Your body is home to trillions of bacteria. The bigger and more diverse your microbiome (i.e., the bacteria, virus and fungi living in your body), the better your digestion, your immune system, and your general health. As an infant, you got your first “dose” of healthy bacteria from your mother during pregnancy and childbirth. As an adult, you can further build and diversify your microbiome by eating probiotic-rich foods. The fermented food recipes below will let you create healthy, delicious fermented food right at home. Each dish supports your microbiome and also provides lots of immune system-boosting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Fermented Food Idea #1: Homemade Yogurt
Homemade yogurt is the perfect way to add protein and probiotics to your day. And once you make a batch, you can use leftovers from it to create another round of yogurt (the bacteria in the previous set of yogurt will “jumpstart” the fermentation process). Essentially, it becomes a never-ending supply of yogurt that’s healthy, tasty, and a lot cheaper and less processed than buying yogurt in the grocery store.
A quick tip: Experiment with flavors! Add different sweeteners, such as honey or agave syrup (or not!). Stir in some berries. Sprinkle in some cocao powder. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can customize this fermented food recipe to your own personal preferences.
1 gallon of whole milk
1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt at room temperature (ensure the yogurt has live cultures in it)
Pour a gallon of milk into your slow cooker. Set the heat to high and close the lid. Let it cook for three hours or until the temperature on your kitchen thermometer gives a temperature reading of 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turn off the slow cooker and let the hot milk cool down to 110 degrees Fahrenheit with the slow cooker’s lid still on. This may take another three to four hours.
Check the temperature again, and once it hits 110 degrees, scoop out a cup or two of the warm milk into a bowl. Add the plain yogurt to the bowl and whisk it thoroughly. Pour the yogurt-and-milk mixture back into the crockpot and give it a good mix (use horizontal or vertical strokes and not circular motions).
Close the slow cooker, wrap it in a towel and let it sit on your counter overnight for at least 12 hours.
The next day, strain the yogurt. Put a colander over a very large bowl and line the colander with cheese cloth. Pour all of the slow cooker’s contents into the colander and let it strain for three to four hours. What’s left in the cheesecloth is your yogurt! (The liquid is also beneficial and could be drank or you could skip the straining step unless you need your yogurt very thick). Keep it chilled in your fridge and enjoy this fermented food whenever you have a yogurt craving.
Fermented Food Idea #2: Pickled Veggies
People have been pickling veggies for centuries. It’s a great way to preserve fresh, in-season produce, and the pickling process also helps provide lots of healthy bacteria to your body’s microbiome.
You can pickle almost any type of vegetable. Get started with this easy beginner-friendly recipe.
3 cups cut vegetables (green beans, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, etc.)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp dried dill
2 tbsp sea salt salt
1 quart filtered water, boiled
A clean, sterilized quart-sized canning jar (i.e., Mason jar with a lid)
Toss the garlic into the bottom of the jar, then stuff the jar full of veggies. If you’re using different veggies in one jar, consider doing different layers so that every bite you’ll take has a new flavor and texture. Leave about 1 inch of space at the top of the jar.
Sprinkle in the salt and dried dill, then pour the hot water over the veggies. The veggies should be almost fully covered by liquid. Attach the lid of the Mason jar and let it ferment in your fridge for at least a week. The longer you wait, the deeper and richer the flavors. Enjoy!
Fermented Food Idea #3: Homemade Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is an immune system superhero because it’s so high in vitamin C. This homemade version is raw and unpasteurized, so you get lots of healthy bacteria (most store-bought sauerkraut is pasteurized, which robs the sauerkraut of its probiotic benefits).
Enjoy sauerkraut on its own, or as a side with your favorite meals.
8 cups cabbage, finely chopped
5 tsp sea salt
1 raw beet, peeled and shredded
3 whole carrots, peeled and shredded
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
3 tbsp fresh turmeric, grated
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
Set of clean, sterilized Mason jars with lids
In a big mixing bowl, mix the salt and cabbage and massage it with your hands for ten minutes to break up the cabbage and soften it a bit. Once softened, stir in all the other ingredients.
Pack the seasoned cabbage into the Mason jars, leaving an inch or two of space at the top. The natural juices of the cabbage and other ingredients should cover the cabbage. If not, add some clean, boiled-then-cooled-to-room-temperature water to the jar.
Seal each jar with its lid and let it ferment in your fridge for at least one to two weeks. The longer you let it ferment, the tangier and more flavorful your sauerkraut. Enjoy!
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