Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fermenting Veggies For a Happy Tummy

There is probably little that comes close to the ease and nutritional-punch of fermenting vegetables. Cultures around the world have been fermenting food, including meats, vegetables, and dairy for centuries. It's a wonderful way to increase the nutritional value of your food while also increasing its life span.

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).


  1. If your little sister could make this then I could totally make it. I'm going to buy a head on cabbage on my way home from work...still staying tuned for the Kimchee...

  2. So you eat this like cole slaw? I am somewhat at a loss as to how to incorporate this into my meal. I am, unfortunately, not very creative in the kitchen and somewhat conservative in my food choices. Any help you can give is much appreciated.

  3. Hi Jean,

    Fermented veggies are often added as a condiment on the side of the dish. I really like them so I'll often eat 1/2-1 cup of them in a meal. They help with digestion in addition to all of their other wonderful attributes.

    My kids just grab spoonfuls and eat it like that.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Is it possible to ferment just carrots or other vegetables without including cabbage?

  5. Because carrots won't release juice in the same way that cabbage does, you can make a brine to ferment your carrots. Just mix around 1/4 cup sea salt into pure water (no chlorine). Taste it - it should be salty, but not horribly so. Pour over carrots that you have cut into thin sticks and packed tightly into a glass jar. The liquid should be covering the carrots completely. Put a lid on tightly.

    It may take anywhere from 2-4 weeks for the carrots to completely ferment. I would try making a small batch initially and tweak it to get it the way you like best. You can't really go wrong. Just experiment and see what you like best.

    I'd love to hear how it goes!

  6. Anybody know of a source for those lovely looking jars with glass lids . Have searched the internet & could"nt find"em Thanks Chaim

  7. Hi Chaim,

    Your best bet would be vintage/thrift stores. Garage sales are also a good place. I wouldn't recommend using any of the newer jars with the metal lids due to the BPA content of the lid lining.

    All of my jars were purchased over a few years - a few here, a few there at vintage stores.

    Good luck!

  8. Send me four jars of kimchi and three jars of your vegetable sauerkraut in an unmarked package (and Figlet will be released to return to your doorstep). Nobody gets hurt.