Tag Archives: Lacto-fermentation

Lacto-fermentation and Probiotics 2: Condiments

In the last post I showed you how to make yoghurt, and then how to strain the yoghurt to get your whey (and some particularly tasty cream cheese!) Now I am going to share with you some recipes for probiotic condiments. They are 100% natural, super tasty, and actually help both your digestion and your overall health.

Sauerkraut – King of Probiotics!

If you have ever taken or been advised to take probiotic capsules, you will know that if you want anything decent you can expect to pay rather a lot of money. I just did a quick check online and found that an organic cabbage at a medium price range British supermarket will cost about £1.40. That cabbage when shredded will make at least 1 litre of sauerkraut (I usually get about 2 litres out of a cabbage). Last year Dr Mercola sent some of his home made sauerkraut to be analysed at a laboratory. The results work out that the 1 litre you can make from the cabbage will equate to about 9  bottles of 180 capsules, which I just checked on Amazon would cost about £170.

You might feel uncomfortable with the notion of fermented cabbage to begin with, I certainly did. Cabbage was about bottom of my list of vegetables I wanted to eat, and pickled cabbage only dropped it further. But after hearing about the benefits of eating sauerkraut, I thought I would give it a try and it turned out to be alright. Now I am accustomed to it and enjoy it with scrambled eggs for breakfast!

For a bit more information on sauerkraut check out this link

So, how do you make this magical elixir of life? Well, it’s pretty easy, you should be able to make 2 litres in about 1/2 an hour if you have a food processor, without one you might need a little more time.

Ingredients: 1 head of cabbage (washed and cleaned), 1 tablespoon of salt, 4 tablespoons of whey* (see the previous post), 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds.

*If you want to do dairy free, you can substitute an extra tablespoon of salt for the whey.

Equipment: 2 litres worth of glass jars – either one big one or a few small ones, food processor or cheese grater, big knife, rolling pin, large bowl.

Method: Chop the cabbage into small pieces using either the shredder attachment of your food processor (like you were going to make coleslaw) or with a big knife or cheese grater. Put the shredded cabbage in the bowl and add the salt, whey and caraway seeds. Using the end of the rolling pin (like a big pestle and mortar), bash the cabbage, taking care not to break the bowl. Keep going until you see the cabbage juice building up in the bottom of the bowl, it should get slightly foamy. Now transfer the pounded, shredded cabbage into the glass jars and push the cabbage down firmly so that the juice comes to the top.

It is VERY important to leave a space between the top of the cabbage and the lid of the jar. The fermentation process usually causes the cabbage to expand, and there is a possibility of a pressure explosion, or at the very least a messy puddle around the jar. In a 1 litre jar I leave an inch of head space, the larger the jar, the more space is needed. 

Put the jar in a suitable place at room temperature. The fermentation process will take between 2 and 4 days, depending on how warm your location is. You will see the cabbage expand and give off some gas, then it will drop back down the jar. That is the point when I usually put it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment slowly, even in the fridge, and will keep for several weeks. Occasionally white spots of overgrowth of bacteria may form on top after a long storage. These are apparently harmless and can just be scooped off and discarded.


Eggs are a really challenging subject and raw egg is even more so. My British conditioning put up so many warning flags about raw egg, I was rather reluctant to try this at first. Then there is the eggs and cholesterol thing too, and to be honest it really makes my head spin. The cholesterol issue has been largely discredited, here is just one article citing research suggesting that. My understanding is that eggs are pretty much nature’s most perfect food, and if you want to get the best out of this nutritional powerhouse, they should be consumed raw. Now, of course there are some caveats to that, and I am certainly not at the stage where I down a couple of raw eggs in the morning!

  1. For eggs to be all they can be, the chickens need to be eating a proper diet and that means true free range. They need a mix of grasses and leaves, bugs and the occasional seed. Grain fed just doesn’t work, it doesn’t give the spectrum of nutrients that a true free range egg should have.
  2. Eggs should be dirty on the outside. If they have been washed, they have probably lost their natural protective coating which stops bacteria getting in, which means they should be refrigerated. Some of the bacteria may even have got through the shell already. If your egg has chicken poo and feathers on it, take this as a good sign!
  3. Get your eggs from friends with chickens or local farmers where you can actually see the birds if you ask to. You are trying to derive the benefits from their products, why not take 5 minutes to check out where your food is coming from. It also will help you to ensure your eggs are fresh.

I buy eggs here in Guatemala in the market. Mostly the conditions of sanitation are not that of the UK or the USA. I make mayonnaise with the eggs I buy here and it has never made me sick. This does not mean it can’t happen in the UK. Of course, if you are pregnant or nursing you may want to consult your doctor before trying recipes containing raw egg. This recipe is taken from Nourishing Traditions

Ingredients: 1 Egg Yolk, 1 Whole Egg, Juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of whey, 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard, 250ml / 1 cup of Extra Virgin Cold Pressed olive oil

Equipment: Blender (or food processor), 350ml glass jar

Method: Put the egg yolk, whole egg, mustard, lemon juice, whey or salt in the blender jug. Whizz it up for about 30 seconds to allow all the ingredients to mix thoroughly. With the blender still running, remove the centre part of the lid and SLOWLY pour in the olive oil. You don’t need to be really slow, add it over 10 seconds or so. As you add it, the mayonnaise will begin to thicken. Put the mayonnaise in a jar and leave it at room temperature for about 7 hours for the probiotic bacteria to colonise. I have also eaten it straight away without issue. The mayonnaise will keep for about 10 days, but I would be very surprised if you don’t finish it before that!

