Fermenting is Fun
Fermenting your own foods can be a
healthy, fun, and nutritious hobby. We feel that anything you can make at home is much better than commercialized foods. We have put together a summary of fermented foods followed by a few recipes.
The Power of Microbes:
We live in a world dominated by microbes.
The Earth’s microorganisms are able to adapt to almost any environment and thrive. Bacteria have been found in the icy regions of Antarctica, near the surface of volcanic vents in the Atlantic, and even in our
digestive tracts. Our civilization is but a pale comparison to the invisible world of microbes that surrounds us. It is likely that these microbes will adapt and survive beyond human existence.
It is not
surprising that microbes have become experts of adaptation when you consider the evolutionary pressures of their world. They are constantly disrupted by changes in environment, competition from other species, attacks
from specialized viruses (i.e. bacteriophages), and a shifting food supply. Imagine trying to survive in a world filled with rampant diseases, famines, hurricanes, and floods, and you’ll begin to appreciate the
world of the microbe.
Some microbes have colluded with the competition to form symbiotic relationships. For example, the bacterial strains Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacilllus bulgaricus, work together
and transform milk into tasty yogurt. The thirty or so strains of bacteria and yeast found in Kefir, a traditional fermented drink of the Caucasians, band together to form complex ecology capable of digesting almost any
food source and staving off harmful pathogens. The microbes of Kefir even provide themselves with homes in the form of Kefir grains that are composed of a polysaccharide matrix.
Our ancient ancestors did not
live in a sterile environment. It is likely that they ingested various microbes found naturally in their foods. Some of these microbes were beneficial to their life while others caused infections and disease. Somewhere
along the way in their struggle for survival, our ancestors allied themselves with certain species of microbes. Our intestines have evolved into a perfect microbial farm. We provide these microbes with furnished home
and plenty of food, in return, they produce beneficial nutrients and help defend us from pathogens. About a thousand years ago, our ancestors began to experimenting with fermenting their own foods with beneficial
strains to prevent spoilage, fight infections, and increase absorption of nutrients. This action further allied our bodies with the microbial world.
Benefits of Fermented Foods:
Nobel Prize winner
Dr. Elie Metchnikoff
was one of the first scientists to recognize the benefits of eating fermented foods. His research in the early 1900’s focused on the Bulgarians. He believed the daily ingestion of yogurt was a major contribution to their superior health and longevity. Today, if you search the Internet on probiotics, you will find an almost endless supply of reasons why “good bacteria” are good for you. We hope to convince you that fermenting your own foods is cheaper, more fun, and better for you than just popping a pill of freeze dried bacteria.
Detoxify and Preserve:
If there’s anything that the microbial world does well, it is detoxifying things. Today, Bacteriologists periodically visit old military facilities in search of new strains
of bacteria living off of contaminants in the soil. If you put it in the ground and give them enough time to mutate and evolve, these microbes will find a way to break it down. This probably holds true for any organic
chemical. These earthly microbes purify the world.
Not only have we been able to use the detoxifying properties of microbes to breakdown nasty substances, such as oil spills, military dumps, and sewer plants, we
also use them to detoxify our food and water and increase shelf lives. For centuries, Europeans used wine as a source of clean, durable water. Bulgarians perfected the art of detoxifying and preserving milk (removing
the lactose and predigesting the proteins) and transforming it into yogurt and cheese. The Caucasians used Kefir grains for the same purpose: detoxify milk products to make Kefir. Vegetables were also fermented to
preserve them from spoilage. Most of the pickled products found on our grocery shelves were at one time a fermented product: pickles, saurkraut, and even catsup (a Chinese word for pickled fish brine). However,
since fermentation isn’t always a uniform process, manufacturers found another way to make these products.
Fight Off Infections:
Competition between microbes can be fierce. The good bacteria that
are normal inhabitants of our intestinal tracts will fight off many foreign intruders. They can be seen as our first line of defense in the war of infection. Scientists have documented many different substances
produced by lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) that have been found to inhibit harmful microorganisms. For example, lactobacillus acidophilus produces several substances while fermenting milk, including acidolin,
acidophillin, lactobacillan, and lactocidin. These substances have been shown to inhibit pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, while leaving other lactobacilli and human cells unharmed These antibiotic agents
are found in fermented milk, but not always in a probiotic pill. A 2000 study led by Dr. Chitra
of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, found that fermented milk products, like yogurt, can kill Helicobacter pylori (the ulcer causing bacteria) but that the beneficial bacteria alone cannot. This means that probiotics in pill form would have no effect on H. pylori but that homemade yogurt and Kefir would.
