Updated: Sep 1, 2019
THE ANCIENT ART OF FERMENTATION
Below is a simple guide about how to make your own probiotics for better digestive health.
Fermenting food has a long tradition in human culture. Since early times, fermentation has been the best way to preserve food. In the heat of summer, pickled food kept well and in winter offered a vital supply of fresh food when it otherwise wasn't available before the refrigerator and modern food transport.
Fermented food strengthens digestion by providing the intestines with vital enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods provide plenty of vitamins B and C as well as enzymes that strengthen the immune system and generally support wellbeing.
Fermented food is truly essential to eating well for optimal health and longevity.
Healthy gut bacteria are crucial for staying well into old age. The beneficial bacteria from fermented food break down the food mass in the intestines and help with the absorption of the nutrients. These bacteria also help to cleanse the gut of toxins. This supports the liver detox function.
When intestinal bacteria are weak, harmful bacteria take over. A chronically bloated belly and gas show poor digestion and are a common sign that the wrong bacteria have replaced the good bacteria. The problem starts already with chlorinated tap water that knocks out all bacteria, whether beneficial or harmful.
How to pickle
With my quick pickling method, I get the best results with cabbage, carrots, beetroot, kohlrabi and cucumber. Carrot and beetroot make a good combination. The quick press of soft and juicy cucumbers takes a couple of hours. Harder vegetables like carrot and beetroot need to press a few hours longer until the very firm cellulose fiber breaks down. Only then can the lactic acid bacteria get in and turn them into a good pickle. Radishes taste better with a short press, rather than pickling.
It takes unrefined salt to press vegetables, whether sea salt/crystal salt or pickled salt plums (umeboshi). Ginger, dill and other natural herbs add more taste in the pickling process.
Two ways to press:
1. A Japanese hard plastic vegetable press with a screw-down or spring-driven plate is optimal for pressing the vegetables. Some health food stores and online companies sell them. This press is simple and easy to use. Just put grated or thinly sliced vegetables in the press and add salt. The pressure together with the salt breaks down the vegetables in a few hours.The liquid in the vegetables begins to seep out and then covers them.
2. Two big, identical or similar bowls when there is no press. Put the grated or thinly sliced vegetables in one bowl. Sprinkle unrefined salt or put crushed umeboshi salt pickled apricot (sometimes called plum) on the vegetables. It takes about 2 teaspoons of salt or 2-3 tablespoons of the salty umeboshi for two pounds or one kilo of vegetables. Then place the other bowl into the first bowl and weigh it down with books, metal pieces or other heavy objects. This heavy weight on the second bowl presses the vegetables down and as with the Japanese press, the water comes out. Place the bowls on an oven tray or plate, as the water may later spill over the edge of the lower bowl.
With either pressing method, the vegetables are ready for pickling when the water has risen above the pressed mass. Now put the pressed vegetables into small to medium size glass jars with tight lids. Pressed vegetables pickle best when covered in liquid. Pour all water pressed out into the jars. This won't be enough, so add leftover water from pickled cucumber or other fermented liquid until it covers the vegetables. Leave about 1 inch or 2 cm empty at the top and screw lids on tight. The pickling process is anaerobic. Leave at room temperature.
A few days later (depending on the temperature), the vegetables taste sour and are then ready for storing cool. I put them in the fridge to slow down the fermentation and keep them from over-pickling. Eat 1-2 tablespoons especially before each meal, but they are good any time during or at the end of a meal. The enzymes help digestion and spare the pancreas from overwork, producing its own digestive enzymes. Enjoy also with salads or as a side dish with a meal.