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Well, today I got to try my new fermented foods and beverages.  Above is the beet kvass.  I must say after drinking 2 ounces of it that it must be an aquired taste.  I am planning on aquiring it, though, because it is so good for you (basically all you do is peel and cut up beets- then cover with water, whey and salt and let it sit for 2 days).  I was hoping it would be a little more tangy than it was.  Oh well.  The sauerkraut, however, was amazing!!!!!!  It worked, it really worked!  All I did was follow the recipe in Nourishing Traditions for making the whey and then the sauerkraut itself.  It is outstanding, I must say.  I plan on eating a small amount of it a couple times a day.  I am excited by the fact that it makes me feel so good and healthy inside… I can’t even explain it.  I will post some recipes below, but first here is a little bit on lacto-fermented foods from the Weston A. Price Foundation website (written by Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions):

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It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine.

The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was “alchemy.” Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide and small amounts of benzoic acid.

Lacto-fermented condiments are easy to make. Fruits and vegetables are first washed and cut up, mixed with salt and herbs or spices and then pounded briefly to release juices. They are then pressed into an air tight container. Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months. The amount of salt can be reduced or even eliminated if whey is added to the pickling solution. Rich in lactic acid and lactic-acid-producing bacteria, whey acts as an inoculant, reducing the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to be produced to ensure preservation. Use of whey will result in consistently successful pickling; it is essential for pickling fruits. During the first few days of fermentation, the vegetables are kept at room temperature; afterwards, they must be placed in a cool, dark place for long-term preservation.

It is important to use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered or pure water for lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients to do their work; and, if the vegetables are deficient, the process of fermentation will not proceed. Likewise if your salt or water contains impurities, the quality of the final product will be jeopardized.

Lacto-fermentation is an artisanal craft that does not lend itself to industrialization. Results are not always predictable. For this reason, when the pickling process became industrialized, many changes were made that rendered the final product more uniform and more saleable but not necessarily more nutritious. Chief among these was the use of vinegar for the brine, resulting in a product that is more acidic and not necessarily beneficial when eaten in large quantities; and of subjecting the final product to pasteurization, thereby effectively killing all the lactic-acid-producing bacteria and robbing consumers of their beneficial effect on the digestion.

The lacto-fermented recipes presented in Nourishing Traditions are designed to be made in small quantities in your own kitchen. They require no special equipment apart from a collection of wide-mouth, quart-sized mason jars and a wooden pounder or a meat hammer. (For special sauerkraut crocks that enable you to make large quantities, see Sources in the back of Nourishing Traditions.)

We recommend adding a small amount of homemade whey (recipe on page 87 of Nourishing Traditions) to each jar of vegetables or fruit to ensure consistently satisfactory results. Whey supplies lactobacilli and acts as an inoculant. Do not use commercial concentrated whey or dried whey. You may omit whey and use more salt in the vegetable recipes, but whey is essential in the recipes calling for fruit.

About one inch of space should be left between the top of your vegetables with their liquid and the top of the jar, as the vegetables and their juices expand slightly during fermentation.

Be sure to close the jars very tightly. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.

We have tried to keep these recipes as simple as possible without undue stress on ideal temperatures or precise durations. In general, a room temperature of about 72 degrees will be sufficient to ensure a lactic-acid fermentation in about two to four days. More time will be needed if your kitchen is colder and less if it is very warm. After two to four days at room temperature, the jars should be placed in a dark, cool spot, ideally one with a temperature of about 40 degrees. In days gone by, crocks of lacto-fermented vegetables were stored in root cellars or caves. A wine cellar or small refrigerator kept on a “warm” setting is ideal; failing that, the top shelf of your refrigerator will do. Lacto-fermented fruit chutneys need about two days at room temperature and should always be stored in a refrigerator.

Lactic-acid fermented vegetables and fruit chutneys are not meant to be eaten in large quantities but as condiments. They go beautifully with meats and fish of all sorts, as well as with pulses and grains. They are easy to prepare, and they confer health benefits that cannot be underestimated.

Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses–not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer and arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world.

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WHEY AND CREAM CHEESE

1 quart of whole milk yogurt

Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel (I used a piece of an old undershirt of Mike’s since it is thinner).  Pour in the yogurt, cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours (like about 5-6 hours).  The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids stay in the strainer.  Tie up the towel with the milk solids inside, being careful not to squeeze.  Tie this little sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a container (a glass pitcher works great) so that more whey can drip out.  When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready.  Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese separately in glass containers in the fridge.  The cream cheese keeps up to a month, and the whey keeps for about 6 months.  -Yes, I did say cream cheese!  That’s a fun by-product of this.  I mixed ours up with raw honey for Mike to eat on the cranberry bread I made.  I can’t eat cream cheese, but Mike told me that this is a little tangier than commercial cream cheese.  Enjoy!

How to Make Sauerkraut

(I found this already typed up at nourishedmagazine.com so that I didn’t have to spend more time typing.  This is the recipe from Nourishing Traditions.  I added my notes to it.)

  • 1 or 2 quart canning jars (I filled a quart and a pint jar)
  • 1 Cabbage Medium sized, cored 
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of whey
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds

Grate cabbage with a hand grater or process in a food processor, then mix in a large bowl or food grade plastic bucket (get them at a hardware store) with the salt and whey. Pound with a meat mallot or wooden pounder of some kind. (note- Shannon told me she doesn’t pound because she doesn’t have a meat mallot.  She just mixes and lets it sit for about an hour and mixes again.  I did a combination).  Pound until the juices cause suction when you pull the pounder out of the mix.

Press the mixture into a clean glass jar using a wooden spoon. Press firmly until the juice rises to the top and covers the mixture, which it will do when it is pounded enough. Leave at least one inch or more of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
Cover the kraut and store the jar in a cupboard for 5 days (depending on the ambient temperature) before transferring to the refrigerator. You can eat it now or wait. The sauerkraut may be consumed after a couple of weeks, though if you allow the fermentation process to continue for a month or so in the refrigerator you will be well rewarded with a most delicious flavour. I love sauerkraut at 4 months old.

As with all fermenting, follow your nose. If it smells putrid or you have any doubts about the quality, then discard the sauerkraut and start again.

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