Cultured Foods and Beverages ~ Cornerstone of Health and Vitality!

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YES! Cultured/Fermented foods and beverages are ESSENTIAL for vibrant health and strong immune systems! What’s so wonderful is that even though the value of these “superfoods” is PRICELESS…they are so EASY, excitingly tasty and tantalizing, and in-expensive to make on your own. You can follow the steps outlined here…(scroll down below the articles)

…and/or you can have a LOT of fun participating in our “hands-on food classes” right here on Whidbey Island, tasting and making these DELECTABLES with others! In fact, ALL of the photos in this post are a variety of cultured foods and beverages I have put together in my kitchen with students.

Go ahead, jump in, have fun experimenting and tasting an abundance of exciting flavors…and supporting your body with providing this important foundation for optimum health and vibrancy! I’d LOVE to see you in class. Be sure to check out which dates and times work out best for you to participate!

Please enjoy the following excerpt from one of many informative essays on this topic from much esteemed, Dr. Mercola.

“Reseed” Your Gut with Fermented Foods and Probiotics

Historically, people used to get large quantities of beneficial bacteria, i.e. probiotics, straight from their diet in the form of fermented or cultured foods, which were invented long before the advent of refrigeration and other forms of food preservation. As a result, they didn’t suffer the same kinds of problems with their gut health as so many do today.It’s worth noting that each mouthful of fermented food can provide trillions of beneficial bacteria—far more than you can get from a probiotics supplement, which will typically provide you with colony-forming units in the billions. I thought this would be a good analysis, so I tested fermented vegetables produced with our probiotic starter culture to determine their probiotic potency and was astounded to discover they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic!
Fermented foods are the most potent source of beneficial bacteria, and these probiotics are some of the best chelators available, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals. According to Dr. McBride, the GAPS Nutritional Protocol restores your own detoxification system in about 90 percent of people, and the fermented/cultured foods are instrumental in this self-healing process. Making your own fermented vegetables is inexpensive and less complicated than you might think.
Excerpt from another one of Dr Mercola’s articles entitled…

The Incredible Health Benefits to You of Traditionally Fermented Foods

Self-serve olive bars are becoming so popular in many Washington supermarkets that storeowners are now offering expanded “antipasto” bars, heaped high with pickles, pickled peppers, mushrooms, artichokes and other tangy pickled and marinated foods, according to The Seattle Times.
This growing trend in both health/natural and regular commercial supermarkets across the country is theoretically good news for health-conscious consumers looking to increase their digestive, cardiovascular and immune health, since these traditionally lacto-fermented foods are some of the oldest and healthiest on the planet. Yet, the key phrase you absolutely must watch for if you want to achieve the amazing health benefits is traditionally lacto-fermented, as not all of these tasty condiments are created equal.
Olives, pickles, grass-fed cheese, wine, yogurt, sauerkraut and the seasoned, aged sausages the French call “charcuterie” are some of this category’s most popular delicacies.

Though the term “fermented” sounds vaguely distasteful, the results of this ancient preparation and preservation technique — produced through the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and molds — are actually delicious. Even more so, they are so beneficial to overall health that some of these “functional foods” are now considered to be “probiotics,” increasing your overall nutrition, promoting the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, and aiding digestion and supporting immune function, including an increase in B vitamins (even Vitamin B12), omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and even cancer cells.
Microflora has a significant impact on gene expression, such as the genes responsible for vitamin biosynthesis and metabolism. Probiotics have been found to influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner—some of which affect your body in a manner resembling the effects of certain medicines!

Okay…NOW…Let’s show you the BASICS of how easy it is to make your own cultured/fermented foods. Also, click here on MORE RECIPES for beverages (Kombucha, Kefir), basic sauerkraut, fruit chutneys and such.

I like using the recipes and methods provided in “Nourishing Traditions” Cookbook by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone searching for an education in nutrition and traditional foods recipes made for our modern world.

Step 1: Strain the whey from Yogurt or cheese-making-process. Whey strained from commercial yogurt is one of the most convenient ways to obtain multiple strains of bacteria to ‘inoculate’ your foods. I personally have experimented and find Nancy’s Whole Milk Plain Yogurt is the easiest to separate. The goal is to have the whey be clear-yellow with very little, or no whitish ‘milk solids’ in it. Look for commercial yogurts that have been ‘cultured’ with at least 4 to 5 different strains of bacteria. Adding whey to your mixtures of foods to ferment will then be ‘cultured’ as well ~~ and in the fermenting process, the multiple strains of bacteria will multiply by the MILLIONS, making them available to your body when consumed. Here are some photos that show you an easy way to strain the yogurt.

Place a strainer over a bowl and line with a very tight-weave cheese cloth (or cotton/linen cloth that you can see through somewhat when held to the light). An old, thin flour-sack towel or pillow case might work okay too.

