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Fermenting foods: it’s freaking me out!

Robyn Openshaw - Sep 20, 2011 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I really like the idea of adding the Rejuvelac as my green smoothie base, but I’m honestly totally freaked out to leave something perishable on my countertop in an unsealed container for several days. What are the chances that “bad bacteria” get in there and make me sick? I really appreciate any feedback you have. It sounds like a great opportunity to make green smoothies do even more for me, but I can’t get over the initial concept. –Grace

Answer: Grace, I think it might help if I explain the concept a bit more. Fermented foods are part of your diet already, if you eat yogurt or sauerkraut, or even beer. The manufacturer had to let it sit at room temperature for a time, to grow the cultures.

Also, before refrigeration, human beings had a stronger inner terrain and microbes rarely harmed them. Of course, now we have antibiotics that have seriously damaged most people’s balance of beneficial microorganisms colonizing the digestive tract. We also have refined foods weakening us, and few, if any, cultured foods strengthening us. We now seem to believe that killing a couple million of the billions of microscopic critters around us will somehow do the trick.

It’s a weird modern concept that everything we eat has to be sterilized—ancient peoples lived amongst billions of organisms very peacefully for thousands of years. So maybe our food is sterilized, fumigated, pasteurized, irradiated…..but there are billions of organisms everywhere ELSE (which makes the antibiotic wipes a pointless waste of money).

So, it feels unnatural to you but only because of our strange modern traditions, and the fact that we’ve gotten away from eating foods that nurture our gut’s need for healthy colonization. Just ONE course of antibiotics can change the gut’s internal terrain forever.

Every culture of the world eats cultured foods. Some chew up a food and spit it, with their saliva, into an earthen pot, and drink it a week later. (I won’t be teaching you those methods, don’t worry.) There are literally hundreds of types of cultured foods, in traditional / indigenous peoples, and in people who have not completely adopted processed diets.

The most complete and well known work on this concept is Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, which has some good info but advocates for lots of meat and dairy and a very rich diet. My 12 Steps to Whole Foods program deals with it in a condensed way in Ch. 8 and uses what I feel are a do-able, moderate amount of probiotic foods that do not require us to purchase $10/lb. animal parts. My work focuses on culturing vegetables, optionally some raw, antibiotic- and hormone-free milk, or coconut liquid. (I now culture my coconut liquid before using it in Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie).

My blog on 9/15 talks about learning vicariously through others—the examples I gave were learning from others’ health disasters. But you can learn from my health victories, too. Does it help you to know that I have had a quart or a half gallon of raw kefir, or yogurt, or coconut kefir, or sprouts, or Rejuvelac, or sauerkraut, on my counter, pretty much every day of my life for the past 17 years? We have had zero instances of problems, illness, food poisoning.

It also helps if you understand the process of how food has historically been preserved. You can preserve foods a few ways. One, drying it to dramatically slow oxidation, which often involves lots of salt. Two, can it by killing all its lifeforce (enzymes and vitamins) so that there’s very little to oxidize, and then sealing it against air and bacteria. Third, utilizing lactobacillus and other beneficial organisms and lactic acid to break down the proteins and preserve the food (fermenting).

The way I make sauerkraut (see Ch. 8 of 12 Steps) is that the unrefined salt preserves it for a few days while the (slower) lactic acid begins to take over. I have two-year old raw sauerkraut (that I preserved with whey from my yogurt/kefir) that has been unsealed (but covered tightly with a lid) that we are still eating. It’s too soft, and it’s better, texture-wise, at six months old. But it’s preserved, and the healthy bacteria help my family stay healthy.

It might help to address the semantics. The word “fermented” has a negative connotation. (Although beer drinkers who wouldn’t be caught dead eating fermented vegetables drink PLENTY of fermentation.) When you think of fermented, do you think of ROTTEN? We aren’t eating any rotten foods at my house. We could mentally replace that word with a much nicer one: cultured!

So, don’t eat fermented foods. Eat cultured ones!

If “bad” bacteria gets into your cultured foods and makes them “go bad,” you will know. They will taste bad and/or mold. I have almost never had this happen. Once it happened with a bottle of sauerkraut. Never with kefir or Rejuvelac.

My Rejuvelac ferments in a day. At CHI, they told me 3-5 days, but mine tastes plenty tart 24 hours after I blend the sprouts and water, and put it on the counter to grow (aka ferment, aka culture).

Here’s my new video showing this easy, inexpensive habit that has the potential to see you through the winter without viruses or infections!

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Videos, Whole Food

23 thoughts on “Fermenting foods: it’s freaking me out!”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    I read your book about green smoothies 3 years ago before I lunged into eating a raw vegan diet. I’m not moving into learning about fermented foods, and I’m so grateful for this posting you’ve shared. Thank you also a million for the video. I’m enthused to try this. Also, thanks for your tip about how “inexpensive” this is.. I’m collecting all the raw vegan material i can about “raw foods on a budget”. Please share any more “raw food budget friendly tips”.

