Fermented maize porridge

Fermented maize porridge adds a new dimension of flavour and nutrients to your food, keeping always the microbiome in mind; those friendly bugs that inhabit our intestines.

Mind you they are often not so happy; dwindling in numbers, unfed with fibre and poisoned with food chemicals like artificial-sweeteners.

To counter this we can learn to make fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir; and fermented maize porridge. They have a not unpleasant sour taste and often better texture and even colour.

Fermented maize porridge.

It is indeed incredible but a happy tum contains over 2kg of these microbes that are so beneficial to our well-being. Usually in modern society eating what is today being called the industrial diet these numbers are much depleted; and the spectrum diminished.

The Zulu people call this fermented drink amahewu; sometimes spelt mageu. There are three ways of going about this; all have their virtues.

  1. Take maizemeal porridge cooked in the usual way; add unchlorinated water, dried yeast and raw honey.
  2. Or ferment the maizemeal for a few days and then cook it; this kills off the bacteria but they leave their nutritious metabolites in the porridge.
  3. Alternatively make a porridge and add an inoculum of living bacteria; then allow the mixture to ferment for a few days. It is a true probiotic that will add to the teeming billions of the microflora in the gut.

Method 1: Porridge and dried yeast

  1. Take 2 TBSP thick maizemeal porridge and add 1 litre of warm unchlorinated water.
  2. Add 2 TBSP of raw honey.
  3. Use 1/4 tsp dried yeast granules.
  4. Place all ingredients into a large glass jar and leave to ferment in a warm place for a few hours. Stir occasionally.
  5. You could strain off the solids.
  6. Enjoy.

Method 2. Ferment and then cook

  1. 2 cups of wholegrain mealiemeal
  2. 3 cups of unchlorinated water

Go for it

  1. Mix the mealiemeal and water vigorously with a fork in a sealable glass container.
  2. Leave for five days to ferment in the dark, loosely covered with a plastic-bag; stir daily.
  3. Pour 2 litres of hot water into a heavy-based pot, add a teaspoon of salt and bring back to a vigorous boil.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, and pour in the ferment, stirring vigorously.
  5. Simmer on low-heat for at least 40 minutes; leave in an insulated box overnight adding the raw honey once it has cooled to blood temperature.
  6. Enjoy with butter, cream and milk.

Method 3. Porridge plus inoculum of bacteria

  1. 1 cup wholegrain-maizemeal
  2. 9 cups unchlorinated-water

Go for it

  1. Add 1 cup of maizemeal to three cups of cold-water; stir.
  2. In a large saucepan bring 6 cups of water to a vigorous boil.
  3. Turn down the heat, and add the mixture of maizemeal and cold-water; stir until it comes back to the boil.
  4. Simmer for 15 mins.
  5. Allow to cool to body temperature and add an inoculum; that could be a tablespoon of wholegrain wheat flour, sourdough starter or kefir; or a little natural-honey.
  6. Allow to ferment in a warm, dark spot for one or more days.
  7. Stir daily.
  8. Your amahewu can be kept in the fridge for several days, enjoyed as a refreshing drink by young and old alike.

Your maize porridge, or amahewu, is fermented in the main by lactic acid bacteria giving the drink a pleasantly sour-flavour. There are alcoholic alternatives using a different inoculant containing mainly yeasts.

Broad spectrum of bugs

The research is pointing not only to the number of friendly bacteria, yeast-cells and viruses in the alimentary canal but also to the diversity; a broad spectrum of bugs is even better. Experimenting with different inoculums is important.


"More than a decade ago, little was known about the myriad of microorganisms that live happily inside and on our bodies. Now researchers believe they could change the future of human well-being."

- BBC[1]


If using honey then it is vitally important that it be completely-unheated or raw; processing kills off the bugs.

Fermented maize porridge

Fermented maize porridge is richer in food-value and tastes better.

From your food

In a world looking to make a fast-buck the pharmaceutical world is looking to make vast amounts of money by turning this ancient practice of fermenting our foods into big business. One advantage of that is that you will quite likely get a broader spectrum of bugs.

So now and again taking a neutraceutical "drug" perhaps makes some sense but our understanding is that we should be getting our probiotics first and foremost from our own fermented foods.

And it's only because we have got so far from making our own kefir, and fermenting sauerkraut and kimchi that our intestines have got into such a mess in the first place.

This fermented maize porridge is just one more natural-probiotic that you can add to your own armamentarium.

Live bugs vs their metabolites

These friendly bugs in our alimentary canals produce a wide-range of metabolites that are extremely beneficial to our wellness. Short chain fatty compounds like butyric acid, for example are extremely important in normalising our immune systems.

Foods which are fermented first and then cooked, like sourdough bread, leave you only with the metabolites.

Maize porridge which is first cooked and then fermented has the advantage of providing both the metabolites and the bugs.

In fact we should be doing both; each way has its merits.

Shirley Button

The following comes from Shirley Button, an inspirational lady in every sense. She was a true Blue Zone lady, dying in her nineties with all her marbles intact, vigorous to the end.

A Christmas time a beast was slaughtered for the staff; with extra gallons of Zulu beer made in the compound. On a Sunday there was a party for the farm children; and inevitably their cousins and relations from adjoining locations.

There were buns, sweets to eat and gallons of Oros to drink; and balloons and balls to play with. Each child got a present and every family a parcel of groceries.

The children loved the games and the sack races; the egg and spoon too.

Maduda Sithole, our remarkable induna started each race with his "Yirree" and he always organised the Tug o' War.

Whilst the kids played and raced themselves to exhaustion, the mothers and aunts with babies on their backs chatted on the sidelines, sipping their fermented maize porridge; toddlers watched wide-eye from mama's skirts. It was a special occasion for everyone; always rounded off with prayers and singing.

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