Create Your Own Culture.
About a year ago my partner Mara and I started a company that makes cultured vegetables. No, not beets and carrots that regularly attend the opera, but live, raw, probiotic, naturally fermented veggies.
We started out just making these goodies for our families and friends and nobody could get enough. It turns out that many people crave the zingy buzz of live food and that lacto-fermented foods, that used to be staple in many places in the world, are making a comeback.
Fermenting is an age-old way to preserve food.
It was a way to use all the access produce from the summer and keep eating it all year round. This in itself is a great process to connect to us to seasonality and keep the strength of the food intact.
Fermentation also makes food easier to digest, and creates new nutrients such as B vitamins—folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and biotin.
Some ferments have antioxidants principles and also create omega-3 fatty acids- which we know are key to a healthy immune system.
Basically, fermented foods help supply your digestive tract with cultures that are necessary to break down and assimilate nutrients. These cultures, lactobacilli chief among them, are like little invisible friends that help us stay healthy and happy through the ups and downs of the year.
If you are interested in experimenting we recommend starting with simple sauerkraut and then expand from there.
This is great activity to do with kids (or your dog) as it is a bit of funky food science experiment.
Core and shred the cabbage and then spread on a tray or work surface. Add the sea salt—a good ratio is generally one or two tablespoons salt to one three lb cabbage. Then pound the cabbage and salt with a wooden hammer (or a rolling pin can work) until the juices start to release and the cabbage softens. You can add a bit of starter at this point, or you can just do the cabbage juice and salt, which usually makes a fine ferment.
Place the cabbage shreds into a wide mouth ball jar and press down with a fist (you can use a cabbage leaf as a top and the press on that) until the vegetable is submerged in liquid.
Cover this combination and leave it in a cool but not cold space (ideally 65 to 70 degrees) for about 3 days. You may like it stronger, in which case you could let it go for a few more days.
When you are satisfied with the taste, transfer to cold storage, where it will last for up to 6 months.
Now you can enjoy the benefits of your own homemade culture—monocle and all.
Willow King dwells in the realm of the mysterious and invisible magic of microbes a.k.a. she makes sauerkraut and kim chi. Learn more at esotericfoods.com. Good food, good medicine.
Editor: Lorin Arnold