Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple fermented vegetables

If you are new to fermentation and would like to try your hand, then this recipe for simple fermented vegetables is a very easy way to get started. Eating fermented foods is certainly the cheapest and most natural way to get a good amount of healthy probiotics in your diet and ensure optimal intestinal flora. 

Bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract plays a crucial role in the proper function of the immune system and aids in the production of antibodies against pathogens. (Remember that approximately 80% of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal tract!). Friendly bacteria also teach the immune system to distinguish between harmful and benign antigens, and respond accordingly in an appropriate manner. This important feature insures that the immune system does not react to benign antigens, which can otherwise cause allergies. The root of many health problems lies in an imbalance of intestinal bacteria or “dysbiosis”.

Fermentation produces the beneficial microbes that we now know are vital to our health, and regular consumption will help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Fermented foods are also some of the best detoxification agents around and help the body rid itself of harmful toxins including heavy metals. 

Try this super easy method at home, and don’t be afraid to vary your vegetables! I always get good results with broccoli, cauliflower, beets and carrots, but feel free to try anything you like. Add a few sliced garlic cloves, grated fresh ginger, or other herbs and spices such as dill or red pepper flakes.

Simple fermented vegetables

Rinse vegetables in fresh water and chop them into smaller pieces. Make a salt brine with approximately 1½ tablespoons unrefined sea salt per 2 cups of water. Fill a large jar or other glass container with vegetables and optional herbs and spices. Pour the brine over the vegetables and fill the jar so that all the vegetables are covered with brine. If they float up, you can place a smaller clean jar on top filled with a little water to hold them down. This is important, as vegetables that float to the surface can get moldy. 

To kick-start the fermentation process you can add 1-2 tablespoons of whey or water kefir, or 3-4 probiotic capsules. However, this is not absolutely necessary - I usually just use the salt brine and let nature do its magic. 

Next, you simply put a lid on the jar and let it sit at room temperature for a few days until you begin to see bubbles. Sniff and taste along the way - fermented vegetables do smell a bit strange, but should not smell awful or have mold on top.

This is how my vegetables look after about four days on the kitchen counter. When you like the taste, place the jar in the refrigerator. The fermentation process will continue at lower temperatures, but slows way down. Fermented vegetables will keep for several months when refrigerated, and flavors will deepen over time. Enjoy!

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