Fermented Foods

With our face paced lifestyles, stress,  bad diets, over prescribing of antibiotics we have created the "germ-free" environment.  Increased chemical/synthetic fertilizers used in farming, and  everyday toxins have all begun to take a toll on our gut health.

Research is showing that our gut bacteria is less diverse that what is has been previously , which could be a direct link to the increase in so many chronic health conditions.

Today we chat with Imogen McKee from Fermentagious who runs Fermenting Classes at Paleo Cafe, Townsville... 

What Are Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods come in all different shapes and sizes. Examples of fermented foods include - beer, wine, cheese, miso, fish sauce, soy sauce, yogurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, - the list can go on. Traditionally these foods were fermented using age old traditions that generally took time. Biologists and chemists began research fermentation and essentially managed to isolate the specific chemical reactions, and hence the bacteria strands that catalysed such reactions e.g. yeast. Before yeast was chemically isolated - sourdough bread was made by mixing flour and water and letting it sit on your bench top. By doing so the mixture would attract wild yeast within the environment which would essentially take the place of the now chemical yeast.  [IM]

Where Have All the Fermented Foods Gone?

The mass production of food these days which includes the use of preservatives largely now has replaced the need to ferment foods. Secondly - we pasteurize alot of foods with good bacteria in them these days to increase shelf life and with the introduction of refrigerators, preserving foods isn't as big of a deal because we can easily go to the supermarket. We very much live in a convenience era where seasonal foods aren't as big as what they were previously. We have evolved as a culture from hunters and gathers, to an agricultural society to now having supermarkets at our finger tips. [IM]

Why Eat Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods are high in good bacteria which is what our gut needs to absorb and digest our foods to the best of their ability. [IM]

Tips on introducing fermented foods into your diet?

Fermented foods can be incorporated in a number of ways - vegetable ferments can be added to salads or as a side dish to any type of meal, kombucha can be consumed daily whenever, making your own yogurt - can be used at breakfast/as a snack, literally it is up to you how and when you you eat them.[IM]

Imogen's basic recipe for kraut:

You will need

  • 1 Kgs of Cabbage
  • 1.5 TBS of Salt - put this into a small dish
  • Widemouth Jar ( 1L )


Chop all your cabbage up - reserve the outer lay leaves in tact if possible. In a big mixing bowl - place a layer of cabbage (roughly two handfuls) and sprinkle some salt over.

"Massage"/ crunch all the salt over the cabbage.

Repeat this process with all of your cabbage to pull the water out of the cabbage. When you have completed this you should be able to squeeze a handful of cabbage and water should drip out of it. Let it sit for an hour or two, squeezing it sporadically with your hands to get the last bit of the water out of it.

Pack your kraut into a widemouth jar (I use the old 1L coconut oil jars) - use a rolling pin to bash in down as you go to pack it all in tightly, you don't want to have any air pockets. You want to leave about an 1inch headspace at the top of your jar. Ideally, you should have pulled enough water from the cabbage to ensure all the kraut is submerged however you might need to top it up with salt water brine (1 cup of filtered water to 1 tsp of salt).

When you've packed it all in to jars, cut the outer cabbage leaf to the size of the top of the jar and use it as a seal - you want to keep all the cabbage beneath this, inevitably you will get some floaties which is OK but the more contact with air the greater chance for spoilage.

Lastly - once you have packed it into the jars, sealed it with a cut-to-size cabbage leaf, then you need a weight to assist with forcing the water out and keeping the cabbage submerged. I usually use a smaller jar filled with water to do this BUT if I have used smaller jars then I just push down the kraut twice a day with my CLEAN fingers.

Once you have put your weight on, cover the kraut with a tea towel and place out of direct sunlight in your kitchen.

After the first few days you will notice bulk bubbles appearing - this is a great sign that its fermenting smile emoticon Push down on on the kraut during this time to get any trapped gases out.

Leave it sit on your bench for 1-4 weeks - the hotter your kitchen the less time required the colder your kitchen, the longer fermenting time frame.

Somethings you might notice -

  • A white film/scum might develop on the surface - just skim it off, its a yeast that forms due to air exposure, your ferment underneath will be perfectly fine.
  •  Floaties - try skim these out as the can cause mould/spoilage.
  • The smell can be quite a punch in the face - totally normal

Happy Fermenting

Imogen Mckee

Imogen Mckee