Fermented foods are a big thing right now and rightfully so. Science is now finding more answers behind the microbiome and what it is all about. Did you know we are only 1% human?! The rest of us consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa and they out number us 100:1. These little guys are critically important to the health or disease we experience in life. They are all speaking with our mitochondria to coordinate repair and growth within our cells that help to fight off disease. The microbiome is the control center of our body. For every 1 message our brain sends to the gut, our gut sends 9 to the brain. These messages control our stress response, brain hormone production, activation of the immune system and much more. We also know that more gaba and serotonin is made in the gut than in the brain effecting how we feel mentally, making our gut our second brain. If our microbiome is off it can impact our mood, create brain fog, anxiety, behavioral disorders and even trigger depression. This is why it’s so important to take care of these little guys and to replenish our gut with them daily. A great way to do this is to eat fermented foods. The fermented foods you make at home contain far more micro-organisms than a capsule you can buy in the store. Fermenting your food can save a lot of money in the long run and it tastes really good.
You can ferment just about anything, especially if you use a whey starter. A brine can also be used, but not for fruit. Before we get started there are some things you need to be aware of when fermenting food.
These ferments will be lacto ferments made from lactobacilli, it occurs when yeasts and bacteria convert starches and sugars in foods into lactic acid. Lactic acid helps with blood circulation, prevents constipation, balances digestive acids and encourages good pancreatic function.
When fermenting foods, both beneficial (bacteria, yeasts and mold) and spoiling organisms can ferment our foods. We don’t want the latter to happen so it’s important to facilitate the right conditions for beneficial organisms to thrive and crowd out the ones we don’t want.
Creating the perfect environment – Salt brine is the most common way to protect food as it ferments. Reasonable amounts with pure water create a safe place for bacteria to thrive. Too salty and they can’t survive. Whey is another good kick start culture that contain a high population of good bacteria.
Eliminate oxygen exposure by covering food with a weight or water and then a tight lid or airlock. Airlocks allow gases to escape preventing exploding jars while keeping the exposure to air and spoilage organisms out. This works for fruits, veggies and meats. Sourdough requires some oxygen.
Increased acidity can also help like lemon juice and vinegar.
Use organic foods whenever possible. Microbes can die from the pesticides used on crops. Think about what pesticides do to the micro-organisms in our soil?… This is one reason why we don’t have as much nutritional value in our modern food today.
Use clean jars, tools and utensils. Do not use corrosive metals like aluminum and even stainless steel. Glass or ceramic jars or crocs are best. Amazon is a great resource.
Do not use table iodized salt. Use unrefined sea salts in grey or pink color that contain trace minerals which are good for the organisms.
Use your nose to smell the fermented food. It should always smell pleasing. Anything that is repugnant, throw out. There is a difference between sour and spoiled or rotting. It is unmistakable.
If your ferment creates gas or bloating you haven’t fermented it long enough… so it is fermenting in your gut. Just pull it out of cold storage and let it finish fermenting. Sometimes eating fermented foods can cause die off symptoms of the not so friendly micro-organisms found in the body. Back off a little, but keep eating the good stuff. Those symptoms should only last a few days to a few weeks.
Let’s get started!
Whey Starter: – Strain 1 quart yogurt through double layered cheese cloth fitted into a mesh strainer. Place in fridge and let strain for a day. Eat the “Greek” yogurt and save the whey in a container kept in the fridge for later use.
Brine Starter – Combine 6 tablespoons of fine sea salt or 9 tablespoons of course sea salt in 8 cups of chlorine free water. Allow to sit on the counter for a few hours until the salt is dissolved or heat the salt and water in a large pot until the salt is dissolved. Keep in a jar until needed.
1 small head of cabbage (green or purple), shredded or chopped
1 bunch on green onions (about 6-8)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tablespoon fresh chopped or grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
½ tablespoon of sea salt
¼ cup whey starter
Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and let sit for 30 minutes until the salt pulls the liquid out of the veggies. About half way through pound the veggies to release more water. Transfer to a wide mouth mason quart jar and pack tightly as you fill. Place your weight on top if using and make sure liquid is covering the veggies. Leave a 1” space at the top. Cover tightly with lid or airlock. If using a lid only be sure to burp your ferment a few times a day to prevent explosion. Leave at room temp for 5-7 days. When the ferment is starting to bubble a bit that is when it is ready. Keep in fridge if not using right away.