Fermenting is a preserving method that has been used for thousands of years. And for good reason. It has numerous health benefits. They do a job that is mighty important due to their digestion-enhancing enzymes. They aid the intestinal tract’s healthy flora balance and increase the beneficial bacteria.
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Our GI tract (gut) is responsible for more than just digesting our food. It is hard to be really healthy if we have a sick gut. The father of medicine (Hippocrates) once made the quote – “death sits in the bowels.” and it’s believed he was referring to an unhealthy gut. Doctor Mercola has a very informative article on this subject HERE……
With more awareness of the downfall of our modern diet – people are rediscovering this wonderful and natural process of lactic acid fermentation. This process improves the nutritional content and results in a tasty, crunchy and sometimes tangy food source. Sauerkraut is probably most noted when talking about fermenting. Kimchi is another popular variation. However, most any vegetable will ferment when submerged in liquid, generally with salt or some other starter culture.
Kimchi and sauerkraut are popular variations, but almost any vegetable will ferment when submerged in liquid, often with salt or another starter culture added. Another benefit is they keep for many months when stored in a cool, dry place.
If your a beginner I suggest starting out with something simple. Fermenting cabbage turns it into tart, crispy sauerkraut. It’s simple and does not take much prep time. Cucumbers is another pretty easy one. You will get pickles. You can do them alone or mix in a few onions and/or garlic. NOTE: always use pickling cucumbers. You don’t want the average, store bought, waxed cucumbers.
For any vegetable(s) or fruit, you plan to ferment, you want them to be ripe and in season. Organic when possible. And don’t be shy about mixing them. Peppers go well in a mix where you want to add some heat. Pickled green beans, beets, and other summertime veggies can be a real treat in December.
We need to add salt as it’s the ingredient that does a number of things. It slows the fermentation process down to allow the flavor to fully develop. It also helps preserve the vitamin content and gives the vegetables that crispy -crunchiness. I cannot even imagine trying to ferment with only water. Actually sounds ridiculous. (NOTE: I highly recommend Himalayan sea salt rather than processed white table salt.)
The amount of salt is up to you. Generally — 1 and 3 tablespoons per quart of liquid. I have also read 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds. Personally — I use 1 to 2 tablespoons per head of cabbage. Just remember, the more salt, the longer the fermentation process. There is always the alternative of using a “starter culture.” I have never tried it.
For shredded type veggies like cabbage you will want to add the salt right into your bowl along with the cabbage. Massaging it into the shredded cabbage draws the juice out which allows it to ferment in its own juice.
For most other veggies we have to make a brine so we add the salt to water and cover the veggies with it.
Deciding what container to use depends on how much your going to make. Most important is choosing one that won’t leach chemicals into the food. I would avoid plastic and metal. Simple and inexpensive mason jars work well and we can make it even easier by using fermenting caps. Often times we can find a “kit” that will have the caps and a weight included.
Preparing the veggies is a snap. With most of them its just chop into bite sized pieces or whatever you like just so long as they are not to big. With cabbage you may want to chop into strips, shred or toss in a food processor for a few seconds. After they have been cut we need to put them in a bowl where we press them to release their juices. This is a must do with kraut. I generally hand massage but you can also purchase a kraut pounder or use a meat tenderizer. Other veggies may not take quite the work but we still need to press them a bit to start the breaking down process.
Next is adding the salt or culture. I add some caraway seeds to my kraut. Take a little taste. How is it? When your happy your ready to put it in your jar or crock. IMPORTANT note here. We now need to make sure the veggies are pressed down so the juices rise to the top. The juice needs to cover the veggies. You can use whatever tool that may work for you.
Then it needs to be weighted down so the veggies do not rise to the top. You can devise your own system or purchase weights that are just for this purpose.
Put the lid on and your job is done. Now the fermenting job begins. We generally let it sit at room temperature for a few days. There really is no magic moment when it is ready. You can taste test daily to see how it’s going. When its to your liking it’s done. Now, you want to move it to a cooler spot to keep it longer. A cool basement or just put it in the fridge.
SAUERKRAUT RECIPE that I use can be found in the FREE resource Library. Go grab it HERE
If you have never fermented anything I hope I have encouraged you to give it a try. Once you try some homemade kraut you may never buy it from the grocery again….. Ok, now I am headed to the kitchen to have some. (smile)
Here is a SHORT VIDEO with a quick how to and health benefits.
What have you fermented?
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Linda Carlson – Certified Nutrition & Wellness Counselor (retired) with 25+ years background.
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