Ah….the world of fermenting food! It is such a wonderful world and I invite you to dip your toe in – or perhaps even dive right in.
The history of fermented food is fascinating, and although I won’t go into detail here, food has been fermented for many thousands of years.
The practice of fermentation can extend the life of our food. Often with strong flavours – think miso, wine, blue cheese, sauerkraut…. fermenting food makes it more easily digestible and the nutrients more bioavailable to our bodies.
Fermenting food is considered a form of “pre-digestion”, breaking down indigestible proteins into readily digestible amino acids. For example, fermented gluten (e.g. sourdough), fermented dairy (cheese, yoghurt) and fermented grains (breaking down the phytic acid) may be more easily tolerated and more nourishing to our bodies.
The process of fermentation has also been shown to increase a food’s nutritional value as some of the microbes that ferment our food create vitamins (e.g. Vitamin Bs). Additionally, ferments can be high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and anticarcinogenic compounds. They also contain billions of beneficial bacteria per spoonful.
These bacteria can influence our gut health and in fact our gut health influences our overall mental, physical and emotional health.
Why else is gut health so important?
At least 75% of our immune system lies within our gut, which contains trillions of microorganisms which influence our health. Poor gut health is associated with eczema, allergies, asthma, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, as well as mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
As Hippocrates famously stated, “All Health Begins in the Gut“.
Consuming fermented food can help to improve our gut health with the billions of beneficial bacteria that they contain.
Traditionally ferments like sauerkraut and pickles are consumed as a condiment. It’s important that if you’ve never eaten fermented food before, to start SLOWLY. Your gut will do better with a gentle introduction to these new beneficial bacteria.
Particularly if you have any health issues, start with 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up over days. Otherwise you may experience some ‘settling’ gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and gas.
Fermented foods can also be high in a naturally occurring chemical called ‘histamine’, so go slowly if you have eczema or asthma and watch for your symptoms. It is so important to listen to your body.
Otherwise, enjoy getting started with these beautiful nourishing foods today. You can play around and experiment with recipes and have fun. Add as many different vegetables in as you like – the more variety of vegetables and herbs, the better for feeding your gut microbiota (those microorganisms in your gut – diversity is key to good gut health).
Sauerkraut is a great place to start. It is made from cabbage and salt. It seems amazing that nothing else is required to make this except for time and some squishing.
While sauerkraut is traditionally made with just cabbage, I prefer it with a range of other vegetables (for nutrition and flavour) so if you’re not sold on cabbage, that’s totally okay!
Feel free to experiment with a a base recipe of about 50% cabbage and then you can add many other of your favourite vegetables and herbs to create your own amazing flavours.
Your imagination is the limit!
When adding other vegetables, you may need to add a little brine – ensure you have enough liquid to cover the vegetables by a couple of centimetres.
My basic recipe for sauerkraut is below.
YOU WILL NEED:
- 1 cabbage (green, or red, or a mix of both)
- Salt – Himalayan, Celtic or Pickling Salt
- Herbs and Spices e.g. carraway seeds, dill
- Seaweed e.g. wakame, arame (rehydrated)
HOW TO MAKE:
- Weigh your cabbage/vegetables so you know how much salt to add. The ratio is 1 tablespoon of salt per 1kg of vegetables
- Finely slice cabbage and other vegetables (consider grating) and salt as you go.
- Mix in a bowl and squeeze vegetable together tightly very 5 minutes or so until juicy and translucent.
- Transfer mixture to jar and pack it down leaving 2cm of room at the top.
- Make sure enough liquid is covering the mixture, add more water if required
- Cover with a loose fitting lid. Leave in a cool dark place for 3 – 7 days checking daily. Once to your liking transfer to the fridge and enjoy.
Enjoy as a condiment with cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners, or toss a tablespoon of sauerkraut into a salad.
If you’d like to learn more about the joys of fermenting food and some fabulous recipes, head over to Your Journey To Healing.
Have fun in the process, ferment with friends, and enjoy this easy and traditional method of nourishing our health through live and raw food!