Today, I’m learning the art of fermentation as part of my journey toward cultivating a personal self-care practice. Why fermentation, you ask? As a down-to-earth dietitian, I’ve always been intrigued by traditional methods of food preservation.
My great-grandparents in rural Ohio used canning, salt-curing and smoking techniques to make sure there was enough food to last the winter months. There weren’t many other options.
But I must admit that fermentation has always been a little scary for me. The idea of encouraging bacterial growth – something most of us who love to cook do anything and everything to prevent–seemed a little off-putting. But my curiosity only began to grow as I learned more about our helpful friends: microorganisms.
The truth is, anaerobic fermentation (a process that occurs in the absence of oxygen) creates an environment that isn’t suitable for pathogenic bacteria. In fact, many believe it to be safer than raw food. But what kind of bacteria thrives in this acidic, low-oxygen environment?
Health-promoting bacteria that help make nutrients more bioavailable to us through a process known as pre-digestion.
After receiving a fermenting crock and a copy of “The Art of Fermentation” (Amazon Associate Link) for Christmas, I promptly got to work. Following author Sandor Ellix Katz’s extremely loose guidelines for fermenting sauerkraut, on Sunday afternoon I filled my crock with lightly-salted shredded cabbage, topped it with water, placed the weight stones and lid on top, and walked away.
Each morning for several days, I gently raised the lid to peek at the contents, but it didn’t seem like much was happening, other than the cabbage sinking slowly into the abyss.
However, one magical morning I walked into my kitchen to find a sour aroma of fermenting cabbage – Happy New Year to me!
Everyone seems to have a slightly different method for fermenting since there are an infinite number of spice + vegetable + flavoring combinations. I haven’t even tasted the first bite yet, and I’m already thinking about what to ferment next.
Happy 2016, dear friends! As some of you may know, I’m in the process of writing a book on self-care, and I’m excitedly anticipating an early 2016 launch, but in the meantime I’ll be previewing some of the contents during this leap year’s 366 Days of Self-Care challenge.
Update: The book is now available! Get your copy of Uppward: A Self-Care System for Purposeful Living. (Amazon Associate Link)