The word has a magic about it. Ask any traditional baker, brewer or cheesemaker and prepare to listen all day. Simple foodstuffs are transformed. Goodness is preserved.
Healthy humans have 100,000,000,000,000 bacteria in our intestines. Altogether they weigh 1.5 Kg and they work non-stop looking after our digestion, the absorbtion of nutrients from our food, protecting us from infection and strengthening our immunity. They even have an effect on our mood!
‘Probiotics’ is a word we’re all accustomed to as it’s printed on the packaging of live yogurt. ‘Psychobiotics’ is an even newer concept. It’s the name given to friendly bacteria whose presence in the gut increases the level of ‘happy hormones’ in some parts of the brain. How this works is still being studied, but it’s only a matter of time and rigorous clinical trials before doctors will be prescribing specific probiotics for particular conditions to do with the digestion and the emotions!
So why wait to become ill? We can boost our own ‘microbiota’ or ‘microbiome’ by increasing our consumption of traditionally fermented food.
‘Where do I get some of that?’ you may ask.
I remember my Grandad coming in from the farm, going straight into the dairy, taking a jug of buttermilk from a churn and downing it in one long gulp. His sigh of satisfaction will always stay with me- and he lived in good health to the age of 95 years. This would have been common in farms with a dairy herd up to fifty years ago, but not any more.
Living in suburban Dublin, we use live yogurt (lots of it if someone has had a routine course of antibiotics, as they kill the good bacteria along with the bad) and we buy artisan cheeses. Real sourdough bread is another fermented food on the table, and we also buy traditonally fermented craft beer.
Since summer is upon us with its bounty of vegetables, I decided to pickle some cucumbers and found a recipe on David Leibowitz’ website- Arthur Schwarz’s Homemade Kosher Dill Pickle Recipe
- It couldn’t be easier…
- dissolve salt in water to make brine
- top and tail cucumbers
- slice into wedges (my choice….they could have been left whole)
- Place in a jar with crushed garlic, pickling spice, bay leaves and dill weed.
Over the next few days, these will ferment in the sunshine and when they taste right, they’ll be moved to the fridge. All we need then is some sunshine for a picnic or barbeque.
If you decide to increase your intake of fermented foods, take time to observe how your digestion behaves and how you’re feeling. After all, your internal carers and housekeepers need minding .
If they’re happy, there’s a good chance you’ll be happier too.