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Reviving Traditional Foods
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10 Ways to Get More Fermented Foods (without Dairy)

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 08:14

We hear it all the time, and I say it plenty: Eat your yogurt for probiotics.   But if you choose not to eat dairy foods or cannot tolerate them, finding dairy-free fermented foods for your probiotics can pose more of a challenge. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.   There are many dairy-free foods rich in probiotics and beneficial bacteria.



A much loved and much loathed fermented cabbage dish hailing from northern Europe, naturally prepared sauerkraut is both tart and salty.   Decidedly fresher than the canned version you’ll find on grocery store shelves, real sauerkraut has a crispy, not mushy, texture and is loaded with vitamin C and B vitamins.   Furthermore, the process of fermenting cabbage actually creates isothiocyanate – a substance potentially linked to the inhibition of the formation of certain cancer and tumors.

Sauerkraut isn’t the only form of probiotic-rich fermented cabbage.   Latin America brings us cortido a dish in which cabbage combines with carrots, onion and red pepper while Korea brings us kimchi in which cabbage combines with radish, ginger, chilies, garlic and other goodies.   To make your own sauerkraut, check out my traditional sauerkraut recipe here or this spicy version made with red cabbage, garlic and jalapenos.


Kombucha is another great source of beneficial bacteria that is also dairy-free.     A fermented tea thought to originate in Russia or China, kombucha has long been considered a health tonic. Kombucha has a sour flavor with a taste reminiscent of apple cider vinegar combined with club soda, though home-brewed kombucha is often less acidic than store-bought.

A starter culture called a kombucha mushroom, mother or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) is necessary to prepare kombucha.   This starter culture thrives in the combination of brewed tea and sugar.   The kombucha scoby metabolizes the sugar converting it to various acids which provide kombucha with its characteristically tart flavor.

Kombucha, like other fermented foods and beverages, is rich in beneficial bacteria and B vitamins.   It also contains a substance called glucaric acid.   Glucaric acid is deeply detoxifying and recent research indicates great promise that glucaric acid is effective in the treatment and prevention of breast, prostate and colon cancer in humans.

You can purchase raw kombucha at most health food stores and even many chain supermarkets.   Or you can brew your own with a starter culture, available online here.


Sauerruben, like sauerkraut, is a fermented vegetable from northern Europe where fermentation offered an opportunity to preserve the harvest throughout the tough, cold winters.   The ingredients are simple: turnips and unrefined salt.   Tender, sweet turnips are shredded or, if you like them like we do, julienned and mixed with unrefined sea salt before they are pounded down to release their juice.   The turnip juice combines with the sea salt to create a brine that fosters the growth of beneficial bacteria – provided it’s not too salty.   Turnips and sauerruben are a great source of vitamin C.

To make your own sauerruben, check out this post on the sauerruben by the Slow Cook.


Composed of soybeans in combination with barley or rice, miso is a traditional Japanese condiment used primarily in soups or as a seasoning for vegetables, meats and fish (check out my misoyaki salmon recipe). Miso is primarily fermented by aspergillus oryzae, a mold, that is also responsible for the transformation of soybeans into shoyu or tamari.

Miso is widely touted as a wholesome, nourishing food.   Miso is high in vitamin K (learn about vitamin K and other fat soluble vitamins) as well as vitamin B6.     It’s also a good source of phosphorus, manganese and zinc.

In preparing miso, take care not to overheat it.   While you may use it to season cooked foods, doing so destroys heat-sensitive microbiota.   When making a good miso soup, wait to add the miso paste until the stock has cooled to blood temperature and then allow it to slowly dissolve into the liquid.   By preparing miso soup in this fashion, the miso retains food enzymes and other characteristics of living foods.

Water Kefir

Water kefir, alternatively known as tibicos and Japanese water crystals, is a probiotic beverage similar to Kombucha and Ginger Beer.   Water kefir grains are translucent and gelatinous with a crystal-like appearance.

Like kombucha mothers, water kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts including lactobacillus hilgardii – the species that gives water kefir grains their characteristic appearance.  You can discover a little more of their history here.

It’s easy to make water kefir.  You’ll need water kefir grains, water, and sugar.  Follow this tutorial for a basic water kefir.  From there, you can flavor it to make Cherry Water Kefir, Cranberry Orange Water Kefir or anything else you might like.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Moroccan preserved lemons are naturally fermented without the use of a starter – just wild lactobacillus bacteria naturally present in the air, on our skin and on the fruits themselves. Just as with sauerkraut, sauerruben and other fermented vegetables and fruit, preserved lemons are rich in beneficial bacteria.

