Years ago when I was young and raising my kids, I was often influenced by well-meaning friends and family. They scared me to death with the latest news they had heard and would say, "Don't eat this," and "Don't let your kids do this," and "Did you read that story about how bad this is for you?" It drove me crazy trying to figure out what to believe and finally I'd had enough. They didn't know any better than I did, and I decided I was going to follow my own path, seek my own guidance from within, and forget what everybody else thought was right for me. The truth is that bad news sells faster than good news and I am bound and determined to make my site and blog about all the wonderful things you should do and not the scary things you shouldn't do, which are most of the time just speculation anyway. So instead of being tossed around this way and that, I figured it out myself and without a doubt my methods worked better, faster, and more efficiently. I'm going to share the things I have learned that you won't hear very often from anybody else. I have been doing this a long time and many well-meaning people often state things that they have not tried or researched, but rather they are trying to sell products or write an interesting blog or book. It's easy to write things that you know little about, but when you have lived day in and out with these cultures, making them every day, they impart wisdom to you. I am showing you my tips from someone who loves cultured foods with all her heart and has a huge desire to help you learn about them as well. As always, trust your own guidance over anyone - even me. It's how you discover things you never thought possible, and it's so much fun to live this way. You're smarter than you know.
Tips That Nobody Else Talks About - But Me
1. Do you put a cloth or lid on your ferments?
Put lids on your ferments except for kombucha and water kefir. Kombucha and water kefir need a cloth and rubber band. I know lots of people tell you to use a cloth and rubber band on your milk (or non-dairy) kefir, but people will often have problems with cross contamination. This is always eliminated when they put a lid on it. Kefir and cultured veggies need lids, but kombucha and water kefir need a cloth and rubber band.
2. You don't need to use weights on your cultured veggies.
In the past, I have used weights to hold down my vegetables. And then I did it without the weights and it worked just as well. Yes, the veggies can climb above the water. You can always open the jar and push them down or leave them the way they are. If the veggies turn brown, remove them. If they get a harmless yeast (kahm) on them, scrape it off. This yeast is most likely to develop if the veggies you use aren't fresh. Airlock lids also help with keeping this yeast at bay and so does adding a culture package. You can just skip the weights, and I am giving you permission to do so. It's just too much hassle and doesn't help that much anyway. I haven't used weights in ten years and my veggies do great! Here is more info.
3. Use any kind of jar to make cultured veggies.
This particular topic gets me all riled up when people say you have to use an airlock jar to make cultured veggies or you'll harm yourself. It's simply not true and when they tell you this . . . follow the money! It also makes for a sensational blog that drives traffic to their website and scares people, and then folks don't make cultured veggies because they're afraid. I sell airlock lids too and think they're great, but I am by no means going to say you have to use them and only them. I want you to get better and to make cultured veggies any way you can, be it a canning jar, clamp-down lid, or crock. Don't listen to people who tell you that you have to do it with a special expensive jar. This makes me crazy! Okay, I'm done stomping my foot about this.
4. Don't put your ferments in a cupboard
Kombucha is the one cultured food this most applies to. Kombucha needs air to ferment and if it doesn't have enough air circulation, it can cause problems with mold. Putting it in a closed cabinet doesn't give it the air circulation it needs. Plus, you never know what kind of bacteria have been living in your cabinet. Leave your kombucha out on your counter and try to keep it out of direct sunlight for the best results. But, if it does happen to get in direct sunlight, it's not going to kill it. This goes for kefir and cultured veggies as well. Because you have a lid on kefir and cultured veggies, putting them in a cupboard doesn't affect them, but it's best to keep them out of direct sunlight. Again, it won't kill them if you do get direct sunlight on them. I like to look at my cultured foods and I think they are things of beauty in my kitchen. No other food means more to me than my cultured foods. I like to watch them do their job as they transform my food and fill it with probiotics. They have a place of honor on my kitchen counters and don't belong in a cupboard.
5. Don't ferment too long. It's not better ~ Kefir
So many people think that letting your cultures ferment longer is better, but this is not true. Kefir is best when it's done fermenting at 24 hours or when it is sour and tart. Letting it go 48 hours or longer diminishes the probiotics as the bacteria run out of food to eat and then start to die. The only time there is an exception is when you second ferment your kefir by placing some fruit in your kefir which gives it another food source. This will actually increase the probiotics as it eats the sugars from the fruit.
6. Don't ferment too long. It's not better ~Kombucha
Kombucha should be fermented until it is not sweet anymore, not over vinegary, but still rather tart. When it reaches the stage where it tastes like vinegar, much of the good yeasts and bacteria have died and you won't receive as many benefits. Also, if it's over fermented you will not be able to second ferment your kombucha because the good yeasts will have died and won't be there to ferment it again. Hopefully, you will begin to think of all your ferments as living things that need food just as you do.
7. Don't ferment too long. It's not better ~ Cultured Veggies
There are lots of people who will tell you to ferment your kraut for 3 to 6 weeks to get the most benefits and to not use a starter since this is how it was done for thousands of years. I agree that this was a great method; however, we have evolved and found even better ways to preserve the probiotics and make them better. Unfortunately, fermenting it for weeks on end diminishes the probiotics. As it ferments, the bacteria can begin to run out of food. It is still good for you, but it will be less beneficial since the bacteria will not be as plentiful. I have had people get mad at me when I tell them to ferment their kraut for only 6 to 7 days, or when I explain to them that using a starter culture will keep the levels of bacteria at a higher level longer than not using a culture. The reason I know this is because a microbiologist who came to one of my classes had the cultured foods tested and found that longer is not better, and using a culture versus just salt kept the bacteria going strong instead of dying out. I also noticed that the veggies I ate soon after making them had the most powerful effect on me and so did the ones with added cultures - especially Cutting Edge Culture. The tests done by the micobiologist proved what I had always suspected. As always, if you don't have access to a veggie culture starter, then please make it with salt and you will still receive tons of benefits. The sooner you eat them, the more benefits you will receive.
