The People's Perspective on Medicine

872 Fermented Foods for Flavor and Health (Archive)

Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:
What do bread, wine and cheese have in common with pickles, sauerkraut and chocolate? All are among the wide range of fermented foods created through the action of cultures that are treasured, shared and nurtured within communities. Fermentation is a traditional way of preserving food through the action of friendly bacteria that improve nutrition and nourish the beneficial bugs in our digestive tracts. In addition, fermentation provides interesting flavors. Find out why we should embrace these beneficial bacteria instead of trying to banish them.
Guest: Sandor Ellix Katz is a self-taught fermentation experimentalist. His books include Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Life-Culture Food and his most recent one, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around The World. Sandor Katz is arguably one of the most knowledgeable experts on this ancient art. His website is The photo of Sandor Katz was taken by Sean Minteh.
The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.
The New York Times has a feature article on Sandor Katz and he is answering questions on their diners’ blog.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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This makes a lot of sense, especially for people who, for health reasons, try and eat a lot of raw vegetables and fruit. These products, even if organically grown, often have not had a chance to acquire all the goodness that comes from proper tree or in ground ripening and are therefore tasteless and lack natural aromas.
The soil is poor to begin with; they are often gassed for forced ripening; natural growth (I would imagine) engenders cultivation of certain microbes and cultures that are beneficial.
I have been on such a diet to combat bronchiectasis (in an effort to build up my own immune system rather than taking antibiotics). I find this diet very hard to digest. I will supplement it with fermented foods.
I come from a ME background where fruit and vegetables were not grown in soil that was treated with chemicals and remember a time when fruit and veg were bought daily, fresh, and did not survive even a few days without rotting. They tasted and smelt much better than anything I can find in the best Western food markets.
I am also going to speak with my Pulmonologist about Dr. Hahn’s recommendations regarding bacterial infection of the lungs. Thank you for this useful program.

I would like your yogurt recipe.

Just heard the show and wanted to post my experience with fermented foods. Unfortunately, so far, it is VERY limited! I love sauerkraut and kimchi, but have only ever eaten store bought. I have however, recently begun making my own yogurt. It’s so easy! And I would say an excellent introduction to fermentation. I use store bought yogurt to begin with but then continue to propagate the culture from batch to batch. I can make 2 gallons of yogurt (8 quart containers) for the price of only the milk (about $6 as compared to $4 a quart for store bought yogurt). Everyone in my family eats a cup a day and we easily go through the 2 gals before it goes bad.
Many friends have reacted to my homemade yogurt; is it safe? does it taste the same as store bought? how can it be that easy to make? (yes! yes! and it is!) But, many have also expressed interest and when I shared my recipe have joined in the fun. I can only imagine the reactions I’ll get to all the new fermented foods I am going to try. Thank you for having this show. It motivated me to get into something I have long had an interest in!

Pickling has gained popularity lately, but I need clarification. Is fermentation the same as pickling?
I have a colony of kefir grains that I use to make yogurt, I like it and find it very easy to keep and manage. When I have too much, I lust let them sit in the fridge for a few weeks until I need more yogurt.
My yogurt makes the best buttermilk and the best guacamole, I use the lemony, sour yogurt when I don’t have lemons or limes and it also keeps the avocado from darkening. I would like to have my kefir grains tested to know how exactly much and what kind of bacteria and yeast I have. I brought them from Mexico about a year ago.

Your program was very interesting. I am ordering your book! My husband was Norwegian and told me about “lutefisk”, which he did not like! Also, since I’m on coumadin and should not eat leafy green veggies, does the process of fermentation of sauerkraut kill the vitamin k, which is a no-no for me??? I love sauerkraut, being of German heritage.

Really enjoyed the program–I have Mr. Katz’s book. Another book that is wonderfully helpful and with many easy recipes is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

I am trying to find the study that Katz referenced. He said it was a Spanish study of people who consumed more than 5 live culture fermented foods per day, and it showed that these foods were connected with increased immune function. Does anyone have a reference for this? Thanks for a great show!

