An abundance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and stomach is necessary to maintain health. Beneficial bacteria help digest and metabolize food, support the immune system, and maintain healthy hormonal balance. These beneficial bacteria are produced when we consume probiotic and prebiotic foods, beverages, and supplements.
The high prevalence of processed foods, refined sugars, stress, seed oils, toxic substances, and food that is devoid of enzymes and vitality (so, most cooked foods) reduce the levels of beneficial bacteria and feed detrimental bacteria in the gut. A high level of unhelpful bacteria contributes to inflammation, digestive disorders, and other health problems.
Most commercial food products have been sterilized, pasteurized, or denatured in some way to make them shelf-stable. This processing strips them of the substances that would have traditionally fed the beneficial intestinal bacteria. Luckily, there are many foods and drinks that can be made at home that support the production of these helpful little guys.
One of the simplest probiotics foods is fermented cabbage. A serving of sauerkraut provides millions of probiotics and adds a great tangy flavor to salads, soups, wraps, and other dishes. Sometimes I like to make a snack of sauerkraut, avocado, and a homemade flax cracker.
To make a small batch of homemade sauerkraut, you will need:
- 1 large head of cabbage, outer layers and core removed
- 1 sterilized 1-quart Mason canning jar with a new lid
- 1 tablespoon of miso or pickling salt
- A large wooden or glass bowl
- Once you get comfortable with the process, you can add other hardy vegetables and rhizomes such as carrot, ginger, turmeric, burdock, daikon radish, beet, cauliflower, or broccoli.
It is important to work with clean hands and a very clean environment. Sauerkraut production can be a bit messy, so it is helpful to mix it in a very large bowl. Other than the Mason jar lid and the knife to cut the cabbage, do not use any metal bowls or utensils.
~ Remove the outer layers and core of the cabbage (set one outer layer aside for a cap, and use the rest for a salad.)
~ Shred the rest of the cabbage (and chop any other vegetables into small pieces).
~ Mix the cabbage, miso or pickling salt, and a sprinkling of pure water into the large wooden or glass bowl.
~ Massage the cabbage thoroughly, working it with your hands until every piece is saturated and begins to soften. For some people, this is the most fun part of the process. You can sing to the cabbage or imagine how good your belly will feel when you eat it.
~ Once the cabbage is good and soft, press it into the Mason jar, a couple inches at a time. Shove each layer firmly into the jar until there are no air pockets, and then add the next layer.
~ At the very top, when the cabbage is nearly overflowing, cap it with the whole piece of cabbage you reserved from the outside, trimmed to just barely fit in the jar. This cap will protect the kraut from the metal lid, and ensure that it all stays submerged in the brine.
~ Place the jar in a dark place like a cupboard. It will probably seep liquid at some point, so place it on an old towel. The lid may need to be tightened after 3-4 days.
~The length of time will depend on the temperature. Warmer environments will cause the kraut to ferment faster, while cooler spaces will make it take longer. In a warm (70-85 degree) environment, it will be ready in about a week. In a cooler (55-70 degree) environment, it can take as long as two weeks. You will be able to lightly smell the sauerkraut when it is ready.
~ Crack it open, remove the cap, and enjoy. Refrigerate whatever is not eaten right away. Refrigerated sauerkraut can last up to a year. Always serve it with a wooden or plastic utensil, never metal.
A simple probiotic drink can be made from beets (beetroot). Beet kvass provides probiotics, minerals, and is a powerful blood tonic. It supports digestion, alkalinizes the blood, and cleanses the liver. It is an earthy, salty liquid that tastes like a blend of a food and a drink.
To make kvass, you will need:
- 3-4 beets, thoroughly cleaned and cubed (not shredded)
- 1/4 cup fermented liquid (brine from sauerkraut, liquid from yogurt, kombucha, or kefir)
- 1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 1/2 gallon glass jar
- cheesecloth or clean, thin towel and large rubber band
~ Pour the clean, chopped beets into the jar.
~ Add the fermented liquid and salt.
~ Fill jar the rest of the way with pure/filtered water.
~ Cover with cheesecloth or towel and rubber band the cloth in place.
~ Let sit at room temperature (on your counter is fine) for 2 days.
~ Close jar and transfer to fridge. It usually tastes better after a day in the fridge to mellow.
~ Enjoy the healing deliciousness. A 3-4 ounce cup in the morning and before bed is a good daily serving.
These are just two of the many ways to make delicious, nourishing probiotics foods in your own kitchen. Make fermented food and drinks a part of your daily routine to support your digestion, immune system, and overall health.