Food has changed more in the last 100 years than ever before, with the advent of modernization, processed and fake ‘franken’ foods. Yet we are finding ourselves in a health crisis as biologically we are still the same, we are made to function optimally on real, wholesome foods.
Before refrigeration and the canning machine, fruits and vegetables where preserved by a process of lacto-fermentation, a tradition largely lost and being revived as the incredible healing power of these traditional cultured foods is realized. I am thankful to have discovered cultured vegetables, I include then in my diet daily, an extremely beneficial digestive aid teaming with bio available nutrients.
How does all this work? The produce is preserved by process of lacto-fermentation, lactic acid is the natural preservative that stops putrefying bacteria, the starches and sugars are converted by the many species of lactic acid producing bacteria, which are present on the surface of many living things.
This increases their digestibility and nutrient value, helpful enzymes, antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances are produced. The lactic acid keeps the produce in a perfectly preserved state, and also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine, teaming as it is with many species of lactobacilli.
A starter culture is used to allow the fermentation process to take hold, and not rot. There are several different methods of starter culture, such as salt, a salt brine, whey and a culture package all of which do the same job.
1. Salt and Salt Brine
This method is probably the simplest, salt can be used by sprinkling it between the layers of the vegetables and pounding to release the juices, or the vegetables can be packed down with a salt brine. The downside of this method is one has to use quite a bit of salt to achieve good result.
Whey is the starter culture for fermenting vegetables, it can be made from scratch if you have access to unpasteurized (raw) milk, or in a pinch use the liquid that collects on top of a good quality yogurt when opened, this is whey.
To make it from scratch; begin with raw milk and let stand at room temperature for two to four days, until it visibly separates into white curds and yellowish whey.
Line a sieve with cotton cheesecloth, place over a bowl and place the milk in the sieve, the whey will strain through. Cover and let stand for several hours, remove the whey to a jar and store in the fridge up to two weeks.
The solids that remain can be collected and tied up in a little bag until it stops dripping, this is the best tasting cream cheese you ever had! I like mine blended with chopped herbs from my patio garden and seasoned with a little sea salt and paprika.
3. Starter Culture Package
Probably the most consistently reliable method is purchasing a starter culture package from a reliable supplier such as Body Ecology or Cultures for Health. These packages ate specific probiotic strains, and although a little pricey will supply a consistent result.
One of my favorite cultured vegetables and easiest to make is Kimchi, there are so many variations of this, in Germany it is known as Sauerkraut, usually made simply with cabbage and a few caraway seeds; there are version in Latin America with additions of carrots, onions and spices, as in Korea and Japan.
I am fond of the Korean ‘Kimchi’ version, the recipe can just be a guideline to you as ingredients can be left out or increased according to taste, I like more carrots in mine, make it your own!
(Makes 2 Pints)
1 head Napa Cabbage, cored and shredded (or regular cabbage)
1 bunch Green Onions, finely sliced
2 cups Carrots, grated
1 cup Daikon Radish, grated
1 Tbsp. Ginger, freshly grated
1 tsp. dried Chili Flakes
Starter Culture Options (pick one):
2 tablespoons Sea Salt (such as Celtic Sea Salt)
4 tablespoons Whey, plus one teaspoon Salt
Salt brine as needed prepared with 3 tablespoons salt dissolved in 1 quart water
Culture starter liquid prepared to package specifications
2 pint Mason Jars
Prepare the Mason jars by rinsing out well with boiling water, especially if they have been washed in the dishwasher as commercial dish washing soaps are very toxic and can interfere with the fermentation process.
Bring all your vegetables to room temperature before working with them, as they will release their juices more easily. When shredding the cabbage set aside a few of the outer leaves to use as seals later.
Dry salt and whey methods:
Place all the vegetables in a large bowl; if using the dry salt or salt and whey option, sprinkle with the salt and whey and mix together. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, the salt will begin to draw the juices from the vegetables. Pound with a meat hammer or mallet to further release the juices, this takes a little effort, perhaps 10 minutes or so of pounding!
Scoop the kimchi into the jars and press down firmly to allow the juices to rise to the top, there should be at least a 1 inch space between the top of the jar.
Liquid brine methods:
If using the liquid brine option, pack the vegetables into the jars and firmly press down with a small mallet, adding a little brine as you work. Top off with brine.
Air lock and Lid methods:
The important thing with culturing is that the vegetables are under the brine at all times, in an ‘aneorobic’ environment, meaning without air. There are several options for keeping the vegetables pressed down:
Take a cabbage leaf, remove the hard spine, and fold over on top of the kimchi, pressing down and tucking it in around the sides. Add a weight to the top to keep the vegetables well under the brine. Options are boiled and cleaned tumbled non porous rocks, ceramic weights or the ‘Pickle Pebble’ weights.
Lid options; a two part lid for a mason jar can be used, however this must be ‘burped’ every day to release the gasses or it might explode.
Better options for lids are the ‘Pickel it’ silicone top for Mason jars, or the ‘Pickle Pipe’, both of these are self burping.
Place the lid of choice on and allow to rest at room temperature, ideally 72F for three to four days, longer for colder climates, until the culture has reached the desired taste.
Store in the fridge or a cool basement, the ideal temperature should be around 40F.
The culture will ‘improve’ with age, it can be kept up to around six months, the longer it is aged the more tangy it will be. For those unaccustomed to enjoying cultured vegetables start with just a heaped teaspoonful at a meal; these cultures are powerful and will detoxify the body, and aid digestion.
One of the simplest cultured vegetables to make, and most pleasing to the palate to those unacustomed to the taste of cultured vegetables. Choose firm, fresh organic carrots for the best results.
4 cup grated carrots
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
Culture of choice (see above recipe)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to begin drawing out. Prepare according to culture of choice.
Pack into wide mouth mason jars, pressing down to allow the juices to rise up. Place lid system of choice on top. Cover and leave at room temperature for 3 to 4 days, transfer to the fridge for cold storage.
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