Wholefood Chef, Author and Educator, Holly Davis is a master at her craft, culturing and cooking for over 40 years. What began as an exploration into macrobiotics blossomed into a deep appreciation for lacto-fermentation, live bacteria and eating according to needs and season. Fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, kraut, kefir and koji, are more nutritious and bioavailable to the body. Loaded with antioxidants, enzymes and beneficial bacteria such as pre-, pro- and postbiotics, they improve gut health and digestion, boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Here we discover although sauerkraut may seem simple, it's actually providing potent nutritional benefits.
Fermenting is a means of employing beneficial bacteria to preserve ingredients beyond their otherwise useful life and in the process of doing that, the ingredients are preserved, but they're also made more nutritious and more delicious.
When food is fermented, it is pre-digested by the microorganisms present. The texture and flavour transform and nutrients that might otherwise have been unavailable to us are made useful. Where possible, fermentation can detoxify the ingredients being fermented. Many of the foods we might choose to ferment contain various anti-nutrient compounds, making them hard to digest and their minerals difficult to extract.
“We tend to think that when something is good, more of the good thing is better - and that’s not the case when it comes to fermented foods.”
Ferments support the commensal bacteria in your large intestine and enable them to do their best work. It's these bacteria that are responsible for increasing the nutrient levels of food and the enzymatic activity within a food. Research shows the content of Vitamin C in fermented cabbage even higher than in fresh cabbage. Beneficial gut bacteria can help produce vitamins and enhance absorption of minerals, to help with overall wellbeing, including fighting off pathogens and boosting metabolism.
The process of fermentation preserves ingredients, making them safe to eat for weeks, months, or in some cases, years beyond their fresh state.
We tend to think that when something is good, more of the good thing is better - and that's not the case when it comes to fermented foods. A little often is a much better way of going about it than a lot at once. Rich in enzymes, they help break down hard-to-digest proteins, making them perfect as a condiment with meals and as a valuable contribution to a wholefood way of eating.
There are lots of different types of fermentation, but for this recipe we're talking about wild lacto-fermenting (favouring lactic acid producing bacteria) which is different to alcoholic fermentation or fermentation that utilises mould such as koji, used in Japanese ferments like miso and soy sauce. Wild fermenting means the cabbage for example, will be salted in order to not only increase flavour, but also protect ingredients from putrefying while beneficial bacteria build in the mix.
It's possible to ferment without salt, but you need to introduce something that is already fermenting to ensure that enough bacteria are present to protect the ingredients while fermentation gets going.