Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cultured Veggies

Cultures and Ferments go back to the earliest civilizations.  Every "culture" has their own cultured foods. Wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, relish, mead, kefir, beers, kvass and the list goes on.

Originally a mode of preservation, the process of fermenting your food cultivates an irreplaceable ingredient of a healthy diet, probiotics.

Probiotics are the good bacteria, supporting and protecting our body from disease and illness.  According to Donna Gates in "The Body Ecology Diet", probiotics "are essential to a wide range of bodily functions.  They help white blood cells fight disease, control putrefactive bacteria in the intestines, provide important nutrients for building the blood, assist digestion, protect the intestinal mucosa, prevent diarrhea and constipation, and contribute to bowel elimination. They also manufacture important B vitamins and are the most abundant source of vitamin B-12."

Taking care to include a source of cultured food in your diet on a daily basis will arm your immune system against the everyday bombardment of bacteria and viruses that we are exposed to.  I personally, feel stronger and have superior digestion when I am consistent with consuming fermented foods.  There is such wide variety of ferments that something can be found for everyone's tastes. You can find fermented foods at your local health food store, or you can make them yourself.  If you do decide to purchase your ferments, be sure that they are in the refridgerated section of the store, and state that they are not pasteurized and that they contain live cultured enzymes.  A few of my favorite brands are "Real Pickles", which carry an assortment of cultured vegetables, "InnerEco" brand coconut kefir, and "GT" Kombucha.  There are many resources for doing it yourself. My teachers have been Sandor Katz, Donna Gates and Sally Fallon, all authors of wonderful books.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to fermenting foods.  Wild fermentation, as is taught by Sandor Katz, and culturing, described by Donna Gates.  Essentially, wild fermentation collects wild bacteria from the air as each type of bacteria is attracted to a certain food.  Whether you are fermenting cabbage, sugar or honey, they have their own bacteria and yeast that are attracted to them.  Keep your equipment clean and sterilized, and there is no need to worry about harmful bacteria being introduced.  Donna Gates brings a closed culture style to the table, adding the preferred probiotics to the food and sealing it in a closed container to allow the cultures to proliferate in a controlled environment.

Whichever is best for you is your own choosing, I will show you both methods.  I recommend trying out both and going with whichever compliments your body.  Our four fermented staples are cultured veggies, coconut kefir, coconut yogurt and kombucha.  This will be a three part series starting with...

Cultured Vegetables

One of the most popular forms of cultured veggies is sauerkraut. In our home we keep a large batch in the fridge at all times.  The whole family enjoys homemade cultured veggies mixed with fresh ground tahini, a little salad dressing, as a side dish to help digest a protein such as eggs, or straight up, in a bowl, with a pair of chopsticks.  This week we harvested a delicious garlic kraut.  Every  month we pick a new variety of veggies to ferment.  This week we plan to bottle up a big bowl of radishes from the garden.

As I mentioned before, there are two basic routes with fermenting.  The first, traditional, ferment is wild fermenting.  Our friend, Franky Giglio, from Three Lily Farm has a few recipes on his family farm blog.  Instead of making my own video, I asked Franky if it was ok to share.  He does a wonderful job explaining the process.

Next is a Video with Donna Gates, herself explaining her technique of a closed system culture.  Visit this link for the Renegade Health Show Fermentation Blog.

Both Franky G and Renegade Health have published books on the subject, that I recommend checking out.

Next week we will visit making coconut kefir!

Happy Culturing!

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