It’s the season for eating, drinking and sitting on the sofa. If you haven’t started already, you’ll probably be pulling out the cheeseboard soon enough. Any excuse for some Dionysian revelry, right? And don’t get us started on the office Christmas parties. It’s a challenging time for both the wallet and the waistline.
The risk of disruption to one’s health is pretty high, and we think that adding a few fermented choices to the feasting can help you feel a bit better.
Your Christmas food shop will already be stacked high with the results of fermentation processes - beer, bread and cheese - for a start. These delicious treats will, however, no longer be carrying the live microbes that were once involved in creating them.
Fermented foods, however - sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, for example (the real ones at least) - are teeming with live, friendly microorganisms. They’re the kind we’re most interested in. We think they can play an important part in your festive feast, while leaving your gut in better shape than before.
Can you really improve your gut health over the indulgent Christmas period? Can fermented foods help? The answer is, of course, yes.
As we mentioned in a previous article, the winter season does tend to bring a few challenges for the immune system. Easily spreadable colds and viruses, combined with the cold weather, lack of exercise and tendency to eat rather indulgently, can cause the body’s defence system to wear a bit thin.
The immune system is amazingly complex (just look at the size of the Wikipedia page!) but its needs are simple: sleep well, exercise moderately, try to avoid stress, and feed it good things. That last one is our favourite.
In order to strengthen the immune system to handle the festive onslaught, our body needs a good mix of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and probiotics.
Kimchi, the fermented Korean favourite, is a fine way to start. Packed with all kinds of goodness, it contains some awfully helpful things:
- Cabbage - loaded with fibre and Vitamin K
- Carrots - a super source of Vitamin C
- Chilli, ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper - flavoursome spices that boost your metabolism
- Probiotics - the live bacteria that help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut
(Have a look in our online shop to stock up on a jar or two.)
How to make fermented foods part of Christmas
Many fermented foods have a fresh, tangy taste, so they pair nicely with the rich, heavy foods we can eat at the Christmas dinner table.
You could try adding a portion of kimchi to your Christmas day turkey dinner alongside your sprouts. Maybe add cranberries to your sauerkraut to make it more festive. You could even pair up some turmeric & black pepper kimchi with tortilla chips for a spicy and zingy snack.
We like this recipe from Bruno Loubet, especially useful for providing a vegetarian option - mushroom, kimchi and sweet potato pie, with miso sour cream. While we don’t usually recommend cooking kimchi, as it can harm the probiotic components, it’s a tasty excuse to open up the jar.
And there’s always the option of sticking a fork in the jar and having a munch, too.
Fermenting the Future
Interest in fermented foods has continued to rise over the years, and it’s not just us that’re going mad for it. We expect enthusiasm to continue into the new year, too, with chefs and health food influencers incorporating it into their menus more and more.
The official Best Restaurant in the World, Noma, recently released The Noma Guide to Fermentation, which contains an abundance of weird and wonderful things to ferment, and deserves a place on Santa’s shopping list. It’s a geeky love letter to the art and science of fermenting just about everything.
Authors René Redzepi and David Zilber wanted to go beyond the cabbage (the classic foundation of kimchi and sauerkraut), and end up fermenting everything from rose petal kombucha to hazelnut miso.
According to Redzepi, “fermentation isn't responsible for one specific taste at Noma—it's responsible for improving everything.” The restaurant went all in a few years ago by building an entire fermentation lab out of repurposed shipping containers, and earlier this year, rewrote their menu so that every dish included a fermented ingredient. We like their enthusiasm.
While we haven’t quite got round to making parsnip miso (never say never!), we are always thinking about new ways to bring you fantastic fermented goodness - so make sure to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know when we’ve got something new on offer.
And what’s better than getting your fermented favourites straight to your door each month? Consider getting a subscription in our online shop - just choose what you’d like and how often you want it, and we’ll sort the rest. You never have to worry about finding an empty jar in the fridge - we’ll deliver sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and anything else you need. That’s not all - each subscription comes with 10% off, forever!
Remember - fermenting is for life, not just for Christmas.