By Dr. Mercola
What do foods like natto, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, lassi and kefir all have in common? Hint: It’s not an ingredient. Rather, it’s actually how all of these are made: fermentation. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, fermentation refers to an enzyme-controlled chemical process that breaks down an organic substance into simpler parts, typically with help of bacteria, yeasts or carbon dioxide.1,2
Fermented foods often have a unique taste and peculiar smell, which is why not a lot of people are drawn to them at first. In some cases, they are even considered to be an acquired taste.3 However, different studies have attested fermented foods’ benefits when it comes to improving your gut health and optimizing overall health naturally, making a strong case for why they should be added into your diet.
You can start by making this Fresh and Fantastic Fermented Veggies Recipe. Creating your own fermented vegetable mix at home is feasible and worth the hard work you’ll be putting into it.
Fresh and Fantastic Fermented Veggies Recipe
- Shred all the vegetables.
- Juice celery to create a brine, 1 cup for every quart of vegetables.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of Kinetic Culture to the brine. Pour the brine over the shredded vegetables and mix in a large bowl to distribute evenly over all vegetables.
- Pack into jar, compressing vegetables with a masher to remove air pockets. Vegetables should fill jar to the very top. Add more vegetables if needed to reach the top of the jar.
- Top off with a cabbage leaf, tucking the edges of the leaf into the sides so all vegetables are under it.
- Add Dr. Mercola’s Jar Lid to top of the jar, leaving it slightly cracked open.
- Ferment at approximately 72 degrees for three to four days.
- When the vegetables reach desired taste and texture, store in the refrigerator.
Note: In the winter, it may take longer if surrounding temperature is colder. A temperature-stable environment (such as inside an empty cooler) is recommended.
Fermented Veggies Are Full of Health Benefits You Shouldn’t Miss
The concept of fermenting foods is not entirely new, despite what many people think. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlights that:
“Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation technologies in the world. Indigenous fermented foods … have been prepared and consumed for thousands of years and are strongly linked to culture and tradition, especially in rural households and village communities …
There is reliable information that fermented drinks were being produced over 7,000 years ago in Babylon (now Iraq); 5,000 years ago in Egypt; 4,000 years ago in Mexico;, and 3,500 years ago in Sudan … Fermentation of milk started in many places with evidence of [other] fermented products in use in Babylon over 5,000 years ago … China is thought to be the birth-place of fermented vegetables …”
Not only did the communities mentioned above maintain their own food supply, but they most likely improved their health, too. It’s not too late to try making fermented foods and discovering a treasure trove of benefits that you can get from adding them to your diet. In general, fermented foods are known to:
|Deliver more bang for your buck, since they contain 100 times more probiotics compared to probiotic supplements
||Detoxify the body by drawing out toxins and heavy metals from the body
|Restore normal gut flora when taking antibiotics
||Reduce risk for type 1 and type 2 diabetes,4 brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, urinary and female genital tract infections and infection from pathogenic microorganisms or Helicobacter pylori
|Improve symptoms linked to lactose intolerance and autism5,6
||Improve conditions like leaky gut, atopic dermatitis (eczema), acne and premenstrual syndrome
These foods provide a wide and natural variety of good gut bacteria or probiotics, helping improve gut health and preventing development of health problems. Nourishing your gut with probiotics can play a role in maintaining optimal health, particularly by:
|Combating inflammation and controlling growth of disease-causing bacteria
||Developing and operating the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract
|Controlling asthma and lowering allergy risk
||Producing antibodies that combat pathogens
|Absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins
||Benefiting mood and mental health
|Regulating dietary fat absorption
||Preventing acne and other conditions like obesity and diabetes
Lastly, fermented foods are an outstanding nutrient source, particularly of B vitamins and vitamin K2. The latter is known to help prevent arterial plaque build-up and lower your risk for heart disease. Other nutrients found in fermented foods include:7,8,9,10,11
- Beneficial enzymes
- Conjugated linoleic acid or CLA (in fermented milk products)
- High amounts of bioavailable minerals
- Short-chain fatty acids that may boost immune system function
What Are the Most Ideal Vegetables to Ferment?
