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Posted by karen
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Fermentation - Part 1 

This summer a few readers asked about fermented foods. My apologies for such a tardy response (you know who you are), and you have every right if you toast me forever as a reliable source for anything!
 
Now get to it.
 
The fermenting process is one I enjoy dabbling with: mostly yogurt and sauerkraut. This summer I tried a new experiment: lacto-fermenting veggies, using produce from my first-year fledging garden.
 
 
Credits for the instructions go to Whole Life Nutrition, a source I am grateful to for their inspiration to have fun "playing around" with different tastes, using what you have available.
 

What You Will Need:

- glass quart jar with a plastic lid
 
- salt brine - with a ratio of 1-1.5 Tbsp. sea salt to 2 cups water (filtered water is recommended - chlorine can inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria, not to mention it's not particularly healthy for us) 
 
- chopped raw organic vegetables: e.g. cauliflower, beets, bell peppers, turnips, broccoli, onions, green beans, garlic, etc. 
 
- cabbage leaves (for the top)
 
- combination of herbs and spices: e.g. dried chili peppers, black peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh dill or tarragon
 
- salt brine using this ratio: 1 - 1.5 Tbsp. sea salt dissolved in 2 cups water
 

What to Do: 

- put your combination of vegetables into a glass jar (or a ceramic crock if you're so lucky to have one) 
 
- add a few layers of herbs and spices. Tip: if using peppercorns put them at the bottom of the jar so they don't float to the top. 
 
- leave about an inch at the top of the jar
 
- cover with the salt brine, leaving about 1/2 inch where you place a folded cabbage leaf and press into the brine. This helps keep the vegetables fully submerged with the water floating on the top.
 
- cover with a plastic lid (metal ones can become corroded by the salt and acids)
 
- screw the lid on - not too tight, to leave space for gasses to release
 
- place jars in a rectangular container to catch any drips that might happen and set in an undisturbed spot on your kitchen counter - out of direct sunlight
 
 

Wait and taste:

- after 5 days, taste your veggies to see how soured they are - you'll probably want to leave them more like 7 or 8. Fermenting takes longer in the cooler months, less time in the summer.
 
- total sitting time is according to your taste - there's no set, scientific formula when working with fermented foods
 
- once the veggies are soured, remove the cabbage leaf and store jar(s) in the refrigerator - where your fermented veggies will keep for months.
 

My version:

I made the following two combinations: each one was a 2-litre jar.
 
1 Tbsp peppercorns
beets
few garlic cloves
carrots
sprigs of fresh dill
green pepper
salt brine
 
1 Tbsp peppercorns
summer turnip
green beans
garlic cloves
tarragon leaves
salt brine
 
Each jar sat on the cupboard for 8 days. 
 
Initially I didn't care for the turnip combination: I think because the tarragon flavour over-powered the summer turnip, which has a milder flavour than the winter variety. However, after sitting in the fridge for a few weeks, I'm liking it more.
 
I still prefer the beets one the best, although I would add more garlic and some hot peppers next time.
 
Will I dabble around with this more? Definitely. I'll try different combinations, probably add more garlic, choose my herbs carefully and cut the veggies smaller - small-diced, not chunky like in the picture.
 
These lacto-fermented veggies are handy additions to a salad, or mixed with grains and greens, or whatever way suits your eating fancy.
 
And oh yes: fermented foods are healthy for your inner "ecosystem". Improve digestion, stimulate the liver, and help control sugar cravings.
 
My next fermenting schedule is making kimchi and a kraut using cabbage and other vegetables that are ground or finely sliced.
 
To be continued .... Fermentation Part 2 -  I promise.

K is for Kale

31 Aug 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Following a long hiatus, this was my first year back into vegetable gardening. Last summer, we prepared the soil: adding lime to balance the pH, mixing in organic matter hauled in from a local farm, mixing in the "dirt" our composter produced from all our fresh produce scraps.
 
