Fermentation is a chemical change brought about by yeast, bacteria or mold. This process has been used for centuries by people in order to make and preserve certain types of food. Wine, cheese, beer, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles and ketchup are all examples of food that are made through the process of fermentation.
Over 200 species of bacteria live in our gut. These microbes help break down food in our intestines, aid in the digestion process, help fight off disease, and boost our immune system. A good balance of intestinal flora is very important to our overall health. If we eat nothing but overly processed and hard to digest foods, then the fermentation process that occurs within will kick into overdrive resulting gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and might possibly lead to other diseases like cancer. Providing our bodies with predigested foods such as fermented good will help the existing microbes within to do the job they need to do.
Fermentation is not only a way to preserve certain foods, it some cases it actually adds to the nutrient value of it. Fermented vegetables contain more vitamin C (sailors would eat sauerkraut to prevent scurvy) and fermented milk products have ample amounts of B vitamins. The bioavailability of these vitamins also increases with fermentation. Probiotics, or “good bacteria” are also formed through the process of fermentation. This can be seen in the ever increasing popularity of lactobacilli that are found in name brand yogurts such as Activia and DanAlive.
Sauerkraut is an extremely common fermented food that comes in many varieties and is very easy to make. It is an immune boosting, flu-fighting, cancer battling, and digestive aid that you can make in your kitchen without too much trouble. It tastes great on burgers, in soups, and is even great by itself. You can make it by using salt or whey.
As you shred the cabbage, add handfuls to the ceramic bowl and sprinkle salt over each layer to help draw out the moisture. Add the apples and carrots along with the cabbage into the jar and pack them down with the wooden spoon as you go. Make sure to release as much juices as possible. Now weigh down the veggies with your other jar, pressing down and pushing out as much air as possible and get the juices flowing. Now, put a cheesecloth or towel over it and let it sit until it is tart and crunchy. This makes take a few days to a few weeks depending on the weather. Just be sure to test it often. Once tart, stick it in the fridge and enjoy at your convenience.