Sunday, May 16, 2010

Most people have been struck with probiotic lightening and are running to the grocery stores to purchase probiotics. Little do most people know, that there are things you can do to fruit or vegetables to create your own probiotics.

The Basics of Fermentation

Fermentation is a simple and natural process used by many ancient cultures to preserve food, promote good digestion, and improve health. The Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for fermentation inhibit the action of the putrefying bacteria that cause food to spoil. These bacteria proliferate during fermentation and can also improve a food’s enzyme content, increase it’s levels of vitamins B, C, and K, deactivate undesirable nutrients such as the protein inhibitors and phytic acid found in soy, and help to release nutrients from food that would otherwise pass through the intestines undigested an not be absorbed.

Vegetables, fruit, and dairy are some of the most commonly fermented foods, and even people who are lactose intolerant can usually enjoy fermented dairy products because the Lactobacillus bacteria that they contain digests the lactose. However, people who have food sensitivities to dairy are still likely to experience symptoms from fermented dairy products.

Fermented foods are typically used as a condiment and are not meant to be consumed as a significant portion of a meal. Using fermented and homemade condiments such as ketchup and mustard is a great way to incorporate the health benefits of fermented foods into your diet while also eliminating unhealthy store bought condiments that are highly processed.

How to Make Your Own Fermented Food

The following steps describe how to ferment vegetables and fruit which are arguably the easiest and healthiest foods to ferment on your own.

  • Wash the food and cut it into pieces.
  • Put the cut pieces into a bowl, add sea salt, and pound the pieces to release their juice. You can also add herbs or spices for added flavor.
  • Put the food pieces and their juice into a wide mouth jar leaving about an inch of space at the top. Make sure to seal the jar tightly to prevent air from getting in as this will interfere with fermentation.
  • Keep the jar at room temperature for 2 to 4 days.
  • Store the jar in a dark and cool place at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Either a cold basement or the top shelf of a refrigerator will suffice.

When making fermented food, it’s important to use organic produce and unrefined sea salt. In addition to being better for your health, the purity and high nutritional value of these items are necessary to support the fermentation process.

Although you can eat the fermented food immediately following the initial 2 to 4 days, vegetables tend to increase in flavor with time. When making sauerkraut, some people even recommend letting it mature for at least 6 months. In contrast, fermented fruits should be eaten within two months of their preparation. For recipes and additional information about fermented foods, including fermented dairy products, I highly recommend Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

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