A few years ago I had never heard of fermentation. Maybe you’ve never heard of it either. Or, you’ve heard the word, but never given it much of a thought. I started to see ferments popping up on my Pinterest and decided to further investigate. To my surprise, I was blown away at the benefits fermented foods offer our bodies. I was even more surprised to learn how EASY they are to create in my own kitchen. It’s like a mini science experiment, and it’s pretty incredible to stand back and watch the changing process. So I’m going to do my best to share with you my basic knowledge of this fascinating process.
Long ago, people preserved their foods for the winter by using fermentation. They had harvested their fall crops and needed a way to preserve them for the cold winter months ahead. Insert the very simple form of preservation: fermentation.
What is Fermentation?
There are other types of fermentation processes for things like grain and alcohol, but here I’m going to focus on the lacto-fermentation of fruits and vegetables.
It is a simple and safe way to preserve your food by submerging it in salt water or whey and leaving it at room temperature. Fruits and vegetables require an anaerobic process, where the magic of fermentation can only happen in the absence of air.
On the surface of organic raw fruits and vegetables there are various strains of bacteria. Lactobacillus is one of the good, probiotic strains. If you recognize that name it’s because you can find lactobacillus on the ingredients list for fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir. When submerged, this lactobacillus bacteria proliferates and causes chemical changes to the food to preserve it. It chokes out any bad bacteria and produces a multitude of rich, raw and natural probiotics that nourish our bodies, specifically our gut .
What are the benefits?
Fermented foods are filled with probiotics. Probiotics increase the food’s digestibility and vitamin levels. When we create and partake in this traditional method, we are feeding our bodies with a power house of nourishment that can’t be achieved by canning or freezing. Get this, according to the Founder and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon Morell states, “There are more beneficial bacteria in a spoonful of raw sauerkraut than there are in a whole bottle of probiotic pills.” Doesn’t that blow your mind?
Let’s take it one step further. Within our gut there is a microbe community and it needs good bacteria and other microorganisms to thrive. Incorporating probiotic rich fermented food into our daily diet is a very simple way to keep a healthy gut and a strong immune system. When our guts are healthy, they can better ward off any bad bacteria that tries to intrude. In order for us to fight off the bad guys, we must strengthen the good guys. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
What and how can I ferment?
The options on what you can ferment are endless. From vegetables and dairy to hummus and even condiments. To start you will need the basics like glass jars, airtight lids, filtered water, unrefined salt or whey and whatever you’re trying to ferment. Specific recipes like water kefir or milk kefir require kefir grains and kombucha requires a scoby. Below I have a fantastic reputable company where you can purchase the essentials to get started.
Some of the ferments we love are sauerkraut, ketchup, pickles, salsa, beets, carrots, dilly beans and kombucha. The process seems intimidating and complicated at first, but I promise it’s very simple. Fermented foods can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator so you can make one large batch and not have to be fermenting all the time.
Do you ferment? Would you like to try? We never go a day without fermented foods incorporated into our diet. Hopefully I taught you something new, and you are interested to click the links to my simple recipes above and give these ferments a try in your own home.
Here are some links to my amazon shop where you can purchase a few tools to help you get started on your fermenting journey:
Fermenting Lids: https://amzn.to/3cc1Avy
Fermenting weights: https://amzn.to/3pnhZRE
The following is the link to Cultures for Health. You can purchase your own starter cultures for kombucha, kiefer, sourdough, and yogurt.
Cultures for Health.