The latest food trends run the gamut from odd new movements to old standbys. Some are extremely healthy, and others — not so much. Foodies pick the ones they like best and make them work for their families. Among the healthier movements is the fermentation kick. Of course, eating fermented foods is not new. Our ancestors knew this was the best way of preserving vegetables for use during long winter months when no fresh produce was available. But shelf-stable foods became popular and fresh vegetables are readily accessible all year round, so home canning and pickling has been relegated to artisan fare.
Now we are learning more and more about how good bacteria found in fermented foods can support our health. We are also discovering that bad bacteria can lead to things like obesity and digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. There is a whole school of thought that encourages diets that add foods to reestablish one’s inner “ecosystem” by creating healthy bacteria. Books have been written on diets that add food rather than restricting them. Of course, these foods are eaten in conjunction with other well balanced and nutritional foods. The fermented foods help break down fat as well as quickly digest foods to promote weight loss. Scientists now realize that a healthy gut does more for you than any low-fat diet ever can. So while this may not be a cure-all, it sounds like an idea whose time has come.
Fermented Carrot Pickles
1-1/2 pounds small carrots, peeled
Zest of 2 lemons, strips or shreds
4 bay leaves
4 tablespoons kosher salt
Two 32-ounce canning jars with lids
Combine salt and 6 cups warm water in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve salt. Divide carrots, lemon zest, and bay leaves between canning jars. Add brine to cover carrots. Cover with lids. Be sure carrots are covered with liquid. Let jars sit at room-temperature for five days. Keep out of direct sunlight.
After five days, taste carrots every day; once they are tangy and flavorful (in about 1 week), recover jars with lids and chill. They will last about a month.
Homemade Sauerkraut or Pickled Red Cabbage
2 bags shredded cabbage — green or purple
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 jalapeno, seeded or not, optional
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
One 32-ounce canning jar
Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Knead the cabbage with clean hands, for about 10 minutes, until there is enough liquid to cover.
Stuff the cabbage into a quart jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover cabbage. For a more complex flavor, add the jalapeno or 1 teaspoon caraway seeds. Cover the jar with a tight lid.
Allow the jar to sit at room temperature, 60–70°F, for at least two weeks until desired flavor and texture are achieved. Open jar for a minute every day to release excess pressure.
Once the sauerkraut is finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage. The sauerkraut’s flavor will continue to develop as it ages.
This will get your kids into the fermentation movement!
Three 7-ounce cans of tomato paste
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 small garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons liquid from your homemade sauerkraut
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
One 32-ounce canning jar
Combine all ingredients in the jar. Stir well to combine.
Ensure that the top of the ketchup is at least 1-inch below the top of the jar.
Using a clean cloth or paper towel, wipe the top of the jar above the ketchup clean.
Put lid on jar and leave at room temperature for three days; then transfer to the refrigerator.
Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.