Cucumbers and cabbage are most often used for fermentation, although you are definitely free to use your favorite vegetables, provided that they are organically grown, high-quality and GMO-free, to ensure a better and healthier outcome. If you can’t grow your own produce, talk to a local farmer who may sell organic vegetables. Ideally, here’s a basic “formula” of what a good fermented vegetable mix looks like:
- Red or green cabbage: This should be the “backbone” of any batch of fermented vegetables that you’ll make. About 80 percent of the mix must be composed of cabbage. You will need five to six medium-sized cabbages for 10 to 14 quart jars of fermented vegetables.
When placing cabbage inside the container, make sure the leaves are dense and tightly packed, and don’t forget to set aside extra leaves for the jar tops to tuck all the vegetables neatly into the jar.
- Crunchy hard root vegetables like carrots, golden beets, radishes and turnips: These provide additional crunch and flavor to the mix. Peel the skins first, because they have bitter flavors. Other crunchy ingredients you can try adding include red bell peppers and Granny Smith apples. If you like some spice, you can also add one hot Habanero pepper, which will be enough for the entire batch. When handling it, just make sure to wear gloves.
- Aromatics: The fermentation process concentrates the pungent flavors, so you really want to only add small quantities of aromatics as a finishing touch. Peeled garlic, peeled ginger and/or herbs like basil, sage, rosemary, thyme or oregano will work. You might want to skip adding onions since they can deliver an overpowering flavor.
- Sea vegetables: Whole dulse or flakes are good additions to fermented vegetables. If you have wakame and/or sea palm you can add these too, although they need to be presoaked and diced into the desired size. You can also use arame and hijiki, but because they have fishy flavors, be cautious when adding them to the rest of the vegetables.
These Fermenting Tips Are a Must in Your Arsenal
Take note of these other tips that’ll help you produce fresh and excellent fermented vegetables:12,13
|Wash and prepare vegetables properly to remove bacteria, enzymes and other debris. The vegetables may be grated, sliced, chopped or left as a whole. However, be consistent with their size and shape, since that can impact the speed of fermentation and texture of the finished product.growth of disease-causing bacteria
|Pint and quart jars can come in handy: Large, glass Mason jars with self-sealing lids are the most ideal for fermenting vegetables.
You’ll need containers that have a wide mouth that should fit your hand or another tool like a masher, so you can tightly pack the vegetables and remove air pockets. Avoid using plastic jars since they can leach chemicals into the food. The same goes for metal containers because they can be corroded by salts mixed with the vegetables.
|Allow the vegetables to “ripen” for a week: After packing the vegetables down, wait for a week or more to allow the vegetables to “ripen” and the flavors to develop.
Put the lids on the jar loosely, since they will expand because of gases produced during fermentation. The jars should be placed in a relatively warm location with a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of days. Allot three to four days for the vegetables to ferment during the summer. In the winter, set aside seven days for the vegetables to “ripen.”
|Move the vegetables to cold storage: Move the fermented vegetables to the refrigerator when they are ready. Telltale signs that your vegetables are ready include bubbles that appear throughout the jar and development of a pleasant sour aroma and flavor.
Vegetables with a rotten or spoiled odor should be tossed out, and the container must be washed immediately. Afterward, you can try your hand at making another batch.
|Labeling is important: There might be instances when you’ll forget when you’ve made a particular batch and what its ingredients are. When labeling, include the ingredients, the date when the batch was made and how many days were allotted to ferment the vegetables.
One last tip: When serving fermented food, always use a clean spoon and never eat straight out of the jar, since the entire batch can be contaminated with bacteria from your mouth. Don’t forget to share this recipe with your friends and family, so they too can start making their own fermented veggies and start reaping the wholesome benefits.
+ Sources and References