A Mini Guide To Making Your Own Fermented Foods
As a chef, I’ve cooked over a million meals in my life and, after studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York to become a qualified health coach, I’m more inspired than ever to create healthy recipes that are as good for our bodies as they are tasty.
Fermented food has been getting lots of buzz in foodie circles, but it’s actually one of the oldest ways of preserving food. Not only do I love the fact that nothing goes to waste when you start fermenting at home, I also love that the dishes can be so versatile, depending on the ingredients at hand. Using fermentation to preserve our food is a way of helping us to feel the healthful effects of well-grown vegetables throughout every season.
Fermented veggies are nature’s probiotic and full of healthy lactic acid, which promote good digestion. Eating a little bit of cultured or fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut or kimchi) every day helps to balance the stomach and promote healthy gut flora, meaning everything from your digestion to your nervous system functions much better. You’ll have more energy and be able to perform well for longer periods without suffering from fatigue.
Before you and your family start eating fermented foods and fermenting at home, it’s important to be aware of a few things.
- First, some people suffer from medical conditions that preclude fermented foods from being included in their diet.
- People with thyroid disorders also need to exercise caution, especially if they don¹t have adequate iodine because cultured vegetables can suppress the thyroid.
- Sauerkraut needs to be particularly well fermented and then further cured for another three months in the fridge to reduce histamine as much as possible.
- People on some classes of anti-depressants must avoid fermented foods altogether.
If in doubt, seek medical advice before you embark down the track to home-fermentation.
When you're ready to make your own fermented foods, it’s all about finding a way to do it without any risk that the fermentation process will create unhealthy bacteria.
I find it’s a good idea to experiment with a few recipes to find the ones that you and your family really enjoy. All you need is a decent kit and some seasonal vegetables.
I like to add fermented veg as a side dish to most of my meals. For example, I start the day with a poached egg and cultured beetroot or sauerkraut.
By creating our own fermented sauces and pickles from scratch, we cut out processed and ready-made sauces and side dishes out of our diets. Plus, the depth of fermented foods add flavor with a whole lotta zing to any meal!
Makes a 1.5 liter jar
- 14 oz. (400 g) red cabbage
- 14 oz. (400 g) cabbage
- 3.5 oz. (100 g) daikon (white radish), diced
- 1 green apple, cored and julienned
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 French shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 sachet vegetable starter culture*
You will need a 1.5 L preserving jar with an airlock lid for this recipe.
1. Wash the jar and all the utensils you will be using in very hot water. Dry well and set aside. Alternatively, run them through a hot rinse cycle in the dishwasher.
2. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages. Choose an unblemished leaf, wash it well and set aside for later. Shred the cabbages in a food processor or slice with a knife or mandolin, then transfer to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Add the daikon, apple, onion, shallot, coriander, lemon juice and salt and mix well. Cover and set aside.
3. Prepare the starter culture according to the directions on the packet. Add to the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Using a large spoon, fill the prepared jar with the vegetable mixture, pressing down to remove any air pockets and leaving 1 inch of room at the top. The vegetables should be completely submerged in the liquid. Add more water if necessary.
4. Take the clean cabbage leaf, fold it up and place it on top of the mixture, then add a small glass weight (a shot glass is ideal) to keep everything submerged. Close the lid, then wrap a tea towel around the side of the jar to block out the light.
5. Store the jar in a dark place with a temperature of 60-72F (16 – 23C) for 10 to 14 days. You can place the jar in a cooler to maintain a more consistent temperature. Different vegetables have different culturing times and the warmer it is the shorter the time needed. The longer you leave it to ferment, the higher the level of good bacteria and the tangier the flavor.
6. Chill before eating. Once opened, the kimchi will last for up to 2 months in the fridge when kept submerged in liquid. If unopened, it will keep for up to 9 months in the fridge.
*You can buy starter culture online.
If you're interested in learning more about fermenting foods, or you want to try it yourself, I've got a good place for you to start. Check out my course The 7-Day Paleo Plan designed to help you leverage the power of Paleo to create vibrant health and energy. It's simple, straightforward and - most of all - effective, as you'll get a ton of tips and tricks as well as a full 7 days of Paleo meals.