Nutritious to Boot:
Fermented products are a great source of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. The process of fermentation increases the amounts of some vitamins. Fermented milk is a
great source of energetic B vitamins while fermented vegetables are a great source of Vitamin C. Sauerkraut often served as military rations in ancient armies, most notably the Mongolians, and was used to prevent
scurvy. The process of fermentation also increases the bioavailability of these foods.
Harnessing the Power of Microbes:
Pills versus Food:
We have already mentioned
earlier that dairy products fermented with lactobacilli have been shown to kill pathogenic bacteria, such as H. pylori, while the lactobacilli alone did not. This means that some of the antibiotic properties of
these good bacteria may be missing in the probiotic pills you see on the shelves. Also, you have no way of verifying the potency or vitality of these products. Bacteria are living organisms and must be alive when you
eat them in order to reap their benefits. It does no good to ingest dead, good bacteria. Furthermore, good quality probiotics are often very expensive. For instance, a month’s supply from a popular vendor may cost as
much as $80 to $100 per month. With a budget of $100 per month, you can make all the sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt you’ll need. Not only will you be getting the benefits of these beneficial bacteria, you will be making
delicious and healthy meals as well. The only benefit store probiotics offer is convenience. However, once you get started, fermenting your own foods is very easy.
Please Use Caution:
Before we get too far into
fermenting your own foods, we want to emphasize two caveats of fermentation. First, the process of fermentation is only good for you if it occurs outside of your body. What does this mean? It means that if you ingest
foods that provide an abundance of sugar and growth media for bacteria, they will ferment those foods inside of you. An overgrowth of fermentative bacteria in your body can cause all kinds of medical problems, including
Crohn’s Disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, candidiasis
, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So the key is to pre-ferment your foods, that is to say, ferment your milk before you eat it.
Secondly, please do not eat spoiled fermented foods. In some rare instances,
fermented foods can be overtaken by mold or become spoiled. In these cases, throw out the result and start anew.
Commercial versus Homemade:
In our opinion homemade products are better all
around. For one, you do not have to trust a manufacturer with your health. You have total control over what you are eating. You can purchase the best milk and/or vegetables to use. Commercial products are
usually geared for taste and not health. In the case of yogurt, this means that commercial yogurt usually has a high lactose content and is usually loaded with sugar. Homemade yogurt can be made to eliminate
virtually all of the lactose and will be much fresher than anything you can buy in a store. If the taste isn’t to your liking, you can add in fresh fruit and/or honey to sweeten it up. Store bought Kefir has the
same problems, you have no control over the lactose content in the end product. Another thing to consider is, real Kefir is difficult to find in the store. Quite often a manufacturer will label a product as Kefir
when in fact it is not the real thing. In order for Kefir to be real, it needs to made from Kefir grains and not a powdered starter. As for fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, most commercial products have been
pasteurized and do not contain live cultures. The pasteurization process not only kills the beneficial bacteria, but may also destroy many of the enzymes and nutrients. Commercial sauerkraut may also contain
a fair amount of unnatural preservatives. We know that you will find fermenting your own foods at home more rewarding, healthier, cheaper than probiotics, and more enjoying than anything you could purchase in the
So you want to start fermenting your own foods, eh? Glad we could convince you. To get you started we’ve listed a few easy at home products you can make.
is very easy, especially if you own a yogurt maker. We recommend purchasing a Yogourmet Multi – they are cheap, easy to use, and can make 2 quarts per batch. You can get a yogurt maker and yogurt starter
from a trusted friend at Lucy’s Kitchen Shop. Once you have a starter and a yogurt maker, all you need is some milk (we recommend using Half-n-Half) and some patience. The directions that come with the maker
provide a fermentation of 6 hours. However, we recommend you ferment your yogurt for 24 hours to eliminate all lactose in the yogurt. Any residual lactose could be used as food for bacteria already found in your
GI-tract and result in fermentation in your intestines. CAUTION: Those of you following the SC Diet
MUST ferment your yogurt for 24 hours in order to stay on the diet. Please refer to page 131 of “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” for more instructions on making SCD legal yogurt.