Lemons, like all citrus, are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C in particular.   Much of the vitamin C is concentrated in the lemon’s rind which is customarily discarded due to its astringent, bitter flavor.   Fermenting lemons naturally with salt and brine renders the lemon rind not only edible, but also delicious.

Lemons are remarkably well-suited to a variety of dishes including classic Moroccan cuisine like lemon and olive roasted chicken and tagines, but I like to serve preserved lemons as a condiment in combination with fresh parsley and fresh garlic.

Check out my recipe for Preserved Lemon & Parsley Tapenade, and don’t forget to learn to make Moroccan Preserved Lemons – especially when Meyer lemons are in season.

Coconut Kefir

Coconut kefir is a probiotic beverage prepared from young coconut water and a starter culture.   Championed by the Body Ecology Diet, coconut kefir combines many of the benefits of coconut with the benefits of probiotics.

Coconut water is rich in minerals like calcium and potassium, but it is relatively sweet.   By introducing beneficial bacteria into the fresh coconut water, the bacteria metabolize its sugars and produce lactic and acetic acids which lower the overall glycemic index of the beverage.   Furthermore, all those beneficial bacteria are great for your belly.

Coconut kefir is typically made using fresh coconut water from young, green coconuts and combining that coconut water with a packaged starter culture.

Homemade Ginger Beer

Traditional ginger beer is cultured using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts similar to water kefir grains, indeed, there’s some evidence that water kefir grains and the ginger beer plant are substantially the same in that both ginger beer plants and water kefir grains share many of the same characteristic bacteria.

There is also a second, more accessible form, of ginger beer and other homemade sodas like this Raspberry Ginger Soda.  In this version, you mix ginger, sugar and water together to encourage the growth of wild bacteria and yeasts, much like a sourdough starter.  It forms a ginger bug, that is then strained and added to fruit juice or sweetened herbal infusions to make a naturally fizzy, homemade, probiotic soda.

Ginger bugs can be a little finicky and are best undertaken by cooks who are experienced with fermentation, but you can follow this ginger bug tutorial.

Sour Pickles

Most pickles on your grocery store shelves are pickled using vinegar, but, traditionally, sour pickles acquired their potent sourness from fermentation.  Sour pickles are prepared using a simple solution of salt and water.   This brine encourages the growth of lactic-acid producing beneficial bacteria, that metabolize the carbohydrates in cucumbers, and create beneficial acids that preserve the cucumbers as pickles.

If you’re game to make your own, try this recipe for traditional sour pickles.

Store-bought Condiments and Dressings

Not everyone has the time or energy to pound cabbage and salt into sauerkraut or crack a fresh coconut to prepare coconut kefir. So, for those of you with limited time you can still find wholesome, naturally fermented dairy-free foods that can enliven your belly with beneficial bacteria.   Coconut milk yogurts, sour pickles, traditional sauerkraut and even sour beets can be found on the shelves of well-stocked health food stores, and many supermarkets, too.

Get Started Making Your Own Fermented Foods

It’s easy and fun to make your own fermented foods at home, and these recipes for fermented foods will get you started, but there’s a few things you might want to keep in mind.

Start with good recipes, and then build from there.  The Nourished Kitchen, Real Food Fermentation and Wild Fermentation are great cookbooks to get you started.

Get your starter cultures together.  Many fermented foods and drinks, like kombucha, coconut yogurt and water kefir, require starter cultures.  You can order them online here.

Get the right equipment.  Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and sour pickles, ferment best in a closed, anaerobic environment.  Traditional fermentation crocks are a great investment, while airlocked jars are good to get started.

Blackberry Switchel

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 14:44

When the summer heat is on, I like to keep my refrigerator stocked with homemade switchel. This old-fashioned refreshing tonic is perfect for keeping you hydrated on hot sunny days.   

Blackberry ginger switchel with rich blackberry flavor and smooth hints of spicy ginger that tickles your tongue is the perfect hydrating beverage. This cooling drink is full of potassium and naturally occurring electrolytes, making it the perfect natural Gatorade.

Switchel is a Natural Electrolyte Drink

This naturally sweetened electrolyte drink is a very simple beverage. It’s commonly made with water, apple cider vinegar, a natural sweetener like honey, maple syrup or molasses and ginger.