    Blessings to you!


  2. Anonymous says:

    I/m ready to start this habit, one question on the water. When you say filtered water is ok, would you consider some type of bottled water or Brita filter?

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Aloha, bottle water sends lots of plastics to the landfill, and Brita takes out most of the chlorine but not much else. Better than nothing! Some water is better than no water, but you want good filtered water!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Robin, I made some almond milk and two days later I tried some, but it was sour. I think I cultured it. Is this possible? It tastes a little like buttermilk, sour. I put some in a smoothie and it didn’t bother me . I hope this is a good thing.?

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      LOL, Elaine, sounds like you cultured it. Did you leave it on the counter?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Having great success with wheat. It is always a bit fizzy, however. Should it be? My kids don’t particularly like fizzy green smoothies!

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Fizzy, yes. That’s fermentation for ya.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn!
    I really want to incorporate more probiotics into my diet but so far it’s only been milk kefir. I’m excited to give rejuvelac a try!

    I’m hoping you can answer a couple of questions about kefir. With the two kinds of kefir (milk vs water), is one more nutritionally superior for you or is it just preference? I’m not sure if I should be making water kefir instead of milk kefir so I’m not putting dairy in my body. Also, I watched a video by Ani Phyo on making water kefir. She said that you never want to touch any metal to your kefir because it can damage the living cultures. Do you know if this is true?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn,
    I have tried the Rejuvelac twice now and both times there is a lot of foam and particles at the top as well as what is at the bottom. Is this ok? Yours does not look like that on the video.

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Tammara, mine does look like that in real life. Very normal. Part of fermentation. 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    My family (four kids and two adults), have been doing “your” green smoothies for years. I have always bought the spinach bags and berries at costco because of price. I watched your costco video and saw that you support that as well. However, lately we have tried to go completely organic or at leat pesticide free. I have started stressing especially about the strawberries we buy at costco as well as the spinach, because they are on the dirty list. What are your thoughts on that? Do you feel concerned abou the amount of pesticide your family goes through on those costco poducts (they are so wonderfully cheap)?

    Another question is about oxalic acid. What are your thoughts on that. Could I be feeding my family too much spinach…could I be hurting them rather than helping them?

    Thank you so much for all the research and information that you are putting out in the universe.

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Diana, i have gone completely organic the past year too. Ability to pay usually dictates that! Please read about oxalic acid or oxalates by searching this blog, also in Ch. 1 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

  8. Debra Gessel says:

    I am so excited to use my wheat this way! What about my granddaughter who has celiac disease? Stick with quinoa?

  9. Kimberley G says:

    Thank you for doing this Video. I have read about it in 12 steps but it seemed like a daunting task till you showed us how to do it. Thank you so much. I need to watch more of your videos. The oil pulling video was very helpful as well!!

  10. Lori says:

    Hi Robyn, I want to make sure I get this right. After you blend and pour into 1/2 gallon jars and let it sit for 24 hours you do not shake and drink. You just let the blended quinoa or wheat berries sit on the bottom of the jar and drink the water, right? Did I also read that you shouild drink 1 cup 3 times a day, or does it really matter? Is there a point where you could drink too much of it in a day, what are your recommendations?


  11. Helen Humphreys says:

    I am really going to try this. Appreciate this video so much. Thanks Robyn. You make it look so easy and it really is.

    1. Helen Blair says:

      Helen, how have you been? Did you give the detox a go?

  12. Janacy says:

    Just finished the Detox, starting 12 Steps, signed up with GSG Life and am starting this up too!! So excited with all this info!! You’re one of my most favorite people, EVER!! Thanks for sharing all your work with us and helping us achieve super health and happiness!!

    1. Helen Blair says:

      Janacy, hope you’ve been doing well since you last wrote!

  13. Pat says:

    Can you tell me where you buy your quinoa? I was surprised to find my first batch of recently purchased quinoa only contained one sprouted seed after my adhering to the sprouting process for several days. I have been sprouting seeds and grains for many years, so I do not believe it is a problem of technique. I spoke with the bulk buyer of the company who sold me the seed who suggested I try again or buy from a different batch. As I do not have time and funds to experiment as she suggested, I would appreciate knowing from whom you purchase your seeds and grains. Thanks!

  14. Anne H says:

    How much water are you adding blended sprouts to when you’re declaring to the two jars?

  15. Sherra says:

    Dear Robyn,
    Is it okay to make Rwjuvelac from wheat berries if someone is gluten intolerant?

    1. Elsa Support says:

      Hi Sherra,

      Absolutely! Let us know how it goes!

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