Getting Funky with Fermented Foods

I feel I should start this post with a disclaimer:

I did not grow up eating this way.

My mother’s kitchen probably looked like most everyone else’s – a blend of raw and processed foods, mostly purchased at the grocery store. I remember sitting down to a bowl of homemade Spaghetti as often as I remember sitting down to a bowl of Prego. My favorite after school snack was a big plate of nachos – Tostito Tortilla Chips, Kraft Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Low-Fat Sour Cream, and a big splash of Pace salsa. And a Diet Coke.

All that is a long way of explaining that I did not grow up learning to eat deliberately fermented foods. If there were white spots on top of the jar of salsa? It went down the drain.

Which is not to say we’re making our own penicillin at the moment. But we have been slowly adding fermented foods into our diet.

From Dr. Sneed: “Fermented foods provide your digestive system with a multitude of beneficial bacteria. So you can continue to take a probiotic, which maxes out at about 10 billion live cultures if you are lucky, or you eat a variety of fermented foods, which contain over 10 trillion live bacterial cultures. In addition to just the quantity, you don’t have to question the quality either, if it is live or not because if it wasn’t alive your food wouldn’t have fermented. For those who aren’t already aware there are over 10 times as many bacteria in and on your body as there are human cells. With that said a large percentage of them are in the digestive system and aid in the break down of food. By propagating the right kinds of bacteria, by eating right and putting in the right kinds of bacteria in the first place, we are better able to obtain the nutrients we need from our food.  But be forewarned any time you make a major dietary change like this you may not feel well at first so I do recommend starting off slowly so that it is not a huge shock to your system.”

We started with Beet Kvass. Partly because it is Very Very easy to make. And partly because we were inundated with beets in our CSA box that week:

  • Peel and Coarsley chop 1 medium beet into large chunks

  • Place beet chunks in a pint sized canning jar, and sprinkle 2tsp salt over them.

  • Fill with filtered water, leaving 1inch head space on top (approximately to where the jar narrows at the top)

  • Ferment in a cool, dark spot between 2days and 3 weeks – the liquid should turn a rich, dark purple color. The longer the ferment, the richer it will be.

  • To stop fermentation, strain juice into a separate container and store in fridge. You can reuse the beets a second time, repeating the exact same recipe.

I’ll be honest. Beet Kvass took a little getting used to. It’s earthy, and salty. I started with a swig here or there, but have built up to a glass of it every morning at breakfast. And I’m fairly certain that as soon as I learn to make Kombucha, the Beet Kvass will be a much rarer sight in our fridge.

Because Kombucha? Is DELICIOUS. And fermented. And DELICIOUS. And expensive if you’re buying it by the bottle at Wegman’s (which you can, in the refrigerated endcap by the Gluten-Free section). So this winter, I’ll be trying out this recipe to make our own….

And in the meantime, we’ve been devouring fermented salsa like its Dr. Oz’s next big Super Food. It’s quick, easy to make and has a nice zesty kick that means I can use 2 teaspoons of it on my fajitas instead of half a cup of Pace salsa. The kids LOVE it, its an easy, simple way to get some more probiotics into our foods without having to make any major changes, and it turned out a heck of a lot better than my brief dabblings in Kimchee (Dr. Sneed’s still recovering his taste buds from that experiment).

All these fermented foods? Have absolutely been making a huge difference in our health. I’ve watched our son, who sadly inherited my weak immune system, go from picking up every little bug, virus, cough, sneeze, and sniffle that passed within a 50 mile radius to fighting off whatever is causing his fever in less than a day. And I know its because we’re helping his immune system by giving him healthy, live probiotics that are keeping his gut clean, and his body healthy.

Not to mention that fermented salsa? Is pretty darn tasty.

And that’s coming from a Pace girl…

Old Dominion Osteopatic Medicine

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