IMMUNITY-BOOSTING FERMENTS FOR THE BUSY SEASON
This week’s Toolkit comes from our very own Jeanne who, when she’s not keeping all the plates spinning here at Countertalk, is a highly experienced fermentation educator. As we approach our industry’s busiest time we know that your priority needs to be protecting the wellbeing of yourself and your team, and even seemingly little things can make a huge difference. Jeanne has put together recipes for four fantastic ferments which are aimed at giving your health a helping hand over the next couple of months, and which you can batch-make right now to keep you going right through the festive season.
Raw fermented foods, and fermented vegetables in particular, boast a range of health benefits. Fermentation preserves vitamin C, generates additional nutrients such as B vitamins, pre-digests foods and helps make certain nutrients more bioavailable, and in some cases even removes toxins! Fermented veggies are also loaded with fibre to help your digestive system effectively process foods and waste, and are full of live bacteria cultures (the very organisms that make fermentation occur in the first place). Those bacteria diversify our gut microbiomes and improve our digestion – and have even farther-reaching impacts on maintaining our health and physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
These recipes can serve as excellent preventative and immune-boosting medicines to replace that Berocca you reach for at the very first onset of the sniffles; perfect for when you’re working extra long hours, with little time to rest or eat nutritious foods and take care of yourself. And make sure you refresh your fermentation knowledge and practice by checking out my guide on lactic acid fermentation.
- Fermented foods contain live bacteria cultures, cultures that preserve those foods and diversify our gut microbiome when they are eaten.
- Raw fermented vegetables not only contain all the nutrients and fibres of the produce you’re using, but will have added benefits from undergoing the fermentation process.
- Use the best ingredients you can find, free of pesticides and additives.
- Make sure your jars are clean but not sterilised – we need to encourage the growth of good bacteria, not eradicate all microbial life.
- Avoid cooking your ferments to maintain the live bacteria cultures.
- Enjoy these recipes on a regular basis as immune-boosting tonics to maintain your health, upping consumption to twice or three times a day when you’re under the weather.
You’ll need to make sure you’re using raw honey for this recipe which will contain the wild microorganisms you need to jump-start fermentation. Both raw honey and garlic have antimicrobial properties; honey also soothes a sore throat, while garlic contains a compound called allicin which can support heart health.
1 head of garlic
- Lightly crush and peel the cloves and place them in a jar.
- Cover them with the honey and seal the lid, keeping the jar on your kitchen countertop. Label with the date and contents.
- Open your jar daily to release the gas build-up and give the cloves a shake to ensure they’re covered with honey. The honey will get runnier because of the juice the garlic releases.
- After 1-2 weeks fermenting, it’ll be ready! Pop the cloves whole or add to salad dressings and marinades. Drizzle the fermented garlic honey over some burrata or fried halloumi.
Fire cider is an unpasteurised vinegar (usually apple cider) that’s been infused with roots, plants, herbs, and seeds packed with nutritional goodness. While you’re not technically fermenting a fire cider because the medium is too acidic, the raw vinegar itself contains live cultures.
The following ingredients are just guidelines – add anything you want! This is especially great for using up vegetables scraps or whatever you have lying in the fridge, making it an adaptable recipe for the seasons. Opt for vitamin C-loaded foods like rosehips or cranberries this time of year, change up the alliums, or add some nutritional heavy-hitters like turmeric and ginger. Keep the roots and vegetables once you’ve fully strained your mix and dehydrate them to blitz up into a savoury fire cider seasoning.
Apple cider vinegar
A few cloves of garlic
An onion or shallot
2-3 chilli peppers
Sprig of thyme or other woody herb
1 tbsp peppercorns
- Chop up the garlic, onion, chilli peppers, and ginger and put in a 1lt jar.
- Add the herbs, peel, and peppercorns.
- Seal the jar, shake it, and let it infuse for at least 2 weeks. Label with the date and contents. Enjoy as a daily tonic or add to dressings and marinades.
Turmeric and ginger kraut
This classic central and eastern European ferment is not only delicious, it goes with virtually anything depending on the flavourings you add – and it’s incredibly easy to make. By adding ingredients like turmeric, ginger, and garlic, we’re amplifying its nutritional benefits, too. Cabbage is high in vitamin C which gets preserved once fermented; turmeric will not only flavour and colour your sauerkraut, but also has excellent antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. Alongside the antimicrobial powerhouses that are garlic and ginger, this makes for an excellent, warming kraut to keep in your fridge all winter.
1 small head of white cabbage
14-16g fine sea salt, or 2% of the total weight (2 tsp)
1 whole apple
1 medium carrot
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fresh grated turmeric
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cardamom seeds
- Remove the brown end of the core, the outer leaf, and quarter the cabbage.
- Shred the cabbage very finely, either by hand or using a mandolin.
- In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage and salt.
- Massage the cabbage with the salt to draw out the liquid, until it becomes limp and there’s a puddle at the bottom of the bowl.
- Grate in the apple, the carrot, the cloves of garlic, and add the ginger, turmeric, and seeds. Mix well.
- Grab a handful of the cabbage mix and place in the jar; using your fist or a blunt-tipped object (like a rolling pin), compress the layer down to get rid of air pockets and to make the liquid rise to the surface.
- Continue packing all the cabbage in, bit by bit, until it’s well-compressed (leaving two inches from the mouth of the jar).
- Wipe down the sides of the jar, both inside and outside, to remove any bits (which can get contaminated if exposed to oxygen for too long).
- Add the remaining liquid to cover the surface of the mix.
- Cover with a tea towel secured with a rubberband and let ferment at room temperature for 7-14 days. Push the veg down every day to re-submerge it (or use a fermentation weight).
- Taste every day, and when it’s to your liking, seal the lid and refrigerate. Label your jar with the date and contents.
Chillies are rich in vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants! Plus, that spice-causing capsaicin helps to break up mucus if you’re feeling phlegmy. You can infinitely adapt this base recipe to the seasons and to your tastes, experimenting with different peppers and fruits, or adding herbs and berries. I especially like a mango-scotch bonnet combination.
250g chilli peppers of your choice
1 tsp salt
Half an apple
- Chop up your chillies and apple and mix with the salt. Let them sit to draw out the water, then pack them tightly into a jar making sure they’re submerged underneath their liquid.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with a tea towel and let ferment at room temperature for 1 week, checking the mix every day and resubmerging the chillies under their brine.
- Blitz up the entire mix, jar it, label with the date and contents, and keep in your fridge. You’ll want to open the lid regularly to release the gases for the first month (fermented chillies are very active and will produce lots of carbon dioxide!).
Once fermented, these will keep for months (if not years) in your fridge thanks to the acids that will have developed through the fermentation process. Although ideally you’ll be eating them regularly enough that they won’t last that long! If you see any kind of mould or colourful or black growth, best to toss it out and start again. Follow your intuition and your senses, and the more you ferment the better you’ll understand what works for your environment and your tastes.