Did you know there are 1 trillion bacteria lining our intestinal tract and they are working hard to protect our bodies! Fermented foods provide good bacteria in your gut. So, why do we need good gut health? Good gut health is key to living a healthy lifestyle and feeling good! Fermented foods allow the body and gut to remove the bad bacteria and toxins which are hiding in us. If our guts are healthy, it improves digestion and bowel health, boosts immunity and helps us maintain a healthy weight.
The intestinal tract is the home of most of these good bacteria. They’re working hard to break down your food and turning it into something your body can use. The bacteria stop working when they run out of food, so your body will have exactly what it needs and nothing more or less. Your body is an amazing thing! The good bacteria kicks out the bad in your body and start to multiply so the bad stuff cannot take over and grow.
How can good gut health affect your heart? Some bad bacteria may be the cause of cholesterol which then can cause heart disease. When you eat foods such as eggs and red meat, the bacteria create a chemical called TMAO - Trimethylamine N-oxide. And this could allow cholesterol to build up in your arteries. A mainly plant based diet can greatly reduce this risk!
What about your brain? The human brain is constantly sending messages and signals all over the body. Your gut is a big part of that, listening to those messages. Studies have shown a healthy and balanced gut may affect your emotions and how you react to the brain’s messages. Some scientists believe unbalanced bacteria can create problems such as depression, autism, anxiety and even chronic pain.
Want a healthy maintained weight? Again, this goes back to the brain. An unbalanced gut can create cross signals from the brain telling your body when you're hungry or not. Creating a healthy and balanced gut is a great way to get your health in check. Fermented foods are here to help you in the process.
So, how do we ferment veggies?
First of all, it really is easy!
First you want to choose what type of container you would like to use. Mason jars work great because they have an airtight lid.
Next, decide which veggies to ferment and how to prepare them. Examples of vegetables to use - cabbage, carrots, green beans, radishes, cucumbers and cauliflower. Some are better shredded or cut like cabbage, cauliflower and radishes. Others can remain whole.
The ingredients to ferment veggies are salt and filtered water. Try and use a good salt such as sea salt. Combine the veggies and brine in the container and really pack down the vegetables very tight.
Then you want to leave the container on the counter up to two weeks until fermentation is done. How do you know when it’s done? Look and see if there are bubbles in the liquid. Then you can open the container and if it smells sour but not off putting, it is ready for the fridge! Fermented food lasts a long time in the fridge. Up to 18 months!
Here's another excellent way to incorporate fermented food! SOURDOUGH!
Sourdough Starter for Beginners
The current climate is as good a time as any to give your sourdough fermentation skills a go! People are often deterred from even attempting homemade sourdough because they are discouraged by the idea of a lengthy process and the commitment of having to “work” on a recipe every day for several days. This recipe does take a few days, however, other than the starter sitting on your counter, you’ll have to attend to the start for about 5 minutes a day. As most of us are quarantined/working from home right now, there really is no better time to try it out!
The great news is… you probably already have everything you will need right in your pantry. So, no need to make another unnecessary trip to the store. This starter is so simple, you will just need a plastic / glass container, some flour, and water. That is all! It is just that simple.
Another thing you must know, you really can't mess this up! Now with that said, sourdough is a work of art, and no two sourdoughs are alike! So, once you get rolling with it, you will find your groove, and make it your own. This Blog is about giving you the basic information, and just getting you started! As you progress along, it will become your own!
We started by making 3 starters at once. The theory behind this is…. If we were to mess one up, we have another as a backup. And, we would have an additional, third starter to share with a friend! One very important thing to point out before we begin, this is an ongoing process. Once your starter is ready to make bread, you will divide it and have the remaining starter left to continue to culture and bake more bread, and so on, and so on, and so on…… And again, it takes only minutes every day or so, or even once a week if needed to keep the starter going.
To get started, you will need:
A glass or plastic container (quart sized) with a lid
Day 1: Making the Starter
Combine approx. ½ Cup flour and ¼ Cup water in a glass or plastic container. Mix well with a fork until the mixture is smooth. You do not want any lumps! The consistency will be thick and pasty, however, it is important that you have no clumps of flour remaining. If needed to remove the lumps, you can add a bit more water using a teaspoon at a time.
Cover the mixture loosely with the lid, or a small cloth,
and allow it to rest in a warm spot. You are looking for a
temperature of around 70-75 degrees. If your home
tends to be cooler, then place the starter in your oven
on a baking sheet or dish towel, with the light on,
and use a dish towel to keep the door open slightly.
Let your starter sit for 24 hours.
Day 2: Allow to Sit
Over the past 24 hours you may have seen some activity. Your starter may start bubbling at this point. If you do not see any bubbles, no worries, they may have formed and disappeared overnight. Just let your starter sit and rest another 24 hours.
Note: During the process of creating your starter, and once your starter has been established, a discolored liquid will start to form on the surface of your starter and maybe even throughout the culture. It may even be a bit smelly and have a fermented odor. This smelly liquid is called hooch, and it is a sign that your starter needs to be fed. You will remove the liquid along with any discolored starter.
Feeding the Starter
Days 3 through 6: You will repeat the following steps each day for approx. the next four days.
Remove and discard approx. half of your starter from your container. Add ½ Cup flour and ¼ Cup of water to the starter and stir with a fork until you have no lumps and a smooth texture. Cover your container and place in your warm spot for 24 hours.
Throughout the next four days you will notice that your starter will rise and fall, and you will see bubbles start to form. This is a sign that the naturally occurring yeast is forming within your starter. To mark the starters growth, place a rubber band around the container. When you notice your starter level falls, that is an indication that the starter needs to be fed.
Day 7: Is Your Starter Ready?
At this point your starter should be about doubled the size you began with. It should have plenty of bubbles, and the texture should be fluffy and spongy. It should have a pleasant Yeast like smell, and not smell like the discolored liquid from a few days ago.
Your starter may not be at this point just yet, and that is ok! Remember each starter is different, and several factors come into play. The type of flour used, the temperature, timing, etc., can affect the progress of your starter. This is ok, and there is no need to worry. You can simply continue the feed process until your starter is ready. This process can continue for several days, and even weeks.
Note: To test if your starter is ready… Drop a teaspoon of your bubbly starter into a jar of water, if the starter floats to the top, it is ready to use!
When Your Starter is Ready
Transfer your starter to a clean container. If you plan to bake often, you can store your starter at room temperature, and continue to feed it once or twice a day to keep it active. If you plan to bake occasionally, store your starter in the refrigerator and feed it once a week.
Note: If you miss a feeding, no worries! Your starter is very resilient, and it will not die. Just give it a little TLC, by removing the discolored liquid and a feeding and remember to tend to it on a regular basis going forward.