Switchel, also known as switzel, swizzle, ginger-water, haymaker’s punch or switchy, originated in the Caribbean and later became popular in American Colonies in the late 17th century (source). By the 19th century, it was often served to thirsty farmers during the summertime when they were working in the hot fields during hay harvest time (source).

Why You Should Be Making Your Own Switchel

Switchel is not only thirst-quenching and deliciously refreshing, but it’s also inexpensive and does not contain any refined sugars or artificial flavors and colors like most commercial electrolyte drinks.

It’s incredibly easy to double batch or tripe batch, making it wonderful for storing in the fridge to sip throughout the day or to serve to guests. 

How to Make Your Own Switchel

You might already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. Apple cider vinegar, raw honey or maple syrup and filtered water are three of the five ingredients. You’ll just need to head to the farmers market or your local grocery store to get some blackberries and ginger. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to forage for some blackberries or have blackberries growing on your property? It’s important to use fresh blackberries and ginger, although you could substitute frozen blackberries if needed.

Switchel comes together so quickly, it’s as simple as combining all ingredients in a jar, giving it a good shake and refrigerating for later.

Once you have the main technique down, you can switch up the flavors by alternating the unrefined sweetener, using different seasonal fruit, or adding citrus like lemon or lime juice.   

Homemade Probiotic Switchel Supports Digestion

One of switchel’s most important ingredients is apple cider vinegar. This popular vinegar is known for being one of those old fashioned home remedies, an elixir of sorts. Apple cider vinegar is rich in potassium which is vital to our body and is loaded with enzymes, minerals and probiotics. It’s known to help support digestion and the immune system (source).

Ginger is the other star ingredient of switchel. This delicious rhizome is known for being a wonderful, supportive digestive aid (source). It adds a lovely spicy, yet sweet, flavor to the switchel. 

Where to Find Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother

Apple cider vinegar is relatively easy to find in local grocery stores and almost all natural food stores. If you cannot find it locally, you can purchase it online. Be sure to only purchase raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar that says “with the mother” on the bottle.

The Mother is the cloudy strands that settle to the bottom of the apple cider vinegar. It’s important to use raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar because it contains the original minerals and enzymes from the apples. Take care to look for apple cider vinegar bottled in glass. Since apple cider vinegar is acidic, you don’t want it leeching any toxins from the plastic into your nutritious switchel.

Blackberry Ginger Switchel Print Recipe type: Drink Cuisine: American Author: Emily Sunwell-Vidaurri Prep time: 5 mins Total time: 5 mins Serves: 2 quarts Making your own Blackberry Ginger Switchel at home is so easy to do. Made from apple cider vinegar, blackberries, fresh ginger, raw honey or maple syrup and filtered water, this simple beverage is full of potassium-rich electrolytes and is thirst-quenching on a hot day. Ingredients Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • ⅓ cup raw honey or real maple syrup
  • 1-inch knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries, halved
  • 8 cups filtered water
  1. Add all ingredients to a half-gallon (2 quart) mason jar or large pitcher. Cover with lid and shake to combine. Place in the refrigerator at least 12 hours. Strain and serve cold or over ice.
Notes Can't drink it all at once? Store this Blackberry Ginger Switchel in the refrigerator up to 2 days. 3.5.3226

Pro Tip: Use Half-Gallon Mason Jars

Half-gallon mason jars are relatively easy to find and inexpensive. Making switchel is very easy to do in these wide mouth jars. Ingredients can easily be added in seconds. The lids are super helpful and allow you to shake the switchel, and to combine your ingredients quickly. Then all you need to do is place the mason jar in the refrigerator. The jars are perfect for storage and wide enough to add ice to later if you prefer icy switchel.

Some natural foods stores carry the half gallon jars in bulk or sold as single jars. If you cannot find them locally, I recommend buying them online to guarantee that they are true, good-quality, thick glass jars.

Our Favorite Thirst-Quenching Drinks for Hot Summer Days

While we tend to stick to water and herbal teas, it’s fun to mix it up with homemade drinks to serve for special occasions (or even “just because.”)  Here’s some of our favorite thirst-quenching drinks for hot summer days, and you can find all our drink recipes here.

Water Kefir is a naturally fermented, probiotic drink made with a starter culture called water kefir grains.  These small, crystal-like structures of bacteria and yeast help to transform sugar water and fruit juice into a pleasantly tart, fizzy drink reminiscent of soda.  You can even flavor it, as we did in this recipe for Cherry Water Kefir.

