Among the many fermented beverages available to the home-fermenter, beet kvass is often the least known. That is unfortunate since it is also one of the simplest fermented beverages one can make and many find it to be a wonderful tonic when taken on a daily basis. It is said that beet kvass originated in the Ukraine. It is here where beets are well-loved and oft-used in the kitchen. Beet kvass is just one way in which this traditional culture has incorporated the nutrient-rich beet into their everyday diet.
This time of year brings fermented sauerkraut, fermented dill pickles tucked into the pantry, and even fermented fruits. While fruit fermentation is generally consumed shortly after fermentation, unless alcohol fermentation is desired, there is every reason to take advantage of the seasonal abundance. Fermenting fruit can prove a bit more complicated than vegetables, due to their higher sugar content. But so long as a few principles are adhered to, the process is just as simple as the lacto-fermentation of vegetables. Raw fruits are, of course, a wonderful food all on their own. So, why ferment them? Well, a few benefits can be added through fermentation, not the least of which is the boost in beneficial bacteria. Fermentation also creates a complex flavor through its lactic acid tang which compliments many dishes. Not to mention the fact that you can add one more fermented food to your day’s meals and both old and young are particularly fond of sweet, tart fruit ferments.
Fermented foods have taken off in popularity in recent years with some recommending the consumption of at least one fermented food at every meal. They aid digestion by providing enzymes and probiotics and have been shown to have a host of benefits for everything from gut health to cancer to brain functioning. So there is no question that eating fermented foods daily – and even at every meal – is a great idea. While the practicality of such an endeavor can seem overwhelming, a bit of strategy and awareness will make these foods fall effortlessly into the meal.
It might sound outlandish, but the idea that your diet can have a huge effect on your emotions has become the focus of an exciting new area of psychological research. The latest addition to this growing body of research comes from psychologists at the College of William & Mary, and finds a link between a diet high in fermented foods and reductions in neuroticism and social anxiety.
In the fall we preserve cabbage by making sauerkraut. Salsa and berries are preserved and made better by fermenting them at the height of summer. Spring, with its abundance of colorful, crisp vegetables, spring holds a veritable buffet of vegetables waiting to be fermented into probiotic treats. Asparagus comes up early as a perennial vegetable. A member of the lily family, its shoot is cut and brought to the table crisp and green. Radishes are one of the quickest spring vegetables to grow – some take only 30 days to fully mature. Both are wonderful candidates for a probiotic and enzyme-rich spring fermented vegetable.
Light but substantial, fluffy and tangy; sourdough works wonders on pancakes. Not only do sourdough pancakes have a flavor and texture that cannot be beat, they also won’t leave you feeling bogged down after breakfast. Sourdough starter can be used not only for those fabulous loaves of tangy artisan bread, but for any baked good or grain-based treat. Muffins, quick breads, bagels, yeasted loaves, and even pancakes can all be made better through the fermentation of sourdough. Furthermore, using sourdough with freshly ground whole grains is a wonderful means of creating nourishing versions of your family’s favorite foods by improving both the healthfulness and the flavor of pancakes.
Sitting down to a big meal with family and friends can be a source of great joy and wonderful memories. By adding fermented foods to your table you provide enzymes and probiotics to aid in the digestion of those ubiquitous and comforting Thanksgiving foods. The microorganisms in these foods are wonderful; and the flavors created through fermentation are unparalleled. Layering the meal with these foods, or simply adding one or two, keeps things both easier on the belly and more interesting for those unfamiliar with the practice of home fermentation. There are many ways to incorporate these foods into your Thanksgiving meal. Sweet treats are prevalent this time of year and many of us will spend a bit of time baking during this week of Thanksgiving. There are a few ways to add culture even to the dessert table.
Whether we want to think about it or not, our bodies are actually largely made of up bacteria. One study found that we are comprised of ten times more bacteria than human cells. So it may even be an understatement to say that paying attention to our microbial makeup is critical. Defining probiotics is actually a bit tricky, as many see them as a supplement or a pill. Probiotics are not confined to something you have to purchase and swallow. In fact, some are finding that supplemental probiotics are not nearly as effective as naturally occurring beneficial microbes. Learn more about rebuilding your microbiome with probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Traditional foods are those that have been eaten for generations by those who have eschewed modern industrialized foods. They have stood the test of time, producing generations of vibrant parents and vigorous children who have lived without the modern degenerative diseases so prevalent in our western world. And so, when we seek out a traditional foods diet for both health and the sustainability of our food system, we must ask ourselves where certain foods fit into this picture. How were they prepared before industrialization? Do they have a place in history? Over the past decade, bread has taken a beating in the health food arena, and for good reason. Most bread made today is devoid of many of the characteristics of traditional bread. Sourdough bread is slow bread, traditional bread, and bread with a depth of flavor that cannot be imitated.
Most of us are familiar with sauerkraut, kimchi, and cucumber pickles as forms of fermented vegetables. Or we are, at the very least familiar with the store-bought vinegar-brined modern day versions of what once were lactic acid fermented vegetables. But you can ferment just about any vegetable, turning it into a lively probiotic-rich snack, condiment, or enzymatic addition to your meals. Here is a simple recipe you can make at home for fermented carrot sticks.