Fermenting, Pickling, Preserving, Oh My!

Fire Cider – Fresh Mixed

Here’s the thing, loving pickled, preserved or fermented things has been a slow burn that took a lot of education and trial and error for me to commit to. I grew up in a family that LOVES pickles, like multiple jars a week, can’t keep enough in the fridge to keep them happy, loves pickles. So my mom learned to pickle in addition to canning the wildly abundant fruit from our apricot tree and my grandfathers plum and peach trees. So I grew up thinking that canning and pickling were normal things you just did.

I experimented with some pickling over the years but found we just ended up giving it away since neither my wife or I really ate much of it. It’s taken a deep dive into what makes up healthy gut flora for me to reconsider this. As a child, in the 70s I grew up being given amoxicillin whenever I had a sniffle or any sort of color to my mucus. By the time I was 16 I had no gut flora to speak of and a systemic yeast infection that resulted in thrush in my mouth, yeast coming from, well, everywhere and what was possibly the most awkward few months of my teen years. The idea of probiotics in the late 80s was a completely new concept. There was little widespread information on the body’s microbiome, my doctor, at a loss for what to do, suggested we try this new medication, probiotics. The powder came in little single dose tear packets that they instructed me to mix into yogurt 2 – 3 times a day. It was a miracle. This was the start of me investigating natural healing, the ties between health and food and different ways of eating.

Filtered Fire Cider – 1 Year Later

Because of the decimation of my gut flora I had horrible allergies all my life, turning into asthma and severe food sensitivities in adulthood. I had been an on again, off again vegetarian and finally decided to do an elimination diet to see what was actually causing me issues. I was vegan for a while, it was a poor fit for me, I started manifesting signs of malnutrition and malabsorption and had incredibly low calcium and vitamin D. My doctor put me on supplements and told me to start adding in chicken, fish and dairy again as, even though I was an avid food combiner, my body was responding very poorly to a vegetarian/vegan diet. I responded to many things with a food poisoning reaction. For years, if anything was even cooked near pork I’d be up all night vomiting with violent food poisoning as my body couldn’t metabolize the proteins. My poor mother in law managed to accidentally make me sick every visit back for years.

I started deep diving into the idea of probiotics and healthy gut flora. I learned about gut remediation and read up on Weston Price and more recently Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Brain Maker. I joined a goddess circle group and had my first sample of a fresh dairy kefir and learned about food wifery and food magick. The longer I integrated fermented foods, and various probiotics the less I reacted to things. Then the day came where I ordered a vegetable sandwich at Quiznos and they added bacon and I didn’t realize it until I was half way through it and then had no reaction. My asthma faded, I was off my allergy medications, my health as a whole was significantly improved.

Beef Bone Broth

Since then, I’ve integrated a regular cycle of a wide variety of probiotics: dairy, fermented and even soil based ones, I’ve developed a love affair with sauerkraut. I spend time in my garden, with my hands in the dirt, absorbing soil based microbes, and when my immune system needs a boost I do shots of fire cider along with my herbs, oils and tonics. I’m still learning about pickling and building that repertoire, but I’m hitting the farmers market this weekend for some asparagus, okra, cucumbers, and green beans to pickle next week so we’ll see how that goes. I’m going to give lacto-fermenting pickling a try since my goal is probiotics. I’d love to hear about your pickling and fermenting adventures!