This initial year my garden plan was not too complicated. I planted plenty of garlic last fall, which grew well (it's pretty hard to mess up with garlic) and is now curing - hanging on hooks in the shed. Greens are an important part of my daily menu so chard, spinach, mustard greens, and kale were on my list. Carrots, beets, onions, potatoes (my first experience with potato beetles @##&$!!), squash, leeks, summer turnips - with tomatoes, one jalapeno plant, a few (prolific) cucumber plants and some herbs filling in the rest. 
 
Some vegetables produced better than others - due to the timing of planting, the amount of rain (I had to supplement with hand watering), and the care that was given to it (which was on the short side for the veggies - not to mention the weeds: apologies to my Mom, whose gardening example I couldn't follow).
 
The biggest rewards have been my tomatoes, the volunteer squash that grew from the composter dump, the herbs - and the kale, which just goes on and on.  
 
I try to have a green smoothie or salad every day - plus toss extra greens into sauces and other dishes. I still have kale left in my garden.
 
 
 
On the recommendation from Gisele, a good friend and cook extraordinaire, I am freezing it for future frostier days. I've tasted Gisele's green smoothies made with her frozen kale and am confident in encouraging you to try this too.
 

How to freeze kale.

Wash kale leaves carefully (those little green worms can easily hide) and remove as much water as possible in a lettuce spinner.
 
Place a piece of waxed paper about 12"X12" on the cupboard and cover with torn kale leaves. For the amount of smoothie I make, I use about 2 1/2 oz. of kale. 
 
 
Carefully tucking in the leaves, roll the wax paper up into a tube.
 
 
Place tube in a Ziplog freezer bag. Once your bag is full of kale "rolls", put into freezer.
 
 
Take out rolls as needed to use in smoothies (or soups, etc.).
 
 
Freeze your kale - forward your garden's goodness to cold weather nutrition.
 
 
 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

This has been a summer of all summers for hot beach days. And when you have a house full of grandkids (those six beautiful kids you see above) -  that's a wonderful thing.

Our favourite beach for this energetic bunch is 20 minutes from home, and with the kids able (pretty much) to pack their own gear/bags, our "getaway" time is fairly quick.

That is, as long as the snack department is prepared - and some days that is Nana's department. 

To accommodate food sensitivities and health issues - and to meet our healthy, real food standard - our choices may be deemed different than the contents of other picnic coolers. But the proof is in the eating - coming home with empty containers (and sandy towels, toys and bathing suits) - without an aftermath of digestive upsets, but appetites asking "what's for dinner?!"

Here's a recent beach snack list - good for a couple hours of fun in the sun and sand.

- fresh fruit: cut up watermelon, cherries, fresh strawberries or blueberries - great finger food packed with phytonutrients and loaded with water

- bag of raw nuts that have been soaked (for better digestion), drained and rinsed - walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts (a special treat)

- sunflower seed paté (recipe below)

- eatmore energy bars (recipe below)

- plenty of bottles of water

 

Click → Printable recipe for Sunflower Seed Paté

Sunflower Seed Paté

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5/8 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup tamari (I substituted coconut aminos for non-soy option)

1 large potato, peeled and diced (I substituted sweet potato: a colorful, sweeter, healthier option)

1 cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (I substituted buckwheat flour for gluten-free option)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 or 2 garlic cloves (or 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)

1 - 2 tsp. dried herbs of your choice: I used oregano and basil

Instructions: 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until very smooth.

 Pour into two greased (or parchment-lined) fruitcake loaf pans.

Bake for 60 - 70 minutes or until set. Cool thoroughly, remove from pans carefully and wrap well in plastic. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Serve with home-made pita chips or baked nachos, or by itself is delicious too! Also tasty cut in cubes and tossed on a salad.

(Baked in small fruitcake pans, this would make a great gift, if you can resist eating it all yourself!)

(Recipe adapted from The LEADING VEG Cook Book - printed by Vegetarians of Alberta, 2002

 

Click → Printable recipe for Eatmore Energy Bars 

Eatmore Energy Bars

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 cup raw sesame seeds

2/3 - 1 cup cocoa powder (or carob, for caffeine-free version)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup almond butter

1 cup date pureé (soak dates for min. 25 minutes; pureé in blender or food processor, adding date-soaking water as needed).

Instructions:

Mix together coconut, sesame seeds and cocoa (or carob) in a bowl. Heat nut butters and date pureé together slightly for easier mixing - add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix well. Press into lightly greased 9x9 pan. Refrigerate for a couple hours to set before cutting to serve. Yum!!

Beach fare or otherwise, these two recipes  - new-to-me this summer - are fast becoming favourites.

What are your favourite healthy beach-picninc snacks? 

S is for Sprouts

13 Jun 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Sprouts. What mental picture do you see? If it's the plastic box of (often sorry-soggy-looking) alfalfa sprouts sitting in the produce department of your local supermarket, I encourage you to explore the big "live food" world of sprouts.

Sprouted Seed FAQS

-  what makes them "live" is that their enzyme content is greater than in their original state

-  the sprouting process helps to predigest the seeds' nutrients. How? Starch is converted to simple sugars, protein is turned into amino acids and peptones, and crude fat is broken down into free fatty acids. Which means? Nutrients are more easily available and accessible for the body to use.

- germination (sprouting) increases: the B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K (triples!) and carotene

- sprouts are high in chlorophyll, boosting the body with oxygen and increased blood flow

Sprouting seeds yourself is definitely cheaper than purchasing them but I can't resist buying most of mine from Cindy, a farmer's market vendor who is as wonderfully organic as all her fine produce. I'm lucky if there's any of these pea shoots left in the bag by the time I get home.
 
 
I use a simple method of sprouting for my infrequent spurts of sprouting: using a quart jar that came with three plastic lids with different hole sizes. 
 
- use a large, very clean mason jar and place about 1 Tbsp. seeds in it. Then place over the top of the jar some clean netting (e.g. cheese cloth) and secure with an elastic band (or use lids with small holes if you can find them).
 
- add water, rinse and drain
 
- add 1 cup cool water and soak for 2-6 hours
 
- drain, refill jar with cool water and drain again.
 
- invert jar and prop at an angle in a bowl or dish
 
(here's two jars at different stages)
 
- make sure you rinse them every morning and evening and prop jar back in bowl
 
 
- enjoy in 3-6 days, store in refrigerator
 
- if possible use organic sprouting seeds: instructions should be on the package - follow carefully as they may vary for different seeds
 
 
I found a recipe sprout salad recipe that called for mung bean sprouts, which, alas, were all gone by the time I got to the market! However, Cindy suggested I do my own sprouts using lentils, which are easier to sprout than mung beans.
 
She was so right - and I loved the taste of them. 
 
Lentils are significantly bigger seeds than many other sprouting seeds, so I've included instructions. Allow about 72 hours from start to finish: they can become bitter if they're left to sprout too long.
 
- sort, wash and rinse 4 Tbsp. lentils, which will produce about 1 1/2 cups
 
- put lentils in a 1-quart size jar with sprout-strainer lid
 
- cover with 3-4 inches water and let soak overnight or 8-12 hours.
 
- drain, rinse and drain again - divide lentils into two jars to allow them space to sprout without being too close together
 
- every morning and evening rinse and drain lentils and set the jars on an angle - after about 72 hours they will be soft and have little white tails!
 

Lentil Sprout and Almond Salad

3/4 cup plain yogurt (thick well-drained yogurt is best, e.g. Greek-style)
1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1 handful arugula, chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup chives, minced
 
1 1/2 cups lentil sprouts
 
2/3 cup well-toasted, sliced almonds
1 ripe avocado, chopped
good extra virgin olive oil
 
In a small bowl combine the yogurt, salt, arugula, and chives. 
 
In a larger bowl toss the lentil sprouts and almonds with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the avocado, and gently toss once or twice more.
 
