Fermented Foods & How to Use Them
Almost every native diet worldwide included a traditional fermented food. Fermentation is one of the oldest known preservation methods; some historians estimate it goes as far back as 6,000 BC! Cultures traditionally used fermentation to safely store foods for long periods of time, especially after a large harvest. It also saved time, prevented waste, and made food more palatable.
Little did ancient cultures realize, fermented foods have communities of microorganisms that promote health and make our food more digestible. The bacteria in fermented foods can pre-digest nutrients, break down antinutrients that prevent digestion, and increase the diversity of probiotics in our food. Just as in any ecosystem, having a healthy community with a wide diversity of bacteria is essential to maintaining our own micro-ecosystem. The bacteria in fermented foods can also create more nutrients like Vitamin C, K, B vitamins and protein!
1. Sauerkraut literally translates to sour cabbage in German. It is made from pickled, grated cabbage and traditionally fermented.
Tips: Most products on the market that say “sauerkraut” use vinegar. If you don’t make your own sauerkraut at home, make sure it does not contain vinegar or other preservatives. Those products will not have the live beneficial bacteria. Look for products with ingredients only containing cabbage and salt. Serve sauerkraut with: salads, corn quesadillas, sandwiches, potatoes, sliced apples for a sweet and sour side dish, soups, stir frys or tacos
2. Kimchi is a versatile and tangy fermented cabbage dish with over a hundred varieties that may contain radishes, fish sauce, scallions, or garlic. Originally from Korea, it is considered medicinal and fundamental to Korean cuisine, served at every meal in Korea. It can take months or even years to ferment, just like wine or cheese. Some ways you can use it are in fried rice, with rice noodles or pasta, eggs any style, in savory pancakes, soups or stews, served with sautéed greens, grilled or broiled fish, or in tacos with beans and veggies.
Tips: Like sauerkraut, it’s not always fermented and can be processed with vinegar instead. Read ingredients on food labels to see if it’s fermented or if you are an advanced cook, experiment and make your own! If you’re still skeptical but adventurous, try out a Korean barbeque restaurant- they will have fermented kimchi, but also various other flavorful fermented side dishes that will stun your taste buds!