A Brief Guide to Fermented Food & Drink (plus Ginger & Fennel Sauerkraut Recipe)
A Guest Post By Rebecca Price, Integrative Holistic Health Coach and Culinary Nutrition Expert.
I try to include some form of fermented foods or drinks into my daily diet whether it is sauerkraut or kimchi or perhaps stirring through some miso paste into a soup or stew and, of course I am partial to a kombucha (particularly Left Field Kombucha which is always in my fridge!).
Fermented products have been growing in popularity lately and are featuring more and more across the media and social media. In fact, on the BBC Good Food website they listed fermented foods and drinks as the number one food trend to watch out for in 2018.
Fermentation: An ancient wellness trend?!
Whilst it may seem that fermented foods and drinks are a new craze, the process of fermentation has been around for thousands of years, Sourdough bread for instance, is the oldest form of leavened bread with records showing it’s from the Ancient Egyptian Civilisation and kombucha was first recorded in China around 221 BC. Without the use of refrigerators, vegetables were often fermented at harvest as a way to preserve them so they could be eaten throughout the year.
When a food or drink is left to ferment, microbes (bacteria, yeasts or moulds) eat away at the sugars, until they become beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics (which means “for life”) and turn the sugars into acids or alcohol.
Good bacteria and gut health
Today we live in a somewhat sterile environment, from hand sanitisers, household sprays that kill 99% of bacteria to antibiotics (which literally means “against life”). Whilst these are effective against the bad bacteria they also have an effect on the good bacteria, which we need to keep our gut health thriving.
Fermented foods and drinks are often overlooked, I think the word “fermented” sometimes puts people off but not only are they rich in beneficial probiotics, they are also a great source of vitamins and minerals and can support our health in many ways. That being said, less is more, especially if you are new to introducing fermented foods or drinks into your diet, start with only a small amount per day.
Health benefits of fermented foods and drinks
Some health benefits for including fermented foods and drinks into your daily diet are:
1. Helps Digestion
Fermented foods are often easier to digest than they are raw i.e. sauerkraut vs. raw cabbage and by digesting our foods more effectively this helps us absorb more of the essential vitamins and minerals. With better digestion comes less gas, bloating and can keep things moving!
2. Supports Immune Health
Did you know that approximately 70%-80% of your immune system is based in your gut? So if our gut bacteria aren’t in balance and are not thriving this could affect our immune system and we may be more susceptible to catching that bug or cold that is going around. Fermented foods and drinks help support our immune system thanks to them providing good bacteria to our gut.
3. A Healthy Liver
Not only is kombucha rich in probiotics but it is also a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants work to fight against free radicals that can cause damage to your cells. Research has shown that the antioxidants in kombucha work to support a healthy liver.
These are just a few of the reported health benefits of fermented foods and drinks and if kombucha was first recorded around 221BC then perhaps it was the original ‘superfood’?
Ginger & Fennel Sauerkraut: A recipe
Below is a recipe for my favourite sauerkraut, which includes ginger and fennel, two spices that are great for digestive health too. I enjoy sauerkraut on sandwiches, in an omelette, as a topping to my veggie burger or straight from the jar.
It does take a while to prep the sauerkraut before the fermentation begins but this would be a perfect time to crack open a Left Field Kombucha to enjoy whilst you massage the cabbage!
Sauerkraut with Ginger & Fennel
-1 medium white or red cabbage
-2 Tbsp. finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
-2 tsp. fennel seeds
-1 Tbsp. salt
How To Make
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside. Remove the tough core from the cabbage. Finely slice/shred the cabbage and put in a large glass bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients.
With your hands or the base of a wooden rolling pin, firmly massage the cabbage and all the ingredients together until the cabbage starts to release its juices. This can take up to 10 minutes.
Once the mixture has reduced in size and the cabbage juices have started to be released, start putting the mixture into a wide mouthed sterile glass jar. Firmly pack the mixture down to get rid of any air bubbles. I use the base of my wooden rolling pin to press the mixture firmly into the jar - you want the liquid to cover the contents.
Once the mixture is packed in the jar, take a reserved cabbage leaf and pack this on top of the mixture, as you push down the liquid will come up over the cabbage leaf. Depending on the size of the neck of your jar you may need a couple of the reserved cabbage leaves.
Secure the lid firmly onto the jar and store in a warm dark place for 3-4 days. Open the lid slightly each day to ‘burp’ the sauerkraut, it’s best to have the jar on a plate to catch any juices that may escape, then, secure the lid again. The longer you leave it the more sour it will become. Have a taste test and you can judge when it is ready for your taste. Do not double dip though! As this will contaminate the sauerkraut, always use a clean fork.
Once the sauerkraut is ready, store in the refrigerator. Open and enjoy!
Health & Happiness
About the Author
Rebecca Price is the founder of Nourish by Rebecca, a company dedicated to developing healthful gluten free and dairy free recipes and products. Additionally, Nourish by Rebecca cooking workshops will be launched in the Scottish Borders in 2018.
To learn more visit www.nourishbyrebecca.com or follow on social media @nourishbyrebecca.