Fermented foods and beverages date back thousands of years. Some of the earliest texts, dating back to the Shang Dynasty of 1200-1046 B.C., show fermented beverages like herbal wines and fermented rice/millet being made. Much of the fermentation practices of centuries past were simply a means to preserve food for long-term storage. Today, the health benefits of consuming traditionally fermented foods are bringing them back into the limelight.
Fermentation happens when the bacteria (either naturally present on the food or from a culture that’s added) produce lactic-acid by “consuming” the sugar and starch present within the food. Once fermented, these foods contain various strains of beneficial bacteria which are known to promote good gut health and a feeling of satiety post meal. Because the bacteria that would normally cause spoilage are no longer present, foods become shelf stable for longer periods of time. (For more information on the process of fermentation and its benefits, read this post.)
Fermented beverages like kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir are becoming quite common on grocery store shelves (although it’s much more economical to make your own). Other fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. Did you know even meat can be fermented? The “old-school” way of preserving salami was actually fermentation! There are myriad of fermented foods available today, many that our Western culture is less accustomed to, but with all of the same benefits.
If you’re new to fermented foods I encourage you to start with something a little less “intimidating”. Jumping right in with stronger flavors such as Bagoong (fermented fish/shrimp), kimchi or even gochujang (a spicy Korean condiment) may stop you dead in your fermentation tracks. This recipe was one of the first ferments I made at home. It’s adapted from the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook by Sally Fallon and has a perfectly balanced taste that’s sweet, tangy and just spicy enough to keep you coming back for more.
• 1 small organic pineapple, diced
• 1 bunch organic cilantro, chopped
• 1 small organic red onion, diced
• 1 small organic jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
• 1 tbsp grated ginger
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 1 tsp sea salt
• ½ cup whey*
• ½ cup filtered water
* If you don’t have whey, you can obtain it by simply straining 2 cups regular, plain yogurt through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter until you have ½ cup of whey.
This recipe will yield about 4 cups of salsa, however if you use a large pineapple and a medium-large onion (plus a little extra lime juice), you can have enough to munch while you wait for your batch to ferment. It’s equally as delicious fresh, just lacks the probiotics.
1. Mix pineapple, cilantro, onion, jalapeno and ginger in a medium bowl.
2. Transfer to a wide mouth mason jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder (or other non-metallic utensil). Be sure to leave 1 inch of head-space.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, salt, whey and water then pour over your salsa mixture. If necessary, add more filtered water to ensure salsa is completely covered.
4. Secure jar tightly with a lid and keep at room temperature for two days (68-76 degrees is ideal).
5.After two days, transfer to the refrigerator and consume within two months.
Enjoy the benefits of probiotics in your food by implementing these simple fermentation techniques — and try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting!
Kelsey Steffen is an aspiring farmer, wife, mom of four (with one on the way), and home-school educator in North Idaho. Join Kelsey and her family over at Full of Days as they blog about life in the Steffen household, and follow along on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Read all of Kelsey’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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