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HOW I FOUND MY WAY TO FERMENTS.
The digestive benefits of raw fermented foods are numerous, making it much more than a sour topping on certain meals. For myself, I avoided eating fermented foods for several years while following the principles of the alkaline diet, as many before me have suggested to not eat them.
During my diet transformation, I was still experiencing discomfort when eating, like bloating and constipation. In searching for answers to solve these problems, I read about the benefits of a juice fast. A juice fast is meant to allow your digestion to rest, reset, and heal by only drinking freshly pressed vegetable and fruit juices. Removing the fiber from the plants allows your body to quickly absorb the nutrients without using energy to separate the two yourself. The juicer serves as a mechanical form of pre-digestion. My juice-fast lasted for 28 days.
However, my opinion about fermented foods was changed after completing the juice fast cleanse and finding my digestive system was even more fragile than before. After the juice fast cleanse, I gradually eased into eating solid foods but was only able to tolerate salad greens without bloating. Things that I ate, even raw foods, sat in my digestive system causing bloating and terrible discomfort. I knew that the way I had completed the juice fast helped to cleanse my body of waste that I wanted, but it had also unexpectedly cleansed my body of bacteria that I needed to help break down foods to survive.
You know that friend that can eat something and still wear the same pants? But if you eat the same thing, you’ll need stretchy pants because your stomach begins inflating like a balloon. Well I’m the second person, and began a mission to become the friend. My gut bugs were so missing-in-action after the juice fast, that I was getting to the point of not being able to eat anything without bloating. I visited my family doctor for solutions to this frustration; he told me that my condition could be diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. He knows that I will exhaust all natural options to correct a health condition first, before medication, so we held off on the referral to a gastroenterologist until I had reached that point.
I was not willing to assign myself to a life of only salads despite my unending love for them, never having mango again or a chocolate chip cookie because it caused me to bloat was not something I was going to do. I needed bacteria to help me break down these sugars. I began exploring how can I improve my digestion, giving it bacteria so that it would help me eat the foods that I love.
I was starting to think that juice fast cleanses were something to avoid, as one particular meal had my gut in a fit. However, juice fast cleanses are beneficial and needed, but there is a specific formula to it in order to keep your gut bugs happy and to keep your digestion working, breaking down foods properly. I plan to complete a juice fast again, doing it in a way that best protects the bugs in my digestive tract.
It may be possible to think that I am gluten intolerant since it is challenging to eat baked goods. I don’t believe that’s the case for me though. I’ll address the gluten aspect in another post along with how I am working to improve my digestion of certain grains.
ENTER LACTO-FERMENTED FOODS.
I had read that fermentation was a natural way to create probiotics and I desperately needed more bugs in my gut. I decided I would give credit to the hype and try lacto-fermented foods.
I first began with making a batch of sauerkraut – that failed. I made another batch of sauerkraut – it failed too. Both times mold contaminated them too much. Feeling defeated, I declared that I give up. But knowing that I’m honestly too stubborn to give up that quickly I kept reading several books on the subject and looking for a solution.
Watching YouTube videos about fermentation, I stumbled upon a video of how to make lacto-fermented dill pickles. The video made it seem simple enough, so I made a batch almost immediately. It was warm summer and I kept them in the kitchen pantry where they fermented quickly, a week later I had a couple jars of the most delicious pickles I had ever eaten. My faith in success with fermenting had been restored.
I began a search for a specific recipe for sauerkraut, and in the mix I found a recipe for kimchi as well. (I’d source the sites if I could find them again, but I have altered the recipe a bit from the originals and can no longer find the sites). I started again with the sauerkraut, and this time used a kitchen scale. The key to my new found success was the scale, allowing me to accurately determine how much salt to use.
I suppose I like this sauerkraut recipe so much because I have always enjoyed the color pink. As a child I wanted to paint my bedroom walls hot pink with black polka dots. Another reason I like to make pink sauerkraut is because it’s fun to watch the color of the kraut transition from a nice red-purple into the bright pink it becomes as a finished product.