Dijon Mustard

Most mustard here is some weird, sweet fluorescent yellow paste, but it has long been one of my favourite condiments. Mustard seeds have nutritional and medical value, although I would be surprised if any of that would apply to the fluorescent stuff. Here is a rather nice page on the benefits of mustard seeds.

So, being as true English mustard was out of the question at the time, I found a little jar of Dijon mustard. It was phenomenally expensive, and really was not that good. I thought I might be able to do better. I found a basic recipe on the internet and tweaked it a bit. It proved to be a big hit.

Ingredients: 250ml of ground yellow mustard seeds, 375ml of black mustard seeds, 400ml of apple cider vinegar (with the mother) 400ml of water, 150ml of white wine, 6 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon of honey, 4 tablespoons of whey.

Equipment: Slow cooker (crock pot), food processor

Method: Mix together the ground yellow mustard and the black mustard seeds in a bowl. Add 250ml apple cider vinegar, 250ml water and 75ml white wine, stir well and cover. You need to allow this to stand for about 2 days, stirring a couple of time per day. Make sure there is always enough liquid, you may need to add more of the vinegar/water/wine mixture, making sure you keep the ratio the same. After the 2 days, put the mixture in the food processor with the 6 cloves of garlic and process for about 6 minutes, until it is smooth and creamy, adding a little more of the vinegar/water wine blend if necessary. Put the mixture in a slow cooker and cook on low for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Be aware that the hot vinegar will hurt your eyes and nose if you put your head right over the pot – I speak from experience!

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then add the spices, honey and whey. Allow the mustard to stand at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to the fridge. You should be able to store this in the fridge for at least 6 months.

In the next article, I will give the recipe for my rather awesome tomato ketchup, and some weird fermented vegetable products that may turn out to be your favourites.

Lacto-fermentation and Probiotics 1: Making Yoghurt

One of the Four Pillars mentioned in Deep Nutrition is fermented foods. These ancient recipes are the original supplements and superfoods, We have been losing these gems of nutrition at a surprisingly rapid rate, thanks to industrial standardisation, centralisation and sterilisation. As we have moved towards this post industrial revolution diet, we have become more susceptible to the ravages of diseases that were almost non-existent only a few years ago. (How many young people do you know with food intolerances or allergies?)

In our not-to-distant past, every region would have their specialities. From sauerkraut, to kvass, to ginger beer, to pickles, to ketchup, seasonal fruits and vegetables were preserved using natural means for later consumption. Rather than negating their nutritional value, as most modern preservation methods do, these ancient methods enhance and enrich the foods. Essential nutrients were sometimes made more bio-available by the simple action of a few bugs and digestibility of some foodstuffs was enhanced.

Keeping the crew happy

It is estimated that only 10% of the cells which make up your body are human, the rest are micro-organisms (mostly bacteria and fungi) that form a symbiotic relationship with your body. This is known as the human biome. As such it may be more accurate to imagine your body as a ship and the micro-organisms as the crew. The crew carry out specific functions, such as aiding digestion, creating vitamins and many other duties. Most importantly, they help to fight off invaders. It is estimated that 70% of the immune system is based in the gut. Without the crew, the ship would begin to fall apart. If the crew are not well looked after they may become inefficient at their jobs, or they even start to mutiny and turn on the body causing auto-immune disorders. We can keep the crew happy by keeping them well fed and looked after and in turn, the happy crew carry out their duties. An unhappy, underfed crew create a tension within. This could be seen as a release of chemical signals within our bodies which can trigger cravings or allergies, although there is another possibility. If we consider that every living organism has a bio-energetic field that interacts with the bio-energetic fields of it’s neighbours, we may start to get another idea about cravings. What we have observed with candida albicans overgrowth is cravings for those things that feed the bugs, i.e. sugars and carbohydrates. We say that the bugs are doing the thinking. I don’t doubt that they are causing some biochemical imbalance which also leads to cravings, but when you realise that your crew makes up 90% of you, it must be impossible for the captain (your mind) not to hear them!

Prepare for real taste sensations

Introducing fermented foods and beverages into your diet can be one of the easiest steps towards feeling good, both physically and mentally. It doesn’t take up much time and it doesn’t cost much. You probably have most of the equipment and ingredients around already, although I have to warn you that you may become a jar hoarder once you develop a taste for fermentation! You get to play, you get to create taste sensations and you start to realise that what you always thought was the premium product is actually a pale shadow of the real thing.

