Do you remember hearing about the peasants in the Balkans in Bulgaria who routinely live to 100? Their longevity was attributed to a lifelong habit of eating yogurt. The yogurt provided them with volumes of probiotics that filled their gut with good bacteria to eat up the bad, disease causing bacteria that lives inside your gut. The yogurt they ate was of course not Dannon yogurt or any other store brand. These commercial yogurts are full of sugar and don’t actually contain enough probiotics to hugely impact gut health. They made their own yogurt by fermenting milk.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Your ticket to health, fermented foods are foods that have been through lactofermentation, a process in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid to preserve the food. The process creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and, importantly various strains of probiotics. Nutrients in food are preserved and break the food down to a more digestible form that, with the multitude of probiotics created during the fermentation process hugely improve digestion.
From sauerkraut in Germany to Kimichi in Korea to yoghurt in the Balkans, every traditional culture has fermented their foods to preserve them. As there was no refrigeration, they fermented everything: dairy, grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish as well as fermented beverages. When cucumbers were ripe in the summer, they ate cucumbers. The rest of the year, they ate fermented cucumbers in the form of pickles. This meant that a substantial amount of food consumed daily was fermented. And with every mouthful, they consumed trillions of good flora that kept them from getting sick.
Where Are all the Fermented Foods?
In modern society, pasteurized milk has replaced raw, pasteurized yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickles and sauerkraut have replaced traditional lacto-fermented versions and time-honored traditional fermented foods have become almost obsolete. The result is a huge decline in the amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet. In their place, we load ourselves with sugar laden, chemically treated, low vibration dead foods that underlie modern illness as we know it, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to cancer.
Don’t let this happen to you! Fermented foods are your ticket to health. Foods like sauerkraut, plain yogurt, kefir and kombucha (not recommended if you have Candida overgrowth) populate your gut with healthy flora and have huge health benefits, including mental health benefits.
Fermented Food Benefits
Here are the many reasons why you should change your diet to include eating fermented foods.
Probiotics. Probiotics, or good bacteria is your key to healthy digestion and a strong immune system, helping to slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them. While it’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units, Mercola’s team found when testing fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. In other words, a half cup of sauerkraut is equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic!
Better Food Absorption. It’s not what you eat but what your body absorbs! Adding fermented foods to your diet to create and maintain the proper balance of gut bacteria will help you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat.
Food Easily Preserved. Homemade sauerkraut, pickles, beets, broccoli or any other garden food only lasts a few days in the fridge. Fermented foods in contrast lasts for months without having lost the nutrients that you would from store bought canned foods.
Easy to Make. Foods like sauerkraut, plain yogurt, kefir and kombucha are easy to make at home. A few hours of food preparation will make enough fermented food to last for months.
How to Ferment Foods
- Chopped, sliced, grated, whole, peeled or un-peeled veggies
- Sea salt
- Filtered waterMethod
- First prep your veggies by washing well by filling up the sink with water, putting a cup of vinegar, 2 drops each of citrus essential oils (lemon, grapefruit, lime, wild orange.)
- Next, some veggies do better whole [smaller veggies like radishes, brussel sprouts and green beans]. Hard or crunchy veggies can be grated [like carrots, cabbage, zuchinni] for a relish like consistency. You can also slice, thinner for firmer veggies that will hold their shape better and thicker for soft veggies so they don’t get mushy. Chopping takes longer to ferment then other ways. So pick you method and leave whole, slice, grate or chop your veggies.
- For the brine (salt and water solution) mix 2 tbsp of sea salt/mineral salt per 2 cups of filtered water. You can either stir for a minute or more, or if the salt is coarse and needs more dissolving, heat the water a bit on the stove and stir to dissolve. If you heat it, you will want to let it cool to room temperature before pouring over the veggies (because we do not want all the good stuff killed right?) Be sure to stir again before adding, as the salt helps to inhibit mold and things you don’t want in your culture.
- Pack a clean jar that is outfitted with an air lock with enough veggies to leave about 4 inches at the top. Press or mash the veggies down with a clean hand, masher, or other utensil.
- Add enough brine to cover the all veggies. Push them down some more to be sure to eliminate any air all the bubbles/pockets that you see. You will need to be able to have it inside your jar with a few inches left at the top.
- Use a clean glass weight or a pre-boiled and cooled smooth stone to weigh your veggies down. Or you can use leaves from other veggies.
- Put your airlock lid on top of your jar and screw on tight. The nice thing with an airlock is it will let gasses out but not air in. You do not have to open, burp, or let gasses out this type of jar, just be patient while the fermenting process takes its time.
- Keep it on your counter, out of direct sunlight for 1 week to 1 month. A lot of people keep them in cupboards or if on the counter opt to cover it with a cloth. For the best bacterial benefits and Ph balance, it is suggested 1 month. Around 65-72 degrees is ideal. Colder will take longer and warmer will take less time.
- You will know it’s done when there are bubbles and the veggies have a “fermented bubbly” taste. Almost like a yeasty taste. It smells very sour but pleasing you can taste it. You can taste it daily until you get a flavor and texture that you like. Once it is fermented to a stage you prefer, move it to refrigerator. I love putting a plastic lids on mine at this when it gets to the desired stage. Some people also freeze batches. In the fridge, be sure to burp occasionally so you don’t burst your jar (gasses will build up, although much slower than they would sitting out)