Jul 06 2011
The GAPS diet is nothing without fermented foods and probiotics (alongside bone broth, of course). The fact of the matter is that our digestive tracts should contain about 2 to 5 pounds (yup, pounds!) of live bacteria living inside, so these guys do some important work! We all know that without these bacteria we would die, but tell that to makers of all of the anti-biotic products that bombard our every move! Personally, I have made it my goal to expose myself to as much and as many different types of good bacteria I possibly can (this also includes yeast and viruses — the good kind). Since starting the GAPS diet several months ago, I have really increased the amount of probiotic foods I eat and the amount of probiotic supplements I take. I make it a point to eat something fermented at least once per day (if not at every meal) and I now take 6 capsules of Bio-Kult per day. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has indicated that the goal in ultimate healing for adults is 8-10 capsules of supplemental probiotics (preferably Bio-Kult or another good, therapeutic strength brand) per day, and for children, like my 5 year old daughter, she recommends 4-6 per day. Jasmine is now taking 4 per day. Keep in mind that this is a goal, and you must go slowly, because for some, die-off (detox) can be intense. For us, I am no longer noticing die-off, other than through the skin on our face. I started breaking out with a small, itchy rash on my lower right chin, and under both of my eyes. Jasmine has developed a rash (not bad) on her chin as well. It is lingering (a couple months now), but I think that is good. It is a sign that toxins and heavy metals are coming out, and this is the result of the probiotics doing their job in the gut.
As a real foodie, I am not a big advocate for supplements, unless they come from whole food, and/or they are only temporary. I have no intentions of taking this many probiotic capsules every day for more than I have to. Right now, I am seeing the detox happen, so I want to keep it up. But, for some, this is not practical. It is quite costly to keep on top of this regimen, as we are personally going through about 2 bottles of Bio-Kult per month! It is a great product though, and you can order it by clicking here.
Supplements aside, how else do you get the good guys in your gut? Well, did you know that you can ferment just about anything? People, since the beginning of time have been doing just that. There were obviously no supplements to be found hundreds of years ago, but they didn’t need them. Fermentation was a practice that enabled traditional people to preserve their food long before refrigeration was invented. It also helped them digest their food better and assimilate nutrients fully. You see, they probably didn’t really know it, but it was the practice of fermentation that kept them healthy and alive. So, from dairy products like yogurt and kefir, to grains (think sourdough) and vegetables like sour pickles and sauerkraut, the choices are endless. Even meat and fish can be fermented.
When I first read Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, the first ferment I made was sour dill pickles. Next, I tried my hand at sauerkraut. Fast forward four years later and I am fermenting veggies of all kinds, making yogurt and kefir, brewing kombucha and water kefir sodas and making some delicious sourdough goodies. My poor little kitchen has turned into a lab of sorts and my fridge has so many jars that my husband is afraid to enter!
Today I am going to teach you just how easy it is to make a jar of sauerkraut. My two youngest children love sauerkraut because I started them off young, but my son is a bit older, so he balks when I put a scoopful on his plate with dinner. That’s ok, he’ll thank me one day!
Here’s how to turn those ordinary vegetables into some probiotic magic!
- 1 head cabbage, red or green
- Sea salt — see my resources page
- Filtered water
- Optional: Any other veggie you like! Experiment by adding in shredded carrots, beets, onions, garlic, apple, seaweed, radishes, kholrabi, etc.
1. Remove any wilted or damaged leaves from your cabbage. With a knife, remove as much of the core as possible. Shred the cabbage as thin or thick as you prefer. You can use a sharp knife, a food processor or a hand grater to get the job done.
2. If you are using other vegetables, wash or peel them and grate them up as desired.
3. Place your grated vegetables into a large bowl and sprinkle sea salt on them. I like to add my vegetables to my bowl, layer my layer, and sprinkling salt over each layer as I go. I don’t measure. Once all the veggies are in the bowl and I have salted, I will take my clean bare hands and begin to pound, squeeze, and massage the vegetables until I am able to extract the liquid out of them. If the vegetables are a little on the older side, and they’ve been sitting around in the crisper a little too long, you may have to add some filtered water to create a brine.
4. How do you know how much salt to add? Taste your vegetables! You want them to taste pretty salty, but not enough to make you gag. Don’t worry, once the fermentation is complete, your final product will not taste salty! You can also add a little liquid whey (from draining yogurt for example) if you feel you want to jump start the fermentation process, or you can also add in a powdered starter, such as Caldwell’s, found here. I have good luck just using sea salt. Find a clean glass jar and begin to pack it with your vegetables. You want to add small amounts to the jar at a time and push down so that the salty brine is above the veggies. Continue to fill up your jar, almost to the top (leave about an inch of headspace). It is important that the vegetables be fully submerged in the brine.
5. At this point, I loosely cap my jar and set it aside on my counter top for about 5 to 7 days. After a couple of days, the brine will actually become very active and rise, and probably even bubble out – there’s your good bacteria working hard for you! Taste your sauerkraut every couple of days to see if it has fermented long enough for you. Once you like the way it tastes, transfer the jar to the fridge and enjoy as much as you like. Even the sauerkraut juice is beneficial to take if you are just starting out with GAPS, or you can add it to your babies food. Your jar of kraut will last for months in the fridge. Enjoy your delicious jar of probiotic goodness and have fun experimenting! At this moment, I’ve got a red cabbage, some kholrabi bulbs and some garlic scapes in the fridge that need transforming.
If you are interested in learning more about fermenting, pick yourself up a copy of Nourishing Traditions, by Sallon Fallon, or another great book called Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz — found here.
Tell me, what have your experiences been with fermenting so far? I’d love to hear about your favourite creations (or your dismal failures) in the comments below.