Archive for the ‘Probiotics’ Category

Making Your Own Probiotics

I have blogged about fermentation before but I have become more and more interested in culturing various veggies and liquids and thought it was time for a review. In keeping with my new modus operandi (aka easier to read blog entries) this week’s blog is primarily to do with one fermented food, sauerkraut. Next week, kefir and the following week a review of kombucha. Since I first started fermenting foods I have learned so much and through experimentation I have found some really interesting ways to “mix it up” and add variety.

Why ferment?

One reason I have become more interested in keeping cultured foods around the house is for their probiotic effect. Lately there has been no end of articles about probiotics helping your body fight off all kinds of horrors and cultured foods are one of the best, if not the best, natural source of probiotics.

Cultured foods can be anti-carcinogenic and have antibiotic properties as well. They repopulate the lining of your gut after you have damaged it with rounds of doctor prescribed antibiotics. If you suffer with GERD they can be your best friend because of the lacto-fermentation that is used. Yes, cultured foods can alkalinize and normalize your gut. Even your breath can be sweeter thanks to the activity of lacto fermentation. Last but not least fermenting veggies and fruit helps extend their lifespan. Once they are fully cultured they will keep in the refrigerator for months.

Day 1-making sauerkraut

I think sauerkraut is my favorite cultured vegetable and the simpler the better. Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • One head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 carrots shredded
  • 1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons whey or follow directions on a package of culture starter
  • One quart canning jar with lid

Day one; jar in fermenting garage

Put your sliced cabbage and shredded carrots in a large bowl. To that add the Celtic Sea Salt, about 1 tablespoon and began to massage the salt in to the cabbage with your fingers, squeezing it and turning it until moisture is pouring off the now nearly mutilated shreds of lovely cruciferous vegetable.

Now add 1-2 tablespoons of whey (from a batch of raw milk kefir) and massage some more until the liquid is visibly sitting in the bottom of the bowl. You can also pound the cabbage if you have a good cook’s mallet or even a pestle.

Using a funnel pour the contents in to the clean quart jar, packing it down until the liquid floats above the veggies completely covering them. Top with a clean lid and screw on tightly. If your house is warm place in your pantry. At my house it is cool, so I put mine in the fermenting garage otherwise known as microwave (it isn’t used for cooking only keeping things warm). Now it is ready to sit for 5 days until I want to slow the fermentation by putting it in the refrigerator.

Watching the bubbles rise

Today, Day 2 and already I see signs of active fermentation. When I unscrewed the cap there was that lovely hiss that is a sign that the mixture is already actively altering the state of the fresh cabbage to softer, and more sour, kraut. The smell is slightly sour as well but pleasantly so, there should be nothing that smells bad or offensive.

Day three and things are getting lively

Day 3; click the photo to see fermentation in progress

This morning when I opened the lid to release pent-up gas I could smell the sour smell of fermenting cabbage. The action in the jar is increasing and the gases that escaped were more forceful and the bubbling more persistent.

It is good to release the gases every day, so probably when you make sauerkraut you should know you are going to be around for the 5 days it ferments outside the refrigerator. After day 4 or 5 you can place your jar in the refrigerator for long-term storage.

Kris Insight

After making cultured vegetables for several years I return time and again to this plain and simple recipe. Sandor Katz has a great book on fermenting everything from hops (beer) to your immature garden veggies, so it is a great investment but it isn’t necessary to just make sauerkraut and have the gut healthy juice that is a by-product.

There are several online sites you can refer to but after making my own cultured veggies for several years I realize some people are too hung up on the details like providing a completely sterile environment. You do need to watch for mold and if you see any discoloration that appears to be mold it might be better to throw it out and start over again. In many cases, Sandor Katz says to wipe the mold off and eat the contents but do so with caution.

In my opinion, when fermenting veggies you do not have to sterilize everything but you do not want to expose the fermenting veggies to chemicals like chlorine. I always use an environmentally friendly dishwasher soap like Bio-Kleen, so my jars come out of the dishwasher ready to use. If you use a name brand soap they have bleach in them, so before you use the jars wash them with plain hot water and a natural soap like castile soap to assure no chemical residue.

If you like spicy fermented veggies like kimchi, you can simply add spices like hot peppers, or hot pepper flakes before you put it in the jar. If you want something milder you could still spice it up with dill or fennel seed. You can make cultured veggies with cauliflower or really mix it up and make a batch with red cabbage and apples.

I find myself liking the plain cabbage and carrot more than anything else. Having tried several varieties I return to plain and simple every time. I like making one quart at a time. If you want to make a large batch the method is basically the same but you will need larger equipment and more refrigerator capacity than I currently have.

