I’d be willing to bet that most of you have heard discussions on “gut health” and probiotics. You’ve most likely seen the word, “probiotic” on yogurt, which is probably the most prevalent place for consumption in America. Another common fermented or cultured food that you may find in the grocery store is kefir. Probiotics have become more mainstream now and there are many benefits to getting your fill of fermented or cultured dairy, just be aware of the actual contents in your food or just clever marketing. It’s not as hard as you think to start incorporating cultured and fermented foods into your own kitchen. First, here are some benefits of this ancient preservation technique.
Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. – Sally Fallon
Preserving food without the use of freezers or canning machines is called lacto-fermentation. During the fermentation process the milk protein casein, which is the hardest to digest, is broken down. Culturing restores the enzyme lactase which can be destroyed during the pasteurization process. Lactase is the enzyme which helps your body break down lactose, or milk sugar. Therefore, many people who have dairy intolerances can handle fermented or cultured milk products. There is also an increase in vitamin B and C during the fermentation process. Restoring “gut health” isn’t just about a one and done thing, it is setting your body up at an enzyme level, to be able to digest and use the nutrients you take in. According to Sally Fallon author of Nourishing Traditions,
Research has shown that regular consumption of cultured dairy products lowers cholesterol and protects against bone loss. In addition, cultured dairy products provide beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to the digestive tract. These friendly creatures and their by-products keep pathogens at bay, guard against infectious illness and aid in the fullest possible digestion of all food we consume.
I first started looking into probiotics, fermented and cultured foods after I had my daughter. During my pregnancy I had to take so many antibiotics for infections and Group B Step (a type of bacterial infection in the digestive tract that can be passed on to the baby if not treated, very common). I wish I’d known then what I know now. At the time, I just took all the antibiotics, not realizing they were not only killing the bad bacteria, but the good also, which decreased my immune response causing me to get infection after infection. Now, I know that it starts with prevention. It’s starts with your gut.
You can eat all the grass-fed organic meat, fresh vegetables and fruits you want, but if your internal digestive systems are not functioning properly, your body will not absorb and use all of the nutrients to its fullest capacity. So, after being overwhelmed at first, I have decided to take it one step at a time. I will share with you as I learn.
My first goal in the next week is to make whey. Once I go to our local farm and get more raw milk, my culturing and fermenting ventures begin. Whey is a starter culture for lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits. It contains lots of minerals and will improve digestion. According to Hanna Krieger of the book Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen,
It is a remedy that will keep your muscles young. It will keep your joints movable and ligaments elastic. When age wants to bend you back, take whey… With stomach ailments, take one tablespoon of whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again.
So, how to we make whey? There are slight variations depending on what you are starting with. For me, I am starting with raw milk, so here is how I will make it…
Place 2 quarts raw milk in clean glass container and allow to stand at room temperature for 1-4 days until it separates. We keep our house fairly cool, so I’m thinking it will be more on the 4 days side. I’m copying straight from Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions on how I will do it. (Disclaimer: I am using raw milk and I’m not sure how that will translate for pasteurized milk. I am not an expert, I’m simply letting you in on my journey to more natural living and eating ;)).
Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel. Pour in the separated milk, cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours. The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer. Tie up the towel the the milk solids inside, being careful not to squeeze. Tie this little sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a container so that more whey can drip out. When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready. Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese in a covered glass container. cream cheese keeps for about 1 month and whey for about 6 months.
I will update you on my whey! Planning to use this to make sauerkraut first (I like it and it seems like the easiest).
Almost done with the 21 day challenge and feeling great! Although, getting over the sickness/colds that are going around has made me not quite as adventurous in the kitchen. But, since I have lots of old standby recipes and throw together meals, we’ve made it work. Here is what today looked like in our kitchen …
Breakfast – 3 scrambled eggs with salsa & avocado, black coffee
Lunch – leftovers from last night – grass-fed beef patty honey glazed carrots with cilantro and roasted broccoli
Mid afternoon snack – Green Smoothie. I also added 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of flax seed meal to give me an extra boost.
Dinner – Chicken from a roasted whole chicken and lots of raw veggies (carrots, celery, and red cabbage)
Have you ever tried making yogurt or other cultured or fermented foods?