Fermenting your way to deliciously good health
Long before anyone had even thought of refrigerators, freezers, or automated canning factories, people all over the world relied on traditional wisdom to preserve their precious food resources.
One of the oldest known forms of food preserving is fermentation. This ancient practice dates back thousands of years and has been has been continued through countless generations, in diverse societies all over the world.
In many cultures fermented foods and drinks—such as saurerkraut, pickles and fermented beer—still appear as compliments to the staple diet, adding flavour and health benefits to each meal.
Fermentation has traditionally been used to ensure a steady food supply through the year, but to also make certain foods more digestible, nutritious and flavoursome, without the need for cooking.
A resurgent interest in traditional methods of food preparation has seen a revival in the practice of fermentation. A range of foods can be fermented, including vegetables and fruits, dairy products, fish and meats. Today, more and more people are discovering how easy it is to prepare healthy, fermented wholefoods in their own home.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a biochemical process in which sugars, starches, or carbohydrates are converted into alcohol and organic acids by beneficial bacteria. In simple terms, fermenting makes foods more edible by ‘predigesting’ the foods for us. As a result, fermented foods are nutritionally richer, and easier for our body to digest and absorb valuable nutrients.
True fermentation is lacto-fermentation (or, lactic-acid fermentation), a process by which naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria transforms and preserves foods, usually in a brine solution. Lactobacillus feeds on sugar and produces lactic acid, giving fermented food its distinctive acidic flavour.
Two ways fermentation can be achieved
- Using a starter culture: a starter culture containing the desirable bacteria is added to the foods you wish to ferment. This can be done by adding a small sampling from a previous batch of converted foods, or with a commercially prepared culture.
- Curing in brine: Fruits, vegetables, fish and meat can also be naturally fermented, or pickled, in a brine solution of salt and water, with spices and herbs added for extra flavour.
But is your fermented food really fermented?
Some types of cultured food are familiar to us—sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, chutneys and preserves are all commonly found on supermarket shelves. But often, these foods, which many of us may assume are fermented, are something else entirely.
Most of the commercially produced pickles you find on supermarket shelves have been pickled using vinegar rather than brine, and lack the probiotic and enzymatic benefits of true fermented foods.
While vinegar is itself a product of fermentation, pickled foods created with vinegar are not naturally fermented and don't contain the nutritional benefits of fermented foods.
The benefits of DIY fermenting at home.
Fermenting your own foods at home ensures that you are eating true, fermented wholefoods, with the full range of health benefits. Preserving your own fresh, organic vegetables in this way gives you a supply of nutritious and tasty foods that are packed with probiotics. Fermenting at home will also enhance the vitamin and enzyme content, which improve food digestibility and the bio-availability of nutrients to your body.
All that, and they taste amazing as well.
3 key health benefits of fermented foods
Fermenting vegetables produces beneficial bacteria that can:
- Improve gut health—fermented foods are packed with probiotics and beneficial bacteria that help to balance your gut flora.
- Boost your immunity and brain function—a healthy gut is essential for overall immune health and is also critically important for neurological health. The gut has been referred to as ‘the second brain’ and our gut flora is known to directly impact brain function, mood and the production of important neurotransmitters, including serotonin.
- Help detoxify your body—fermented foods are effective detoxification agents and are thought to be helpful in ridding the body of harmful toxins and heavy metals.
Simple home fermenting
You can ferment a huge range of vegetables and fruit at home, and experiment with your own combinations of herbs and spices to add extra flavour.
With the right knowledge and a few simple pieces of equipment, you can make anything from tasty cultured vegetables and traditional ferments like sauerkraut and kimchi, to condiments and chutneys, yoghurt, sour cream and kefir.
At GPA Wholefoods we offer a range of high quality fermenting equipment and starter culture as well as a mouth-watering selection of freshly-made fermented vegetables, suitable for everyone from seasoned fermenters to complete beginners.
The home-fermenting toolkit
Fido jars Fido glass jar and lid kits are durable, Italian-made fermentation jars, perfect for use as an anaerobic fermentation vessel or airtight storage jar. Choose from compact 750ml jars to generous 3L jars and start creating your own cultured foods—from tasty condiments to family-sized batches of delicious vegetables.
Fermenting crock pot A German-made, traditional style fermenting crock pot with a five-litre capacity to accommodate bigger batches of fermented foods. For serious home fermenters!
Pickl-It Lid Kit The Fido lid kids enable you to convert your Fido jars into effective, safe anaerobic fermentation vessels.
Pikl-It Dunk’r kits These nifty glass tools solve the perennial problem of how to hold your fermented fruits and vegetables under the brine during fermentation and storage. These food-grade glass discs are designed to weigh down ingredients during the fermentation process, preventing discolouration and contamination, and ensuring consistently safe and healthy fermented foods.
Caldwells starter culture This effective vegetable starter culture helps to control the fermentation process, giving you consistently reliable ferments. The starter has been developed after 15 years of research and development in commercial organic fermentation, and contains the correct bacteria strains in the ideal proportions for successful fermenting.
Easy, pre-made fermented foods
We also stock a range of delicious, freshly-made fermented foods:
Ginger carrots Made from certified organic carrots, ginger, raw honey, mineral-rich Himalayan salt and a dairy-free starter culture, these addictive little beauties are packed with digestive, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Kimchi This unique take on the traditional Korean cultured food is a flavour sensation containing shredded organic cabbage, carrots, onions, shallots, pear, apple, garlic, chilli and ginger. Zesty, delicious and full of immune-boosting properties.
Purple delight Full of antioxidants and flavour, Purple Delight combines organic red cabbage, purple carrots, beetroot, onion and garlic and offers potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits
Green Sauerkraut Carefully prepared using finely shredded organic cabbage, nutrient-dense Himalayan salt and a dairy-free starter culture. We also add the traditional sauerkraut spice, caraway, which further promotes healthy digestion and robust microbial balance.
Fermenting your own fresh vegetables and fruits at home is easy, satisfying and the most effective way to enjoy your own, probiotic-rich, delicious fermented foods.
We encourage you to join the tribe and ferment your way to deliciously good health!
Image : moregreenjuice.com