What Are Fermented Vegetables & How To Make Them

I was never a huge fan of sauerkraut, and the closest I'd ever come to eating fermented vegetables were pickles. Then I found out some incredible health benefits to eating these sour veggies. I've already tried my hand at homemade Greek yogurt and dairy free coconut yogurt/kefir, but for whatever reason I was worried about attempting fermented vegetables.


You may be wondering what fermented vegetables are exactly.

Fermented vegetables have been a part of many cultures around the world for centuries- sauerkraut in Eastern Europe and China, and kimchi in Korea. Unlike pickles that go through an anaerobic fermentation, these vegetables undergo lacto-fermentation.



What's the difference between fermenting and pickling?

When you buy a jar of pickles you're getting cucumbers that have been preserved using an acidic medium (a.k.a vinegar). There are no added health benefits and in many cases the pickles have undergone excessive heat during the bottling process which further strip them of nutrients. On the flip side, fermenting vegetables is accomplished by placing fresh vegetables in brine (which kills off the bad bacteria like E. coli) while the beneficial bacteria (otherwise known as lactobacillus) feed off the sugars in the vegetables, producing lactic acid.



3 Reasons You Should Be Eating Fermented Vegetables


1. Probiotics!

The process of lacto-fermentation creates probiotics, or good bacteria, that go to work in your body. These microorganisms make it easier to digest and absorb food. They do this by breaking down the food and balancing the digestive enzymes. This is a very good thing, especially for those with gastrointestinal diseases like Celiac. Being able to properly digest and absorb the food you eat will allow your body to reap all the benefits of a healthy diet.

Besides, I've said it before and I'll say it again, a happy gut is a happy person. It also supports the health of the liver by breaking down fats and proteins. The liver, which is the filter for toxins in the body, gets a big boost from probiotics. A healthy liver could potentially improve skin conditions like acne, boost metabolism, and help improves digestion as well.

Let's recap...benefits of probiotics include: improved immune system, digestion, detoxification, absorption, bowel health, and even the potential to reverse some diseases.

2. Preserves Food

There's no special utensils or equipment to use when preparing fermented vegetables, aside from a good shredder and some glass canning jars with lids. In fact, the whole process of fermenting actually enhances the nutrients in the vegetables. Boosting vitamins like c, b vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. When kept in a cool, dark, dry place (like a fridge), fermented vegetables can last anywhere from 4 to 18 months. That's much longer than fresh vegetables will last and with much less effort than canning. Also they'll still retain the slight crispness of fresh, but with an added boost of nutrients.

3. Cost Effective

It doesn't cost much to shred some veggies and put them in a jar. Traditional homemade fermented vegetables consist of vegetables (usually cabbage), water and some salt. Put it in a jar and set it on the counter for a few days, then stick it in the fridge to slow the fermentation process.  That's it! I didn't want to use a lot of salt, so I made mine with a celery juice brine. (If using celery juice you will need to use a juicer. If you don't have one, using a quality blender and then straining the pulp from the juice is the next best thing.) See my recipe below.


Make Your Own Fermented Vegetables

Since I was a little apprehensive about this whole process, I did lots of research to be sure. Here's the best video tutorial I found on making fermented vegetables at home. I followed their suggestion to use celery juice as a brine, but with a little added salt for flavor. It turned out really good! Since I also added a couple beets from the garden it ended up being a pretty pinkish orange color.

The best part about making your own is, not only will it be full of healthy probiotics, but you can also change up the ingredients to whatever you prefer. Add some heat with a jalapeno, change the flavor with 1 inch ginger root, or throw in some chopped herbs  like dill, parsley, cilantro, or basil.

* For the best results and healthy benefits, use organic produce. Be sure to rinse and scrub the veggies clean before shredding.

2 heads cabbage (reserve a couple whole leaves for later)
1 lb. carrots
2 red bell peppers
2 beets
1 apple
2-3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno or red pepper flakes to taste (opt.)
1 Tbsp. salt. To add more healthy minerals and detox benefits, I use Himalayan Pink Salt
1 bunch celery juiced, yields about 3/4 - 1 pint liquid
1 packet culture starter, I used Culture Starter by Body Ecology

Start by finely shredding all the ingredients, except celery. Toss all the shredded vegetables and any added herbs in a large bowl. Juice the celery, and to that add the salt (if using) and starter packet. Stir until the salt and starter dissolve. Pour the celery mixture over the veggies and stir.

Now pack it into some clean canning jars. You'll need 4 or 5 quart jars. Use a potato masher or whatever you can fit to really pack those veggies in tight. Once the jar is full with an inch or so at the top, place a piece of the cabbage leaf into the jar over the veggies before putting the lid on. Don't tighten the lid down too tight. Trust me. The gas that's produced from the fermentation process will build up and it needs some room to escape.

Set on the counter or pantry shelf for about 4-5 days then move them to the fridge. Enjoy a couple scoops on scrambled eggs in the morning, with lunch, and dinner for the best benefits.


Food Lamor by Melissa

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Melissa Moore has spent years researching and implementing nutritionally-based approaches to health and wellness. Her lifelong love of food and health evolved from a hobby to a passion when her daughter was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.

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