Hooked On Fermented Super Foods
For most of my life, the only association with fermented foods were German “Gurkerln“, gherkins in English, which were definitely not on my favourite food list! A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article on the health benefits of fermented foods and that article sparked my interest.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in fermented foods, is beneficial in restoring healthy intestinal flora.
All fruits and vegetables have beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus on their surface. In an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, these bacteria convert sugar into lactic acid. These beneficial bacteria also produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. It’s also what gives the fermented foods their characteristic sour flavour and it’s the reason why this type of natural fermentation is called lacto-fermentation.
Some form of fermentation was used in all traditional food cultures in order to preserve crops and make food more nutritious and interesting. Many of the foods we eat are fermented: sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, miso, wine and coffee, to name a few.
As food ferments, the flavours become more interesting and complex. Basically, you can pickle and ferment any vegetable you happen to have on hand in whatever empty vessel happens to be around.
Lacto- fermentation is SUPER easy and takes only a few minutes of your time.
- Pile the ingredients (any type of vegetable like cabbage, carrots, bell peppers etc) in a jar. I prefer to use a jar with an airlock which releases carbon dioxide produced during fermentation but block out oxygen. But again, you can use any jar, even a plain old mason jar. if you don’t use an airlock system, you have to open the jar once a day to release the carbon dioxide.
- Add salted water, cover the jar and let the bacteria work. Vegetables create their own brine when salt is added. Make sure the vegetables are completely submerged in the water. You can use a small bowl or jar to weigh down the vegetables and keep them submerged. This helps to prevent mold growth. Discard any vegetables that may have floated to the surface and skim off any mold that has been formed. Fear not- as long as there is no mold among the vegetables they are perfectly fine to eat. You can drink the brine (haven’t tried that yet), add it to dressings or use it for your next fermentation project.
Temperature does affect the fermentation process. A cool place enables the vegetables to ferment slower and develop more flavour. Check the vegetables more frequently in summer. Once they reach the desired level of tanginess and pungency, transfer them to the fridge to slow down further fermentation. The fermented veggies will keep for months and the flavour will only continue to develop and strengthen over time.
Click on this link to see my mixed pickles recipe in which I have used red bell peppers, red cabbage and cauliflower http://plantbasedhappy.com/?page_id=6051. You can add different vegetables and spices to your jars. In my recipe, I used coriander seeds, black peppercorns, a bay leave and some garlic. The fermentation process took three days until the flavour was to our liking.
I couldn’t wait to fill my sandwich with the wonderfully coloured fermented vegetables. I piled up avocado, some crispy seaweed squares, chopped kale massaged with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, fermented red cabbage and red pepper strips, pumpkin seeds and freshly ground black pepper. I quickly toasted it in my panini grill and LOOOVED the flavour!
Such an amazing, intense, slightly sour addition to my what now seems like a plain old sandwich! I was really stunned… And added fermented vegetables to my favourite food list!
Hope you’ll give it a try!