This week is all about new, healthy ways of getting the most nutrients out of your food.
Actually, “new” is a misnomer. “Old” is probably a better term. Sprouting and fermenting are two really old ways of preparing food, but we’ve gotten away from them. Sprouting takes a little work, but it’s actually pretty easy, and the health benefits are great (read my post from Tuesday for more info). Fermenting freaks a lot of people out, I think. We’re pretty afraid of getting food poisoning.
However, eating fermented foods is really, really good for you.
You see, our guts (which is your stomach, small and large intestine), need bacteria. A lot of bacteria. Different kinds. These bacteria help to break down our food, and they even help us to get nutrition from our food. They also protect you from getting sick and support your immune system.
I recently had to take a course of antibiotics, and one of the challenges with that kind of medication is that it kills all the bacteria in your gut, the bad and the good. One way to fill your belly up with good bacteria is to eat fermented foods.
- yogurt or kefir
You can buy all of these products in the grocery store, but they’re even better if you make them yourself. And they are surprisingly easy to make! I got a yogurt maker last year, and I have been making my own yogurt in it–next I want to try kefir.
I just recently got this book, Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal, after meeting the author, Julie O’Brian, at The Wellness Show.
The book is a bit of an eye-opener. The first part explains the advantages of fermenting, why it’s good for you, and how it’s been incorporated into the cuisine of many cultures for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of years. The second part shares a few basic fermenting recipes: basic kraut, basic kimchi, and basic fermented carrots. The third part of the book is recipes that you can make with your ferments, and this is where it gets a little mind-blowing. You can included your fermented food in smoothies, grilled cheeses, mac ‘n’ cheese, dips, even desserts (“Sweet and Sauer Chocolate Pudding”)!
I decided to start out with something easy and make kimchi. If you’re not familiar with this Korean staple, kimchi is a spicier version of something that most resembles a sauerkraut. It’s mostly eaten as a condiment, a fiery addition to almost any meal in Korea. In fact, they consume 18 kilos of the stuff per year, per person! Wikipedia
It’s not hard to make, but you need a little patience, because it takes about a week to do its thing. I made mine in a flip-top mason jar, but you could just as easily do it in one with a screw-on lid.
- one head of cabbage (I used Napa)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (coarse is better)
- 3 tbsp thinly sliced green onions
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tbps minced ginger
- 1 tbsp (I used less, because I’m a wimp) Korean red pepper. I just used regular dried chilies, along with a pinch of chipotle, and it turned out fine.
- Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut off the stem of the cabbage (save for later), and then cut it in half, length-wise. Slice each half into ribbons, of about 1/4″ wide.
- Place the cabbage in a large bowl, and sprinkle it with the salt. With your hands, mix it all up well together. Let it sit on the counter for about a half an hour or so, until it has wilted down to about half its size. It will have a very watery base to it. Add the rest of the ingredients, and toss well.
- Place the whole works into your mason jar. Make sure that the brine is completely covering the cabbage. Use your reserved cabbage stem to weight it down, and make sure that there is some head room (about 1″) in the jar. Let the jar sit at room temperature for about a week, and then it’s ready to eat! After it’s fermented, you can store it in the fridge.
For more recipes to cook with your kimchi, check out The Firefly Kitchen’s Blog.