Ferments hit different after you have started resetting the microbiome! That is why it is very important to introduce fermented vegetables slowly, and no sooner than a week or two into a gut rebuilding diet such as GAPS or the Rebuild Yourself method. Many people experience intense symptoms of “die off” during the first two weeks of this diet, and we don’t need to add fuel to the fire by bringing in an “army” of good bacteria (what fermented foods contain!).
Before introducing the actual fermented vegetable, the most gentle way to start is fermented brine, which is basically fermented vegetable saltwater! It’s delicious and potently probiotic.
These probiotics in liquid form is going to be easiest on digestion, easier than raw fermented vegetables like the cabbage or carrots themselves which has a lot of fiber. You still need to use vegetables to make the fermented brine, you just don’t eat them yet. You can always use them later by cooking them in in a soup.
My favorite vegetable to use for this is garlic. This adds a nice immune system boost to the fermented brine as well, as garlic is a powerful modulator of the immune system. However, any vegetable allowed on the gut rebuilding protocol is fine.
Obviously, try to source organic and local vegetables from farmer’s markets if at all possible, as this is going to have the most therapeutic effect for your body. Organic or pesticide free vegetables grown in rich soil are going to have a lot more diverse microbes already living on them to help populate your gut with.
Step one: Get a mason jar. Short or tall.
Step two: Peel garlic. You can chop them in half or quarters if they are large. With any other vegetables you might be using, chop them into this strips, ideally. The thinner the vegetables are, the more surface area bacteria will have to nibble and the ferment will be stronger!
Step three: Fill up the jar one quarter to one third of the way with the vegetables. Now fill it up the rest of the way with filtered water, but leave an inch or two of room at the top. It is important to use filtered water because the disinfectants in tap water will harm the potency of your ferment.
Step four: Use about 2 teaspoons of unrefined salt (any salt that is not white table salt) per quart of this mixture. Salt suppresses the growth of the opportunistic bacteria, but it doesn’t negatively effect the healthy lactic acid producing bacteria, the lactobacillus bacteria that we want to grow and is really beneficial for the gut.
Now give the jar a good shake!
Set it in a place that is room temperature, between 65-85 degrees is a nice sweet spot. If you house is cold, setting it up high, in a high cupboard or on top of the fridge can help. I recommend shaking the jar once or twice daily, as often pieces of vegetable will float to the top and any vegetable exposed to oxygen could start to grow mold. Do not open the jar during the fermentation process.
Within 12-24 hours, you should start to see bubbles forming! This is the fermentation magic starting!
I like to let it go about 72 hours, but you can stop it anytime between 24-72 hours.
Once it has reached the fermentation level you desire, put it into the fridge. This will significantly slow the rate of fermentation.
Take a sip every day first thing in the morning! It’s like a little probiotic soda. We don’t need to use a starter with this, because it’s just a wild fermentation. There’s just bacteria on plants, even the ones you buy in a grocery store. The bacteria that’s on there already is beneficial and going to proliferate it on its own.
Once you have been doing the fermented brine for several weeks to months, you can start doing sauerkraut!!
Sauerkraut is traditionally done with cabbage, but you can use any vegetables allowed on your gut rebuilding diet. The easiest way to prepare vegetables for sauerkraut is to pulse it in a food processor a few times, instead of chopping it by hand. You want it to be thin strands, ideally. Once you have a nice amount of shredded up cabbage or other vegetables, start adding it to a large mason jar. Just do one 2 inch layer at a time. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Then use a mallet or back of a large spoon to push the cabbage down, so it makes little micro tears in the cabbage and you push out excess air. This will create a nice, natural “brine” for your sauerkraut to sit in and ferment, and makes it easier for the good bacteria to eat! Repeat this process until the jar is full, with just an inch or two of room at the top. Make sure you save one leaf of cabbage to cover the top and push all the shredded cabbage underneath the water. If you haven’t make enough brine from the crushing and salting, add a little bit of filtered water on top and a little more salt. Sauerkraut needs to ferment longer than the fermented brine so we want to make sure there is no vegetable matter exposed to air, which could trigger mold growth. Some people buy little glass weights to insert into their jars to help with this.
Let the vegetable ferment sit at room temperature for one week UP TO A YEAR! Most people prefer between 1 – 3 months.
This is going to give you a delicious, potent fermented vegetable that is far more therapeutic than anything you can buy at the store. Enjoy!