Kombucha is also a naturally fermented drink positively brimming with good-for-your gut beneficial bacteria.  Slightly sour, and reminiscent of apple cider vinegar, kombucha can be enjoyed on its own, mixed with fruit or vegetable juices as well as blended into smoothies and slushies.  This Cranberry Kombucha Slushy is a favorite.

Even lemonade can be given a probiotic twist like this naturally fizzy homemade Probiotic Honey Lemonade Soda.

Raspberry Ginger Soda sparkles with the vibrant flavors of raspberry and ginger, and is made fizzy through use of a ginger bug which acts like a sourdough starter, collecting beneficial bacteria and natural, wild yeasts.

Homemade Root Beer can be super fun to make, although this traditional and historical recipe offers a flavor profile quite a bit different from the commercial root beer you might be used to.

Similar to kombucha, Jun Tea, is a drink of fermented tea.  It’s sweetened with raw honey and flavored by green tea for a delicate, fizzy, mead-like refreshment.

Surprise! Bone broth isn’t rich in minerals, but you should eat plenty of it anyway.

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 16:41

Few traditional foods are as beloved as bone broth.  Slowly simmered, pleasing to all our senses, and renowned for its many benefits. Making stocks and broths is often one of the first skills that those engaging traditional foods reclaim.

Many people think that since it is made with bones, and bones contain lots of minerals, that bone broth would be a good source of calcium and other similar nutrients.  In fact, there are many modern marketing angles aimed directly at touting the mineral and nutrient content of bone broth. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Minerals and Nutrients in Bone Broth?

Surprisingly, bone broth is a poor source of minerals and nutrients.  Recent USDA figures found calcium ranges from 9 to 14 mg per cup of broth.  For comparison, a cup of milk contains around 300 mg of calcium, or 30 times more than bone broth.

Lawrence Dubois, from the health food store Salt Springs Natureworks, intrigued by all the claims about bone broth, performed his own independent tests using venison bones.

The results?  The venison broth had around 75 mg per liter or about 18 mg per cup which are some of the highest results seen but still only equivalent to a quarter of a cup of milk. He was so stunned by the results that he retested multiple times using different bones, cooking times, and more. And yet, he was consistently surprised to see such low mineral numbers.

These results are not new or an anomaly.  Back in 1934, King’s College Hospital did the original testing of bone broth. Their report (PDF) stated that the calcium content of several types of bone broth were 5.2 to 28.6 mg per 100 cc or 12.30 to 67.7 mg per cup.

Their findings also point to an important observation about where the minerals in the highest test results originated.

Most minerals in stocks and broths come from vegetables, not bones

One interesting thing that all this testing revealed is just where certain nutrients in broth come from, and it isn’t from the bones. It is from the vegetables.

Many of us remember our waste not, want not grandparents with garages and basements full of old bottles and jars.  Drawers full of this and that, just in case, and leftover vegetable scraps – carrot tops, outer onion layers, celery tips, and the like – on the counter or in the fridge or freezer waiting to be tossed into the next batch of broth or stock.

This traditional approach to broths and stocks, where these collected leftovers from  vegetables were often saved to be tossed into the stewing pot of stock, show great wisdom.  These vegetables not only add flavor and depth to this delicious food but they are one of the primary sources of minerals and other nutrients such as calcium.

In the King’s College study, the stocks that had the highest tested mineral scores had the most vegetable matter.

What does this mean?  When making stock and bone broth, be sure to include your vegetable scraps if you want the most nutritional value for your efforts, or consume broths with added vegetables, as in soup.  Not only does it add important flavor components but it allows you to turn vegetable waste into a nutritional win.  Save your carrot tops and other vegetable scraps for the stock pot.  Once done there, you can then send them on to the compost pile or animal feed.

What are the benefits of bone broth then?

If this traditional food has so little mineral value then why is it so revered? Long-simmered bone broths and stock does have a number of important nutritional and health benefits, it just isn’t in the minerals. The benefits are in the its protein profile and its impact on how our body digests the other parts of our meals.

Modern American diets tend to have an imbalanced amino acid intake. The reliance on muscle meats almost exclusively, instead of engaging in “nose-to-tail” eating of the animals, results in an overabundance of some amino acids and a very little of others.  This imbalance appears to have significant consequences for our health such as fertility and lifespan.

Also, bones in animals and humans are only partially made up of minerals but a large percentage is collagen which is built from proteins.  The two main proteins in collagen are glycine and proline, and a fair amount of glutamic acid which gives the foods made from bones their rich and savory flavor, as explained extensively in the cookbook Broth and Stock.