Empty yogurt into the strainer. The strainer is only used briefly to ‘hold’ the yogurt until hung up. I like to do this on the kitchen counter directly under my cupboard that’s stacked with dinner plates. I simply gather up and hold the four corners of the cloth together and slip them underneath the plates. They hold the weight just fine and keep the hanging load secure.

The photo on the left shows the yogurt that was just hung, starting to drip whey into the bowl. The photo on the right shows about 1 1/2 cups of whey collected in the bowl, approx 2 hours after being hung. During the dripping process I like to occasionally twist the cloth gently, moving the ‘clip clamp’ down to keep some pressure on the yogurt to coax more whey through the cloth. This isn’t necessary, but it helps to speed up the process a little bit. You just want to be careful to not squeeze on it too hard because that will start to force some of the milk solids through the cloth too and you want to avoid that.

You can start straining yogurt before going to bed at night and leave it till morning. It will have separated out on its own just fine, and because it’s cultured, its own self-preserved nature will protect it from any spoiling regardless of the hours left at room temperature.

Again, the goal is to separate out the clearest liquid possible. A tiny bit of white/cloudy mixture can come through and it will be okay, but that has milk in it, hence milk sugars, and the whey will spoil more quickly if stored in the refrigerator for more than a couple weeks. The clearer the whey, the longer the ‘shelf’ life will be in the fridge.

This picture shows the clear, slightly yellow-colored whey and the ‘yogurt cheese’. The whey is ready to use to culture the foods and beverages you plan to ferment.

The yogurt cheese is FABULOUS to eat in a variety of ways. (The photo at the top of this blog post shows yogurt cheese with garlic, dill and a pinch of sea salt mixed in and spread on a dense, sour rye bread. Another delicious option is to mix in honey, dried cranberries, orange or lemon zest and perhaps some nuts. Serve this creamy, tangy-sweet topping on a slice of rich and spicy gingerbread or cake for a blend of tantalizing flavors, sure to excite and please your palate.

Pictured: Home-made, Gluten-free Gingerbread topped with Cranberry-Orange Yogurt Cheese.

Sooooo….Let’s make Kimchee!

Gather up a bunch of nutrient-dense veggies: Cabbage, Napa Cabbage, Green Onion, Regular Onion, Carrots, Kale, Daikon Radish ~~ Add Garlic, Ginger, Apple, Sea Salt, Whey, some dried, crushed Chili Peppers and a little Fish Sauce.
Please see RECIPES for sauerkraut and follow directions, using these ingredients listed above instead (and close to the amounts/quantities pictured in the photo to the right ~ except use only a couple cloves of garlic, a small amount of the onion and about half the ginger pictured). Oh, add some daikon radish too if you have it.
Chop the foods fairly fine and put into a LARGE bowl. Mix in 3 – 4 Tbsp sea salt and massage/squeeze the mixture until much ‘juice’ is expressed and the total quantity looks considerably reduced in the bowl. Add approx 3 – 4 Tbsp dried, crushed chili pepper and a few splashes fish sauce and 1 cup whey.
** As you look at the recipe for Sauerkraut, you’ll see it’s referring to a 1-quart quantity. THIS mixture of Kimchee will add up to approx 1 gallon, hence, the larger quantities of salt and whey needed. Basic guideline: 1 Tbsp salt and 1/4 cup whey per QUART of food.
** This photo on the left shows 1 of the 2 jars (1/2 gallon) of the kimchee mixture pushed down firmly as to have the food ‘squished’ down to the bottom, bringing all the juice to the top.

** Please note: Fill the jars to within about 2 inches from the top with 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon containers…fill to within about 1 – 1/2 inches from the top with quart jars or smaller. This space allows for expansion of the foods during fermenting.
** Use plastic lids that allow a tiny bit of air-escape (not the typical canning bands-and-lids that would seal too tightly, preventing air to escape).
** Ferment now for several days to a week or longer. Environment/Temperatures in the 60′s will require a longer fermentation period. Ideally, temperatures between 70 – 75 is most desirable and would adequately ferment foods in approx 3 – 5 days.
** The beauty of nature is, it’s very adaptable. If you have cooler environments it just takes a little longer. You just don’t want the environment to be over 80 degrees.
** You can also choose how strong or mild you’d like the flavor to be, depending on the length of the fermentation period.
As foods ferment, lactic acid and gas bubbles form resulting in air pockets and thereby push the contents up to the top of the jar as seen in this photo (some foods do this more than others ~~ like cabbage based mixtures more than fruit chutneys). To prevent the juices from escaping, it is okay to periodically open the containers and gently push the contents back down and underneath the juices. Foods that can stay immersed in the juices are much less likely to develop unwanted molds on top. The concentration of salt and beneficial bacteria in the juices control unwanted mold growth.

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