Many people, justifiably so, are terrified of fermenting foods in their own home. Something about it just doesn’t sound quite right. Growing up in modern Western civilization, we’re not really used to the concept of putting stuff in jars and letting it rot until it tastes delicious. In fact, to most of us, that doesn’t sound delicious at all. Of course, we have little apprehension about eating toxic futuristic foods, and can hardly stay away from them sometimes.
For example, a couple months ago I heard a co-worker of mine say, I don’t eat [x whole food that’s been eaten by humans for millennia],? I can’t, it just freaks me out. She then proceeded to dip Wendy’s fries into a large Frosty, piling them in her mouth by the handful.
Use the absurdity of the above scenario towards any negative feelings you might have about fermented foods. Fermentation has been practiced and cherished by humans for over 10,000 years. Pickles, bread, cheese, yoghurt, relishes, chutneys, sauerkraut, several beverages, and preserves were all originally naturally fermented. We eat these foods every day. They are not ?gross? or ?weird,? and when these foods are prepared according to traditional methods, they can all be very nourishing.
Because most modern humans eat far too many cooked foods, unheated fermented foods are a tremendous asset in supplying enzymes, present in only raw foods, to the body. The human body is run by enzymes, hundreds of different varieties, and enzymes found in food are known to assist in the digestive process, relieving metabolic organs of digestive work and freeing them for other more important duties ? like recovering from disease and keeping pathogens at bay.
All raw foods have enzymes, but the process of lacto-fermentation, as in sauerkraut, allows the beneficial lactobacilli bacteria to proliferate and exponentially increase the enzyme potential of the food substance. Also, much of the digestive work is done in the jar, which further relieves the body’s metabolic organs. The probiotic bacteria themselves are also key in building the immune system and enhancing the function of the intestinal tract.
With the proliferation of these beneficial bacteria, sugars are metabolized as food and the by-product is deliciously tart and refreshing lactic acid. The lactic acid is what preserves the food, making fermented foods last for up to a year under refrigeration. With the advent of vinegar (primarily acetic acid), which has the same preservative properties as lactic acid, lacto-fermentation has become ancient history for things like pickles. Commercial pickles; however, are heated and completely lack enzymes and probiotics. Many heat sensitive nutrients like vitamin C are also destroyed, and like 99% of commercial foods, toxic flavor enhancers are of course added.
All the more reason to begin practicing this extremely simple, healthful, time-efficient, and economical tradition on your own ? and the late summer/fall harvest season is the best time to get started.
Forget what you think is sauerkraut. Homemade sauerkraut tastes much different, and isn’t a salty pile of funky mush. It is refreshing, tart, and crisp, more like a freshly prepared cole slaw.
1 head cabbage, any variety
2T Celtic sea salt
1) Fill 2 1-quart, wide-mouthed, Mason/Ball jars with roughly-chopped cabbage and 1T sea salt each. Pack the cabbage tightly by muddling it with a French rolling pin, wooden spoon, or other utensil. This helps release some of the juices from the cabbage which is important.
2) Cover with filtered water to 1-inch from the top. Continue mashing the cabbage with the water to mix with the salt and juices.
3) Make sure liquid is covering cabbage, then put lid on tightly and let sit for 72 hours at room temperature (75 F is ideal). Finished product should be sour, effervescent, and taste good.
These won’t come out tasting like supermarket MSG vinegar pickles, but will be much more mild and refreshing. You can use any pickling spices that you want, but this is how I’ve been making and enjoying mine recently.
12 small pickling cucumbers or other variety
2T Celtic sea salt
2T toasted coriander seeds
2T toasted mustard seeds
1 clove garlic (crushed or minced)
1) Slice cukes crosswise into wheels or cut into quarters to make pickle spears.
2) Place cucumbers in wide-mouthed Mason/Ball jars with other ingredients (equally divided between the 2 jars) and cover with liquid to one inch from the top.
3) Shake well, screw lid on tightly, and let sit at room temp for 72 hours.
Other vegetables and even fruits can be fermented as well. Beets, carrots, radishes, okra, peppers, and many more can be lacto-fermented. The technique is the same for whatever you choose to experiment with. Slice vegetables, add a little sea salt to each jar, muddle lightly with a wooden spoon or other utensil to release juices, cover with filtered water, and then let sit at room temperature with lid tightly fastened for 72 hours. Lacto-fermented vegetables are a great complement to any meal, and make a great substitute for salads ? all you have to do is open the jar and it’s ready to be munched, assisting your body with the digestion of the foods eaten with it.
There is a guy that used to live on “The Farm” in Tennessee that wrote a book 3 years ago on fermentation. He came to Asheville a bunch, sorry I don’t remember his name though. Katzin? Anyway, you might want to look into it. The book is good!
That’s Sandor Katz. He’s like the god of fermentation. He busts out all kinds of goodness in giant crocks, and has overcome some serious health problems by making a religion out of this fermentation stuff. His book, Wild Fermentation, is muy bueno. Thanks Jimbo.
I’ve just found your blog and really enjoy it. I’ve been on the same journey to nourishment, have a real milk share, belong to a CSA, etc.
I know this is an old post, (I’m ready from the oldest to newest) but just a comment that your recipes for lacto-fermenting don’t have any “lacto” in them. You need to use whey to make it lacto-fermentation, you’re just fermenting (which is still great and yummy!)
I know this is an old posting, and I am 4 years late, but just read a Dr Peat article. He was against lactic acid, and I have Raw Milk Kefir daily, wondered if you still are pro (dairy) fermentation?