This is in stark contrast to muscle meat, whose primary amino acid is methionine.  Methionine can deplete your body’s glycine stores, among other problems it can contribute to when consumed in excess. And make no mistake, most modern American diets have an excess of methionine because of the over reliance on animal muscle meats and disregard and dislike for the other parts of the animal.

Thus, bone broth plays a protective, nutritionally balancing role in modern muscle meat rich diets.  It also contains a host of other beneficial compounds such as gelatin, chondroitin, and more that have known health benefits.

Maximizing Bone Broth and Stock’s Nutritional Value

Long-simmered bone broths and stocks are not really meant to be a food unto themselves, even though a nice warm mug of broth in the morning is a nice mix up from the usual fare.  Rather, they serve a critical role in cuisine.  They are the base, or foundation, for so many satisfying, easy to digest, and nutrient dense-dishes.  What would chicken soup be without chicken stock?  What would glazed short ribs be without demi-glace?

Traditionally, bone broths and stocks served as a complement for meat and vegetable dishes, on its own as a companion to a dinner of meats, fish, pulses and vegetables, or blended together with these foods in soups and stews.  It’s as part of these dishes that bone broths and stock truly shine, both nutritionally and culinarily, providing deep-rooted flavor and copious amounts of protein, much in the way of gelatin, as a partner to the ample vitamins and minerals provided by other foods.

These latter benefits of stocks are historically and in other cultures well established but are debated by modern American dietary authorities. Regardless, broth has a long history of use in many cultures and the clichéd “Grandma’s Chicken Soup” which always soothed a cold is just one familiar example in a long, rich tradition of genuinely nourishing our families.

How to Make Magnificent Broth

Pair bone broths with plenty of vegetables, and  Broth and Stock is the essential cookbook for making bone broth and stock, plus gorgeous recipes for using broths that you make.  These recipes pair gelatin-rich bone broths with vitamin- and mineral-rich vegetables for wholesome, delicious meals.

Assemble the right tools for making bone broths.  You’ll want a heavy stock pot for simmering your broth, a skimmer for removing the foamy scum that rises to the top of broth as it cooks, and a fine-mesh sieve for straining the broth once it’s done.

If you don’t have time to make bone broth at home, you can purchase traditionally made, slow-simmered bone broth online here. It’s shelf-stable and great to keep on hand for times when you just don’t have broth handy.

Cherry Water Kefir

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 00:25

Cherry season always has a way of making summer seem just a little more special. Ruby red sour cherries and deep burgundy sweet cherries are a favorite in our house, and while the season is short, we find plenty of ways to enjoy them.

If you have kids in the house it is always a fun event to watch those irresistible juicy cherries disappear when they haven’t seen a cherry since last summer. I like to snag a bowl or two to create a few seasonal recipes and cherry water kefir is usually on the list.

What’s Water Kefir?

Water kefir grains are small and translucent, gelatinous and crystal-like structures that are full of beneficial bacteria, and it’s those beneficial bacteria that help to transform sugar and fruit juice into wholesome, naturally fermented drinks, reducing their sugar content and giving them a probiotic boost.

Check out this quick water kefir tutorial for the full scoop.

How to use cherries to second ferment water kefir

Water kefir is a summer staple in our home, and it is fun to take some of those brewed batches of water kefir and give them a bubbly, second ferment make-over with fresh summer fruit. Sweet cherries turn that mildly lemon water kefir into a bubbly sweet cherry soda-like drink.

Drinking probiotic-rich drinks like water kefir keep the beneficial flora in the gut balanced. The good bacteria in the gut not only aids digestion, it also boosts the immune system. The integrity of the lining in the intestines is crucial in keeping harmful pathogens at bay, and the gut flora presence is a first line of defense.

How to Start with Water Kefir

For kids who have never had water kefir before, start out small and even water it down a little to ensure they tolerate the extra bacteria well. I start my toddlers out with a tea cup half full and splash a little water in.) Adults who are new to water kefir might also take care to start out slow with a couple of ounces at a time to ensure the beneficial bacteria inhabit the environment well.

