BY SUSAN SCHABACKER
Imagine having 100 trillion helpful friends! That’s how many beneficial bacteria and microorganisms you have lining your gut and warding off illnesses with probiotic benefits that pack a punch in the health department. You can help avoid colds and the flu by amping up on fermented foods and beverages – even a spoonful with a meal can help boost your immune system.
The process of fermentation uses microbes like bacteria and yeast to preserve foods. Long before the days of the refrigerator, people used fermentation to keep their foods fresher longer. It’s a process many of our ancestors used in their diets – not just in one culture or country, but globally.
Sauerkraut too sour for you? How about trying other fermented vegetables or kimchi? Kombucha, a fermented tea, has become a popular trend among the health-conscious. Add a little fermented foods and beverages to your meal routine and reap the benefits!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE FERMENTED
Fermented foods and beverages can help with digestion and absorption of nutrients that our bodies use to stay healthy. Bad bacteria can wreak havoc on our health and cause bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. We need lots of good bacteria to counteract the bad and balance our gut.
Fermentation can make your immune system stronger, healthier, and more robust by supporting the gut lining and improving inflammation. Fermented foods and beverages are anti-viral and anti-fungal. They are even supportive in detoxing from heavy metals.
Feel better and think better! Not just for healthier and happier bodies, but for healthier and happier minds, too, since fermented foods and beverages are believed to have an effect on serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood.
A cool thing about fermented food is how simple it is to make your own! For instance, the only requirements for home-made sauerkraut are a mason jar, salt and, the star of the show, cabbage.
You can use cabbage of your choice to make your own sauerkraut, but I personally prefer to use red cabbage. Not only does it turn a pretty pink color, but it also tastes incredible and is a perfect complement atop a bowl of chili, hot dogs, brats/sausage, or in a Rueben. Experiment with different types of cabbage and find your fav.
1 medium head of cabbage (red, green or Napa)
1 ½ Tablespoons sea or kosher salt
You will also need a cutting board, sharp knife, wooden spoon, mixing bowl, 2-quart wide-mouth canning jar and something to cover the jar such as cheesecloth, a paper coffee filter or paper towel.
Make sure everything is clean and dry. Wash your hands and the cabbage well. We want to multiply good bacteria – not bad bacteria.
- Slice the cabbage into ribbons, diced as finely as you like
- Add the chopped cabbage to a mixing bowl, then sprinkle in the salt
- Next, mash the salt into the cabbage with your fist until cabbage is watery and limp, approximately 10 minutes. It’s a great way to release pent up stress!
- Pack cabbage down into the mason jar. Add water as needed so cabbage is submerged.
- Cover jar and secure with a rubber band or twine.
- Over the next 3 to 10 days, do a daily check to be sure cabbage is submerged. If not, push it down and add more water if needed.
After 3 days, do a taste test. The fermentation process will take 3 to 10 days, depending on the temperature in the room and your taste preferences. Bubbles at the top are signs of good, natural fermentation. Don’t panic if there’s some white film at the top of the ferment. That’s kahm yeast, not mold. Just skim it off – it won’t harm you or your sauerkraut. When ready, refrigerate where it can be stored for two months. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124
Easy to make and a healthy addition to your daily diet, fermented foods and beverages should become a part of your life. Enjoy! Your health will benefit!