Fermented Foods

My education about cultured and fermented foods was for many years the same as everybody else.  I heard the commercials touting the benefits of eating yogurt and heard about the need for acidophilus.  It wasn’t until I started exploring the idea of fermenting foods that I really understood how beneficial they can be.  Growing up I can remember my mother slicing up cabbage and packing it in a huge crock and sometime later we would eat sauerkraut.  As a child I never made the connection between the cabbage and the kraut.  I also didn’t realize that the process was fermentation and a way of preserving the cabbage.

Pro (for) biotic (life) are bacteria essential for healthy body functions.  In our world of anti-biotic overuse and abuse.  A healthy  colon loaded with  pro-biotic has become a thing of the past, leading to yeast overgrowth, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer.  A healthy body needs between 5 and 8 pounds of healthy bacteria in the intestinal system for good function.  When a person takes an anti (against) biotic (life) or uses anti-biotic soaps regularly they kill off the beneficial bacteria, resulting in intestinal dysfunction.

Know Your Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, iron, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin), water wheat bran, hone, high fructose corn syrup, soya bran, canola oil and/or soybean oil, rolled oats, rye flakes.  Contains 2% or less of each of the following: molasses, raisin juice, crushed wheat, yeast, wheat gluten, slat, cultured whey, calcium sulfate, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: calcium and sodium stearoyl, lactylate, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerieds monocalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate), mon- and diglycerides, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate). “No artifical preservatives added.”

Recipe of the Month: Reuben Sandwich

Reuben sandwiches are made from fermented foods.  If you make the different components yourself, it is a much healthier sandwich than made from store bought ingredients.  While I don’t consider any meat sandwich healthy since it is poor food combining, we still enjoy one as an occasional treat.

Sourdough bread
Corned beef
Swiss cheese
Butter or olive oil
Spread sourdough bread with cultured butter and fill with thinly sliced corned beef, thinly sliced Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.  Sauté sandwich lightly on both sides in a small amount of butter or extra virgin olive oil until lightly browned and the interior is warmed.

A Few Benefits of Fermented Foods

1.   Promote growth of probiotics
2.   Easier to digest
3.   Naturally processed and preserved.

Some Types of fermented foods:

·        Yogurt
·        Kefir
·        Kombucha
·        Buttermilk
·        Sour Cream
·        Sauerkraut
·        Kimchi
·        Vegetables
·        Fizzy fruit drinks, cider, beer, mead, wine
·        Sourdough breads

Requirements to culture or ferment foods: Raw food , a starter and your imagination.

Once you have begun to enjoy making and eating your own cultured or fermented foods, you can become as addicted as we are to the slightly tart taste and enjoy some great health benefits at the same time.

Culturing Food

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms 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.” – Sally Fallon, co-author of Nourishing Traditions

Different types of foods require different starting methods.  We started with sauerkraut which is one of the easier ways to begin.  All it took was a head of cabbage, a knife and cutting board (we used the food processor to slice the cabbage, but that isn’t a necessity) a container and celtic or real salt.  Admittedly our first batch wasn’t the best.  I used way too much salt and  the end result was very salty and too crunchy.  We like our kraut slightly salty and a little soft, but with some crunchiness remaining.  Salt is the preservative when making krauts.  The more salt, the longer it will be preserved for and the crunchier it will be.  With sauerkraut in our house, long term preservation is not an issue. It is eaten long before it could possibly spoil.  Once you slice your cabbage, you mix with a little salt and pound it into your container.  There are kraut pounding utensils, again not a necessity, the human fist works just as well and if you are just starting, save the expense until you know you will be making it more often.  As you pound the cabbage, liquid will form.  When the liquid can be seen above the cabbage you are ready for the next step which is to place a plate on the top and weigh it down with something heavy.  We just use a bottle of juice sitting on a plate.  Cover and let sit on the counter for several days.  I usually check it after 4 or so days by eating a small amount to see if it is ready.  If not, just put it back on the counter.  I have found the higher  I fill the container,  the longer it takes.  The kraut can develop mold on the top of the liquid if you don’t keep your cabbage completely covered, it won’t harm the finished product, just scrap it off and discard.

Water kefir is another really easy way to introduce cultured foods into your life.  The process of making water kefir is very simple, you simply place your water kefir grains in sweetened water, cover loosely with a towel or coffee filter and let sit for a couple of days, strain off the kefir grains and place the bottled water kefir in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.  You can flavor it with fruits and juices or put into a smoothie. The next batch is simply made by putting the grains back into sweetened water.  The beverage is mildly tart when fruit or juice is added on the second fermentation it turns into a fizzy soda pop like beverage which is much healthier than the store bought sugar-laden sodas.

Milk kefir involves using a quart glass jar, kefir grains and fresh milk.  Add the grains to the milk, cover and shake or stir with a wooden spoon.  Cover loosely with a lid so it is not airtight but won’t let bugs in.  Allow to culture for 12 hours for a very mild thin kefir or 24 hours for a thicker and stronger flavored kefir.  Remove the grains, place in a clean jar and start your next batch.

It is best to start with one type of cultured or fermented food and then when you are comfortable with making and using it, progress to another.  Cultured and fermented foods are fairly easy to make, but they do have to be taken care of, sometimes daily as with milk kefir.

You are in Control

One of my greatest concerns before I began learning about fermented foods was the amount of sugar it required to produce kombucha and kefir.  If you are concerned about the amount of sugar, don’t be.  The kefir grains use the sugar to grow and culture the water.  There is very little of the sugar left.

Many of the cultured foods in the stores like yogurt and sour cream have an endless list of ingredients, many of which it is impossible to pronounce, which is the first indication to me that if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t’ want to put it into my body.  Even some of the organic labeled foods have ingredients it takes a dictionary to figure out what it is.  If you make your own cultured foods at home, you are in control of what ingredients it will contain.  In addition, truly cultured foods in the store need to be kept at a controlled temperature making them incredibly expensive.  By culturing your own foods at home you can save money.

Almonds – January Herb from the Bible

Herbs come in all shapes and forms.  Almonds are particularly nutritious and a great addition to any healthy lifestyle. Almonds can be soaked and eaten raw, sprouted,  ground and made into pate, or ground with water, drained and made into milk, oil made from almonds is a wonderful skin softener and flavoring for food.

When Moses went into the tent of the covenant on the next day, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted.  It put fourth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds.   Numbers 17:8

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