It smells, it sometimes tastes a bit funny so why are these jars of bacteria good for us?

First of all, let’s discuss what fermentation is:

Fermentation is the breakdown of sugar into an acid or alcohol.

With vegetables this process is known as lacto (healthy bacteria lactobacillus) fermentation and when vegetables are sliced and soaked in a salt-water liquid or their own brine it allows the growth of bacteria lactobacillus which breaks down and eats the sugars present in vegetables and converts them into lactic acid. This is why fermented veggies have that tart or even sour flavour.

Imagine having no fridge, what would you do? Ferment your food like they did in the ancient days as a form of preservation. Clever right? Fermenting our food transforms it and creates good bacteria and fungi, making it more digestible and nutrient dense.

We all house trillions of different types of bacteria and microbes inside our bodies! Beneficial bacteria (the good guys – think of Pacman) play an essential role as our first line of defence when it comes to immunity.

Did you know that 70% of your immunity comes from within your gut?

With this in mind several things can disrupt the good guys inside and throw this balance out such as stress, poor diet, travel, antibiotic use or infection. In order to rebalance the gut microflora fermentation comes in to consume foods containing live microorganisms.

Several studies have shown that kefir (fermented dairy) possesses antimicrobial, anti tumor anticarcinogenic and immunomodulating effects. Fermented milk is easier to digest and a good option for people who are lactose intolerant.

So to answer the question why are fermented foods good for us?

The short answer is they are high in fibre, minerals, nutrients and amino acids and contain up to a thousand times more lactobacillus than yoghurt.

And to answer Danielle’s question – the key to success with fermenting is to ensure the vegetables are fully submerged in their brine or salt water at all times. If need be kept topping up the ferment with filtered water to prevent mould forming on the top!

 

Happy fermenting!

 

What you need to get started:

CHOOSE YOUR FOOD:

Vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy

 

MICROBES:

Found on the food surfaces, or from previous ferments, pre-bought starter microbes

 

SALT:

Enhances the flavour, pulls moisture out, inhibits undesirable microbes

 

VESSELS:

Glass jars with airtight lids avoiding metal and plastic

 

TIME AND PATIENCE:

Dairy 12-24 hours

Vegetables 7 days up to 2 or 3 months

 

Recipe for sauerkraut:

Ingredients:

1kg Red or white cabbage

22g coarse salt (4 tsp)

1kg glass jar sterilise with hot water/soap

 

Method:

  • Chop cabbage in a food processor or by hand, add salt and toss.
  • Leave for 10 minutes to draw out water then massage with hands squeezing out and drawing as much water as possible.
  • (don’t use metal utensils as it can cross react with the salt)
  • Tightly pack cabbage into jar (press down with back of wooden spoon or hand) making sure it is fully immersed in water, add more filtered water if need.
  • Can add garlic or ginger if want a flavour.
  • Cover and leave out of sunlight or in a cupboard, after 24-48 hours when you see bubbles appear release the pressure by slowly releasing the lid (burp the jar)
  • Monitor and repeat every few days to release the pressure
  • After 4-5 days open jar and press cabbage down and top up with water if not fully immersed
  • Can eat after 5-7 days or leave longer and will get more crunchy
  • Can stay out the fridge for up to 2-3 months

References:
LJ Nutrician | http://www.ljnutrition.com/
Lindi Jaff |  http://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/nutritionists/lindi-jaff