Serve the spouts and almonds next to the yogurt mixture and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. If you had a few chive flowers in your bunch, sprinkle them across the top.
 
Serves 2-4 as a very pretty, nutrient-dense side dish.
 
 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Last week I spent Valentine's Day with my sister who lives in Alberta. For the record, we both have husbands who are our "true loves" but infortunately neither of them were there. In reality, her husband was as close as the other side of town, in the hospital (poor guy - the good news, he's since been discharged) - and my husband was at our home on the other side of the country. 

 
Us two girls needed a pick-me-up.
 
True to our personalities, my sister went out and bought us a rose (you can see a bit of it in the photo above) - I got busy in her kitchen. 
 

I was bent on making us a treat which didn't mean tossing aside good nutrition.

 
I found in the basement a dust-covered box containing a Donvier ice cream maker.
 
In the freezer were some frozen strawberries from last summer's pickings.
 
In the cupboard was a Magic Bullet blender, coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract (from Jamaica, no less!).
 
In my memory was a simple recipe I've often made from Whole Food Nutrition.
 
 

The recipe: strawberry-coconut ice "cream" without dairy and refined sugar.

 
I made a small batch as her Bullet wasn't a full-size blender (and really how much treat did the two of us need?!) but doubling the amount would have fit fine into the ice cream maker.
 
-- 1 can full fat coconut milk (check the label to ensure there's no added sugar)
 
-- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (other fruits like blueberries are equally as yummy)
 
-- 2-3 Tbsp. honey (could substitute with agave nectar or maple syrup)
 
-- 1-2 tsp. vanilla (I coaxed about 1 1/2 tsp out of the Jamaican bottle)
 
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth and creamy. To take good care of my sister's Bullet I stopped and started a couple times, but mixing doesn't take very long - especially if you have a stronger machine like a Vitamix. 
 
 
You can pour this immediately into the Donvier's frozen cannister but I let the blender and contents sit in the fridge and chill for about half an hour before doing so.
 
This type of ice cream maker requires turning the paddle about every minute or so - it was ready in 20-25 minutes.
 
 
Scoop it out of the cannister and into another container: let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before serving. It's okay to chill longer of course, but can get rock solid and has to sit out for quite a while before you can scoop it.
 
 
Honestly, this is the stage I could sit down and spoon up! Creamy, smooth, punched full of strawberry and coconut flavours.
 
Not as good as sharing the day with my life-long Valentine (another story - how I still have the Valentine card my hubbie gave me in elementary school!) but this hit the spot for an occasion when "....all you need is love..." wasn't quite enough :)

Make your Own Yogurt

26 Oct 2011
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Yogurt. This complete-protein source has become a mainstay in many households. Mini packages get tucked into lunches, it's added to smoothies, spooned over granola, the Greeks transform it into tzatziki, it becomes dessert with fruit and a drizzle of honey...if your diet isn't dairy-free or vegan, you've probably got your own idea to add to the list.

What does it have going for it?

-- contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and other "friendly" bacteria needed for the digestion of food

-- can help prevent candidiasis (yeast overgrowth)

-- source of calcium and other essential nutrients

-- through the fermentation process, fat and calories are reduced, and usually increases in the B vitamins

-- recommended especially after antibiotic therapy (which kills off some of the normal bacteria in the intestine)

 

Make your own yogurt.

-- use low-fat milk 

-- forget the sugar - use a wee bit of maple syrup or honey if you have to, but it really does taste delicious as is

-- add whatever fresh or frozen fruit you like - or raisins, nuts, grated coconut.....

-- it costs much less than a carton from the supermarket

-- what you need: milk, plain yogurt to use as a starter, large dutch oven kettle, whisk, thermometer (opt), small bowl, large glass or pottery bowl, tea towel

 

Here's how you make it.

-- pour 2L carton of milk into a large kettle - you need room for it to come to a full boil

-- turn on stove burner to medium or medium-high. Be prepared to stand there and stir, to avoid scorching or burning the milk - or having it boil over as soon as you turn your back on it.

