The Art and Science of Fermenting Foods

The Art and Science of Fermenting Foods

If your just beginning the health journey from foods that produce disease towards foods that produce life, the thought of eating something that has been fermented can seem odd. Chances are Kombucha, Kevita, Keifer, Kimchi and Sauerkraut are not even on your radar.

WHAT ARE ALL THESE HARD TO PRONOUNCE SUPERFOODS?

Kombucha is a beverage, typically a black or green tea that has been lightly fermented (usually non-alcoholic) by a “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). The strain of bacteria is often Gluconacetobcater xylinus and the yeast is usually Saccharomyces (this can vary however based on where the original SCOBY was grown). The bacteria strain will oxidize the yeast produced alcohol into acetic or other types of acid – which gives the classic “vinegary” kombucha flavor.

Kevita is a commercially produced and bottled version of keifer water, which is is lightly fermented using keifer grains, also knows as Tibicos, which, like kombucha, is also a SCOBY.  The largest difference is water grains are contained in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria – which gives them a rock like appearance.  Tibicos can ferment a variety of liquids including water, tea, coffee and fruit juices – feeding off the sugars added or naturally occurring producing lactic acid, alcohol and CO2 – which will naturally carbonate the liquid.

Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage made with the Tibicos grains and a dairy source (cow, goat, sheep) or plant milks (coconut, almond etc). Just as mentioned above, Tibicos can ferment almost any liquid that contains sugar – and lactose is the naturally occurring dairy sugar.  The fermentation of lactose produces a slightly sour, carbonated slightly alcoholic “keifer” that has a taste similar to yogurt. The polysaccharide covering on the grains (which turn white – also known as kefiran) is what gives the creamy texture when using a dairy starting liquid.

Kimchi is a fermented dish made with vegetables, traditionally napa cabbage, radish, scallion, red chili pepper and cucumber as the main ingredient with hundreds of varieties available by adding various other vegetables. The unique spiced flavor is mainly due to its unique use of Korean red pepper flakes (Gochugaru). The various vegetables used contribute to the nutritional value. Kimchi is high in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron and since its fermented it contains lactic acid producing bacteria – usually Lactobacillus kimchi.

Sauerkraut is produced by pickling cucumbers or cabbage. The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt and water and left to pickle. One important note is that not all pickled vegetables are fermented, and not all fermented vegetables are pickled.

When foods are pickled, they’ve been soaking and preserved in an acidic medium. In the case of various types of supermarket pickles on the shelf, the pickling comes from vinegar. Most store bought sauerkrauts are not fermented (even though vinegar itself is the product of fermentation) and thereby do not provide the probiotic and enzymatic value of homemade fermented vegetables.

When you ferment sliced cabbage in your kitchen, it begins with a starter liquid (salt, and some filtered water), which creates a self preserving, acidic liquid that is a by-product of the fermentation process. This lactic acid is incredibly beneficial to digestion when consumed along with the fermented vegetables.

In summary, homemade fermented veggies are both fermented & pickled.

BENEFITS OF FERMENTED VEGETABLES AND NON-ALCOHOLIC LIQUIDS.

Anytime you make something home made, it has massive health benefits – mostly because you have control over ingredients used and ALL FERMENTED foods/liquids contain lacto-fermented living cultures (bacteria and yeast) that act as a prebiotic and probiotic support for your digestive system. In addition to a large dose and variety of living bacteria, fermented vegetables are extremely high in natural raw vitamins A and C as well as other phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Several studies hint that the phytonutirent glucosinolate, contained in fermented cruciferous vegetables, enhances liver detoxification, digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. (P.S. – Almost ALL disease known to exist today is connected to increased inflammation in the body.)

HOW TO FERMENT VEGETABLES

You will need the following items:

  • Glass jars (mason or 1/2 gallon – 1 gallon containers) or a fermenting container (usually has an air-lock and weighted stone)
  • Vegetables
  • Sharp knife, mandolin or food processor with shredding blade
  • Starting Liquid
    • Sea salt and filtered water
    • Celery Juice
    • Whey water
    • Pre-made SCOBY culture

Important note: All organic vegetables contain naturally occurring bacteria on them. Do not excessively wash with detergents, vegetable washes or vigorous scrubbing or peeling – this will remove the necessary bacteria to start the fermentation process.

CLICK HERE to visit our recipe page, which contains various fermented vegetable and liquid recipes.

WHY SHOULD YOUR PLATE ALWAYS CONTAIN A FERMENTED SIDE ITEM

Outside of the obvious fact that these taste amazing, here are some great reasons to eat and drink fermented foods daily:

  1. Prebiotic/Probiotics – Eating fermented vegetables and drinking fermented drinks like Kevita, Kefir & Kombucha introduces beneficial bacteria into your digestive system, which help the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. Prebiotics & Probiotics have also been shown to be helpful in improving bowel health, digestion, and improve immunity due to the fact that as much as 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract!
  2. Increased Absorption – The balance of your gut bacteria is essential in digesting foods into smaller particles AND assisting the absorption of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Add this with to a Cellular Healing Diet, and you will increase absorption of vitamins and minerals and other phytonutrients. The benefits here is you won’t need to supplement various vitamins & minerals as you’ll be absorbing more of the live nutrients in your foods.
  3. Your wallet will thank you – Incorporating store bought vitamins, minerals and probiotic bacteria can get expensive – some probiotics go as much as $100 for a 30 day supply ($1,200 annually).  When done properly, fermented vegetables and liquids can have MORE active cultures than what you buy at the local health food store.  You can make your own whey water at home for a couple of dollars, and using sea salt and water is a fabulous way to ferment a variety of vegetables inexpensively. Drinks like Kevita, Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home also and cost a fraction of the $3-5 per 20oz bottle local stores sell. In addition, you can make flavors that are not available and you can decrease or eliminate the added sugars.
  4. Long Shelf Life – Homemade guacamole and salsas lasts only a few days in the fridge.  Fermented guacamole or salsas lasts months! Kimchi & sauerkraut only get better with age. The same applies with Kombucha, Keifer and Kevita – however the vinegar content also climbs with age – so eventually you will have a “cider vinegar” if you let it go that long. The same goes for pickles, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation (lactic acid fermentation) allows you to store foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients.

Have I convinced you that its time to start adding fermented vegetables/drinks and culture dairy to your diet? Provide a large dose and wide variety of beneficial lactic acid bacteria which not only assist in the digestive process AND create a variety of vitamins and other nutrients for the body. A serving of cultured vegetables or cultured dairy provides your body more beneficial bacteria and health benefits than any probiotic drink or supplement sold in stores.