TWO SCOOPS OF GUT-GOODNESS: How To Ferment Your Way to a Healthy Belly
Fermented foods. Everybody’s talking about them, but are you eating them? If not, you certainly should be! They do wonders for our belly, brain, body and beyond, all with the greatest of ease – even a tablespoon or two, once ever other day or so to boost gut health with a potent dose of tasty probiotics
As you may know, fermentation is one of the oldest food preservation techniques in the book. In fact, mankind has been intentionally fermenting fruits, vegetables and grains for over 10,000 years, but what I love most about fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso, and kombucha is their ability to keep our guts on an even keel. Loaded with gut-supportive, immunity-boosting good bacteria, with probiotic potential, fermented foods also yet guts back on track when things like antibiotics, stress, poor diet or poor sleep throws off your intestinal balance, and triggers digestive troubles.
Brewing up your own fermented foods is incredibly easy. I enjoy fermenting fruits and veggies like beets, carrots, green beans, watermelon, citrus peels – but you can ferment just about anything, so feel free to experiment!
No matter what the item, the process is basically the same – and pretty simple: Take a portion of cut up veggies or fruit, sprinkle in some spices and cover them with a salt water solution (about 2 tsp. of salt to a quart jar of water). Pack the food tightly into a mason jar, leaving about an inch free at the top. I sometimes place a daikon radish at the top, like a veggie anchor, to keep the other veggies or fruit submerged. Then you seal them up and wait. Check after a few days and let your taste buds decide when it’s ready – and voila! It’s time to dig in!
Here’s a simple recipe for “Pink Sauerkraut,” which is a hit with the grandkids and grown-ups alike:
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Fermenting Time: 7 to 14 days
1 1/2 tablespoons pickling sea salt (this is a fine sea salt)
1 small head of green cabbage, shredded
1 small head of red cabbage, shredded
1-tablespoon caraway seeds
Make a brine by mixing the salt and water in a clean jar.
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and caraway seeds. Pack the mixture into a separate, 1-quart mason jar. Keep packing the cabbage down using a wooden spoon.
Fill the jar with brine to 1 inch below the rim. Top with a “plug,” like a daikon radish, slightly smaller than the opening of the container to keep the vegetables packed tightly in the jar.
Tighten the lid on the jar, mark the date, and place in a cool area (65 to 70 degrees) and allow to ferment, checking the fermentation progress every 2 days.
To check the fermentation progress: Hold the jar over the sink and carefully open the lid. You may notice expansion of air from the fermentation process. Skim the surface of foam/scum, if necessary. Refill with additional brine to 1 inch below the rim of the jar. Retighten the jar lid and place in a cool area. Continue to check the sauerkraut every other day until you don’t see bubbles rising in the jar, which means the fermentation process is complete. This usually takes between 7 and 14 days.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
For learn more about the basics of fermenting, take a look at books by the influential fermentation guru Sandor Katz – and to read more about my recent experience at ‘fermentation school,’ check out my Probiotic Pep Rally post.
-- By Kathie Swift with additional reporting by Kate Doyle Hooper