Kefir is a
fermented milk product made from Kefir grains. Unlike yogurt, Kefir is made from lactobacillus bacteria and several different yeast organisms and is fermented at room temperature. The most difficult step in making
Kefir is getting someone to sell/give you some Kefir grains. It would be impossible for us to give Kefir any justice when there is a website out there that will describe everything and anything you need to know
about Kefir. The web site is called Dom’s Kefir In-site. Dom also sponsors an egroups list you can join to find someone to share Kefir grains with you and to answer any question you may have about Kefir. For those of you on the SC Diet, here are some directions from the wise Dominic about
eliminating the lactose in the Kefir:
“I find a good way to eliminate lactose even further is to ferment the kefir per usual (24 hours), strain, then
keep the strained kefir in a bottle (at room temperature) for a further 2 -3 days before consuming (ongoing fermentation). I don't keep my strained kefir in the fridge any more, but keep it like this in a cupboard. The
kefir is still good even after 6-7 days. One must give the bottle which the kefir is continuously fermenting in, a shake at least once daily. This is so that the microbes (mainly the yeasts) are mixed in well. Other
wise one may find a film or colonies of yeast or the acetic acid forming bacteria on top of the kefir. This is safe, but some lactose digesting yeasts may be flourishing mainly in this top layer, shaking will help to
distribute them into the kefir, where you want them to do their work (breaking down lactose). This continuous fermentation can also be done in the fridge, but I find that a more pleasant tasting kefir, with
markedly reduced lactose is achieved this way, (at room temp.). One can also keep fermenting the kefir, like above, in an air tight bottle. After the second day or so, an effervescent kefir will be produced. But i must
point out that the bottle must not be filled more that 3/4 full. Of course, one could also ferment the original kefir for 48 hours, then follow on with the suggestions above. This may further make sure that the lactose
content would be eliminated to a greater extent, and possibly in a smaller amount of time.”
3. Sauerkraut:Sauerkraut can be made in several different ways. The traditional recipe involves shredding and pounding fresh
cabbage, adding salt, and submerging it under water for several days. The natural bacteria in the cabbage, such as lactobacillus plantarum, will natural begin to ferment the cabbage while the salt inhibits other
microbes. You can eliminate the use of salt altogether by innoculating the shredded cabbage and water solution with yogurt starter or Kefir grains. A superior recipe can be found on Aquaman’s Website. A traditional
1 Fresh Medium Cabbage (red or green)
Pickling Salt (Please no iodine, it will kill the bacteria)
Distilled Water (or filtered and non-chlorinated)
Shred the cabbage. In a large bowl, mix shredded cabbage and salt together. Pound the cabbage
mixture to expel the juices. Place pounded cabbage and juices in a medium sized glass jar (1 Quart Sized). Press down firmly on the cabbage. Add distilled water until cabbage is fully submerged. Solution
should be at least one inch from the top of the jar. Cover the jar and let sit for 3 to 7 days at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, one can use Kefir grains to ferment the cabbage, just
eliminate the use of salt.
4. Pickled Ginger:
4 lbs fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon pickling salt (no iodine)
½ package of yogurt starter
1 cup Distilled Water (or filtered and non-chlorinated)
Peel and cut ginger into very thin slices. Pound ginger slices to expel juices.
and pounded ginger into a glass jar. Mix with salt and water.
Add yogurt starter and seal. Let sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.
Store in the refrigerator.
For more information:
Dom’s Kefir In-site: How to Make Kefir (The best source for Kefir anywhere).
- from the Bacteriology Dept of UW-Wisconsin
Weston A Price Org - Lacto-Fermentation Article
Lucy’s Kitchen Shop: A trusted source for yogurt makers and starters.
SCD Notes on Yogurt
Aquaman’s Sauerkraut Recipe
A Sauerkraut Crock Recipe
Kim Chi Recipe
Probiotics: Nature's Internal Healers, by Natash Trenev
Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet by Elaine Gottschall.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the
Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, Mary G. Enig, and Kim Waters.
Beyond Probiotics, by Ann Gittleman.
Acidophilus and Colon Health: How to Prevent Illness, Build Immunity, and Live a Longer, Healthier Life, by David