About 5 years ago I became very sick. I was reacting to everything I tried to eat, was exhausted, and just did not feel well. I had made several trips to the ER and visited a few specialists. Some thought it was psychological. Others just would say something is wrong but I don't know what. I finally found one doctor, thanks to a family member who had similar problems, who took the time to listen to me and he empowered me to let my body heal itself. I was diagnosed with a couple of autoimmune diseases and a long list of food allergies, but essentially it was all caused by a toxic overload in my body. After several weeks of doing a fresh fruit and veggie juice fast, I was able to slowly introduce "real" food. That was the beginning of my "real food" diet. Since then I have tried to avoid all toxic chemical soups (AKA processed/boxed foods) that our society tries to pass off as food. I have enjoyed relatively good health since changing the way I eat and view food. However, I know that I still suffer from some vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and these deficiencies seem to be even more evident in our children. Despite eating healthy, whole foods, "M" seems to be sick often, have brittle bones and soft teeth, and is slow to heal. Between my concerns for her health and our desire to live more off the land, I have spent lots of time researching health, nutrition, and the foods we eat. The more I research, the more I realize how much I do not know and how much knowledge has been lost over the past few generations! I most recently picked up the book "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. I thought I knew almost everything there was to know about eating until I read this book. I was beyond overwhelmed after reading just a few pages. Culture your own dairy products? Ferment vegetables and fruits? How do you even do that?!? I was fascinated by the information though, and felt like it could be the key to some of our problems. Sally writes on page 89, "The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine." A way to preserve food while making it healthier for us? Sounds great to me! But, how exactly do you ferment veggies? It's definitely not something I learned from my mom or grandma. The only way to learn was to give it a try, and so I did. I decided to make the Ginger Carrots in her book because she says it is a great introduction to fermented veggies. The recipe seemed simple enough:
*4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
*1 TBSP freshly grated ginger
*1 TBSP sea salt
*4 TBSP whey
In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouthed mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the carrots. The top of the carrots should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.
So, first I had to make whey (something I had never done before). She tells you several ways to make it, but I chose to start with Stoneyfield Organic Plain Yogurt. I placed a coffee filter in a strainer with the yogurt on top and a bowl below and let it sit for several hours. What dripped into the bowl was whey, and what was left on top was cream cheese. I mixed a little salt into the cream cheese and we ate that with some crackers and vegetables - delicious! The extra whey I stored in the fridge. Maybe next time I'll be brave enough to start with raw milk.
Following the rest of the directions was pretty easy. I had no clue what to expect (nor did the rest of the family), but we were pleasantly surprised and have enjoyed adding these carrots to our dinner meals.
I tried a different fermented carrots recipe, but I failed. After a couple of days on the counter there was definitely some mold growing. I will continue to try and will share any successful attempts. Do you ferment fruits or vegetables? What are your favorites? We have lot of radishes growing in the garden and I am hoping to make radish relish later this spring.