I have mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t think it’s coincidence that most resolutions get broken quickly. The typical resolutions (Quit smoking. Start an exercise regime. Eat better. Be more generous/ loving/ thoughful/ compassionate.) are actually life-altering decisions. You’ve got to be in the right place in your life to implement such major changes.
Of course, I admire anyone who can use the chimes of the clock on January 1 to motivate the changes they’ve been wanting to make. I just wish people wouldn’t feel badly for “failing” at something they weren’t properly prepared to succeed in.
As it so happens, January 1 coincides with a lifestyle change that I’ve been gearing up for. A few months back I decided that it was time to work on the intestinal health of our family. So I do actually have a New Year’s resolution this year: heal our guts.
The more I learn about health, the more convinced I am of the importance of the gut. And gut flora, in particular. Inspired by a friend whose kitchen has become a probiotic wonderland, I’ve decided this is the year I want to do what I can to improve the flora in my intestines. Then Big and Little Handsomes’ intestines as well.
So step one in Operation Healthy Flora is learning to ferment. I signed up for an e-course, watched the instructional videos in the first module, gathered my supplies, and got started. I’ll know in a few days how I did. Step two will be introducing probiotic drinks. To that end, I’m ordering some kefir grains to be delivered in February. Step three might be perfecting the art of bone broth making (thanks to a great tip from another health-inspiring friend).
But let’s just stick with step one for now. Fermenting vegetables is super easy. Some quick internet research uncovered a number of different methods, and lots of advice. It seemed overwhelming. But after watching the videos in the first installment of my course, I decided to simply do what they say and see how it goes.
The basic idea is this: cut vegetables, cover them in a salt + whey* brine and seal them in an airtight container. Then they are to be left at room temperature for 3-7 days, after which the jars can be stored in the fridge for months. Just about any vegetable can be fermented, it seems, and just about any spice can be added, so the possibilities are almost endless.**
My first attempt was simple shredded carrots. The second was a mixed veggie ferment with cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, garlic and dried herbs. Then, because I got a big bunch of cucumbers today fresh from the farm, I found a recipe for bread and butter pickles and decided to give it a try.
I’m actually quite excited to do the fermenting. It’s the eating that I’m not sure of. I’ve never been a fan of pickled anything, or any type of sour milk product (even sugary yogurt is a stretch for me), or any bubbly drink. But that’s the real resolution. I’ve used mere exposure to learn to like mushrooms, bell peppers, black tahini, and sardines (ok, I only tolerate sardines at this point, but I’m getting there). Soon cultured foods and drinks will be on that list.
I’m looking forward to seeing what a difference this will make in our family’s health. I have big hopes of eliminating my food intolerances and clearing up Little Handsome’s eczema. And in December (or even sooner!) I hope to dub 2013 the year we healed our guts.
*Using whey is optional. For a dairy-free ferment, use double the salt and omit the whey. I will try this with my next batch.
**For more info, check out these videos from DomesticDiva.ca.