Since making herbal vinegar i have become more and more interested in making other fermented foods and the more i eat or drink, the better i feel, and so i continue making them. Fermentation is definitely one of the world’s oldest food preservation methods. Ferments have been used throughout history, as a preservative and a tonic for the digestion.Archaeological evidence shows that pre-homo sapiens consumed lacto-fermented foods 1.5 million years ago.
Today, fermented foods have been found to play a valuable role in our digestive health as well as build our strong immunity. The fermentation process makes food more digestible for us, and so more nutritious too. This is key as so many people are becoming mal-nourished and not absorbing nutrients -due to a society where fast foods and stressful lifestyles prevails. Fermented foods also supply outstanding sources of essential nutrients such as Vitamin B, in the form of biotin and folic acid, important in digestion and nerve transmission, as well as Vitamin K2, whose primary role is to keep calcium in our bones and our teeth where it belongs. K2 also removes calcium from where it should not be. Vitamin D and K2 work together to do this. New research indicates it is hazardous to our health today if K2 is not present when supplementing with Calcium, Vitamin D, or Magnesium. Whole foods are the best way to derive a fully balanced mineral source especially calcium, as it is often accompanied with K2 naturally, in meat based, poultry and some fermented foods. When the ferments are rich in K2 such as in natto, a fermented soy product and in brie or gouda cheese, they become highly bio-available and an extraordinary support to our health.
Did you know that up to 85% of our immune cells live in our GI tract. The GI tract is open to the outside world and therefore requires a plentiful source of good bacteria to protect us from invading pathogens. Bio-diversity has become the new key word when it comes to vibrant health.The fact is that trillions of bacteria live on and in us, mainly in the gut- though on the skin, in the lungs, the reproductive organs and in the urinary system. For every single human cell there are 10 x that bacteria living with and on us. The micro-flora in our gut makes up both the good and the bad bacteria and the good bacteria plays a key role in digesting food, producing vitamins, as well as hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and aids in mineral absorption and in the important detoxification process, ch-elating heavy metals that predominantly target fatty tissues in the brain and nervous tissues.
Poor gut flora leads to all kinds of health problems says Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride a leading research scientist in USA, who has written extensively about, and developed the GAPS Nutritional Protocol (The Gut and Physiology or Psychological Syndrome). This protocol assists people to heal from a variety of diseases, from depression and obsessive compulsive disorders to allergies, arthritis, skin problems and autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune diseases has been found to be linked to intestinal permeability where the lining of our gut has deteriorated. As is the case of MS, where due to poor gut permeability, undigested food particles end up in our bloodstream that attach to proteins that change them, and create antibodies that target and attack the myelin sheaths of the nervous tissues. Dr McBride has numerous studies to show that many chronic degenerative disease have originated in our guts and can be ameliorated with the simple concept of heal and seal.
Initially we receive our wholesome bacteria when we are born, from our mother, through the birth canal and later with breastfeeding. These bacteria become our thumbprint for developing a healthy gut and a strong immune system. Unfortunately, today over ⅓ of the births in the West today are C section babies. According to a New York Times article written in 2015 if a child’s gut microbe is knocked down with a broad spectrum antibiotic before the age of 2, the risk of obesity jumps by 11 percent and there is a 20 percent higher risk of the child developing allergies, asthma or diabetes by the age of six. Farmers have long known the same to be true in livestock. 80 percent of the antibiotics in USA are fed to animals to fatten them up for the market.
Antibiotics, poor food choices, daily stress, and an overly clean and toxic environment diminishes the “biodiversity” of the microbiome. The introduction of pro-biotics in the form of fermented foods, promote and protect gut health by growing and occupying space otherwise free for harmful bacteria to colonize. As we cultivate a rich and diverse microbiome we develop a colonization resistance to the bad guys and our health rapidly improves. The good news is, it does not take long to reverse the number of good versus bad bacteria in our gut and consuming daily portions of fermented foods ensures that we will establish a vital microbiome.
A good example of a fermented food of course, is sauerkraut, a name coming from the German word Sauer, meaning sour and kraut meaning herb, giving us the impression that sauerkraut has its origins in Germany. In fact, cabbage was originally fermented more than 2000 years ago in China, It was a staple food for workers who built the Great wall of China. Asians throughout history have served fermented vegetables as part of their cuisine, with fermented vegetables like kimchi, and Eastern Indians have long eaten fermented chutneys and enjoyed dosas, a fermented flatbread to protect one’s gut health and improve digestion. Sailors took barrels of sauerkraut on long voyages to prevent scurvy which prevent Vit. C deficient of which eventually led to Sauerkraut coming to the Americas to become traditional part of farm life, as farmers turned their cabbage crops to sauerkraut for the long winter s ahead.
Fermented foods then, provide an abundant source of wholesome bacteria that we need, to cultivate a vital microbiome in order to live a balanced and vibrant life.
Dr. Mercola, a US. doctor has long been researching the benefits of consuming fermented foods and has found in a lab study-there are up to one trillion colony forming units of bacteria in 1 /2 cup of fermented unpasteurized sauerkraut. Over the counter Pro-biotic supplements make up anywhere from 1 million to 100 billion CFUs, and include four or more strains of bacteria, that have been studied and proven to be the most beneficial in cultivating a healthy gut microbiome; two of the most common being, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, found in yogurt and bifidobacterium bifidum.
Some of the most important fermented foods are:
Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, chutneys & pickles
We can ferment turnips, carrots, cauliflower, beets, squash, parsnips, green beans & garlic. Aromatic herbs like parsley sage rosemary oregano and thyme can be added, as well as with smaller amounts of ginger & different types of pepper.
Fermented dairy includes yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, and cheese.
Soy is a source of fermented foods with products like miso, tempeh & natto. Sourdough bread is fermented and kombucha a fermented tea, has become a popular source of fermented goodness.
To cultivate a wholesome microbiome, we also want to include what they call pre-biotics which are essentially the nutrients /food/ for the pro-biotics.
These include soluble fibres, and in such foods as apples, onions, dark chocolate, bananas, olives, artichokes, as well as found in the plants: dandelion, burdock, elecampane and chicory are very rich in pre-biotics. Honey that is local and raw is both pro-biotic and pre-biotic and contains 20 billion colony forming units with 16 different strains of pro-biotic.
It is Important however, we begin by cultivating an abundant pro-biotic colonization before adding pre-biotics. Poor bacteria survives on carbohydrates and sugar. Pre-biotics are an excellent sources of food for the pro-biotics, however, we need to nourish a vital microbiome first, to starve off the bad bacteria, before adding pre-biotics.
In conclusion making fermented foods are easy if you have the starter to make them with; whether it is with a vegetable culture or with the grains for milk kefir, or the babies for the water kefir. Sourdough bread is made with a fermented yeast starter and Kombucha begins with scobies.
The million dollar question is, Do we have the guts to be healthy? Remember Bio-diversity is the key. Live a vibrant life.
Some of the books related to this topic:
The Eliminative Diet Tom Malterre www.innovative healing.com
The Complete Low Fodmap diet Sue Sheppard www.fodmap.com
The Body Ecology Diet Breaking the Vicious Cycle Sue Gates
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome GAPS diet Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Batch Joel Maccharles Dana HarrisonHere are a few of recipes to get you going on your journey to a well preserved kitchen.
Fermented Vegetables Dr. Mercola
Prepare your vegetables by chopping, grating or slicing your vegetables into pleasing shapes. White Cabbage is traditionally used and the main part of any good fermented vegetable. Include an array of other root vegetables in smaller quantity to give your ferment both color and variety. Prepare enough vegetable to fill a wide mouth 1-2 quart/liter mason jar. Set aside a few full leaves of cabbage to cover your vegetables. The cabbage leaves lessen the chances of your vegetables putrefying. Add a few sweet, hot or black peppercorns. Try juniper berries as a variation and add a bunch of your favorite herbs. Garlic & ginger are also used.
Dr. Mercola recommends making a celery juice for the brine- rich in minerals to enhance the quality, taste and outcome of your fermented vegetables. You can also use filtered water to make your brine. Dr. Mercola’s culture starter speeds up the fermentation process, and is ready within a few days to a week versus a natural fermentation process that takes four to six and up to ten weeks.
If you do not have a starter culture, one utilizes non iodized salt or seaweed to initiate the process of breaking down the sugars in the vegetables, which create the acids that produces a natural brine that ferments your vegetables. If the brine does not develop within a few days of fermentation, the vegetables will likely spoil. You can explore (by taking 1 tbsp. salt to aprox : 3 cups of water and pour it over the vegetables to cover them again).
If you have have the starter, add 1 packet of starter culture to a head of celery juice and stir to dissolve. Place your vegetables in a large bowl or crock, and pour the celery brine over the vegetables. If you are using a natural method to ferment, massage your vegetables with salt or sprinkle your vegetables with seaweed flakes and massage. Please remember to use only non iodized salt and filtered water.
Pack the vegetables in the jar and stuff them down to release air bubbles. Use a kraut pounder if you have one. Make sure there is enough brine to cover your vegetables at all times. Take your cabbage leaves and press them down on top of your vegetables. Make sure you fill your jar to the neck of the jar. Traditionally stones were used to keep the vegetables immersed in liquid.
Wrap your vegetables in a cloth and set them down in a warm dark place, (away from the floor, especially in winter ). The temperature is ideally 70 degrees + Tip: Place your jar in the oven with a light on. The vegetables will be ready in three to five days or four to six weeks, depending on whether you used a starter culture or are fermenting naturally. Please inquire if you wish to purchase a starter culture or Google Dr. Mercola starter cultures. The price is approximately $50. USD for 10 packets of starter which will last aprox: a year for your on-going fermenting magic. Experiment, and enjoy. Bio-diversity is the key.
Apple Carrot Pickles
Anne Marie Fryer Wiboltt
2 medium carrots
1 ½ cups filtered water or celery brine
½ tbsp. sea salt or starter
Bring the water to a boil and add the sea salt or starter. Grate the carrots and the apples roughly and mix well. Place them in a wide mouth jar and pour the liquid over. Place an airtight lid on the jar and let it sit for a few days with the starter culture, or 5 to 10 days in a cool dark place with traditional fermenting. (Oven with the light on works well) The pickles are sweet and sour and delicious and refreshing.
Barley Fermented Water
Take ½ cup of pearl barley to 4 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil, add the zest of 1 lemon and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the barley grain and utilize it otherwise. Add the juice of 2 lemons and honey to taste. Let this stand to cool and place in a jar and refrigerate or drink over the day. ( i made a barley salad with the remaining grain with baby tomatoes, avocado, grated red cabbage and shallots.)
Barley fermented water is packed with goodness rich in magnesium, fiber, selenium, tryptophan and copper. These nutrients all help to reduce the risk of diabetes, prevent gallstones and are good for the heart. Barley also contains lignans which are highly antioxidant that prevent cancer. Barley fermented water is also known to reduce mucous in the system and is also good for kidney and bladder ailments. The phosphorous content becomes highly bio-available in fermented grains which assures the calcium ends up in our bones.