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Boost your immune system and get fermenting!

…no I’m not referring to beer!

As you know I do like to make a song and dance out of bygone eras, but in my opinion the answers to good health lie not so much in looking forward, but referring back to some of the wise culinary traditions and practices that have gone before us. 

One of those I am particularly interested in is fermentation. Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria which provide your gut with some excellent health benefits. We are in fact half bacteria and half human! Did you know that over 70% of our immune system is in the gut? It makes perfect sense that if you are kind to your gut, you’ll get ill less often.

Our gut lining is coated with a layer of beneficial bugs that contribute to our health immensely; they play a vital part in the immune system, by helping to control the influx of pathogens. They also break down and absorb nutrients from the food we eat and help synthesize some of the B Vitamins and Vitamin K. You don’t need to be a microbiologist to work out how important these bugs are, we can just go with that good old fashioned gut feeling!

We live in a culture (excuse the pun!) where we are conditioned to see all bacteria as ‘bad’. We arm ourselves with anti-bacterial sprays to wage a war on them, we buy pre-packed washed salads and our carrots are so nicely polished and preened that you can almost see your face in them! These factors along with less time spent outside, diets high in processed or sugary foods, antibiotic therapy and stress, upset the balance of our microflora in one way or another.

But all is not lost! We can all take control of our own health and make decisions around food and produce that nourishes and supports us and promotes a healthy community of gut flora. For thousands of years we have eaten fermented foods such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kefir and kombucha. These foods are not only exceptional bug bearers, they are also inexpensive to make.

A healthy diet low in processed foods and sugar will also benefit. Beneficial bacteria likes to feed off ‘probiotic foods’ such as onions, leeks, chicory, asparagus and other veggies, so a diet high in vegetables and low in refined sugar will keep your bugs happy!

There are some good quality ‘probiotic’ supplements containing beneficial bacteria on the market now. They may also help support and replenish your gut flora. (I recommend Bio-Kult multi strain formula).

Here’s for the fun bit – I’ve just sampled my latest batch of red cabbage sauerkraut and it is so delicious! You will not believe how simple it is to make – so simple in fact it has 2 basic ingredients – cabbage and salt! 

Do give it a go – it’s an easy to make, low maintenance food and tastes amazing. I love a side serving of sauerkraut with stews over the colder months, or my favourite organic locally produced sausages – yum!

Right tools at the ready!

Recipe

  • 1 medium – large size cabbage (red or white)
  • 1 and a half tablespoon of salt
  • 1 litre glass jar

Method

  • Wash the cabbage
  • Remove an outer leaf from the cabbage and put aside – you will need it later
  • Finely slice the cabbage
  • Place in a large bowl
  • Add the salt
  • Massage the salt into the cabbage for a few minutes until lots of water is released.
  • You can leave the salt and cabbage for 30 minutes or so to release more liquid if you like
  • Do not throw away any of the liquid!
  • Make sure the glass jar is washed and clean
  • Squash the cabbage down into the jar with your fist, squeezing out all the air bubbles
  • Cover the shredded cabbage with the outer cabbage leaves and help keep them under the liquid
  • There should now be a layer of liquid on the top of the cabbage in the jar
  • I use a smaller glass jam jar filled with water as a weight to keep the cabbage under the liquid
  • Cover the jar with muslin cloth and a rubber band and leave in a suitable place in the house at room temperature – the colder the temperature the longer it will take to ferment
  • Check the sauerkraut daily for the first few days just to check the liquid is submerged and the air bubbles are released (you can use the smaller jam jar on top to press the cabbage down with)
  • You can keep testing the sauerkraut to your taste. I normally leave mine for around 4 weeks
  • You can then decant the cabbage into smaller jam jars and store them in the fridge. Try to make sure they have sufficient liquid from the ferment covering them.
  • Sauerkraut will keep in the fridge for a long time providing they are covered in liquid
  • Don’t eat the sauerkraut if it goes mouldy

Note: you may find that mould forms during the ferment, this is normally because some of the leaves have become exposed to the air. Try to make sure the cabbage is pushed under the liquid – the outer cabbage leaves on top help with this.

I add juniper berries and / or caraway seeds to mine. You can also add garlic chilli or other veg like beetroot or carrot

HAVE FUN FERMENTING!

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