-- stir consistently until milk comes to a full rolling boil, threatening to boil over.

-- remove kettle from heat source, let sit and cool for 45 minutes. Timing is important - set the timer so you don't forget.

-- while milk is cooling, take plain yogurt out of the refrigerator, making sure it doesn't have added sugar or gelatin in it. Just plain yogurt with bacterial culture. Put 4 Tbsp yogurt (about 1/3 cup) in a small, fruit nappie-size bowl. Let it sit on the counter and come to room temperature while the milk cools.

-- after cooling for 45 minutes, milk should be close to 112 degrees, if you want to check it with a thermometer. The trick is not to have the milk too hot to kill the yogurt bacteria, but it needs to be warm enough to activate the starter. I always go by the 45-minute mark. (I mention using the thermometer reading in memory of my Mom who faithfully used that method - with great success.) Add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the plain yogurt in your little bowl, stirring well to thoroughly mix, then add the whole works to the milk in the kettle. Stir well.

-- Pour into a glass bowl - ideally with a lid, but if it doesn't have one, cover it with a layer of plastic wrap and foil.

-- Cover the "baby" to keep it warm under wraps - using a couple tea towels to completely wrap it up. The casserole-carrying wrap my Mom made for me years ago works perfect and is a wonderful reminder of her.

-- place the covered bowl in a warm spot for overnight or all day. An ideal location in the winter is near a wood-burning stove, otherwise I put it on top of my refrigerator. If your house is really cool, you can let it rest on a heating pad, on low heat.

-- after 8-12 hours (will depend on the room temperature), check your yogurt to see if it's ready.

-- if it has more water (whey) than what you like, strain the yogurt using fine-mesh strainers. Letting it sit longer will give you yogurt "cheese", a healthy substitute for cream cheese. 

-- enjoy, but be sure to save enough as a starter for your next batch

 

What if it doesn't turn out?

-- if you're using starter from your previous batch, maybe it's been in the fridge for too long and has lost its punch

-- the milk might have been too hot or too cool

-- all is not lost - it can be used in baking, pancakes

-- don't give up - the odd time mine doesn't turn out either but as long as I keep making it on a regular basis, this rarely happens.

 

I hope you try making yogurt. Except for the occasional home-made ice cream indulgence (and a latte once in a while), I rarely consume milk products - other than my home made yogurt. Let me know how yours turns out.

Posted by karen
karen's picture

Let's have a date.

Most of us "need" a sweet fix once in a while. I'm not talking about the sweetness of grilled beets and carrots (which are great in their place) - nor refined sugar added to food, in disguise or otherwise.

I'm talking dates.

Need a Background Check on Our Date

-- high in fibre

-- high in glucose (a carbohydrate), which may be why they're sometimes referred to as "Nature's fuel" - ideal snack to fuel activity

-- concentrated sugar and energy - 1 Medjool is about 75 calories

-- fairly rich in niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, calcium, and magnesium

My kitchen is stocked with either Medjool and/or whole, pitted dates. They're yummy and a quick fix to satisfy post-dinner cravings for a "little something sweet" - they also shine as a sweetener in preparing other foods. The softest dates, like Medjool, are the easiest for a food processor or blender to process. However, soaking dried dates for 4-12 hours works well too  -- once soaked, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Raw Peanut Butter (and Date) Cookies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my kitchen has been a-buzz "building" healthy food for our (temporary) live-in family. A favorite afternoon snack has been these delicious peanut butter cookies; a good example how dates can replace sugar. My daughter at Fimby has the recipe at the end of her Raw & Healthy post. A note of caution: these cookies can be yum-yum addictive.

Make your own energy gel using dates.

A fellow nutritional consultant, Kira Neumann, has the following recipes on her website. The gel has been my go-to sustenance for this summer's long training runs. And tasting the pie will give its own goodness report. Thanks, Kira.

