by Liz Reid
As Christmas fast approaches and we get busy planning for the big day, food is on our mind! December is a time to celebrate the harvest with family and friends, spend valuable time together, enjoying additional sweet and savoury treats.
You may have heard of food fermentation and wonder what the ‘new food craze’ is all about but fermenting is no new thing and has in fact been in existence for thousands of years. Fermenting food came about much in the same way as pickling did; both arising out of the need to preserve a glut of food which becomes ready to harvest and eat at the same time.
We actually already consume so much food and drink, which has been fermented, without really thinking about it. Alcohol is the main one of course, such as beer, wine and liquors, proseccos and champagnes! Have you ever made your own Elderflower bubbles? Yep! You’ve fermented! There are many every day fermented foods, such as yoghurt, coffee, some raw cheeses like oak aged Cheddars, Parmesan, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar, cured meats, olives and even chocolate! Many festive treats we enjoy are fermented before they are cooked, including Christmas pudding and cake, as well as the mincemeat in mince pies. Clearly, cooking fermented foods will destroy much of the good bacteria but the idea is that the deep and rich flavours have been infused before cooking and some of the good microbes get through!
You may have heard more recently of foods such as miso (fermented soybeans and rice) kimchi (shredded vegetables and spices in a brine), kombucha (yeast added to a sweet tea) tempeh (fermented soybeans) and kefir (fermented milk). The practice of fermenting these foods is thousands of years old, originating from China, Ancient Egypt and Korea.
You can buy fermented foods in the shops but sometimes commercial foods don’t always have enough variety of good bacteria within them so, it’s better and cheaper to make your own at home! You also then can choose exactly what you want to preserve, ferment and enjoy! It’s quick and easy to do too. The easiest one to start with is Sauerkraut, which you’ll no doubt instantly associate with German cuisine, as a delicious, crunchy side to the classic dish of German sausages and potatoes.
All you need to make your own Sauerkraut is a red cabbage, a little salt and perhaps throw in a few Caraway seeds, chilli, garlic, ginger or similar. You simply shred a red cabbage and add to a bowl, add a light sprinkling of salt to taste and any seeds or seasoning you want to add, then mix, squeezing, so juices are created. Then just simply add to a sterilised large screw top jar, perhaps an old pickle jar, add a piece of an outer leaf as a topper to your jarred cabbage and it’ll be ready to enjoy in as little as three days. Just undo the lid every day or so to let out the fermented gases but you can store it for weeks, if it lasts that long before you eat it all of course! It’s a tasty accompaniment to salads, sandwiches, Ploughman’s, jacket potatoes, soups with sourdough bread or as a side to main dishes.
Eating fermented foods, like kimchi, means you are eating many types of plants easily. This helps your gut by introducing many types of microbes, which stimulates the production of good chemicals, key to your immune system, metabolism and digestion. These probiotic microbes also stimulate new ones to grow, improving your gut environment making it a happy and diverse biome. Improving your gut health helps support your physical health and well-being; if you feel better or even great, this can inspire you to be more active too.
If you’d like to know more about fermenting your foods, then look up Sandor Katz on YouTube or read his book, ‘Wild Fermentation’. Sandor is widely credited with reintroducing fermentation to both the US and the UK. He has also been a guest of ZOE and has an informative Podcast, which you can listen to or watch at www.joinzoe.com/learn/podcast-fermented-foods-gut-health. amp
So, stay healthy this December by keeping calm, eating well and a diversity of plants. Try fermenting some veg, stay active and enjoy Pilates to keep your spine feeling fine, improving the balance of body and mind. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2023!
(Source: Zoe www.joinzoe.com) Elizabeth