The purpose of fermentation is to use bacteria on specific food types to build a community of bacteria that benefits the gastrointestinal tract. The benefits of eating fermented veggies can include gut healing, helping break down food, and adding additional vitamins to the body through diet. Fermenting is a good way to build live bacteria cultures. As well, fermenting can used without refrigeration and the food contents are still safe to serve and eat.
The amount of bacteria found in a 1 cup jar of fermented veggies is somewhere around 1 billion live bacteria per tsp. As well, the content of vitamins is also exacerbated. B vitamins in particular created by the breakdown of veggie products by bacteria inside the airtight jar. Vitamin C is also available in increased amounts.
Because the jar is sealed no oxygen can get through, enabling a controlled or what some people call a selective environment. Bacteria are either considered aerobic or anaerobic. Meaning either they can thrive with air or thrive without. Some bacteria can utilize both environments. Bacteria used in fermentation can do both.
To limit oxygen space inside the jar we fill the jar with water as high as we can over all the foods we have selected to put inside. Once the air is controlled or limited, the bacteria will create vitamin B via biochemical processes to create energy to survive. This is why B vitamins are found to be extremely high inside fermented foods.
Controlling the Environment
The controlled environment also prevents things from growing such as mold. Mold actually requires air to grow. Nonetheless, mold can still grow in a selective environment. However, the amount of time the mold grows is limited. Having a limited amount of air allows for a slower growth rate of the mold. Once fermented veggies are created, it is good to leave as little air as possible. After eating at least half a jar, the rest should be moved to a smaller jar and kept refrigerated to prevent mold.
It takes about 1 week to ferment veggies in a moderate to warm environment. Although, you can still do it in 3 days if you are in a rush. Best fermented veggies are made when the jar sits for at least 2 weeks without any change to the selective environment, such as opening the lid. In 3 days you should start to see your masterpiece bubble. This is how you know your fermentation is working.
What can you Ferment?
You can literally ferment any type of veggie. Cabbage is the best kind to ferment due to the type of bacteria it has on it. You can, however, use Whey (dairy) to initiate fermentation as well. Most people think all fermentation needs whey, but you can make fermented foods without. Some call this Brine. Fermentation with whey is called Lacto-fermentation, while fermentation without whey is called Wild Fermentation.
Special recipes with certain types of veggies and herbs can be created to help the healing process of the gut and help build beneficial bacteria inside the gastrointestinal tract. Nutritionists know how to create these recipes best because they study foods on an individual basis. They are taught how to pair certain foods with specific nutrients to best benefit certain health conditions and disease states. For a complete breakdown of how to ferment foods, beverages and more I recommend the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Katz, S. E. (2012). The art of fermentation: An indepth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.