8. Don't wash your kefir grains in water!
PLEASE don't wash your kefir grains in water. Never, ever, never do this. It washes off their protective coating of bacteria and yeasts and they will be harmed. They can survive, but it diminishes the good bacteria and yeasts and they won't be as strong. This is one of my pet peeves and one that has given me the title of "Kefir Police." Somebody has to protect these kefir grains for generations to come. Since they can't talk, I am their voice and I will shout to all who will listen, "Don't wash your kefir grains in water - it harms them and hurts me too!"
9. You can use a stainless steel strainer.
Metal is something that tends to react with cultured foods - especially with kombucha. Keep metal away from kombucha for it will most certainly break it down. Just as kombucha removes heavy metals from your body, it does the same thing with metals in any regard. So keep metal away from kombucha.
When it comes to kefir, using a stainless steel strainer or spoon is actually okay. People panic when they hear they're to never use a metal strainer or spoon. I have used a stainless steel strainer for years and years and it has worked great. Metal canning lids on jars are fine, too, as long as the kefir isn't in constant contact with the metal. Using a metal spoon is okay - there is no need to worry. Kefir does not have the same kind of properties as kombucha and using metal to strain or eat your kefir is fine.
10. Cultured veggies can be fermented with metal lids.
If you do use a metal lid, it is best to leave lots of room in the jar to keep the veggies from touching the lid if they should expand. Over time, the ferments will start to break down the metal in the lids but this takes quite a while so it is best to not have them in constant contact with them. I like plastic lids for fermenting best, but if a metal lid is all you have, just leave extra room so they can expand and ferment.
11. Second ferment your kefir for more probiotics.
Nothing makes your kefir taste better than adding a small slice of fruit to your kefir and second fermenting it. It increases the B vitamins, especially the folic acid, and also mellows out the tart, sour taste. This is all accomplished by adding the fruit which is a prebiotic for those hungry microbes. They gobble up the sugars in the fruit and make more probiotics for you. Don't let it ferment too long and don't add too much fruit as the taste can get overly acidic tasting.
12. The terrain is everything.
I've been doing this a long time, and the greatest thing I have learned is how important it is to add prebiotics to feed the microbes in your inner ecosystem. Louis Pasteur was a French biologist, microbiologist, and chemist known for his discoveries of microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He believed we should destroy germs, bacteria, and viruses that invade the body. This theory created a dependence on Big Pharma and antibiotics which can, with overuse, do harm to us and create superbugs. I'm not completely against antibiotics because in many cases they can be lifesaving; but by all means, we should try to rebuild the multifaceted inner terrain that houses our microbial community after the use of antibiotics. This inner terrain, comprised of microbes and your immune system, is more important for remaining disease free than searching for new antibiotics and vaccines to kill bacteria and viruses.
I'm not just saying this - I've lived it. I can always feel my body fighting off a virus. I will feel a little more tired than normal and I will get tiny little signals that my immune system is on the move. It's a constant reminder of how wonderfully we have been created. Usually within a day, and without symptoms such as cough or fever, my body will be back to normal and this is pretty much all that happens. I recover so quickly because I constantly feed those microbes and thank my body for all it does for me. When I go to the market, I look for foods to feed my living inhabitants and they in turn take care of me. Probiotic foods are the strains of microbes, but then you have to feed those strains with prebiotics in the form of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds and allow them to build a fortress inside of you. If you have a mighty terrain, you feel like you can take on the world because you're never alone.
13. No two ferments are the same.
Your home and mine are unique and different, and they house the bacteria you carry around on you. You're a cloud of trillions of microbes and you carry a cloud with you wherever you go. This is so crazy to think about, but they are starting to use this in forensic work to determine who's been in the room at the scene of a crime. That being said, you can have a powerful influence on those around you by creating a healthy and diverse ecosystem in your gut. This will affect your cultured foods, too.
The more you make cultured foods, the better your ferments will work because you're infusing your home with powerful, good bacteria. Your home is an expression of you and so are your cultured foods. They will change with the temperature and how often you use them. They love to ferment; and the more you use them and make cultured foods, the better they will perform. It's the same thing inside of you, it gets better and better the more you pay attention to what you're eating, how you're living, and the emotions you feel. You signal your body to create disease or wellness with everything you do. The more that wellness ensues, the more you spread this to others - quite literally - by the bacteria you carry around. So make these foods as often as you can and consume them daily. They will change and get better with time, just like you.
I hope these tips help you and make you feel good about culturing your food. I try to make things as easy as possible so you will do it and receive the benefits. Don't be afraid of messing it up. Cultured foods are some of the safest foods to eat and make on the planet. I am dedicating the rest of my life to helping you, so you can get better and change your lives with something as simple as foods that have probiotics in them. If you are still nervous, here is a blog to explain how safe they actually are. Can Cultured Foods Hurt You?
"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."Chinese proverb
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