Energy Gel Recipe

4 Medjool dates (or 6-8 dried dates) - soak for 3-4 hours for better blending

2 Tbsp. agave syrup

2 Tbsp. chia seeds

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

1 Tbsp. lime zest

1 tsp. dulse flakes (cut into very tiny pieces - mine were a bit big, can you see the green bits in the attached photo?)

pinch of sea salt

Blend ingredients together: due to the amount I recommend using a small machine like a Bullet blender. It will be quite stiff so you'll probably have to stop and scrape down the sides several times. (I've tried adding 2-3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice but this makes it quite tart. I'd test this before using on a race, as the extra acid might trigger digestion issues you won't want to deal with on the run! Can always experiment by adding a bit of water to the mix.)

This makes over half a cup of gel, enough energy for a few runs or bike rides. I make 1-Tbsp. size balls and freeze them. On my way out the door to exercise, I put one or two in a small ziploc bag and tuck in a pocket.

(Bonus: the chia seeds in this recipe also add an energy punch - plus protein, fiber, omega 3's, calcium, antioxidants)

Let the Whole Family come along on the Date - with a Pie!

Creamy Cashew Lemon Pie

1 and 1/4 cups almonds

1 and 1/2 cups medjool dates (will be separated into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)

1 cup cashews

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

3 Tbsp. coconut oil

3 Tbsp. hemp seed hearts

3 lemons

Step #1

Soak overnight (at least 12 hours) - almonds, cashews and dates - in separate bowls. Drain and rinse in the morning.  

Step #2

In a food processor mix the almonds, 1 cup of the dates, 1 tsp, vanilla, cinnamon (if using) and hemp seeds. Process until everything is pulverized into fine pieces - should clump together.

Alternate scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times with mixing, until it's fine enough to press into a pie plate. This is your crust - put into the fridge while you make the filling.

Step #3

Don't bother to wash out the food processor bowl: put in the cashews, the remaining 1/2 cup of dates, 1 tsp. vanilla, coconut oil and the lemons - cut off the peel, take out the seeds and cut into chunks. Process until creamy and smooth. If you want a creamier look, add a bit of water. Spread into your waiting pie crust, put back into the fridge until time for dessert. (Can fast-track the setting time if you pop into the freezer for half an hour.) Very tangy, very lemony, very date-alicious.


Kira suggests serving this with fresh berries - I didn't have any in the fridge but will try that next time.

Life is sweet, with a date.

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

If I were asked to name a humble vegetable, cabbage would get my vote. This versatile veggie, grown since ancient history and included in cooking worldwide is, however, anything but ordinary.

Why so crazy about cabbage?

It has good family connections. Cabbage - and broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, radish, turnips, collards, watercress, aragula - belongs to the cruciferous vegetables. So.....?

Not a new idea but a good idea: eat a diet rich in these vegetables for the defense against, and the possible prevention of, cancer. According to Sally Errey in Staying Alive! Cookbook for Cancer Free Living, scientists weren't sure why this vegetable family had this distinction - until recent studies which have shown their ability to help the body's toxic waste-disposal system. Certain plant chemicals, like sulforophane and indole-3-carbinol, trigger the release of a protein that causes the release of several toxin-fighting enzymes that either neutralize cancer-causing chemicals or help the body excrete them.

Phytochemicals ("plant"- chemicals) = good source of antioxidants. 

If  you catch your weekly media version of "Your Health and You" you're probaby familiar with these health buzzwords. 

The tiny phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables have unique abilities to modify human hormones and to prevent toxic compounds from binding to human DNA - possibly preventing damage that could lead to cancer. Studies have even shown that genetic defects that may lead to cancer are suppressed by the consumption of green cruciferous vegetables.

Over-dosing on one food group (even vegetables) is not a cancer-free guarantee.  

But I'm convinced about the superior goodness of cabbage and its kin. Some variety of this family is a regular at my table: raw, cooked, or sometimes - fermented.

Fermentation deserves a post of its own.

