Nourish - The Benefits of Vegetable Fermentation in a Nutshell [Plus Emily’s Sauerkraut recipe!]
Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of preservation.
Vegetable fermentation helps to transform a simple raw vegetable into something infinitely healthier and even more delicious.
How is this achieved?
The transformation owes everything to the microbes in the soil that the veggies are grown in and the sugars present in the vegetables.
During fermentation, microorganisms including bacteria, yeasts or moulds break down complex molecules into simpler substances. Given the right conditions, the bacteria kick-start fermentation by feasting on the vegetables natural sugars and converting them into a variety of things including lactic acid, carbon dioxide and a tinsy amount of alcohol.
This not only transforms the chemical composition of the food, but also enhances its nutritive value.
Fermented vegetables are so good for you and your gut health; they really should be eaten daily.
Not only do they aid in digestion, healing the gut, and boosting the body’s ability to absorb more nutrients from your food; they’ve also been linked to an increased immune system and an improved mood.
Our bodies are populated with trillions of bacteria, most of which live in our gut and have a huge impact on our overall health.
Our microbiome does so much to keep us healthy, from keeping our good:bad bacteria ratio balanced, synthesizing vitamins including Vitamin K and B, enhancing nutrient absorption, regulating inflammation and immunity throughout our entire body and so much more.
That’s why I believe that nurturing our guts is the number one thing we can do to boost our overall health and immunity.
Remove refined Sugar and Processed Foods
If you’re struggling with digestive problems or an imbalanced gut, in order to rebuild and maintain a healthy gut, you have to remove what could potentially be causing the damage.
Refined sugar is the worst offender because it feeds the negative gut bacteria and depletes the positive bacteria that support a healthy microbiome.
Other culprits include processed and refined foods, poor diet, stress, inactivity, antibiotics and poor sleep quality.
My advice – bring in the good bacteria with fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented veggies, kefir, miso, kimchi and tempeh.
All of these fermented foods are full of good bacteria to help combat poor digestion, bad skin, irritable moods, inflammation and low immunity.
Bring in the Prebiotics
Another important area to focus on are the prebiotics. These are essentially the food source for probiotics.
Think raw asparagus, garlic, onion, leek, bananas and dandelion greens.
And here’s where my sauerkraut recipe comes in!
Making sauerkraut is one of the cheapest and easiest fermented foods you can make and it’s so versatile.
Sauerkraut goes well with many foods, and you can adjust what you put in it to alter its flavour profile.
Personally I like to add it to avocado toast, veggie burgers, sandwiches, mixed into or added to salads and as a side dish to any of my meals.
The combinations are endless.
What you will need:
There are many different types of jars, crocks, containers, slicing tools and gadgets that can be used to make fermented foods, as well as endless veggie combinations, but to keep things simple, I’ll stick to the following:
1 litre sized jar (a kilner jar/ air tight glass jar (I get mine in IKEA)
Sea salt /Himalayan Salt.
1 head of cabbage
1 tablespoon of sea salt
Pull off about 3 outer leaves of cabbage and set aside.
Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.
Shred your cabbage using a food processor (I personally prefer the coarser grater); or alternatively cut by hand into thin strips. Place the cabbage in a large bowl.
Sprinkle your salt into the bowl and start massaging it into the cabbage by hand. Squeeze, push, and squeeze again to get the liquid out of the cabbage. You can also use a vegetable pounder to help.
You’re aiming for plenty of liquid to come out and a soft textured feel to the cabbage.
If you find that there’s little-to-no juice coming out, leave the cabbage aside for 10-20 minutes and come back to it. The salt will have helped draw the liquid out of the cabbage and it should be easier to get stuck in to it!
If you want to add other veggies, spices or herbs to your kraut, do so in this step. Mix and squeeze them with the cabbage.
Pack the cabbage into your jar tightly with either your hand or a vegetable pounder. Push it all the way down until it submerges in its own juices (this is the brine).
Fill your jar until there is about 1-2 inches of space from the top and pour any remaining brine into the jar to cover the cabbage entirely.
It is vital that your cabbage is always kept UNDER the brine. This keeps it in an anaerobic condition, meaning there’s no oxygen. This creates an oxygen-free environment where lactobacillus bacteria can thrive and bad bacteria cannot.
If you allow your cabbage/veggies to be exposed to any oxygen, you’ll be creating a jar of mould instead of delicious sauerkraut!
Remember the outer leaves and core you kept aside? Here’s where they come into play.
There’s a multide of ways to keep the cabbage under the brine, but here’s a couple of different ways to do it.
Either you can place a couple of the cabbage leaves into the jar and push down to ensure they’re keeping everything submerged under the brine, or you can take one of the cabbage cores and place it on top of the cabbage, acting like a weight, and then add the cabbage leaf over top to cover it further.
If you use a larger jar/crock/pot, other submerging options include:
A plate with a weight on top, a smaller jar that fits inside the jar, glass pebble weights, a plastic sandwich bag filled with water, or the weights that often come with a fermenting crock.
Screw on the lid to the jar loosely so gas can escape as fermentation takes place, or seal your air-tight jar shut. If you do the latter, remember to ‘burp’ your ferment daily so it doesn’t go bang!
Some veggies can be very explosive, so make sure to keep opening the jar in the first few days to release the gas.
Set the jar on the counter on top of a plate for 5-7 days in a cool, shaded place.
In case it bubbles over and makes a mess, keep a plate underneath.
I’ve made beetroot infused sauerkraut before and trust me, using a plate underneath saved my counter top!
One thing to note is the time.
I say 5-7 days, but in all honesty it really depends on your environment.
If it’s cold, it will take longer, if it’s warm it will be faster.
The truth of the matter is there is no exact time on it. Maybe you love it after 5 days, maybe it’s reached a taste you like at 2 weeks. It’s simply done when you like the taste of it!
Once it’s reached the flavour you like, pop it in the fridge and enjoy!
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication