Fermented foods are just about one of my favorite high vibe staples. They have been used for centuries (if not millennia) and across most cultures as a way to improve digestion, provide protection against disease, boost immunity and achieve vibrant health. Unfortunately for most people in the west, fermented foods have fallen by the wayside. My goal is to inspire you to delve into that pickle jar or gulp back kombucha like a champ. Your body and brain will thank you.
A Little Culture Goes a Long way
The Japanese love their miso, tempeh and natto (stringy, fermented soybeans and perhaps my least favorite), Eastern Europeans love pickles, sauerkraut and pickled beets, and let’s not forget about Mead, a fermented honey wine that is perfect in every way. There are so many fermented options. I aim to eat one serving of fermented food every day. It makes a huge difference in my life.
Why is fermented food important?
Our gut health directly correlates to our brain health and dictates gene expression in the brain. If you are not having regular bowel movements aided by fermented food, you are polluting your brain and vitality. There is some compelling research to support that dementia, schizophrenia and depression are exacerbated, if not caused by poor gut bacteria and pathogenic overgrowth in the colon. As I say often, poop your way to better health, vitality and beauty.
Additionally, increasing the amount of fermented food in your diet helps to absorb trace minerals and increase vitamin B absorption. B Vitamins help with stress reduction, neurological function, boost energy, promote healthy skin and improve memory. It can even expel phytic acid, acid formed from non-sprouted, non-fermented grains, from the colon.
As mentioned earlier, fermented foods aid in proper and complete elimination. They help break down food, making it more digestible. It’s not a surprise that people often eat sauerkraut with their bratwurst. Also, fermented foods, significantly boost immunity especially for people with compromised immune systems or autoimmune diseases.
How to take fermented food?
These days, the use of probiotics is promoted as a way to achieve healthy gut flora. That’s a great step in the right direction as they are a convenient way to boost positive gut ecology. However for me, I prefer to eat my medicine rather than taking it in a capsule or pill form as many probiotics are sold. Fermented foods are infinitely more alive and dynamic than any packaged item. Thankfully, ferments are starting to become more popular once more on store shelves and thus available in a variety of options. Here’s to traditional eating and vibrant health! (check out my blog on bone broths here)
A note: Fermented foods can sometimes be pasteurized. Because of the high heat used in the pasteurization process, the positive benefits and active bacteria are all but killed off. If you are buying them in the store, be sure to get them from the fridge rather than the shelf.
My first fermentation experiment was with kimchi. It’s a spicy Korean fermented cabbage. It’s remarkably easy and an incredibly cost-effective way to maintain health. The nerdy scientist in me simply loves checking on my homemade experiment brewing and bubbling in the basement.
Delicious Easy homemade Kimchi (amended from www.thekitchn.com)
Makes 1 quart
What You Need
1 (2-pound) head organic napa cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated organic garlic (about 5-6 cloves)
1 teaspoon grated organic ginger
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2-3 tablespoons seafood flavor or water (optional)
1-5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes or chili flakes
8 ounces Korean radish or daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks, optional
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Cutting board and knife
Gloves (optional but highly recommended)
Plate and something to weigh the kimchi down, like a jar of water or can of beans
Clean, sterilized 1-quart jar with canning lid or plastic lid
Bowl or plate to place under jar during fermentation
- Cut the cabbage. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.
- Salt the cabbage. Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands (gloves optional), massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit (about 10 minutes), then add water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1-2 hours.
- Rinse and drain the cabbage. Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15-20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set it aside to use in step 5.
- Make the paste. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor (or 3 tablespoons water) in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy.
- Combine the vegetables and paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.
- Mix thoroughly. Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells!
- Tightly pack the kimchi into the jar. Pack the kimchi into the jar, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1-inch of headspace. Place a thinner jar inside the bottle filled with water to push down the cabbage and release excess gas.
- Let it ferment. Let the jar stand at room or cool temperature in a dark place for 14 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar. That is good. The brine may overflow place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. I like to keep mine in a closet.
- Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or wooden spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) You may need to add more salted water if the water is evaporating. Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, put it in the refrigerator. It should be good to eat for about a month or so.
- Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
- Water: Only use spring, distilled or reverse osmosis water. Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation.
- Seafood flavor and vegetarian alternatives: Seafood gives kimchi an umami flavor. Different regions and families may use fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, oysters, and other seafood. Use about 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, or a combination of the two. For vegetarian kimchi, try using 3/4 teaspoon kelp powder mixed with 3 tablespoons water, or simply 3 tablespoons of water.
One of my favorite and most user-friendly books on fermentation is called “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. You will be truly inspired by his creativity and ingenuity when it comes to ferments. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself searching for a crock pot and transforming your life and health after reading it.
What’s your favorite ferment? Are you inspired to try this at home? Please send along your pictures and success stories with the hashtag #fabulousferments. It’s one the simplest and most effective way to supercharge your health.
In the light of spring sunshine,