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How to Ferment Your Food

I’m totally obsessed now with fermenting foods. After watching the 8 part documentary series ‘The Gut Solution’ I was amazed by all the benefits of eating fermented foods. One lady even talked about a study that showed how some probiotics could actually help keep you skinny! What!? Sign me up for that trial study! LOL

Due to modern technology like the fridge and oven, society has strayed away from fermenting foods. However, in recent years people have started to circle back to our fermenting roots. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of probiotics, but I’m even more excited by fermented foods. Many say that if you heal the gut you can heal the body.

Examples of Fermented Foods:

  1. Pickles
  2. Sauerkraut: fermented shredded cabbage
  3. Kimchi: fermented vegetables such as cabbage
  4. Fermented Dairy: yogurt, lassi, amasi & kefir
  5. Kombucha: fermented tea
  6. Fermented Soy: miso, tempeh & natto
  7. Kvass: a fermented grain drink
  8. Fermented Veggies
  9. Fermented Ginger
  10. Fermented Cacao

Why Eat Fermented Foods?

  1. Improve Gut Health
  2. Boost Your Immune System
  3. Help Detox Chemicals
  4. Increase Absorption of Nutrients
  5. Reduce Inflammation

Word of Caution:

Always listen to your body. Just because someone says that something is a good thing, does not mean it’s good for your body. For example, I’m not a fan of Kombucha. Why? Because when I drink it, my stomach hurts afterwards. With that being said, I LOVE sauerkraut and fermented veggies. They agree with my body and I have better digestion and no acid reflux with them. If you react poorly to fermented foods, this could be a sign of histamine intolerance.

I’m not an expert at this (yet), but here are all the things I’ve learned thus far:

Fermenting Supplies:

  1. Wide mouth mason jars
  2. Weights
  3. Fermenting lids
  4. Rust free mason bands

I bought most of my supplies on Amazon. I recommend buying the rust proof mason jar bands. The regular one’s rusted pretty badly for me.

Found these on Amazon & they worked great!
Glass weights form Amazon. Super helpful!
Rust Proof Bands from Amazon.
Wide Mouth Jar from Amazon.

Brine:

What is brine? The brine is the salt-water solution that you’re going to use to ferment your product. The brine also creates lactic acid, which prevents molding and aides in the growth of a probiotic called Lactobacilli. Lactobacaillus is great for the digestive tract and may help with bloating, diarrhea, allergies and skin issues.

Depending on what you’re fermenting, the brine solution will be a different concentration. Do not use anything metal to create the brine. You want to use plastic or silicone. Keep in mind, your fermenting recipe may not even need to use brine.

Brine Recipe:

  • Heat up filtered water and mix in your sea salt. Do not use anything metal.
  • I used a glass bowl and mixed in the sea salt with a silicone spoon.
  • Check your fermenting recipe for the recommended brine concentration.
  • You want the brine to fully cover your product by 1 inch.
  • Using a glass weight is so helpful for weighing down your product to leave 1 inch of brine on the surface.
  • Your product has to stay below the brine or it will spoil.

Brine Concentrations:

  • 1 Tbsp. Sea Salt to 4 cups of water = 2% brine
  • 1.5 Tbsp. Sea Salt to 4 cups of water = 3% brine
  • 2 Tbsp. Sea Salt to 4 cups of water = 4% brine
  • 2.5 Tbsp. Sea Salt to 4 cups of water = 5% brine

Brine for Mixed Veggies:

  • 2-2.5% salt concentration

Brine for Cucumbers & Peppers:

  • Require more salt because they’re prone to molding.
  • 3.5-5% for cucumbers
  • Up to 10% for peppers

Cabbage:

  • No Brine! Cabbage has enough water in it to make the brine.
  • Use 2 teaspoons of sea salt per pound of cabbage (2 Tbsp for 5 lbs).

Spices:

  • Only use whole herbs and spices. Ground spices will mold. I learned this the hard way. LOL.

Fermentation Times:

The timing varies depending on the temperature of the room you’re using and the amount of your salt concentration.

  1. Temperature: A cooler room will slow it down and a warmer one will speed it up.
  2. Salt: Too little will speed up fermentation time and too much will slow it down.

Fermenting Steps:

  1. Wash your hands and clean the mason jars that you’ll be using.
  2. Pick out a fermenting recipe on google or pinterest.
  3. If needed, make your brine (see above).
  4. With clean hands, wash your produce. Slice if needed.
  5. Place produce into mason jars.
  6. If needed, add in your brine mixture.
  7. Place a glass weight over your produce to hold it below the brine level by one inch.
  8. Place your fermentation lid on top of the mason jar and secure with a mason jar band.  The fermentation lid I used will automatically vent the gas out. This prevents excess pressure and maintains water levels.
  9. Store away from sunlight and check it daily.
  10. If you notice a white film developing, remove it. It’s harmless.
  11. If you notice black mold or a spoiled smell, toss it.
  12. Fermentation times vary, so listen to your nose and taste buds.
  13. Once finished you can store in the fridge.

White Film:

A harmless white film may develop on top of the liquid after a couple days. It’s usually the result of a type of yeast called kahm. You do need to remove this from your ferment because it will develop a bad odor. There are a few possible reasons for why the kahm yeast developed:

  1. Not enough salt in the brine.
  2. Room temperature is too warm.
  3. Over exposure to oxygen.
  4. Poor hygiene during preparation.
  5. Not acidic enough.

If the fermented veggies smell spoiled, throw it away. But if it smells and tastes okay, you’re good! If you notice any black mold, definitely toss it!

My advice is to check your jars every day and smell them. I recommend tasting them as well. You want to ferment a product that you’ll eat.  Do not go solely off of what the recipe calls for, because the timing does vary. My experience is that once a white film has started to appear on the top of your liquid, it may be done or is very close to being done. I live in Florida, so all of my jars fermented in under a week.

To learn more about fermenting, check out Cultures for Health. It’s loaded with tons of really helpful information.

JUST EAT REAL FOOD – Stop focusing on calories & focus on what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. Your body is always giving you signals, but many times we ignore them. Pay attention if you develop nausea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, joint pain, rashes, sinus problems, or cold sores. If you develop any of these things after eating, it’s a good indicator that your body is giving you a clue to stop consuming something in your food. Many times these symptoms come from consuming chemicals, artificial coloring, and preservatives. Other times these symptoms can occur from a food allergy or sensitivity. Pay attention. Creating a food diary is a really great way to help you figure out what your triggers are. Food elimination diets are a great way to figure out what your triggers are.

DISCLAIMER
Information in this posting is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Talk to your medical provider before starting any new supplements or medications.

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