Problem 1: You want to support your body with immune boosting, gut-flora-balancing power of probiotics, but they are very expensive.
Problem 2: It’s winter time and you want to nourish yourself with healthy local veggies, but you are running out of creative ways to prepare cabbage, kale, radishes, carrots, turnips and any number of starchy root veggies. You even learned how to make GRUB’s delicious veggie hash [link to blog page], but now it is time for something new.
The answer to both problems? Wild Fermentation! Fermenting veggies at home is a fun, inexpensive way to nourish your body with the amazing power of probiotics, preserve fall veggies without canning and add some tangy, zesty, even spicy flavors to your table. It’s so easy, my 8-month old daughter likes to help.
A healthy human digestive system is populated with countless organisms that help break down food and waste, keep the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria and yeasts and support the immune system! Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle and diet are not conducive to supporting health numbers of the good bacteria or pro (good) biotics (organisms).
Before modern food preservation techniques or refrigeration, pasteurization and toxic chemical preservatives, many foods were preserved through the process of fermentation. Grains were fermented into sourdoughs; beans into tempeh, tofu and miso; and vegetables into sauerkrauts, kimchis and pickles. These are just a few of the more well known ferments, almost every culture had their own variety of fermenting foods to preserve the bounty past the harvest season.
Fermenting foods yourself is easy, cost effective and the variations are countless! Foods fermented at home are teeming with probiotics and beneficial enzymes. They are safe for everyone in the whole family. My favorite is to start with a basic sauerkraut fermentation. Sauerkraut is, in my opinion, the easiest ferment. It is the first ferment I ever made and I have never had a batch go bad. I add all sorts of seasonal vegetables that I have too much bounty of to eat fresh. I would start with a basic cabbage sauerkraut and then once you know what a good batch smells, looks and tastes like start adding more variety.
The picture features sauerkraut made with cabbage, kale and garlic on the right and pickled turnips, radishes, and jalapenos, all local and all organic! They are both great as sides, used as ingredients or eaten as is!
The basic recipe, adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates is:
Timeframe: 1-4 Weeks
Equipment: 2-3 widemouth mason jars; rolling pin or beer bottle, stainless steel wide mixing bowl
Ingredients: 1 head of cabbage, red or green (1-2 pounds)
Spring or filtered water
Coarse grind sea salt – 1 tablespoon per quart of chopped sauerkraut. (about 2 per pound)
Optional veggies: Garlic, carrots, carroway seeds, kale, radishes, beets. (Or any others that appeal to you!)
1. Rough chop the cabbage and place in the stainless steel mixing bowl
2. sprinkle with salt
3. pound with the blunt end of the rolling bin or the bottom of the beer bottle until the cabbage is limp and “soupy” (that’s the brine!)
4. Pack into the mason jars, again using the pounding object to force air out and keep the cabbage under the level of the brine. Fill the jar leaving about 2 inches of head room.
5. If you don’t have enough brine to cover the top of the veggies, add spring or filtered water until all the veggies are covered.
6. Cap tightly and store in a warm dark location for 3-7 days. Check everyday to make sure the jars are not overflowing and that the veggies are covered.
7. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor. I generally let mine “brew” for about 3 days then put them in the fridge and enjoy. I have enjoyed a jar of sauerkraut that was more than a year old. As long as no mold forms on the top you are good to go!