This happened to me with mayonnaise. I had a fierce loyalty towards Hellmann’s Mayonnaise (especially on turkey sandwiches!) I had tried other mayonnaise, but it just didn’t measure up to Hellmann’s. Then I moved to Guatemala. It was different here, the premium products were from the US. Things tasted weird, and not in a good way, even the Hellmann’s mayonnaise. The ketchup was made using high fructose corn syrup rather than sugar and was way too sweet. My first reaction was to just stop buying those products, which was probably a pretty good thing. Then nostalgia set in, I started to want things I could not find in the stores. I wanted Heinz baked beans and Marmite, so I turned to the internet and found that I was not alone. Other people had already been experimenting, making their own versions of their favourites. The baked beans were pretty easy, and proved rather popular amongst the British ex-pats here, the Marmite is to date one of my most complicated and unusual projects.

Getting back to the mayonnaise, when I received my copy of Nourishing Traditions, I started to understand what condiments really were, what their original purpose was. We use modern, store bought condiments as flavour enhancers, to brighten up foods, and often to get a sugar hit to feed our sugar addictions. These sauces and pickles have been redesigned from their origins. Mass produced condiments use sugar and vinegar to extend shelf life and create conformity. Naturally fermented, probiotic condiments help you to digest your food and bolster your own biome. It is like taking a shot of tasty medicine with your meal. When I learnt how easy it is to make REAL mayonnaise, that is every bit as thick and creamy as the store bought version, but is laced with probiotic bacteria, I never looked at a store bought version again. I’ll share the recipe with you shortly.

Where to start?

Many of the recipes in Nourishing Traditions call for whey. This was something I had seen as an ingredient on packets, but never seen in real life. I use it in my recipes too, usually, although some changes in the milk here have caused me to try whey free versions, which also worked. I do recognise that some people who read this may want to work with dairy free versions. But whey, where does it come from, how do get hold of some? The answer is far easier than you may expect. Whey is that liquid that you find floating on the top of good quality yoghurt. It is yellowy green and slightly viscous, it often reminds me of diesel! One litre of yoghurt will usually yield about half a litre of whey. If you are in a rush to get started you could buy a litre of good quality live yoghurt, otherwise you can make your yoghurt, which can work out a lot cheaper.

Making yoghurt

It is so easy, once you start you will wonder why you ever bought yoghurt. Of course the best quality of ingredients you can get will give you the most nutritions product, but do the best you can. If you live somewhere that you can get hold of organic,  raw milk from pasture fed cows, you have hit the jackpot. However, most of us have to make do with store bought, pasteurised milk. For your first experiment at least try to find organic whole milk, if possible not homogenised. The yoghurt starter should also be the best quality you can find, such as Rachel’s or Yeo Valley in the UK. Make sure that the only ingredients are milk and yoghurt cultures. If there is anything else on the label, choose another brand.

You will need:

Ingredients: 1 litre of milk, 2 tablespoons of plain live yoghurt

Materials: Saucepan, 1 litre clean glass jar, thermometer (optional), cooler/ice chest/ cardboard box with a blanket or towel.

Take the original yoghurt culture out of the fridge and put two tablespoons into a 1 litre glass jar, this will allow the bugs to come up to room temperature and get active.

For store milk: Heat the milk in a saucepan to about 90C (180F) if you have  a thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is the point where the skin just starts to form on the milk with a few bubbles under it. Turn off the heat and allow the milk to cool to 45C (110F). This should be about the temperature of a pleasantly warm bath.

For raw milk: Heat the milk to about 45C (110F) taking care not to scorch it

Pour the milk into the jar with the yoghurt starter and stir well with a wooden spoon. Put the lid on the jar and put the jar in a warm place. I am fortunate in that I live in a place warm enough that I can make yoghurt without too much difficulty. If you have an airing cupboard, this might be a great option for keeping your yoghurt warm. I have also used an oven which has been turned off and allowed to cool down. Another option is to put a couple of bottles of warm water in an ice box or cardboard box. Wrap a blanket or towel around your yoghurt jar to keep it away from extremes of temperature, then leave it alone. For some reason, yoghurt bugs don’t seem to respond well to being moved around. After 8 – 12 hours you will have your first batch of yoghurt. It should look thick, almost solid and you may see the whey floating on top. You can now store it in the fridge. The yoghurt will continue to slowly ferment in the fridge, and should not really go bad, although it will get increasingly sour as more lactose is turned to lactic acid. Always remember to keep a couple of tablespoons of your yoghurt as a starter for the next batch.

Whey and Cream Cheese

So now you can get to making your whey. This is a very easy process that has a rather tasty by product – cream cheese!

You will need: A batch of yoghurt, a large strainer or sieve,  cheesecloth or paper kitchen towel, a large bowl

Line the strainer with cheesecloth or paper towel and place over the bowl, then pour your yoghurt into the cheesecloth. I put a plate on top of the strainer and then a tea towel over the plate to stop flies getting in. The whey will collect in the bowl. Once it has stopped dripping (12-24 hours), the cream cheese is ready. Put the whey in a glass bottle and store in the fridge. the cream cheese should separate out of the cheesecloth / paper towel quite easily. I like to add chopped walnuts, herbs, garlic and salt to the cream cheese, then store it in the refrigerator.

In the next post we will be using the whey as a starter in lacto-fermented foods.