Fermented foods for your gut garden!
It wasn’t until I started skiing in Austria that I discovered the joys of raw fermented sauerkraut. Every day with the second course salad I would pile up raw cabbage and enjoy every mouthful. It was just like coleslaw without the mayo, but I didn’t realise exactly how good it was for me until I returned and did some research.
Most of you reading this will be interested in health and clean living, so if I talk about probiotics and healthy guts you won’t be surprised! Mind you, if you stuck with me after the poop and constipation post, then I guess you are all regulars and are looking for more!
So why fermented food?
So, what is the point of fermented foods? There is a lot of research out there if you want to google away, but if you are Scandinavian, you’ll have been eating fermented foods for ever. Nothing new to you!
Fermented vegetables, especially cabbage as sauerkraut, are designed as a pre-digested food which will in turn help other foods you eat be easily absorbed.
It’s important to mention that the very large cheap jars you can find in the Polish sections of supermarkets are pasturised – so there are no bugs! The jars you can buy in the chilled sections of good health food stores, that are labeled RAW, are very expensive. So, make your own!
Reasons to try:
Helps regulate the amount of candida in your gut.
Helpful after taking antibiotics to help rebalance the gut bacteria.
Very helpful in repairing leaky gut – as long as you have eliminated gluten first.
Helps the body eliminate toxins by ensuring a perfect working balance of gut flora.
Helps keep the body free from colds and flu – combine regular fermented foods with your hot water, lemon and ginger and you’re all set for the months ahead.
How do you make it?
It’s just so easy! You don’t actually need salt, but it helps to speed up the process. If you are using it please use pink himalayan salt and not table or cooking salt. Choose your cabbage. White, red, or a mixture. Grab a mandolin or your food processor, a kilner jar, and something to press the cabbage down with. I use a pestle, but you could use a porridge spurtle.
Shred the cabbage finely and save a few of the outer leaves, you will need those at the end.
A rough guide for salt, is 1% of the weight of cabbage. No more, or it will be really salty! Personally I have to keep my salt consumption to a minimum or I get a very red nose! Using your mandolin, shred the cabbage nice and fine. I have done it by hand in the past with a sharp knife, but it’s still a bit thick, which makes the squishing process quite tiresome! A whole cabbage will only make a large kilner jar full, as you pack it in tight.
I used 800g for two 500g jars and I used 6g of salt. Just pop it all in to a bowl, and squish. Squish hard so water starts to run out as you bruise the vegetables. It won’t take long.
Add some spice
This is the time to add some spice if you fancy it. I add about a teaspoon of caraway seeds, although you could add garlic, cumin, or fennel seeds. Personally I have tried it with garlic and it’s far too pungent. In my job, you can’t have garlic breath, so having a couple of spoons of sauerkraut for lunch, only to find it’s laced with garlic is a no no!
Now start packing it into clear sterilised jars. Really push it down. More liquid will come out and start to cover the veg. You shouldn’t need to add any extra, but if you haven’t used salt, you may need to top it up a little. In this case, only use filtered or mineral water.
Tuck it in!
When you are at the top, use some of the outer leaves you saved and cover the cabbage. Tuck it in, so all the vegetables are under the liquid. This helps prevent odd bits of cabbage drying out and going mouldy.
Seal your jars.
There are different ways of sealing your jars and waiting for the ferment. I weigh the leaves down with a heavy ramekin dish. If you close the jars straight away, I find there can be a bit of an explosion if the ferment is quite vigourous. Some say due to the rubber seal on the kilner jars that it’s ok to close them, as some air can escape through the seal. Others say these jars aren’t necessary at all, but I like the size, and they are pretty strong for your pounding!
Now a little patience.
Keep them at room temperature for two or three days and then have a look. You should see little bubbles when you press the leaves a little. I then close the lids and leave longer. You can eat it after about three days, but I leave mine about a week, and then pop in the fridge. Safely stores in the fridge for months, but really you should get through it quite quickly for the sake of you gut!
I have been told there is such thing as a fermentation crock pot. If you are intending to make this in quantity, this would be something to look into . Check here for more information.
The picture below shows my white cabbage after one day with the weight and lid off, then lid on after ferment started and I closed the lid. Fermenting! I carefully open the seal and drain some of the liquid away, while still keeping the upper leaves covered to ensure no bacteria or mould can grow. I find that red cabbage takes longer to ferment than the white, but you may find yours is different, depending on the salt levels. This isn’t an exact science. It’s science, but with room for manoeuvre!
How do I eat mine?
In the summer I have a spoon or two with a salad. In the winter I often just eat a few spoons while I’m cooking supper. Like an aperitif! It’s a probiotic, so I like to have it in my tummy helping other foods digest better.
A bit like taking apple cider vinegar before a meal – diluted please! Not neat!
If you are interested in fermented foods…. check the post on Kombucha!