Cherry Water Kefir Print Recipe type: Beverage Cuisine: American Author: Renee Kohley Prep time: 5 mins Total time: 5 mins Serves: 2 quarts Mildly sweet, slightly tart and wonderfully bubbly, this homemade soda gets its fizz from water kefir and its vivid red color from sweet cherries for a drink that's traditionally fermented and rich in beneficial bacteria. Ingredients For the Cherry Water Kefir

  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Concentrace
  • ½ cup water kefir grains
  • 1¼ cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
Special Equipment Instructions
  1. First, brew the water kefir. Warm 1 cup of water stovetop and while that is warming up, place the sugar, sea salt, and concentrace into a half gallon jar. Pour the hot water over the sugar, salt, and concentrace and stir with a wooden spoon until fully dissolved. Fill the rest of the jar with fresh water, leaving a couple inches of headspace at the top. The water kefir grains need a room temperature environment so this cools off the hot water. Add the water kefir grains to the sugar water. and then seal your jar with an airlock (like this one). Let the water kefir ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for 2-3 days, or until the flavor suits your taste.
  2. After a few days or when the water kefir tastes the way you like, prepare your cherries and place them into flip-top bottles.
  3. Strain the brewed water kefir (you can place the grains into fresh sugar water to make more kefir). Pour the brewed water kefir into the bottles with the cherries, and seal. Let the cherry water kefir ferment at room temperature for 1-2 days until bubbly. Transfer to the fridge where it will keep for 2 weeks. Strain and serve chilled over ice.

Where to Find Water Kefir Grains

In order to make water kefir and many fermented sodas, you’ll need a starter culture: water kefir grains.  Water kefir grains are a culture of beneficial bacteria that takes on a clear, gelatinous, crystal-like structure, and it’s these beneficial bacteria that eat up the sugar and fruit juice, making these naturally fermented sodas wonderfully fizzy.  You can order them online here.

Our Favorite Fermented Drinks

Traditionally fermented drinks are super easy to make at home, and are rich in beneficial bacteria that help to build gut health and support the immune system.  Most are made using a starter culture, such as water kefir or kombucha.

Cranberry Orange Water Kefir is a sweet, tart fizzy drink that’s easy to make just like this Cherry Water Kefir.

Cinnamon Spice Kombucha is another fizzy, fermented drink that’s a great addition to the wintertime table.

Raspberry Ginger Soda is made with a ginger bug, and combines the sweet raspberries with the fire of ginger for an easy, probiotic drink.

Probiotic Naturally Fermented Honey Lemonade can get super bubbly and tastes like a mostly dry, mildly sweet lemonade soda.

Thyme and Jalapeño 
Pickled Carrots

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 15:26

Thyme and Jalapeño 
Pickled Carrots Print Prep time: 5 mins Total time: 5 mins Serves: 1 quart The thyme gives these pickles a unique smoky flavor and the jalapeño lends a spicy kick. For less spice, cut the jalapeño in half and remove the seeds. This will give you a milder pickle without losing the jalapeño flavor. If you really do not like spicy, you could omit the jalapeño entirely. This recipe comes from the gorgeous book, The Herbalist's Kitchen. Ingredients For the Pickled Carrots

  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 8–10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4–5 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch-long, 
¼-inch-thick sticks
For the Brine
  • 2 cups nonchlorinated water (we recommend this water filter)
  • 1 tablespoon noniodized salt, such as this sea salt
Equipment Instructions
  1. Place the whole jalapeño, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns into a clean 1-quart mason jar. 
Put the carrot sticks in on top of the herbs 
and spices, packing them in tightly. Leave 
½ to ¾ inch of headroom at the top of the jar.
  2. Prepare the brine: Warm ¼ cup of the water, add the salt, and stir until dissolved. Stir that salty water into the rest of the water.
  3. Pour enough brine over the carrots to cover them by ¼ inch. (You should have enough brine, but make more if you need to.) Put the lid on the jar and set aside to ferment at room temperature. I leave my fermenting carrots 
on the kitchen counter by the sink to make the next step easier.
  4. As the fermentation progresses, gas will form inside the jar. Without actually taking the lid off, loosen the lid of the jar to release the 
pressure. I do this over the sink, as sometimes the jar contents will bubble up and some of the brine can leak out. Leave the lid loosened until the bubbles stop, then tighten the lid back down and let the jar ferment for another day. Do this daily for the first week.
  5. At the end of the week, remove the lid completely to make sure the brine still covers the carrots by ¼ inch; any carrots exposed to air may mold. Add more brine as needed and tighten the lid back on the jar.
  6. Now set the carrots aside in a cool, dark spot to ferment for 4 weeks. Check them every week to make sure there is still sufficient brine covering the carrots and to release any pressure. It is common for a powdery-looking film, called kahm yeast, to form on the surface of the brine. You may also see spots of mold, which will 
usually form in a thicker layer and may look hairy or textured. The brine itself may also grow cloudy, which is normal. As long as the mold growth is on the surface of the ferment and hasn’t penetrated the vegetables themselves, you can simply use a clean spoon to scrape off the mold and as much of the yeast as you can, and it’s perfectly safe to continue to ferment or to eat the vegetables.
  7. Begin to taste the carrots after 4 weeks. They should be sour, spicy, and a little smoky tasting (that comes from the thyme!). They should still be crunchy, but not as much as a raw carrot. If they still seem raw, or you want them softer, they have not fermented long enough; replace the lid and give them another 1 to 3 weeks. The speed of fermentation will vary depending on the ambient temperature. They will ferment faster in warmer temperatures and slower in cooler temperatures.
  8. When you like the taste, store the carrots in the refrigerator, where they will keep for 6 months. Once they are refrigerated, the carrots do not have to be submerged beneath the brine; the cold will keep them from spoiling.
Notes Excerpted from Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, © by Brittany Wood Nickerson, photography by © Keller+Keller Photography, used with permission from Storey Publishing. 3.5.3226