Saving a few whole cabbage leaves for covering the kraut in the jar in a later step, I record the weight in grams of the rest of the cabbage and then begin chopping. The way you chop up the cabbage is to your preference, I use a large butcher’s knife. The chopped pieces of cabbage are added to a big plastic bin as I go. Sometimes I will add carrot into the mix, being sure to weigh in grams and record it’s weight too. Once I have the total weight of the vegetables, I do a little bit of multiplication to solve for how much sea salt is needed.
I prefer the taste of unrefined sea salt over other types of salts. If my vegetables weight 1500g, this number is multiplied by .018 (1.8%) which yields 27g of salt.
The next step is when you get to exercise the strength of your hands. With all of the ingredients in your bucket or bowl, squeeze, massage, and wring together until the juices and liquids begin releasing from the cabbage. The more you squeeze and release the liquid, the better. This begins the digestion process for the bacteria in the cabbage and will help it to ferment well.
Put the mashed cabbage into glass jars, filling to about 80% full. As you fill them, press the cabbage down tightly. pushing the liquid to the top. Make sure you have enough liquid to completely cover the cabbage. If there is not enough liquid to cover the pressed cabbage, you can top it off with a bit of salted water. I use a ratio of 2 teaspoons per 1 cup of filtered water. Never use unfiltered city tap water, the treatment chemicals will kill the bacteria in your ferment. Filtered city water will work, however spring water is the best option.
I prefer to make my ferments in a glass jar with a metal ring and lid, like those used for canning. The whole leaves that were saved from the beginning are now used to finish off the sauerkraut by plugging the top of the jar. Fold up the leaf to fit inside of the jar covering the chopped sauerkraut, pressing down to ensure all of the chopped sauerkraut is below the liquid line. The whole leaf plug protects the sauerkraut from being exposed to air and molding. Cover each jar with a lid and ring, then place the jar into a plastic or other liquid safe bin. This is to catch any liquid that may leak out of the top of the jar as the cabbage ferments. The best way to avoid leaky jars is to burp them, typically on the third day. Simply loosening the metal ring a tad will be enough to release the pressure inside the jar. Once depressurized, retighten the metal ring. You will need to monitor your jars, depending upon your climate.
I mark on my calendar when the jars began fermenting, and wait what seems like an excruciating amount of time before they can be reopened and devoured. The longer the wait, the more sour and bacteria abundant the sauerkraut becomes. If they are stored in a warm place to ferment, like the kitchen cabinet, you may start eating as soon as a week. The colder the place they are stored, the longer the fermentation process will take. If I have enough jars ready to eat, but want to make more, I store the new batch in the basement where it is cool.
CONCLUSION & TIPS.
I know that there seems like a lot of steps to making sauerkraut when you are first beginning, but it really is a simple process. I realized after having a few successful ferments that the most likely reason my initial attempts failed was due to the lack of salt. This could seem inaccurate because it is possible to ferment without salt, but to do so would require maintaining certain conditions that would make the fermenting overly complex, plus the salt makes it taste better in my opinion.
Not having the appropriate ratio of salt to vegetables was corrected by purchasing a kitchen scale. Each time you make a new batch of sauerkraut or other ferment, after adding the correct amount of salt, sample the mixture to learn the ratio by taste. At some point, you can stop weighing and just measure by taste.
Another tip that helped me to become successful at fermenting was watching a variety of videos on YouTube. There was something special about watching this video that helped push me to finally have a successful batch.
I’m wishing you happy fermentation batches and lots of good tummy bugs. Let me see your creations by tagging them #curingvisionferment on Instagram or over at the Facebook page, The Alkaline Diet by Curing Vision.
Suggested Products and Literature:
Etekcity 11lb 5kg Digital Multifunction Food Kitchen Scale with Removable Bowl 2.15L Liquid Volume Room Temperature and Timer, Backlight LCD Display
Light Grey Celtic coarse sea salt, 1 lb. bag
Ball Mason Regular Mouth Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
Ball Regular Mouth Jar Storage Caps Set of 8
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, 2nd Edition
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