Food Friday: Fermentation Fun

Eating fermented foods at least once a day can greatly benefit the digestive system. The probiotics that arise from the natural fermentation process aid in food digestion and ensure a balanced population of beneficial bacteria. People like to label bacteria as "good" or "bad" but I think it's all relative. Keeping bacteria where it belongs - just like keeping the doshas where they belong - is key to a healthy personal ecosystem.

Ayurvedic Take on Fermented Foods

Fermentation increases acid content (for more info on fermentation, click here); therefore, it is sour and heating to the body. Excess intake of the sour quality can throw off one of the three doshas - pitta dosha. Those who have a natural tendency to have a "fiery" digestion (marked by acid burps, heart burn, and/or diarrhea) should limit their fermented food intake to once per day. I'm not surprised to see that my higher-pitta clients LOVE consuming fermented foods - they crave the fire and want to keep it burning.

Sauerkraut + Recipe

I love sauerkraut. When I get sick, it's all I want to eat - something cold, crunchy, and sour. Yes it's true, Ayurveda states that foods should be eaten warm and moist. But when I get sick, my digestive system more or less slows to a halt while my body works to recover itself. Eating something sour and filled with probiotics always helps to jump start my digestive system and get it working again. I figure the sourness overrides the coldness - plus, I'm following the Guidelines for Healthy Eating and chewing and warming up the kraut in my mouth before swallowing!

Sauerkraut is super easy to make, and it's also like a fun science experiment right in your kitchen. All you need to start with is: one head of green cabbage, a wide mouth quart-sized jar, 1 tbsp kosher salt, and a spice of choice - dill is a great one.

Instructions: Finely shred the cabbage and place in a big bowl. Sprinkle salt over the shredded cabbage, mixing and rubbing the salt into the cabbage thoroughly with your hands. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Check on it and give it a good mix every 10 minutes. The cabbage will wilt over time as its water is being extracted by the salt. Once your cabbage is sufficiently wilted and a good amount of salty cabbage juice (YUM!) has accumulated on the bottom of your bowl, mix in your spice of choice. Transfer cabbage + spice to your mason jar and really pack it in. The cabbage should be fully submerged in its juices (or else you run the risk of unwanted bacterial growth). Use your fist or something else that fits into the mouth of the jar - I use a red wine vinegar bottle. Let this sit for a few days to two weeks, tasting occasionally and transferring your jar to the refrigerator once it's done (the flavor is to your liking). After a few days, you'll start to see fermentation as evidenced by bubbles being produced inside the jar. Enjoy!