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How to Ferment Foods and Get Probiotics

author image Maura Shenker
Maura Shenker is a certified holistic nutritionist and health counselor who started her writing career in 2010. She leads group workshops, counsels individual clients and blogs about diet and lifestyle choices. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
How to Ferment Foods and Get Probiotics
Probiotic bacteria feed on sugar. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Probiotics are "good" microorganisms that may aid in digestion, fight Candida and improve your health in general, suggests MayoClinic.com. These microorganisms are found in fermented foods, or supplements. Most people are familiar with cultured dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese -- but many other foods can be fermented, as well. Traditionally, foods such as pickles and sauerkraut were made through fermentation and contained live, active cultures. However, nowadays, most pickles are cured with vinegar. Otherwise, products are pasteurized, which kills all bacteria -- good and bad. Fermenting foods at home can help preserve fresh foods, as fermentation helps protect food from spoiling.

Step 1

Choose the food you are going to ferment. If you're thinking of vegetables, then cucumbers or cabbage -- which will become pickles or sauerkraut -- are a good place to start. If you'd like to try fermenting dairy, making yogurt from milk is a relatively simple process.

Step 2

Use a starter culture, whey or salt brine to ferment your food. Choose only one method. A starter culture is a commercially available product made from a blend of specific strains of beneficial bacteria. If you are making yogurt, you can simply add a small amount of store-bought yogurt to your milk as a starter, provided that the store-bought yogurt contains live, active cultures. Whey is a byproduct of cheese-making and can jump-start the fermentation process. Using a salt brine is traditional for many vegetables, but it may take between three and four weeks for the food to fully ferment.

Step 3

Store your fermenting food in a warm, dry place. The heat helps the live microorganisms multiply. Foods will ferment faster in the summer. You'll need to check on your fermenting foods daily, removing any harmless mold that forms and checking that your vegetables are completely submerged in the active solution.

Step 4

Place your food in the refrigerator when fermentation is complete. The cold will slow down the fermenting process. Cultured vegetables may last up to six months in the refrigerator.

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