History provides us a few clues on how different cultures supported their intestinal health before modern times. Years ago, people used fermented foods like sauerkraut as food preservatives and as support for their intestinal and overall health.
Preparing cultured foods and beverages dates back to a time when people didn't have advanced preservation methods available such as packaging and refrigeration.
Here are a few examples of how pre-modern diverse cultures enjoyed fermented foods (many still do today):
- During Roman times – People enjoyed sauerkraut because of its taste.
- In Asian cultures – Pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots are still practiced today.
- People of Ukraine – Consumed foods like sauerkraut, raw yogurt and buttermilk.
The Many Varieties of Fermented Foods You Can Choose From
Ideally, you'll want to include a variety of cultured (fermented) foods and beverages in your diet. Each food can help supply your gut with a variety of beneficial microorganisms. Here are some examples of fermented foods you can easily make in your own kitchen:
- Cultured vegetables
- Cultured dairy, such as yogurt, kefir and sour cream
- Fish, such as mackerel and Swedish gravlax
Fermented foods can help support your health because they…
- May provide higher concentrations of certain nutrients like probiotics and vitamin K than unfermented foods
- Contain natural levels of prebiotics, which may help to stimulate beneficial microflora growth in your gut
My optimal approach to obtaining probiotics is by consuming fermented vegetables.
Several ounces of fermented vegetables (prepared with the Mercola recipe, which utilizes a starter culture) may contain many beneficial bacteria.
Added Benefits When You Use This 'Art' to Help the Science
There's a great deal of science involved in fermentation. Some people even find all the details quite fascinating on how Mother Nature provides us with such a gift. Louis Pasteur, the French chemist, was the first to study the chemistry of fermentation.
But, in addition to the science there's a bit of art involved as well. There's a way you can actually help deliver more consistent results… and that's using a starter culture in the process.
Years ago, most people just employed what is called "wild fermentation." Wild fermentation simply uses the native bacteria that are present in the vegetables to culture the food. And that's okay, but doing it the "wild" way tends to be lengthy and the results aren't always consistent.
With the advent of starter cultures, the fermentation process has improved quite a bit. And today, most commercial fermented vegetables are produced using some sort of starter culture.
In a nutshell, here's why I feel using a starter culture is such a key element when fermenting your own veggies:
- Saves you time – Wild fermentation can take up to several weeks. Using a starter culture can cut the fermentation time considerably.
- Yields more consistent results – By adding the "art" of the starter culture, you can help the science of fermentation be more consistent.
- Helps introduce specific nutrients – By including selective strains of bacteria in the starter culture, you can increase the levels of certain nutrients and vitamins may become more bioavailable to you.
Vegetable Fermentation 101
Nearly all organic fruits and vegetables, including the dust covering soil and all plant matter contain Lactobacilli (lacto-fermenting bacteria). Fresh organic cabbage leaves, for example, are covered in Lactobacilli.
Here's an example of the basic fermentation process using organic cabbage as your veggie of choice:
- Chop up the cabbage leaves.
- As the Lactobacillus start multiplying, they produce lactic acid. That's why they're called Lactobacillus
- As the lactic acid starts producing, it will help preserve the food (cabbage in this case)
However, it's important to know that fermentation does more than simply preserve the food. It can also make nutrients inside the food more bioavailable. I believe this is one of the most important benefits of the entire fermentation process.
Using cabbage again, here's more on the advantages of fermentation:
- The available vitamin C in sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) can be about six times higher than in the same helping of unfermented cabbage approximately one week after fermentation begins. This is because vitamin C is no longer bound in the cellulose structure after fermenting.
- The vitamin C shortfall with unfermented cabbage is due to the fact that vitamin C is bound in the cellulose structure and various other molecules. Your digestive system is simply not able to "slice" it off and absorb it as well.
Vitamins, such as K2, can be optimized with specific bacteria strains from fermented vegetables. I believe this is the most important aspect of fermentation by far.
Remarkable 'Unappreciated' Benefits of K2
Vitamin K2 is not to be confused with vitamin K1, which is found in leafy green vegetables. K2 is a product of bacterial fermentation that you produce in your gut and is present in fermented vegetables and fermented dairy like cheeses, kefir and yogurt, but I believe not nearly enough.
- Not all fermented vegetables are high in vitamin K2
- Levels of K2 in cultured vegetables depend on specific bacterial strains that have the K2-producing capabilities
- If these specific strains are not present in the vegetables or in the starter culture you use, you could end up with low K2 levels
If you're not eating vitamin K2-rich fermented foods like cheeses, homemade yogurts, kefirs or natto, then you might want to consider taking a high-quality vitamin K2 supplement. However, I prefer to get vitamin K2 from fermented vegetables that are high in K2.
Here are a few of the potential health benefits from vitamin K2:*
- Helps build strong bones and keep them healthy*
- Provides support to your vascular (arteries and veins) system*
- Supports heart health*
- Helps protect your cells against oxidative damage*
- Supports your immune system*
Why I Believe This Starter Culture Is so Exceptional
Not only do I recommend using a starter culture when fermenting your own vegetables, I can't stress enough the importance of using one of high quality.
This may be difficult to determine because there is such a wide variety available. And often times, you won't really know how well a starter culture works until you actually try it. Well, I decided to take most of your guesswork out of finding a high-quality starter culture. That's why I created my own starter culture – Kinetic Culture. Plus, this one goes beyond most of the other starters I've seen available.
So, what makes Kinetic Culture so special?
