Make Your Own Probiotic-Rich Foods for Under $5!

“The process of fermenting foods … is as old as humanity.” — author and nutritionist Sally Fallon Morell

Fermentation developed in order to preserve precious food through harsh winters. But the process does much more than just preserve — it increases vitamin content by making nutrients more digestible and bio-available, provides live, active enzymes and promotes beneficial gut flora. Virtually every country has created their own variation on the fermentation process, knowing its magic. And with so much hype about probiotics these days, creating your own fermented foods is the cheapest way to get these amazing health benefits!

The History

Records of fermented cabbage date back to China6,000 years ago; in 50 BCE Rome, sauerkraut was touted for its aid in digestion and various medicinal uses. References are also found throughout biblical texts, and for centuries sauerkraut was regularly brought on ships across long voyages to keep passengers healthy.

Fermentation was so prized across cultures that rituals, songs and chants accompanied the process. The entire community would look forward to the season fermentation with excitement. This was crucial for areas like Europe, Russia,Japan and Korea to survive the harsh winters.

This anticipation is still alive in Korea. Every November, the markets become extra crowded from kimjang ch’ol — kimchi-making season. Kimjang ch’olis the buzzing topic of daily news updates and passing conversation.

Modern-day canning was patented in 1810, but the process is quite different than traditional fermentation. Canning involves high heat, which kills all beneficial enzymes and probiotics, while the traditional process maximizes enzymes and nutrients.

Benefits

In many cuisines across the globe, meals are rarely eaten without at least one fermented food or drink, a shocking contrast to America’s cereals, sandwiches and instant-ready dinners. For example, in Japan most meals have soy sauce, miso soup, dashi and pickled vegetables — each providing complex umami flavors from months or years of fermentation.

Flavor is a great side effect, but the health benefits of these foods are even more amazing. This power comes partly from lactic acid. Salt is mixed with the food, which preserves it until lactic acid and its beneficial bacteria take over. Lactic acid assists both the breakdown of food and the assimilation of nutrients. It normalizes stomach acid, activates the pancreas (for insulin regulation) and aids in the metabolism of fats. Lactobacilli is the main probiotic in this type of lacto-fermentation, fighting off all dangerous bacteria and giving you that healthy gut flora.

The food itself is also a wealth of health benefits, including minerals, vitamins and electrolytes, which provide energy and anti-carcinogenic effects. This is why grains in particular have traditionally been soaked, soured, sprouted and fermented before consumption.

Make Your Own Probiotic-Rich Foods for Under $5!

Affordable and Easy

For less than $5, you can buy organic cabbage and salt to make a probiotic teeming with life — compared to store-bought, possibly deceased bacteria that’s been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long. It’s also difficult to know which strain of probiotic you really need, and it’s an expensive gamble if you make the wrong choice. Natural fermentation is guaranteed to give you health benefits, including some unique local strains from the air.

Just imagine a world without bread, coffee, chocolate, wine, beer, cheese, miso, yogurt or sauerkraut … as Sally Fallon Morell states, “without culturing, there is no culture.”

Let’s get started with two simple, affordable recipes! 

Sauerkraut

-1 medium cabbage, shredded

-1 tbsp sea salt (pink Himalayan or other natural salt)

-1 tsp to 1 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)

-4 tbsp whey (if not available, add an additional 1 tbsp salt)

-Quart-sized mason jar

-Optional add ins: beets, carrots, garlic, ginger, onions, apples — all add amazing flavor!

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with your hands to help all the juices release from the cabbage. Press into a quart-sized mason jar, making sure to press out all air bubbles. If the liquid doesn’t come up to the top, add water so it’s completely submerged. Add a weight to keep the cabbage down or check on it a few times a day and submerge the cabbage with the back of a spoon, pressing air and gas out (it may become bubbly — that’s a good sign!). Keep covered at room temperature three to seven days, tasting every day, then transfer to the refrigerator when you like the taste.

Kvass

(even easier than ‘kraut!)

-2-3 medium organic beets diced into 1-inch cubes

-1 tsp sea salt

-2-3 tbsp whey (see below)

-Quart-sized mason jar

Scrub the beets so no dirt remains. Trim the tops, bottoms and any hairy parts, but no need to peel. Fill a quart-sized mason jar halfway with beet cubes, then add whey and salt. Fill with filtered water, cover with lid and shake to combine. Let sit in room temperature for four to seven days and transfer to the fridge when it tastes good!

Whey

(& cream cheese)

-1 quart raw whole milk

-Quart-sized mason jar

Pour raw milk into a quart-sized mason jar, then screw the lid on. Let sit at room temperature one to four days, longer if it’s colder, until the milk separates. Strain through a cheese cloth over a bowl to collect the liquid (the whey). Tie the cheese cloth in a ball and rest over a bowl or container. Let it rest here for several hours until whey stops dripping out. Store the cheese from within the cloth in the fridge. The whey will keep in the fridge for up to six months.

Whey is full of beneficial bacteria which speeds up fermentation and improves the success and consistency of your product.

Bon appétit!

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