Are you familiar with fermented or “cultured” foods? You may be surprised to find you have been consuming them in one form or another for much of your life. That’s because many food staples are prepared by fermentation—an age-old process that involves the use of “friendly” bacteria to create the final product.
Some examples of these highly flavorful foods—consumed around the world for centuries—include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, most types of cheese and kombucha—as well as beer and wine. In fact, the discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggests that humans began creating fermented beverages at least as early as the Neolithic period (c. 10000 BC).
While some cultured delicacies require considerable skill and patience to prepare successfully, others can be surprisingly easy to create with a little ingenuity, enabling you to enjoy home-crafted versions of these piquantly delicious foods and drinks on virtually any budget.
What are the benefits of fermented foods?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the process of fermentation not only safely preserves foods and beverages, it also transforms them into nutritionally-dense fare richly populated by probiotics, which are live, highly beneficial microorganisms that facilitate proper digestion of foods and nutrients and support a normal, healthy immune response. Indeed, 80 percent of our immune system is centered right within our gut.
During the fermentation process, friendly “bugs” start to break down the food being cultured, increasing the levels of available vitamins and minerals. This means fermented foods are partly pre-digested, allowing you to more efficiently absorb the many nutrients they offer.
Along with rich levels of probiotics, many fermented foods also contain prebiotics, which are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—especially those high in fiber. Prebiotics “feed” and nourish probiotics in our gut.
So, if you’re ready to reap all these benefits and more, here are some creative, easy ways to create cultured foods and drinks at home.
How to Make Fermented Foods at Home
Enjoy Ginger Bug
- 1 Tbsp. organic, grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp. organic granulated sugar
- 5 cups filtered or distilled water
Combine above ingredients in a glass Mason jar and stir well. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a cotton dish towel. Each day, add 1 tablespoon of ginger and 1 tablespoon of sugar and blend well. After five days, your Ginger Bug will have a cloudy, golden cast with some sediment at the bottom of the jar.
To make yummy cultured drinks from your Ginger Bug, simply add a bit to iced tea, fresh lemonade, raw juice or any shake or smoothie. You can also use this tasty concentrate to enhance condiments, salad dressings and more.
Try “Cool Kraut”
Cool kraut is arguably the easiest way to create delicious, refreshing raw sauerkraut at home. It’s also a super bargain! Start with a jar of high-quality, organic sauerkraut. Drain liquid and reserve for Rainbow Pickles, below. Finely chop 2 cups of fresh cabbage—mix green and purple cabbage if you like—and blend well with the drained, prepared kraut. Voilà! Now you have yummy, fresh crunchy mellow kraut that you can enjoy as is, or to add to salads, sandwiches, wraps, etc.
Love Rainbow Pickles
Few cultured foods are simpler to craft than these deliciously piquant “pickles” which you’ll make from the liquid you reserved after draining your jar of organic sauerkraut. To make, thinly slice organic cucumbers, carrots, jicama, red bell pepper, raw beets, and/or any other veggies you love. Add seasonings like garlic, lemon pepper, dill, etc. if desired. Immerse the veggies in a glass bowl with reserved sauerkraut brine and marinate in fridge overnight. You now have a colorful batch of healthy, cultured veggies which add tangy flavor to many other foods.
Sip “Cultured” Lemonade
The beauty of this “cultured” lemonade is that, along with being a super refreshing summer elixir and/or mocktail, it requires no fermentation process. In fact, you can assemble it in less than five minutes! Nor will you even taste the added probiotics. Simply add the following ingredients to your blender, mix well, and enjoy over ice.
- 2 cups pure water
- 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- Contents of 2-4 probiotic capsules
- Maple syrup, raw agave nectar or liquid stevia to taste
- A few slices of fresh ginger (optional)
Although many cultured food items can be complicated and time-consuming to make, they are well worth the effort if time permits. Meanwhile, these fun and easy shortcuts are ideal for busy, wellness-conscious conscious folks.
Here’s to a happy, healthy microbiome!