Well, there are many features of this culture starter that add to its uniqueness. But there's one feature that I believe clearly helps it stand out in the crowd… and that has to do with vitamin K2.
With Kinetic Culture, I've made sure the right probiotic strains are there that can produce ample amounts of K2 in the Mercola recipe.
Wild fermentation can produce about 90 percent less K2 than when you use Kinetic Culture as your starter culture in the Mercola recipe. To me, it's a no-brainer to take this approach if you want consistent high-quality results and vitamin K2 in your fermented vegetables.
If you're one of the many people who have been waiting for this type of starter culture, I realize it has taken a few years to produce. But I promise you, it is well worth the wait.
5 Easy Steps to Make Your Own Cultured Veggies
Here are the five basic steps involved in the process:
- Select your vegetables and herbs – The first step is to select firm vegetables (preferably organic) you want to shred to make your blend. Cabbage should be the backbone of your blend.
- Create your brine – I recommend using celery juice that you juice yourself in a juicer like my Juice Extractor. Celery juice contains natural potassium and eliminates the need for additional salt. One quart of celery juice is adequate for 10 to 14 quarts of fermented vegetables. However, if you prefer to use salt, you can add 1 ½ tbsp. of Himalayan salt to a quart of filtered or distilled water in lieu of celery juice. The water must be filtered or distilled to prevent the vegetables from rotting due to chemicals in tap water. Add one stick pack of Kinetic Culture for every quart of vegetables.
- Pack the jars – Once you have your shredded vegetables and brine mixture combined in a large bowl, tightly pack the mixture into each Mason jar. Compress the mixture using a masher to remove any air pockets and top it off with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides to help ensure your vegetables stay under the brine. If you are using a regular Mason jar lid, cap the lids loosely as the jars will expand during fermentation due to gases produced. Putting the lids on too tightly can cause the jar to crack or explode. The best approach is to use my Fermenting Jar Lids which are described in detail below.
- Ferment the vegetables – Allow the jars to sit in a relatively warm place for several days (ideally around 72° Fahrenheit or 23° Celsius). During the summer, your vegetables should be complete in three to four days. In the winter, they may need up to seven days to ferment. In the end, your "taste" test becomes the deciding factor.
- Store and enjoy – Once you're happy with the flavor, move your fermented vegetables to your refrigerator. This slows down further fermentation and will help keep the vegetables for two to six months. The longer you wait to use them the less crisp the vegetables will be. A refrigerated temperature of around 38° F will help lock in the flavor, texture and tartness.
Fermenting vegetables is like most everything else that you try for the first time. Once you figure out how to do it, you'll naturally start streamlining the process and cut the total time down to a minimum.
Making Your Own Fermented Vegetables Is Easy
I realize this is a lot of information, and you may even feel intimidated to begin fermenting your own vegetables, but I’ve made it easy for you with my Kinetic Culture.
Each pre-measured pack of my Kinetic Culture Packets for Vegetables will yield one quart of fermented vegetables. Simply open the pack, add it to your brine, and start fermenting! No measuring and no mess means more time to yourself. You’ll get 10 packs to a box, so you and your family can keep enjoying the benefits of fermented vegetables.
The Perfect Pair: Starter Packets and Jar Lids
Now that you’re armed with my truly beneficial and easy-to-use Kinetic Culture Starter Packets, take convenience a step further with my exclusive Fermenting Jar Lids.
These jar lids offer a critical benefit that other lids don’t—a special carbon filter technology to eliminate odors while fermenting. Other features of these innovative, patent-pending lids include:
- Releases fermentation gases in a controlled manner throughout the fermentation process – reducing unwanted odors
- Facilitates the removal of sulfur gases
- Prevents environmental oxygen and other gases from entering the container during fermentation
- Releases pressure build-up, preventing the jar from breaking
- Prevents mold growth in the container due to environmental contamination
- BPA- and BPS-free (in contrast to metal canning lids which may contain BPA)
- Reusable, easy to clean covers
- Simple to use
Each lid can be used multiple times before it no longer prevents odors – we’ve been using the same filters at the Mercola office for months without needing to replace them. Simply rinse the filter under running water after each use and allow to air dry.
Each box of Fermenting Jar Lids includes 3 Kinetic Culture Jar Lids, (lid, cover and seal), 3 extra seals and 6 individually-wrapped filters. My Fermenting Jar Lids are an easy, inexpensive solution to making the fermenting process quick, fun and odor-free.
Seems Like a No Brainer
Now you still may be thinking… "I don't have time for this." But if you watch the video in which my staff member demonstrated how quickly you can prepare fermented vegetables, you can see just how easy it is to do yourself.
It does take some prep time. But remember, this is a small sacrifice to reap all the benefits associated with fermented vegetables.* I cannot state enough how important your gut flora is to your optimal health. Making your own fermented veggies is a fantastic way to help nourish your gut.
And when you add in the phenomenal starter, Kinetic Culture, and use my Fermenting Jar Lids, you've got just what you need to save time by making the process efficient and the results consistent.
Plus, you can save money over the cost of other commercial products. Based on our office experience, the estimated cost to make fermented veggies with my Kinetic Culture Starter Packets is around $6 per quart. If you order fermented veggies online, it may cost as much as $25 per quart (including shipping). So, you could see unbelievable savings close to $20 for every quart you have fun making yourself.
If you go through more than a quart of this every week like I do, those savings can add up quickly.
Order your Kinetic Culture Packets for Vegetables and Jar Lids today and get started enjoying your own fermented vegetables created to your special personalized taste.