Fermented and Cultured Foods

Pickles, which are fermented cucumbersIf I’m being honest with you, and myself, when I first started hearing about and thinking about eating fermented I got a little grossed out. It just kind of gave me the creeps. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my initial knee jerk reaction of eww (one I’ve given many times only to discover later on I was missing something great) was uninformed and causing me to miss out on something that could really benefit my health and taste good.

So what am I talking about when I say fermented and cultured foods? I’m talking about foods that have been exposed to bacteria or yeast.  This, it turns out can be a very good thing. Adding fermented foods into your diet doesn’t even need to be difficult as many good options are readily available in grocery stores. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and even some beers are just a couple examples. Key words to look for in the label and ingredient lists are “live active cultures” and “probiotic”.

A vital part of our digestive system is bacteria. Supporting and replenishing this gut bacteria helps us break down our food better, feel better and have more energy.  As an added bonus, fermenting fresh produce (such as beets or cucumbers) is a great way to preserve it for later use.

While picking up a good quality yogurt at the grocery store is easy, the best ways for us to get these foods in our diets is to make them ourselves. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just some patience letting the bacteria work. This also gives you a lot of flexibility in the types of food you eat. You can make your own pickles or brew your own beer and feel good that you’re not only feeding your body, but feeding your gut as well.

Here’s a simple recipe for home made (and vinegar free) pickles.

Homemade pickles


  • 5-8 small pickling cucumbers
  • 1 quart filtered, spring, or distilled water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp dill seed
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill or 1 tbsp dried dill leaf
  • 2-4 grape leaves


  1. Soak cucumbers in ice water for an hour to enliven them.
  2. Place leaves, garlic, and spices in the bottom of a quart jar.
  3. Add the cucumbers into the jar, packing them in tightly.
  4. Dissolve the sea salt in the water and pour it over the cucumbers. If the cucumbers are not completely submerged in the water, add extra salt and water to cover them.
  5. Leave 1-inch of space between the top of the water and the top of the jar and cover loosely with a kitchen towel or cheesecloth (if using cheesecloth, secure with rubber band).
  6. Leave on your counter in a cool place for 3-7 days. Check daily. The liquid will begin to get cloudy and slightly bubbly. When pickles reach desired taste, cover and refrigerate.