Every traditional cuisine has developed some sort of naturally fermented or cultured food. There’s Japanese miso, Bulgarian yogurt, Polish sauerkraut, Indian lassi, and Korean kim-chee. And each of these plays a central role in that culture’s cuisine … and for good reason. All of these foods contain lactobacillus bacteria, which are extremely beneficial to your health. In the days before antibiotics and other drugs, cultured and fermented foods were critical to staying healthy.
The friendly bacteria found in these foods actually set up housekeeping in your gut, where they do all kinds of good things for you:
- They help digest your food and produce certain vitamins for you.
- They keep the lining of your intestines slick and shiny.
- Most of all, they make it harder for unfriendly bacteria to take hold and make you sick.
Our digestive systems work best when they have a healthy population of beneficial bacteria on board, which is probably why every culture and cuisine features some sort of cultured or fermented food as a daily staple.
Unfortunately, the traditional methods of fermenting cabbage in stoneware crocks, or burying salted vegetables in pits in the back yard, or culturing warm goat’s milk on the hearth are just not as common as they used to be. Instead, we have ultra-pasteurized milk that keeps for six weeks. Let me assure you that no beneficial bacteria survive the ultra-pasteurization process.
Now, if you’re a real do-it-yourselfer and you want to learn to ferment your own sauerkraut but don’t have a Bubbie to show you how, these ancient skills live on, thanks to the World Wide Web. Here are some links to recipes and fermentation guides: