Preobiotics: You, As Farmacist!
Growing Wonder Microbes
Here is a one-two punch for brine fermenting vegetables:
Choose a vegetable rich in prebiotic nutrients then ferment it into a probiotic power house. What are prebiotics? And why is this a good thing?
Probiotic & Prebiotic Foods
Fresh cultured foods—rich in probiotics—are getting steady, upbeat press lately. The benefits of yogurt, hard cheeses, and fresh brine fermented vegetables, to name a few, are becoming a most-favored food trend.
Science has once more sifted through the produce department to discover another beneficial foodstuff to enhance our digestive wellbeing. They are being called “prebiotics.”
Prebiotics, you say? These are certain functional foods that specifically feed beneficial bacteria already dwelling in your digestive tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which can selectively promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
In a Wall Street Journal article, Laura Johannes notes, “A new wave of products now include prebiotics, dietary ingredients intended either to help increase levels of good bacteria naturally found in the body, or to be used in combination with probiotics to improve their efficacy. Scientists say prebiotics do increase levels of good bacteria in the gut, and some research has linked their consumption to health benefits.”
To better describe how it works, the article continues, “A prebiotic is to your colon what grass food is to your lawn. It feeds the grass, but not the weeds," says University of Nebraska microbiologist Bob Hutkins.
Here’s another insight—“Many scientific studies have shown that prebiotics increase levels of healthy gut bacteria, particularly bifidobacteria. In terms of health benefits, results are largely preliminary, but suggest a wide range of possible health benefits -- including improved immune function, digestive health and bone health.” - Wall Street Journal, 3/30/09
Vegetable Sources of Prebiotics
So if you consume a rich source of these prebiotic foods, namely: asparagus, sunchokes, jicama, garlic, and onions, you are in effect nourishing your existing digestive cultures. These prebiotics do not need to be fermented to be beneficial. But, what if you did pickle them? We could give ourselves a double-duty pickle. We actually create a pickling powerhouse by putting prebiotic food into our fermentors.
Jicama - Wonder Root
Our recipe ingredient this month is jicama, one of my top stars in fresh brine fermenting. It is the tuberous root of a legume plant that has a crunchy, watery texture like a cross between water chestnut and Asian pear. Its mild flavor is tinged with an ever so slight sweetness, which is courtesy of our favorite prebiotic fiber friend, inulin. It is a prebiotic that we are going to make into a specialty pickle: I call them “preobiotic.”
I lucked upon jicama while studying the Mexican diet. It has a low glycemic factor—it is slow to release its sugar into the blood stream. Jicama has been used by the natives of Mexico for ages. The Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico use it as a staple. They are known in several studies for their exceptionally low incidences of diabetes. Fermenting jicama is a great way to gild the lily and fashion a preobiotic pickle from a great vegetable. You will not be disappointed.
I’m taking you to a new place in brine fermenting. Trust your guide. You will be making a breakfast pickle!
< Blueberry Chutney with Basil and Lime
Now you can wrap your lips around a sweet-tart fruity breakfast cup of fermented fruit and veggies. The base recipe is a foundation for a trove of fruit combos that can also be a dessert, palate cleanser, fruit salad, and more....
Introducing the Breakfast Chutney
Around the world, long-lived people have added fermented foods to most of their meals. There is the fermented soy bean paste (miso) mixed into traditional Japanese breakfast soup. Yogurt has come to the breakfast table with its live cultures. I have not found many instances where a pickled condiment is served for breakfast in the modern diet. Jellies, jams, and marmalades are all cooked and without fresh culture or enzymes. A breakfast pickle? To the rescue!
I had a lot of fun discovering flavor options for this sweet-sour delight without needing to add a dose of sweetener.
The Breakfast Pickle
It all began with a great serendipitous moment. I was washing my hands using a grapefruit scented soft soap. The smell of grapefruit permeated the air. It led me to the kitchen with an idea to recreate that scent. I was working with a Mexican tuber, “jicama,” in past recipes—it is snow white, has a slight apple sweetness, and stays crunchy. It is a perfect pickling ingredient. In addition, it has prebiotic carbohydrates, called “inulin,” that science has found to benefit our resident gut cultures. Prebiotic are fibers that feed our resident microbial garden within.
I also loved Asian pear for it’s crispness. I shredded them both and decided to add ginger and white peppercorns as spice notes. To give it a breakfast note, I added vanilla extract. I added the zest and zest oils from the grapefruit rind, along with bite-sized pieces of sectioned grapefruit.
Eureka! I couldn’t believe how bright and centering the taste and texture was. My taste testers (my doubting brother and sister) were ready to reject my concoction sight unseen. Then they tasted.... Voilá!
Next came a series of what-if’s to create a trove of recipes—limitless in design and flavor profiles. Creating breakfast chutneys will be like the child in you finding a sandbox with a fresh pile of toys.
The Ingredient Stars
Find jicama (HEE-ka-ma) at Latin, Asian, international, and large supermarkets. Look for one- or two-pounders, with light tan, smooth skin. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Use a medium grater to create the base. Avoid roots that look sweaty or soft in spots. They store well and are inexpensive.
Asian pears can be found in international markets and larger supermarkets. Choose extra firm pears. Peel, halve, and core then use medium grater and mix with the jicama. Firm Bosc pears can substitute. Do not substitute soft, very ripe pears.
Use white pepper for a cleaner look, but black pepper works fine.
Host a pickle party and make a variety of chutneys to sample and share.
Breakfast Chutney Base - Makes 1 Quart
Combine base ingredients with the recipe below to complete
jicama, 1-1/2 LBS., peeled, medium shredded (use shredding disc or grater)
Asian pear, 1/2 LB., (1), peeled, cored, medium shredded, (or Bosc pear or other firm types)
gingerroot, 1 tsp., peeled, finely grated
vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp.
white pepper, 1/4 tsp., (or black), fine ground, freshly milled is best
sea salt, 1 TBS. (scant), unrefined, finely ground, (not coarse)
Blueberry Chutney with Basil & Lime - 1 Quart
Ever the viewer of TV cooking shows, I enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. He was filming somewhere in Southeast Asia. Sitting on a table was a bowl of something topped with blueberries, basil, and lime zest. What an odd set of bedfellows. This chutney has no reservations!
— Recipe by B. Hettig
chutney base, 1 qt. see recipe above
blueberries, 1 cup, fresh, or frozen, or dried; coarsely chopped if large
fresh basil, 1/2 cup, loosely packed, 1/4-inch pieces
fresh lime 1
lime zest, 1-1/2 tsp., finely minced or grated
and lime juice
1 Prepare the chutney base and the other ingredients. Mix well in a large bowl.
2 Gather a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and place on top of the ingredients. Weight down with a heavy jar from the pantry. When a brine is formed, (about 30 minutes), fill a clean jar, tamping lightly as you go until about 3 inches from the jar lip.
3 Use your Perfect Pickler® instruction booklet to complete the recipe or view our web instruction.
4 Serving suggestions: a drizzle of sherry vinegar adds a bright note
For my original recipe Lone Star Grapefruit Chutney, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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