Sour Pickles

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 04:43

Want to liven up your summer table? Look no further than sour pickles. Naturally fermented, sour pickles are rich in beneficial bacteria and food enzymes, offering a dairy-free source of probiotics .

Vinegar pickles lack the beneficial bacteria found in traditional, sour pickles. To ferment real pickles they must go through lactic acid fermentation – a process that encourages the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.

Why We Don’t Use Vinegar (and why that’s good!)

Just as salt is used to prepare a traditional sauerkraut, unrefined sea salt is likewise used to prepare traditional sour pickles. While many traditionally fermented vegetables require pounding vegetables long enough for them to release their juices which then combine with salt to create a brine, in preparing sour pickles, you prepare the brine separately and pour it over cucumbers and seasonings.

This brine helps to keep pathogenic bacteria and stray mold spores at bay while encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria which metabolize the vegetable’s natural sugars and produce lactic acid as a byproduct. This is why sour pickles, traditionally prepared, are sour without the addition of vinegar. The lactic acid fermentation is also good for our bodies. Traditional fermented foods help balance the production of stomach acid.

Sour Pickles Print Prep time: 10 mins Total time: 10 mins Serves: 1 gallon Sharply sour and infused with the intense flavor of dill and garlic, these sour pickles are made the traditional way, by allowing cucumbers to ferment in a saltwater brine. Ingredients For the Sour Pickles
  • 1 gallon unwaxed pickling cucumbers, approximately 8 pounds
  • 2 heads flowering dill
  • 2 large bulbs garlic
  • 3 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 horseradish leaf
  • 6 tablespoons finely ground sea salt
  • 3 quarts filtered water
Special Equipment Instructions
  1. Rinse the cucumbers well to remove any dirt or debris, and then trim away any small stems of vine or flowers that might still adhere to them.
  2. Dump the cucumbers into the basin of your sink, and fill the sink with cold water. Allow the cucumbers to soak in the cold water for 20 minutes, long enough to perk them up a bit before they ferment
  3. Peel the garlic, and drop it into your fermentation crock. Then, add the pickling cucumbers, dill, horseradish leaf and pickling spice.
  4. Create a brine by spooning the salt into the water, and whisking them together until the salt dissolves completely. Pour the brine into the crock, weighing the cucumbers down, and completely submerging all the ingredients. Make sure your crock is completely full of brine, adding more as necessary. If using a traditional crock (like this one), place the lid on the jar and fill the crock's well with water, checking every few days to make sure the water hasn't evaporated and the seal remains intact.
  5. Allow the cucumbers to ferment for at least 1 week and up to 1 month at room temperature. Taste them every few days, and when they achieve the flavor and sourness you like, transfer the pickles and brine to mason jars, storing them in the fridge up to 6 months.
3.5.3226 Pro Tip: Use the Right Equipment

Using the right equipment to make sour pickles will help you to avoid accidentally contaminating your pickles with the stray yeasts and molds that could ruin your batch. A traditional fermentation crock will allow your cucumbers to ferment under the best conditions, without the free flow of air. You can find them online here.

Other Fermented Vegetables You’ll Love

Fermented vegetables are beautifully complex in flavor, but refreshingly easy to make as long as you have the right equipment and a little time. Like yogurt, fermented vegetables are rich in beneficial bacteria that helps to support gut health and immune system function. You can find all of our fermented vegetable recipes here , but below you’ll find a few of our favorites.

Homemade Sauerkraut requires nothing more than salt, cabbage and a little time.

