The Larder & Cupboard: Demystifying Fermenting
with Jacqui Vessey; plant based whole-food chef & culinary teacher
Fermenting foods has seen a revival over the last few years. According to the Good Food report, the number
one top trend for 2018 is gut friendly foods; miso, tempeh, kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, sourdough bread and sauerkraut are just a few examples. Interestingly, fermentation has been used for hundreds of years and is practiced all over the world. In temperate regions, it was (and is) used to preserve vegetables for consumption over the winter months, providing a readily available source of nutrients
in times of scarcity.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is the active micro-organism in fermented vegetables and is also a popular pro-biotic. This helpful bacteria aids your body to re-colonise good bacteria in the gastro intestinal tract which in turn supports digestion and the assimilation of nutrients, it boosts immune function, improves moods and aids the body’s detoxification process. Antibiotics, birth control pills, a diet rich in sugar and refined foods, stress and alcohol consumption all deplete our beneficial gut bacteria on a regular basis.
Our society has developed an aversion to all bacteria, using strong chemicals to clean our homes; how many times have we seen a label that states, ‘kills 99% of all 'bacteria’ and we are lead to believe that this is a good thing. But is it? Or does this over use of chemicals lower our natural immunity?
I personally stopped using all chemical cleaners and started using more natural substances to clean my house over ten years ago. I have definitely noticed an improvement with my entire families immunity and general health over the years. We have started to think about how food and exercise affects our health, now we need to expand that to include a more holistic idea as everything can have an impact on your body. By restoring and maintaining your gastro intestinal health, you lay the foundation of your overall well-being.
So back to regaining gut health! One of the simplest foods to ferment is vegetables. There’s no exact science and any vegetable can be used, it’s great to experiment with different combinations, whether you choose to grate your veggies, or chop julienne style, is entirely up to you. You can also add garlic, onion and ginger (or other spices) to make the popular Korean dish Kimchi.
To get started, here’s a couple of simple sauerkraut recipes;
You will need a glass jar or ceramic crock. Avoid metal as salt and acid causes corrosion of metal and plastic, even food grade plastic will still leach some chemicals. A food processor or just a knife, large bowl, and salt (I use pink Himalayan salt).
For a basic sauerkraut made with white cabbage; use the grate option on your food processor or finely shred the cabbage with a sharp knife. Add to a large bowl and sprinkle with salt as you go. As a rough guide, I use about a tablespoon of salt per kilo of cabbage. Then mix and squeeze the vegetables with your hands, this breaks down the cellular structure of the cabbage and releases moisture.
Once the cabbage and salt mixture is looking juicy, spoon into your jar or crock (make sure they’re sterile) and push down until the vegetables are submerged in their own
liquid. This creates an anaerobic space where the Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacteria can thrive yet bad bacteria is killed off. If using a crock, I place a good fitting plate over the top of the vegetables to keep then submerged under the liquid and secure a linen cloth over the top to keep flies out, or place a lid on the jar.
Check the sauerkraut every couple of days to ensure they remain submerged and push down if necessary. It is completely normal for mould to develop on top of the vegetables. This is due to it not being fully submerged, simply scrape of the mould and any discoloured cabbage. If more liquid is required, just add a small amount of filtered water. You can leave it for a couple of days or a couple of weeks.
I personally prefer a stronger tasting sauerkraut, so I leave mine for several weeks. Once you’ve achieved the desired taste, spoon into jars and refrigerate. It should last in the fridge for several months.
Another of my favourite vegetable combinations is red cabbage, carrot and beetroot. Using the same method as above, this creates a wonderfully colourful sauerkraut.
Use either as a side dish, in sandwiches or mixed into salads and enjoy the many benefits of having healthy