But until later, this is the short version on the benefits of fermentation:

- preserves food/nutrients

- breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms

- creates new nutrients

- some ferments function as antioxidants

- removes toxins from food 

I learned the ways of a gardener from the example of my mother - an extraordinary worker who preserved the fruits of her labour by canning, freezing, pickling - but never fermenting. Perhaps it wasn't in her Scottish upbringing or she'd heard stories of smelly brine bubbling out of crocks lurking in dark cellars. Whatever the reason, the only sauerkraut I ate growing up was bought at the grocery store and that pattern remained after I had my own kitchen.

Two years ago my nutrition studies piqued my interest in making my own. I bought Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and got all excited reading how to make live-culture foods, e.g. kimchis, sourdough breads, miso, yogurt  - and when I saw "sauerkraut is easy to make" on more than one page I was ready to go for it.

So you get the picture - I'm not the expert with years of experience. But based on how my sauerkraut (and kimchi) has turned out, I do agree. It is easy.

What you need. 

Food: Cabbage and salt (I use coarse sea salt). Utensils: A sturdy knife, a crock, a plate that is slightly smaller than the opening of the crock, a large rock.

Buy good solid heads of cabbage. I've learned from shopping at our garden markets that "fall" cabbage is the best type to use for sauerkraut. I don't know the proper name of this particular cabbage, but living in a county that boasts both home-style and commerical sauerkraut operations, I do what the experts advise. Except on the next point. Sauerkraut should be made as the moon is waxing. Unfortunately, my hankering to fill the kraut crock doesn't always line up with the lunar cycle, so here I do my own thing. 

Steps to Sauerkraut:

Chop cabbage into threads, as fine or coarse as you like it.

 

Place in large bowl as you chop it. Sprinkle salt on it as you go. How much salt? This depends on health and taste preferences. I recommend going lightly - for starters, 3-4 Tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of sliced cabbage. 

Mix cabbage and salt thoroughly and pack into your crock. It's important to pack just a bit at a time into the crock - pressing it down hard with your fist or some other sturdy tool. This is an important step: you don't want to allow room for air pockets and the tamping packs the kraut, helping to force the water out of the cabbage.

Cover the cabbage with a plate and place a heavy stone (that's been well-washed) on top of it. This weight is needed to force the water out of the cabbage and to keep it submerged. (My crock isn't very full this time as one cabbage head disappeared in a coleslaw.)  

Cover the crock with a tea towel and set in a corner of the kitchen. Cooler the location, slower the fermentation, longer the preservation.

Check the kraut the next day and every day or two after. The important factor is that the brine covers the cabbage. According to Sandor Ellix Katz, "some cabbage, particularly if it's old, simply contains less water." He suggests if the brine hasn't risen to the top by the next day, you can add some salt water (1 Tbsp. salt  to 1 cup water) to bring up the brine level. I haven't had experience with this as the brine has been sufficient. To help it stay submerged in brine, every day or so I firmly press on the rock/plate.  

Here I've taken the rock out so you can see the brine. This was after about 4 days. 

When is it ready?

It's all about how you like it. It should start to be tangy in about a week. Taste it. Its flavours will evolve as it ages. If you do take some out to enjoy, repack the remaining kraut, keeping the surface level and your weights clean. I generally leave mine in the kitchen area for a couple weeks, checking it often. Then I'll move it to a cooler location for 1-2 weeks before putting it into jars and into the refrigerator. I'll taste as I go but don't usually eat mine until it's fermented about 4 weeks. My batches are usually small like the one above so it's all eaten before it gets too 'ripe'.

Making sauerkraut may look complicated and scary but it really is easy. Maintain cleanliness and keep the cabbage submerged - and enjoy.  

Check back in a few weeks and I'll let you know how this batch turned out.

 


 

A is for Almonds

29 Aug 2011
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Welcome to the first post about the heart of the matter - the real food. This summer, three of my grandchildren (and their parents) have been living with us. My kitchen has been a production center for (mostly) all things healthy, including high energy treats which often use almonds. My opening act is going to showcase this personal favorite nut, which happens to start with the letter A, and is “a very good place to start.”

First, some FAQs - Almonds contain laetrile, giving this nut the claim to be considered cancer-preventing. Most of the fats in almonds are polyunsaturated and high in linoleic acid - the body's main EFA (essential fatty acid). They're high in calcium and vitamin E and contain some of the B vitamins. They contain good amounts of copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium - also zinc, magnesium, manganese and selenium are present in almonds.

So it's for good reason that raw almonds are one of my pantry staples - for adding to home-made granola, sprinkling on salads and cereal, tossing in a trail mix, and traveling companions for a quick pick-me-up. They’re readily available to buy, are tasty raw or toasted, and when it comes to the price of nuts they’re a good bang for your buck. Soaking almonds for a few hours makes them easier to digest.

Almond Milk Recipe

This is my recipe for making almond milk, which is quick, easy, and costs between 1/2 to 2/3 of the store-bought price. The real bonus? The list of ingredients is healthy and short: water, almonds.

Step #1 - Soak one cup of raw almonds in water overnight, ensuring they're well-covered.

Step #2 - In the morning, rinse well, draining the water. Put almonds into a blender along with 4 cups of fresh water. I have a Vitamix blender (one of my hardest-working kitchen tools and a brand I highly recommend), but a sturdy blender will do the trick. 

Step #3 - Blend water and almonds until totally blended. For my Vitamix, that's on high for 2-3 minutes straight; if using another brand I suggest stopping your machine every 30 seconds or so, continuing to start and stop for a few minutes until the water and almonds are thoroughly blended.

Step #4 - Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, a fine strainer, or my first choice is a mesh bag like these Care Bags  (I get mine from ellora) -  they eliminate most of the mess that can be a deterrent to making almond milk. Gently squeeze and twist the bag, releasing the almond milk. Pour into a jar and refrigerate. Shake well before using, as some of the ground almond mixture will settle at the bottom.

This rich, creamy milk poured over cooked whole grain cereal, or with fresh fruit with raisins, or blended in a smoothie tastes like dessert! The almond meal that's left in the bag can be added to bread dough or muffin batter, composted, or offered as yummy morsels if you have happy chickens in your back yard.

Another go-to favorite in our house is almond butter. If you're hooked on it too you know it can be pricey, used sparingly as a treat.  Based on the best quality (non-organic) almond butter available where I shop, I've calculated that making my own almond butter cuts the price in half and it is fresh, fresh, fresh! It's not difficult, also is quick, but you must use a top quality food processor, like Cuisinart or Bosch, to be the work horse on this one.

Almond Butter Recipe

Step #1- Spread 3 cups raw almonds on a large cookie sheet and put into oven that's been preheated to 325 degrees F. Roast for 10 minutes and give the pan a shake. Put back in oven for another 10 minutes. Give pan another shake. Continue to roast for 3-4 minutes and check to make sure the almonds aren't getting too dark. Depending on your oven they shouldn't need much more than another 5 minutes. If they start to crack, they are darker than what I like. Remove from oven.

Step #2 - Move the almonds into the food processor bowl with the S blade in postition. There's no need to cool the almonds, in fact they release the oils better if they are still warm.

Step #3 - Process in short spurts, frequently scraping around the bowl. There'll be lots of starting, stopping and scraping but in about 10-12 minutes the almonds will be processed into a smooth enough consistency for yummy butter.

Step #4 - Be prepared to stand your ground in licking out the bowl.

A no-guilt snack - delicious dip for apple wedges, a spread for your favorite whole grain toast, scooping by the spoonful out of the jar. Refrigerate what's left. 

This is just the beginning of ideas for real food options. I look forward to you joining me on an interesting and inspiring journey, exploring our way through the joys of juices, the scoop on squash, and beyond to a 'zillion' ways of enjoying zucchini. 

(Photo credits FIMBY)