Yes, I agree with Jeremy, Joe!
Marmite is wonderful!!! Although I have to say your description of it as “foul-tasting” did make me laugh :-)
Marmite is definitely a foodstuff best consumed thinly, as Jeremy says.
You may be interested to leran that here in the UK it is advertsied as “Marmite – you either love it, or you hate it”.

Please list the products that Mr. Katz mentioned, so we can see them spelled, for us visually oriented people, and also can google them for further information.

A fascinating topic. I have made my own yogurt, kombucha, half-sour dill pickles when cucumbers are in season, and am now experimenting with two jars of hot sauce fermenting from cayenne peppers from the garden. It’s always an experiment when I ferment these foods, but that is half the fun. I wish I had a source for a new kombucha baby. My last kombucha mother passed away after I left her in the fridge a few weeks too long.

Hey Joe — I LOVE marmite! Grew up with it in my childhood in South Africa.
I think where Americans get off on the wrong foot is by taking it in dollops. It’s definitely too strong for that! Here’s how you do it: Make some toast, butter it, apply a THIN layer of marmite, and then top it with some cheddar cheese. Yummy!

Our family tradition is Pickled Corn on the Cob which we would have huge crocks of at every Sept family reunion. We practically fought over who got the last of the batch. We also did pickled beans and Sauerkraut. I will definitely take the info provided and start a vegetable fermentation process to gain a healthier inside for my body.
Thanks, Love your show

I remember my mother fermenting the best saurkraut I’ve ever put in my mouth. She did the fermenting in a stoneware crock that she also used to hand churn clabbered milk to make buttermilk. Her cabbage retained a green hue unlike the saurkraut you buy from markets. She always topped her cabbage and brine with a layer of grape leaves. I’ve often wondered if that was the secret to her success.

I enjoyed the fermentation show immensely.
In recent years I adopted a low sodium diet. My question:
Can fermentation be achieved safely with a greatly reduced sodium content?
Or, preferably, a no sodium solution? Is there something safer to substitute for Sodium.
Dr Joel Fuhrman recccomends a low sodium diet.

I made ginger beer, which calls for yeast and it has to be fermented for a few days. I was terrified to drink it because I thought I was growing deadly bacteria. I drank some with some hesitation and refused to let anybody else try it. I have to say that I feel really good after I drink it. The ginger and honey and lime juice all come together very well. Or maybe it’s the alcohol?
Listening to your show is reassuring me that fermentation is good for you. Now, I also feel better about making my bread where the starter sits overnight to ferment.

I work in the nut processing industry. Now the state of California insists that they know best and requires that Almonds be pasteurized. Most of the industry will accomplish this chemically by gassing the nuts with propylene oxide. The organic growers literally boil their almonds. Why can’t they let us decide for ourselves? We can’ just buy labeled RAW almonds? I would prefer that over the gassed ones… P.S. We test all our nuts for salmonella and e coli because we couldn’t sell them otherwise!

I’d like to know about kefir and its benefits.

Really Enjoyed. Brought back thoughts about my Dad and Grandparents who pickled all kinds of things. I have the crocks they used.

Hi, I listened to fermentation this morning. Remember, chloride ion levels are most important in this process. They are what’s keeping the water in and allowing the fermentation to take place…! It is halogen technology. It’s extremely important in the understanding of life, fermentation, science and whatever else it applies to. I will keep telling you till every scientist, educator, MD, etc understands it…! pg1246 o&o

Hi Terry and Joe – Thanks for the fermentation show. Mr. Katz does a great job of sharing his passion for the products of fermentation. Three comments from another who enjoys fermentation and its products:
1) the culture analogy is insightful one – especially accurate in that much like social culture, microbial ones change over time, incorporating the local floral. The cultures of immigrants are certainly much changed from those that came over on the ship!
2) Cassava produces cyanide as a defense system, from carbon and nitrogen, not from the uptake of cyanide int he soil
3)Perception and appreciation of ‘strong flavors’ certainly can be developed through training (high culture!), but there is most certainly a genetic component as well.

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