Fermented goodies for your health!
Updated: May 29
We love a good functional food at The Natural Life Shop and it doesn't get much more functional than fermented foods! We have lots for you to choose from; kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut, all in different varieties!
What all fermented food has in common is the fact that it's alive. Yep, you read that right, It's Alive! It's teeming with bacteria. Usually we wouldn't be cool with bacteria in our food would we?! No. In this case though, those bacteria are probiotic, the good guys. These are seriously beneficial for out gut health and therefore for our health in general! Ask any of us in the shop and we'll all agree that good general health starts and ends with good gut health! 85% of your immune system is housed in your gut and this includes the relationship between us and our bugs. They help us out with our immunity in a lot of different ways!
Lots of things in modern life can have a huge impact on your gut bacteria. Stress, low fibre diets, low variety in your fruit and veggie intake, antibiotic use, smoking, alcohol, medications and many others are all culprits for reducing your gut bacteria. Then factor in that we lose 20 billion of the little suckers on a daily basis anyway! It's kind of amazing that we have functioning guts at all but you can start to see why so many of us have issues with digestion, bloating, constipation etc. on a regular basis!
Fermenting foods was typically done to preserve vegetables throughout the off season (usually winter). In Korea every family has their own secret recipe for kimchi which is handed down. Making the new years batch of kimchi is normally a family event and a bit of a celebration. We can definitely get behind a celebration of kimchi!
So to break down the lovely things we have in store for you:
We have several brands of kombucha in lots of different flavours. What they all have in common is tea. Yes, regular tea or green tea usually! Then you have a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), some sugar to feed the bugs. Once it's fermented down nicely, the SCOBY is strained off, flavours are added and it's bottled up for your enjoyment! Once the fermentation is complete, there is little to no sugar left in the finished product, so although you see it listed on the ingredients, it's not really there in any meaningful way!
We have SynerChi, Pro Fusion and Captain Kombucha (we also sometimes have a Lo Bros Cola flavour) in stock with lots of great flavours between them.
We like to have them on their own (they are great for any event you don't fancy drinking at such as BBQ's, family parties etc., pop them in a wine glass and most people won't even realise you're not indulging in the booze with them!) and they also make great, healthier mixers!
Kefir can be made with dairy milk (we stock Biona) and also with coconut milk (we have Coyo). It can't be made with other non dairy milks as the fatty acid and sugar profile isn't enough to feed the bacteria to create a proper culture. We also have a few water kefir options (don't ask me how it works, it' just does!) We stock lovely Remedy water kefirs and they're in our fermented food fridge with all our other offerings.
To start your own culture, you need to source live kefir grains. This is an undertaking in itself! Though you can buy them online, most people have a friend of a friends cousin/aunt/neighbour who is trying to rehome their excess grains. Yep, they breed and multiply! If you're lucky enough to lay your hands on some then you'll also be looking for loving homes for their children too.
As with kombucha, you add grains to your milk, leave to ferment, remove grains and add any flavourings you fancy!
Traditionally made with cabbage, sauerkraut has roots stretching back 2000 years to China even though the name usually sees it associated with German cuisine. As we mentioned previously, fermenting food like this began as a way to preserve fresh foods through winter to provide nutrients. Sauerkraut was even taken on sea voyages as a way to stave off scurvy in the absence of fresh fruit and veg!
The bugs you get in a good batch of well-fermented sauerkraut are lactic acid strains like lactobacillus breve or lactobacillus plantarum. These guys are a great addition to your microbe colony and can help to keep everything in balance in your gut.
To make sauerkraut is technically simple; shred cabbage, pack in jars with salt between the layers, leave to ferment. You do need to make sure that your jars (and hands!) are scrupulously clean if you want to have a bash at making your own though, you don't want to encourage dodgy bacteria in your ferment!
Though traditionally made with white cabbage, we have several varieties or sauerkraut for you to try. Of course we have the traditional white cabbage, we also have a red cabbage, a carrot & fennel and finally, chilli & dill kraut. Yes we will admit that the chilli is bordering on our next category; Kimchi.
(P.s. If you're looking for a live and kicking sauerkraut don't go for the Biona one in our fridges! It is very tasty but it has been pasteurised and is therefore no longer alive in the meaningful, brimming with good bugs way.)
So we've already discussed how kimchi originates in Korea and is so popular that they have closely guarded family recipes and a celebratory kimchi making day/dinner.
Kimchi is really similar to sauerkraut in that it's usually made from cabbage and it's left to ferment. What stands it apart is the multitude of other ingredients you can add to a kimchi to give it that fiery kick it's become so well known for!
Obviously chilli is a fairly big part of any good kimchi. Other ingredients can be fermented fish paste*, non cabbage veg such as carrot, other leaves etc., spices like turmeric and cumin can subtly alter the flavour and add their own benefits too!
If you like a more depth of flavour than a standard sauerkraut provides, then a kimchi could be for you. They range from mildly tingly to downright volcanic in heat. We tend to stock modestly hot versions (we adored The Culture Collective's kimchi, but we just couldn't seem to convince you guys that it's awesome - ask us if you fancy giving it a try!). Right now we have Eaten Alive Classic Mild in the fridges for you to get stuck into.
*All our kimchi is currently suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets!