If only beer and wine come to mind when you think of fermentations, think again.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha contain live bacteria. When consumed they can help restore and maintain balance in the gut, and result in an improved overall health. These types of good bacteria are known as probiotics, and are similar to the live cultures found in yogurt and kefir on the grocery store shelves.
The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting” and biotic, meaning “life.”
According to Friday Harbor Holistic Health’s Nicholas Corrin, probiotics are especially helpful to people who have been taking antibiotics and thus need to repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
But these pro-life organisms are good for everyone. They promote a healthy immune system, help keep the lining of the colon strong but flexible, and help with the absorption of vitamins and overall digestion.
“Health starts in the colon,” Corrin said. “The best thing anyone can do is make their own fermented foods.”
Making your own fermented foods is cheaper than buying it. Organic sauerkraut runs close to nine dollars a jar, and bottles of kombucha are three dollars each. While startup costs may be a little expensive, the supplies will last for many batches.
The following recipes use one quart for size. You can double the recipe and so on for larger batches. Make sure everything is kept clean and sterile, especially your hands and jars.
While intimidating at first, making ‘booch is really easy and inexpensive. Kombucha is often called “mushroom tea,” as the culture used during fermentation looks like a mushroom. It’s slightly sour, effervescent and can be flavored with different kinds of fruits after bottling.
Kombucha needs a SCOBY for fermentation. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” You can order your SCOBY as part of a kombucha kit, you can get one from a kombucha making friend, or you can make your own, (look up how to make a kombucha SCOBY online or in a fermented foods book at the library).
What you’ll need:
•One quart sized jar
•Three and a half cups water
•Two bags green or black tea
•One fourth cup white sugar
•Half cup Starter tea or distilled white
1. Heat water
2. Dissolve sugar
3. Steep tea
4. Cool tea to room temperature. Once cooled add tea to jar with scoby.
5. Add starter tea or vinegar. Starter tea is kombucha from a previous batch, or from a store bought bottle.
Make sure you use raw, unflavored kombucha for your starter tea. As time goes on and you make continuous batches, save a cup of kombucha from each batch for the next one.
6. Cover with paper towel or coffee filter. Allow to ferment 7-10 days. Ferment longer for a more sour taste and shorter for sweeter.
• Note: Mold is unlikely but can happen. Trouble shoot and discard if mold appears.
You know, that stuff we put on hot dogs? Traditional store bought kraut is usually pasteurized, which kills most of the probiotics. For no more than the cost of a head of cabbage and about 15 minutes of labor, homemade sauerkraut is cheaper and healthier than traditional brands.
What you’ll need:
•One medium sized head of cabbage
•One and a half tablespoons of a non-additive sea salt
•One quart sized wide-mouth jar
• One small jelly jar
1. Chop cabbage into thin slices and transport into a large mixing bowl or pot.
2. Sprinkle salt onto cabbage.
3. Work the cabbage by squeezing it until the juices start to come out. While tough at first, after about 10 minutes the cabbage will go limp and float in its juices.
For an efficient method of pounding out the cabbage’s put the bowl or pot on the floor, kneel down and punch the cabbage down.
4. Transport cabbage and its juices into the jar. Push the cabbage down below the juice. Make sure the cabbage is submerged and not in contact with air.Weigh the cabbage down below the juice with a smaller canning jar filled with water.
5. Cover with coffee filter or paper towel and rubber band. Allow it to ferment at room temperature between 65-70 degrees. Your kraut is “done” when it tastes good to you. It can ferment for up to a few months.
• Note: Bubbles, foam or white scum at the top are signs of fermentation. Scum can be skimmed off the top.
Discard if moldy. If kraut turns brown that means its been exposed to too much air and should be discarded.