One of the best way to ensure a happy, healthy gut and bulk up the immune system is by taking in hearty helpings of fermented and pickled foods. Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut contain probiotics which are the super agents that help our digestive and immune systems. Studies have found probiotics help protect against colon cancer and reduce intestinal problems. Probiotics can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. So, what exactly are fermented foods? Two of the best examples are Sauerkraut and Kimchi. Sometimes it’s better to show than tell, so below are couple of simple recipes from One Green Planet:
The nutritional benefits from eating homemade kraut is AMAZING in that it provides a surplus of enzymes and friendly flora to help digest our food, restore pH levels, increase immunity and contribute to a more clean and balanced body.
For the base ingredients
1 medium to large head green cabbage, shredded in food processor or finely sliced by hand
6 radishes, shredded in FP or finely sliced by hand
Leave several of the outer cabbage leaves to the side, intact for filling top of jars
For the liquid brine
4 cups water
4 inches ginger root, peeled
2 TB. sea salt
Blend brine up in a high powered blender (I use a Vitamix) until smooth.
(The ginger root assists with digestion and adds a nice zing to the combo.)
Raw sauerkraut it is generally ready within 4 to 7 days. The longer it ferments, or cultures, the more probiotic support it offers your digestive system. Kraut can be made with several different ingredients (green and red cabbage, radish, daikon, carrot, etc.) Here I just used a HUGE green cabbage that I picked up from a local, organic farmer a few days prior and some radishes fresh from my garden.
-Pull out a sharp knife and cutting board and cut produce thinly, but this giant guy required the food processor for a quicker job.
-I used the small slicing blade for this procedure.
-After several minutes of processing and transferring to bowls, I mixed the cabbage and radish to incorporate fully and have a nice blend.After that is done, it is time to start packing mixture in clean, sanitized mason jars 3/4 full of mixture (I had enough to fill 5 quart jars and 1 pint jar (made for Darcey).
-Use a wooden spoon to REALLY PACK the mixture tightly!
-Leave about 2 inches of room at the top of the jars to allow room for the kraut to expand.
-OK, all the jars are filled to 2 inches from the top and ready to pour liquid brine in over the mixture.
-Now fold a few of the outer cabbage leaves into very tight rolls, and place them on top of the mixture to fill that 2 inch space.
-Tightly close and seal the jars.
-I set mine on the counter with a towel over it (just in case anything wants to spew forth due to fermentation process – that’s why you leave some space at top so you don’t have exploding kraut – it builds some pressure!)
-After the 5-7 days, move the jars to the refrigerator, which will slow down the fermentation process.
-If you see bubbling inside, this is a good sign! That is the probiotic process in action!
– When you open the jar, remove the outer cabbage leaves and discard. Ready to eat!
Kimchi is packed with healthy probiotics. It is usually made of cabbage, red peppers, scallions, onions, carrots, garlic, and salt, but that is generally pretty flexible (you can substitute other vegetables and spices as needed). Raw vegetable and spices are certainly healthy, but the real nutritional benefit comes from fermenting them. Besides helping the gut stay healthy, it is also a powerful source of antioxidants, electrolytes, B vitamins, and fiber.
A Korean staple, it can be used to top of salads or sandwiches. Add it to fried rice, stir-fries, and dumplings for a healthy, spicy kick. Food Lion actually sells kimchi in jars, but you can also easy and fun to make:
- Gather Ingredients
To make your kimchi, you will need to purchase cabbage, salt, garlic, ginger, sugar, red pepper flakes, scallions, and any other vegetables and spices you prefer. You’ll also need mason jars for canning the end product, where it will ferment.
- Chop and Clean Veggies
Next, thoroughly clean your vegetables and chop them up. You’ll want to cut your cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the core. Then cut each piece into strips that are a couple inches wide. For cabbage, you will then want to let it drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Make a Delicious Paste
Now, make a delicious paste for your kimchi. According to this recipe from the Kitchn, combine garlic, ginger, sugar, gochugaru, and water together. Typically, you would also add seafood flavor or a fish sauce, but you can make your own vegan version with zero fish.
- Mix Paste and Vegetables
Massage your cabbage with the paste and mix all of the vegetables with this paste as well. Make sure the sauce is evenly distributed over all of the vegetables.
- Stuff Into a Jar
Next, add your mixture to the jars and pack it tightly to prevent spoilage. Leave about one inch of head space at the tops of your jars to allow for room for expansion. For fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi, this is important since the fermentation process will cause excessive bubbling that requires that extra inch of expansion space.
Now that you have stuffed your mix into the jar, seal it tightly and set it aside to ferment. Let it stand at room temperature for 1 – 5 days. According to The Kitchn, “you may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine.” When the kimchi is ripe, transfer it to the refrigerator.