Hot Pink Jalapeno Garlic Kraut is a great riff on traditional sauerkraut, and spiked with plenty of garlic and a touch of jalapeno.

Fermented Green Tomatoes and Hot Peppers is another really simple, flavor-forward traditional pickle.

Strawberry and Blueberry Kefir Popsicles

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 07:53

These tricolored popsicles consist of two layers of strawberry purée separated by a layer of milk kefir dotted by blueberries. A special treat that is packed with nourishment: vitamins, food enzymes, beneficial bacteria, healthy fats and antioxidants. And they’re perfect for 4th of July celebrations.

Treats That Are Good For Your Family

Popsicles like this tricolored version for the Fourth of July and this version of homemade creamsicles are favorites among children. Especially among children who consume a nourishing diet that restricts the consumption of processed foods, the inclusion of brightly colored treats like this one help to offer a sense of dietary normalcy. While parents, like me, who avoid artificial flavors and colors can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the bright colors come from real food as opposed to artificial colorings.

Benefits of Berries

Berries are abundant in summer, sweet and bright in flavor. They freeze well, so if you can find them cheaply at farmers markets during the peak of their season, buy them by the case and stock up for winter.

All berries, but blueberries and raspberries in particular, are powerfully anti-inflammatory foods and boast an ORAC value of 4,302 to 5,065. The ORAC value rates an individual food’s oxygen radical absorbance capacity, and is a way to estimate that food’s antioxidant capacity.

Much of the benefit to berries rests in their high level of anthocyanins – antioxidant pigments found abundance in beets and many other red- or blue-hued fruits and vegetables. These naturally occurring phytonutrients may also provide protective effects against cancer, diabetes, neurological diseases and overall inflammatory disorders.

Benefits of Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is a cultured dairy food, much like yogurt. Like yogurt, milk kefir is rich in beneficial bacteria and food enzymes. It is also rich in a unique nutrient called kefiran which may account for many of its benefits.

Researchers have linked cultured dairy products, like milk kefir, to a reduced risk of bladder, breast and colon cancer. Milk kefir may also prove beneficial not only for achieving and maintaining digestive wellness, but also in the recovery of foodborne illness. You can learn more about its benefits and how to prepare milk kefir here and you can get started making milk kefir here.
Strawberry and Blueberry Kefir Popsicles Print Recipe type: dessert Cuisine: American Prep time: 6 hours Total time: 6 hours Serves: 6 popsicles Gorgeous, ripe summer berries blend beautifully with tart milk kefir for an easy, lightly sweet popsicle. Layers of strawberry purée, partnered with blueberries and milk kefir make these popsicles a visually striking treat for 4th of July Celebrations. Ingredients For the Popsicles

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk kefir (find a starter here)
  • ¼ cup blueberries
Special Equipment Instructions
  1. Toss the strawberries, lemon juice and two tablespoons of the honey into a high-powered blender (see our favorite here), and purée them together until completely smooth. Pour half of the strained strawberry purée into popsicle molds (like these stainless steel molds), and reserve the remaining puree for the final layer of your popsicles. Freeze the purée in the molds until it's firm, at least 2 hours.
  2. Whisk the remaining two tablespoons honey into one cup milk kefir until well-combined. Remove the single-layered popsicles from the freezer and prepare the middle layer by evenly spoon the sweetened kefir into a single layer in the popsicles. Once you've used up all the milk kefir, gently push blueberries into the layer of milk kefir and place the popsicles back into the freezer. Freeze popsicles until the milk kefir sets, about two hours.
  3. After the layer of milk kefir has set, pour the remaining strawberry puree evenly among the popsicles, and return them to the freezer until all layers are set, preferably overnight.
  4. To unmold the popsicles, hold the mold under lukewarm water for a few seconds until the popsicles release cleanly.

Where to Buy Stainless Steel Popsicle Molds

If you wish to avoid the endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in many plastic popsicle molds, consider purchasing stainless steel molds (find them here). While more expensive than their plastic counterparts, they are also sturdier and longer lasting.

More Frozen Treats Your Family Will Love

It’s always nice to have a little treat on hand for the kids or yourself during those particularly hot summer afternoons – something to enjoy at the lake, the beach or even the backyward.

Blackberry Mint Popsicles combine ripe blackberries with light, mint-infused cream for an utterly smooth homemade treat.

Cultured Coconut Mango Popsicles blend cultured coconut milk with fresh mangoes for an easy treat.

Blackberry Sorbet is an easy-to-make, naturally sweetened dessert.

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