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 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 is 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 yogurt.
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 keep topping up the ferment with filtered water to prevent mould forming on the top!
What you need to get started:
CHOOSE YOUR FOOD:
Vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy
Found on the food surfaces, or from previous ferments, pre-bought starter microbes
Enhances the flavour, pulls moisture out, inhibits undesirable microbes
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:
1kg Red or white cabbage
22g coarse salt (4 tsp)
1kg glass jar sterilise with hot water/soap