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Happy 2016, dear friends!
As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a book on self-care. I’m excitedly anticipating an early 2016 launch, but in the meantime I will be previewing some of the contents during this leap year’s “366 Days of Self-Care” challenge.
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 real-food dietitian, I’ve always been intrigued by traditional methods of food preservation. Wine is preserved grapes, right? My great-grandparents in Appalachia Ohio used canning, salt-curing and smoking techniques to preserve enough food to get through the winter months, so I was fairly familiar with those methods.
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 off-putting. As I began to learn more about the synergies between us and our micro-organism friends, though, my curiosity only grew.
The truth is, anaerobic fermentation–a process that occurs in the absence of oxygen–creates and environment that isn’t suitable for pathogenic bacteria, and some believe it to be even safer than raw food. What does thrive 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 (Amazon Associate Link) 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, 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.
Over the past few days I’ve gently raised the lid to peek at the contents, but it didn’t seem like much was happening. The only thing I noticed was that the cabbage was sinking slowly into the abyss. However, this morning as I walked into my kitchen I was greeted by the 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.