Nature’s Fast Food
Better than Raw and They are Preserved!
Fast, convenient and nutritious foods have been enjoyed for centuries, along with some amazing health benefits. Even in ancient times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods of time without refrigeration, freezing or even heat processing/canning. They are called lactofermented (LF) vegetables. What’s amazing about this simple process is how quickly and cheaply it is done. In about one hour, for example, you can turn a big head of cabbage into two quarts of kraut. Most vegetables and mixes will last a year or more in cool storage (around 40oF). These are meant to be eaten as a small side dish of a tablespoon or two, so your supply can last a long time. There may be nothing better for you than to have convenient LF vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi or beets on hand to compliment a meal.
Lactobacilli bacteria (a good bacteria) is present on all surfaces of vegetables, even after washing, slicing and dicing. Lactofermentation is a process of preparing and preserving the food by creating the conditions that enhance the conversion of lactic acid to create more lactobacilli. This can be accelerated by adding whey, a watery waste from cheese production.
Besides preserving these foods into the winter and spring, LF offers some tremendous nutritional advantages. First, since LF vegetables are raw (although they have a taste and texture of being slightly cooked), you maximize the amount of vitamins and enzymes, especially if they are taken directly from the garden and processed the same day. Second, the LF process predigests the food, allowing easier and more complete digestion when eaten. This allows for more nutrients like vitamins, enzymes and minerals to be taken to all cells in the body. Third, they also enhance the proper amounts and stability of good microorganisms in the intestines which go a long way to relieve chronic consitipation, loose stools, irritable bowel and frequent acid stomach, among other conditions.
The taste of these foods is slightly sour and salty with perhaps a slight crunch, although the longer they are stored (6 months seems to be optimal) the softer and tastier they get. Most LF products are ready to eat within three days. LF vegetables need to be prepared with salt and by all means use genuine sea salt (grey salt)– this alone adds 80 essential minerals and micronutrients. The addition of whey further enhances the process, but if not available, use extra salt. (see recipes, at right). Leave the covered jars out for three days at room temperature and you will see the colors change as the little critters do their work.
A wide variety of vegetables can be LFd, like beets, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower to name a few. The LF process can also be applied to fruits and to making healthy drinks like Russian kvass. There is no better time to start as when the spring harvest is full of vegetables to LF.
This article is just a brief introduction to the vast field of the centuries old process of lactofermentation. Hopefully, it will whet your appetite to learn more and benefit from this natural method.
SandorKraut has a video library here
His website is here with a large number of high quality links.
Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon. New Trends Publishing. This book has a complete section on LF vegetables and drinks. (30 recipes in all, including the two on the right) She has an excellent article on the biochemistry of LF at westonaprice.org
(Makes 1 quart. Note: It is more time efficient to make 3 to 4 quarts at once)
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon grey sea salt
4 tablespoons whey (or use an additional 1 tablespoon sea salt)
In a bowl, mix cabbage, caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices. Let rest 10 minutes. Place in a quart sized, wide-mouthed mason jar pressing firmly with pounder until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten at that time, but it improves with age.
KOREAN SAUERKRAUT (kimchi)
Makes two quarts
(A variety of vegetables may be used)
1 head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1/2 cup dailon radish, grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
1 tablespoon grey sea salt
4 tablespoons whey (or 1 additional tablespoon sea salt)
Place vegetables, ginger, garlic, chile flakes, sea salt and whey in a bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices. Let rest ten minutes. Place in a quart sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder until juices come to the top of the vegetables. The top of the vegetables should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before transferring to cold storage.
Variation: For a different flavor, 1 tablespoon organic, naturally brewed soy sauce may be added.