natural probiotics, and by adding a small amount of sauerkraut or any fermented veg, and some plain, natural yogurt to your diet every day, you will give your gut all the good bacteria it needs to thrive. A healthy gut will support a strong immune system as good digestion is the basis for health and vitality.

The best part about making fermented foods is that it’s fun, very creative and doesn’t cost much. All you need is a few nice, big jars and bottles, some good sea salt and a good source of water, go out and get some nice fresh vegetables and a few spices and let the fun begin.

The mustard would make a great small Christmas present so why not make a few jars and give them away as gifts? Be sure to label them with a warning though, ferments can be explosive.

These recipes call for whey which is a bi-product of dairy products like yogurt and cheese. You can easily make your own whey by straining a large tub of plain yogurt in a muslin-lined strainer. The whitish liquid is whey and can be stored, sealed in the fridge for months. It speeds up the fermenting process. You can use whey from strained kefir or goats yogurt if you are avoiding cow dairy products.

Fermented Tomato Ketchup

You can buy organic tomato paste for this recipe but non-organic works very well too and costs little in Asian supermarkets. 

This isn’t as sweet as commercially made ketchup but it tastes great with some good quality sausages and is an easy way to get ferments into your diet.

Be careful as it can be quite explosive when you open the jar for the first few days.

Sterilise two 1lb jars (standard jams jar size).


1 x 15oz tin of tomato paste/puree

150g honey

50ml water

2 tbsp whey

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 pinch cinnamon (leave out if you don’t like cinnamon)

1 pinch black pepper

1 tsp salt


Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or jug, whisking the mixture will ensure it’s nice and smooth.

Decant it into the clean jars and pop on the lids. Don’t fill them right up to the top as the mixture will expand.

Leave the jars to ferment over a few days, three to six on your kitchen counter. Putting them on a tray is good in case of spillages. If you think the kitchen is too cold, putting the jars in the airing cupboard will speed up the process. A temperature of 18-20 degrees is best.

Open the jars once a day to let the gasses escape, do this with a cloth over the jar in case of spitting.

After a week the ketchup is ready to eat. It will be tangy as ketchup already is, but you can be smug in the knowledge that you made this yourself and it’s good for your gut too.

Fermented Wholegrain Mustard

I love wholegrain mustard and when it appeared on the market many moons ago I couldn’t get enough of it’s yummy, tart, sweet spiciness, especially on sausages or cheddar cheese.

This works out a lot cheaper than those ceramic jars of wholegrain French mustard that I buy sometimes, though they are very tasty too. 

This is an easy recipe and it makes about three regular-sized jars. Use any nice jar you have that will look good on the table.


150ml whey

100g yellow mustard seeds

100g brown mustard seeds

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic

1 tsp sea salt

2 tblsp honey


Combine the whey, mustard seeds, onion and garlic in a bowl and leave it overnight, this will ensure the mustard seeds soak up the whey and swell up as they need to.

In a food processor or blender, whizz everything up with the honey and salt until you have a consistency that you like, not too smooth, you still want a few bits in it.

Spoon it in to your clean jars and ferment as the ketchup recipe above. This will keep for months in the fridge.

Beet Kvass

Anything made from beetroot is a great support for your liver and we really need that at this time of year and after the party season. 

This drink is so easy to make it will get you into fermenting in no time. 

The addition of whey will boost the fermenting process but if you are dairy-free, you can make it without. Kvass is credited with a reduction in headaches and even back-pain. One glass in the morning and evening works wonders!

You will need 1 x 2-3 litre glass jar — sterilised


1 large beetroot, organic will work best here

100ml whey (optional, in this case it just speeds up the fermenting process)

1 tbsp sea salt

Filtered/spring water


Simply peel and slice the beetroot into thin pieces and place them in the jar, topping up with the whey, salt and water until the jar is full.

Keep the jar at room temperature for two to three days and transfer somewhere cool, ideally the fridge but if you live in Ireland, any storage space that’s unheated in winter will do.

Drink a glass in the morning, diluted with water 50/50, and one in the evening. Depending on your usual bodily functions, you should notice a difference in your digestion and therefore your energy levels in a few days.

When the jar is almost empty of liquid, top it up again with fresh water and leave it at room temperature for two to three days and repeat the process until the colour goes out of the water. Then begin a new batch from scratch.


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