Next week I am going to share my latest ideas for making raw milk kefir, from making it with coconut cream to double fermentation.

Santé,

Kris

Balancing Act

Imagine my glee last night when I really wanted to post something about the wonderful taste of coconut milk kefir but I knew I still had three more blogs to write about your digestive health, so I went to check my agenda and realized that this week’s blog was about the importance of a healthy gut flora. I almost got out of bed and started right away as there is little that is better to increase the good bacteria in your digestive tract than coconut milk kefir. Alas sleepiness overcame my compunction to create. Here I am at almost noon on Monday finally gearing up to share what I know about this balancing act called healthy gut flora.

What is gut flora all about? I am going to give you a very simplistic view but it you would like to read more on the subject I think Jemima Stockton’s information is presented in a thoroughly entertaining format.  A healthy gut flora is composed of bacteria with great names like lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, E. Coli and Enteroccoccus and these bacteria help to protects us from disease. Even as we come through the birth canal we ingest fluids from our mother’s body full of these bacteria, so they are literally with us from the beginning hanging around in our digestive tract. “Our normal flora produces essential nutrients and generates by-products that reduce the risks of developing certain cancers, digestive disorders, and heart disease. It serves our bodies from the cradle to the grave.”

What disrupts this normal flora? Antibiotics, aging and a diet full of processed foods and sodas can have a profound effect on your gut flora allowing bacterial warriors like Clostridium Difficile to wage war and cause diarrhea for instance. If normal gut flora is disrupted and/or altered it has a deleterious effect on your body’s ability to win battles with heart disease, cancers and allergies to name but a few.

Let’s consider a particular scenario for learning purposes. This morning when you got up your stomach felt queasy and within minutes you found your self on the “throne” gushing out noxious fluids. The best action at that point is to try and balance your out of kilter gut. While not pleasant, if the bad guys have taken up residence you really must allow them to occupy the space and then move out. It can be very cleansing to empty your bowels but then it is time to repopulate the gut with the good guys. Often probiotics in heavy doses taken at first sign of diarrhea will have an immediate effect and the healing can begin. But how do you get the probiotics and which ones are the best?

Now it gets fun for me because one of the best ways to increase your probiotic intake is to make your own kefir (pronounced Keh- fear). Kefir made with raw milk or my new favorite coconut milk is so rich in all the good bacteria and so easy and cheap to make that any other choice seems foolish. Dr. Mercola says kefir is the best way to take your probiotics and it is so simple and the results so good you will be amazed.

 

kefir grains

 

You start with “grains” of kefir which can be easily ordered from eBay or Cultures for Health. I often have extra grains to share with friends and co-workers and I love getting them started on the road to health.

They are odd little mushroom like organisms as you can see by the photo to the right but they are amazing when added to milk. The amount you see will ferment an entire quart of raw milk or two cans of coconut milk (yes you can ferment rice and nut milk but you will need to recharge the grains in milk or they will die). You place them in a quart jar add your “milk” of choice, mix it with a wooden spoon (it is better to not expose the grains to metals) cover lightly and put away in your microwave ( I use my microwave to store things not to cook things) or pantry where it will be out of direct light overnight or 24 hours. The longer they ferment the more tart the taste and also the warmer it is the faster the process.

The coconut milk kefir after 24 hours looks a lot like a whipped cream and it tastes wonderful. (You need to know that coconut kefir will bubble and ferment rather voraciously, so put it in a much larger jar to allow for growth). Admittedly if you don’t like coconut you may not like the taste but I have no such problem and I love the creamy texture and the mildly tart taste. Last night I put a dollop on my Avocado-Chocolate mousse and it was a tongue tingling addition.

Are there other ways to balance the gut flora? Yes, fermenting vegetables like cucumber, cabbage, turnips, eggplant, etc. is a simple and good way to get gut flora normalized as is kombucha (especially kombucha with ginger) and yogurt made with live cultures. Dr. Joe Mercola suggests eating one to two crushed garlic cloves every day as it will support the good guys and kill off the bad ones and of course, he is a raw milk  advocate and it, and its by-products, contain lots of probiotics (despite the media palaver). Also cleaning up your diet is a great help. Just restricting your intake of sugar and white foods, like white flour and white rice is a step in the right direction on the tightrope to good health.

Gosh  I think it is time for a break and some coconut kefir served atop my sprouted buckwheat groats sounds a treat.

Here’s to a healthy gut,

Kris

 

The finished coconut kefir

 

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