When vegetables are fermented, their enzyme activity increases and the food becomes a source of good bacteria. There isn't many opportunities available in our processed food diet that afford us the ability to increase the healthy bacteria in our bodies and yet, our health is critically tied to the health of our guts. Indeed, 85% of the immune system is located in the gut wall. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut flora (the bad guys outrun the good), can lead to a myriad of health problems including autoimmune conditions, depression, inflammation, hyperactivity etc.
If this topic is new to you, I highly recommend the book, "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" by Dr. Campbell-McBride. It's a fascinating book that delves into the science of why gut health is so important and how it can be improved.
So, with that, I give you fermented veggies! This weekend I set aside about an hour to shred, salt, and pound a few different types. There's nothing easier than making these little jars of goodness. If you've never done it before, there's some great information in Sandor Katz's book, "Wild Fermentation". But, you don't need to wait to get started.
Easy Peasy Sauerkraut (Even My Little Sister Could Make)
- A head of green cabbage (keep it simple, make it all organic)
- A few carrots
- Fresh ginger, garlic and, if you like, some dried caraway and juniper berries
- Sea salt
To make sauerkraut, simply shred all the veggies and place it all in a big bowl (you'll want to use a non-reactive plastic, glass, or ceramic bowl for fermenting). Sprinkle on sea salt and work it all in with your hands, squishing and pounding as you go. You're trying to break down the vegetables as you work in the salt. The mixture should taste salty, but not overly-salty. The salt is going to pull out the juices and get those veggies fermenting so it's important to have enough to let it do its job. You should have a nice little flow of juices in your bowl. Pack the veggies in glass jars using a tamper to really jam them in there. There should be juice coming up at this point. You want the juice to cover the veggies. Put on the lid tightly, place on a tray (they will leak a bit), and leave in a warm place for 4-5 days. I usually use the top of my fridge in the winter, and just a cupboard in the summer.
You can give them a taste-test after a few days and see what you think. We prefer ours quite sour so I usually give it a week or so. Once they're done, store the jars in the fridge. That's all there is to it! Doing a few different types in one shot means weeks of delicious vegetables just raring to do some good in your tummy.
I prefer to use jars with glass lids so there is no reaction with the metal or BPA covered discs on the newer style of jars. This would be ideal, but not totally necessary.
Stay tuned for the best, authentic, Korean Kim Chee recipe I have ever tried (compliments of my dear friend Ruby).