Salty, sour, and sweet are some of the strong and satisfying flavours that come along with fermented foods. Having a side of fermented vegetables with your meal, spreading raw fermented condiments on your wrap, or drinking a big refreshing glass of bubbly fermented drink after a day in the sun, are all wonderful and healthy habits to add to your routine. Home fermentation makes these delightful foods and beverages that are filled with probiotics and flavour, easily available to everyone.
Healthy gut flora is a huge factor for health and regularly consuming probiotic foods and drinks is a great way to improve and maintain your bacteria balance. Among other benefits, healthy gut bacteria has been reported to have a positive effect on maintaining a healthy weight, improving the immune system, and reducing heart disease, anxiety, and depression (1). There is also the much more obvious benefit of improved digestion (2).
There are many probiotics in pill form available, but with the many complex, delicious, and unique flavours available in probiotic foods and drinks, why would you want to take a pill? It’s not just the taste that you would be missing when taking pills as opposed to fermented foods and drinks. The bacterial count tends to be larger in raw fermented foods than when in pill form. There are more variety of species in naturally fermented foods than a pill, especially when you consume a variety of fermented foods. In addition, foods contain many additional nutrients that are great for your body (3).
Simple Sauerkraut – Perfect For The Beginner
One of the simplest fermented foods to make is basic sauerkraut. This is a great food to start with to give the beginner the confidence to dive into fermentation. The basic steps to make naturally fermented raw sauerkraut is to shred cabbage, vigorously mix it with salt until the cabbage becomes soft and juicy, and pack into a sterile jar. Pack it down tightly so that the juices completely cover the cabbage. A weight of some sort is useful, such as a bag of water, to make sure the cabbage is completely submerged. Then you just place the jar in a warm location to ferment. In about four days you can try some.
Let it sit longer for stronger flavoured softer textured sauerkraut. I like mine young when it still has some crunch to it. Feel free to add any spices or seasoning you like. Celery seeds and juniper berries makes a interesting traditional flavour. Or try adding shredded carrots or purple cabbage. Experiment and have fun with it.
Probiotics In Your Condiments
There are countless types of condiments that are traditionally fermented or lend themselves well to creative fermented variations. Since fermented foods often have a strong flavour and long shelf life, condiments and fermentation are a great combination.
Many hot sauces are fermented without us realizing it. When we make it at home, we can ensure that it is fresh and raw, maximizing the probiotics available in the sauce. A really simple way to make hot sauce is to add garlic and any hot peppers of your choice whole into a sterile jar of brine. The brine is simply a salt water mix of one tablespoon of salt to two cups of filtered water. Let ferment for a minimum of two weeks or up to a year. Open the jar and blend the solids until smooth. Add more brine until the desired consistency is reached. Add any seasoning you desire such as cloves, star anise, mustard seeds, or sugar. Check out more detailed instructions here.
Various chutneys can be made with fruits and veggies. The process is essentially the same as with the hot sauce. Just add the ingredients to a sterile jar, add brine to cover, and let sit. Try fermenting pineapple and cranberry chutney with lemon and ginger, or an apple cinnamon chutney. Check out these 25 fruit chutney recipes for inspiration.
You can even make a fermented berry jam made with raw honey. Place the berries of your choice in a sterile jar and cover with raw honey. Make sure the jar is no more than 3/4 full to prevent a build up of gases. Seal and place in a warm dark place. Let out any built up gases daily and turn the jar to make sure the honey covers all the berries. Let sit for at least a week, but you can wait longer for a stronger flavour. See detailed instructions here.
Drink Your Probiotics – Healthy Alternative To Pop
Fermented drinks offer a bubbly treat that is comparable to pop. Both kombucha and water kefir offer a sweet carbonated drink filled with probiotics. These take a bit more preparation than the previous recipes in that you will need to acquire starter cultures to begin the fermentation process. Once the basic method is mastered, flavour possibilities are endless, so experiment and make the perfect pop alternative.
To make kombucha you will need a scoby. These can be bought, shared by others who make kombucha, or grown from store bought kombucha. Once you acquire a scoby, all you need is tea, sugar, and filtered water. Make tea, add about 4 teaspoons of sugar per litre of tea, and let it cool. Now add the scoby, cover with a cloth and let it sit in a warm dark place for a week or two.
Watch this video for a great tutorial on making a new scoby and fermenting your first batch of kombucha.
Source: How to make Kombucha in only three simple steps, by Living Food
Water Kefir is similar to kombucha except that you start with a different culture and it does not require tea. For water kefir you will need kefir grains. These can be purchased, or shared, but cannot be made from store bought water kefir. Mix 2-4 tablespoons of kefir grains, 4 cups of water, and 4 tablespoons of water. Cover with a cloth, and let sit for 2-3 days. Drain out the grains for use next time, and drink. If you want your water kefir more bubbly, let it ferment a 2nd time for a few more days. Check out this recipe for detailed instructions.
Delight Your Taste Buds And Digestive System With Your New Food Prep Skills
Home fermentation is super simple and provides a wide range of flavour possibilities to add to your diet. When you make your probiotic filled foods at home, you can be sure that they are truly raw foods that are filled with the healthy bacteria that you want to put into your body. Plus you can make a much wider variety of raw fermented foods than is available in the grocery store.
Enjoy your journey with fermented foods!
Amy is a writer and a mother of a blended family with three young kids, soon to be four. She has a wide variety of interests including mindful parenting, successful blended families, gardening, health and fitness, recipes, and more… all of which are reflected in her writing.
Sources for this article include:
(1) Live Science: 5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health, by Rachael Rettner
(2) Global Healing Centre: 3 Reasons Healthy Gut Flora are Important, by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
(3) Pickle Me Too: Fermentation Friday: Probiotic Pills vs Fermented Food, by Melanie