Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making Your Own - Sauerkraut

I finally did it!

I live in an area which is becoming famous for fermented foods. For a couple of years they have had a Fermentation Festival here with classes, talks and demos on fermented foods: how to make them and why they are good for you. Dozens of vendors let you sample the kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, olives, pickles and things I've never heard of, that they have for sale.

I have been getting huge heads of cabbage free every couple of weeks, so I decided it was time. My kraut has been 'working' for a couple of weeks now and it's looking good.

I used a recipe from a local free magazine called "Discoveries: For Those Who Live and Play in Northwest Sonoma County".

These are the instructions I followed and so far it's looking great.

This recipe is for Sauerkraut or Kimchee

Thinly shred a medium head of cabbage in a food processor or by hand with a sharp knife--the thinner the shred, the crunchier the result. Thinly slice 2 green onions using both the green and white parts, and two tiny red Thai chili peppers (or some crushed dried hot red peppers to taste). Add one teaspoon grated ginger and one large clove of garlic, smashed and chopped fine (Other optional ingredients are daikon radish, carrots, beets, dry hijiki seaweed, cumin, dill or parsley). [I used cabbage, garlic, ginger and seaweed in mine because I have had this combination and love it.]

In a large glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl, add 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of sea salt to the shredded cabbage mixture. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes until liquid (the brine) begins to form. Mash everything together with a potato masher to encourage brine. (It works!)

Then put the mixture into two very clean wide-mouthed 16 ounce canning jars (or a single quart jar), packing jars full by smashing down the contents with a spoon until the brine completely covers the top of the cabbage mixture. Leaving about 1/4-inch of space at the tops of the jars, screw on the lids, but not too tightly. Set the jars on top of the fridge (in a pie tin, in case of overflow) and cover with a towel.

Let sit two to three weeks or longer. After one month, your homemade sauerkraut/kimchee is ready to eat. You can put the unopened jars in the fridge to retain a crunchy texture.

Note: if you open the lid and discover a bit of mold on top, just scrape if off and the rest will be fine.

I used pink Himalayan salt.
Have another couple of weeks to go for my first batch. I'll make sure and let everyone know how it turned out. Tomorrow, I will start another batch since I just received another huge head of cabbage. I wonder what I'll put in it this time...maybe some chili peppers.

If you want to know about the Fermentation Festival which will be in the fall, you can subscribe to the Osmosis website newsletter to receive updates.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring in Pocket Canyon

This is the time of year when I fall in love with my home and yard again. I begin to go outside and work in my garden, happy to see which plants have survived the winter. Yesterday I saw an iris ready to bloom that has not bloomed for 6 years!

The stinging nettle is returning as is the elecampane and the agrimony - herbs I planted years ago which come back every year. The artemisias and the mugwort are coming up. The evening primrose and the St. John's wort have expanded - yay! For the first time ever the rosemary is blooming! Thyme, oregano, savory and rue have survived. The peppermint and spearmint are flourishing. For many, these are not great accomplishments, but out here in the redwoods, cold, wet, dark winter conditions threaten Mediterranean herbs. There is not a lot of sun even in the middle of summer, because I live in a narrow canyon surrounded by hundred foot trees. But I am glad and hopeful to see each one that returns.

I notice that the bluebells are out in force, remembering that the daffodils did not do so well this year. I know they are still there, since gophers don't like them. The foliage came up, but no flowers.

There is still enough water flowing through the small creek that crosses beneath my driveway, for a mini waterfall from the huge pipe that got installed before my time. I am comforted by this sound of water...this is a safe amount. All is well. The reflection of the big creek it falls into shimmers on my porch roof. It is delightful to sit out there and eat my late breakfast, read, write and dream. Each spring I see that I am not ready to give it up - this life in the woods, despite the discomforts I endured this past winter.
In winter I swear this is it...I'm moving, I can't stand it anymore. Worrying about flooding, and suffering from the bitter damp cold for months at a time.
But then Spring finally comes and with it a whole new perspective. I managed to start some peas in my little greenhouse, then transplant them between rainstorms. Now they have found the mesh I installed for them to climb up on.
This year there are dozens of new redwood sprouts. In the 18 years I've been here, I have never seen so many. Part of me wants to pull them up as they will take over my garden if they survive, but part of me realizes this is Nature reclaiming the land. I remember that I will not always be here, but these trees could live for hundreds of years.
When I first got this place I made a commitment to protect the redwoods on my I have a crop of babies! I should take this as a good sign and nurture them. The earth abides and I am grateful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Healing Power of Culinary Spices

Found this great book at the library the other day and highly recommend it. "Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Every Day and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease". The author is Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD. You can purchase it through  this blog by clicking the link in the sidebar.

Many of the spices you already have in your cupboard if you like to cook. Some have to be purchased at an herb store, some at ethnic grocery stores. I love it that spices and recipes from many world cuisines are included. The book describes the spice, where it comes from and how to identify it if there are others that are similar to it.

There is some history about the plants and how they have been used. It goes into research from around the world as to the healing properties both from the 'folk' point of view and through scientific research. On top of that there are recipes for using them in your everyday diet. Here are just a few examples:

Pomegranate Guacamole

1 lime
1 cup sliced scallions
4 garlic cloves, diced
2-3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Peel and pit the avocados and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice. Mash until it forms a coarse pulp.
2. Add the scallions, garlic, chiles, cilantro, and pomegranate juice. Continue to mash until well blended but still a little chunky. Fold in the pomegranate seeds.

Makes about 2 cups

The author refers to pomegranate as "a pharmacy unto itself", with special value for blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and numerous types of cancer.

Another gem - Lemongrass "the calming spice"
And who would not benefit from that these days? This is a good one for hot summer days (haven't seen many of those for a long time)...but you could drink it hot as well.

Lemongrass Tea

1 cup lemongrass pieces about 1/2 inch each
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water

It says to boil 2 cups water with the lemongrass and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Steep til cool then put in blender or food processor until finely chopped. Then you strain out all the solids. Serve cold or iced

Lemongrass is helpful in reducing cholesterol and has anti-cancer properties as well.

Although the book does have illustrations, more would be better. It has a chart on what you can use to substitute for spices you don't have when cooking and recipes for popular blends such as: bouquet garni and mulling spice. I was pleased to see another recipe for Ras-el-hanout since I collect them. A whole section at the back is devoted to curry and masala blends. Finally there is a section on where to find spices that may not be available in your area...websites and phone numbers.

I appreciate the fact that the author includes research done outside the U.S. and Europe, because we don't always have access to that. He pulls it all together in a very user friendly way. This book is a 'must have' for anyone trying eat their medicine.

2 ripe avocados