Fermented Things Friday: Cod Liver Oil and Carrots

Some fermented things are quite easy and quick to make. Take these carrots, for instance. I started 2 different fermented carrot projects yesterday. The total time required of me was 15 minutes (I prepared these both as my Lundberg Italian Herb Risotto was simmering away on the stove), and, granted, the fermented carrot sticks take a couple of weeks to ferment, but my net hands-on time was pretty minimal.

I was introduced to the idea of various forms of fermented carrots first through the book “Nourishing Traditions”, but actually tasted some when my friends, Drs. Todd and Molly Ferguson, naturopathic doctors at Prairie Naturopathic in Moorhead, MN, gave me some of their own homemade grated ginger-carrot blend. It was quite zingy, and I ‘bookmarked’ it in my head, to try at some point.  

Basic recipe for fermented grated carrots (Thanks to The Nourishing Cook): grate carrots (I didn’t peel mine, as they were organically grown, but I think I would peel them if they are conventionally grown) to equal about 2 cups. Add 2 tsp. salt (or, a combination of salt and whey. I am out of yogurt, do didn’t have whey. Take a look at the link to learn about whey quantities). Grate ginger – around 1 Tbl or so – or to taste. I would err on the side of starting out with less ginger, and then adding more in future batches, unless you’re a super-mega-ginger-fan.

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Like the process for making sauerkraut, you mash this all up, and let the salt draw out the natural juices. It helps if its in a slightly warm-ish place, but not hot. I think due to our April Snow Storm (can I just say, UGH!), my kitchen was on the chilly side, and I didn’t have the patience to wait for all those natural juices all day. I left the mixture out a good couple of hours before I put it in a clean pint jar, and topped it just to the top of the carrot-ginger mixture with pure water. I capped it with a clean jar band and lid, and let it on the looser side of tightened. You want gasses to be able to escape during the fermenting process. This can be left our 2 – 3 days, then put in ‘fridge or cold storage area.

Fermented carrot sticks were even easier (and I used this recipe from the Cultures for Health website – excellent e-store, and excellent resource!). Slice carrots into sticks. Dissolve 2 tsp. salt (non-iodized salt) into 2 1/2 c. water. Pack carrots into clean quart jar and pour salt water over the top. It is best if the carrots are submerged and not floating. If they float, cut up a few more to pack ’em in, or adjust them so the floaters stay put. Cap loosely with a jar lid. Let them sit on the counter in a slightly warm place for 2 – 3 weeks, then put in cold storage or ‘fridge. 

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I thought it was interesting, yet makes sense to me, that the grated carrots fermentation process was much shorter. The whole sticks take a longer time to ferment and get all that good enzymatic action happening. I would imagine it has to do with the releasing of the natural juices, and the surface area difference. Lots of surface area in grated carrots.

How do you eat these? The whole sticks can be snacked on, or added to things where you want a bit of a crunch, like a salad. Don’t cook ’em, as you’ll destroy the beautiful work done on the counter top. The grated ginger-carrots can be used also on top of a salad, in a sandwich, as a garnish or condiment with meat (esp. with roast beef, yum! or chicken. I think it would taste fabulous alongside a chicken stir fry). 

And about that Cod Liver Oil: Now, I have not, nor do I imagine I will any time in the near future, attempt to MAKE my own fermented cod liver oil. I’ll leave that to the professionals at Green Pasture, who make my brand. This is a supplement we just started taking recently. I’ve read about it, and thought about it over the last year or two, and just never took the plunge until recently. It’s a little pricey, but from people ‘in the know’ – healthy individuals, on the more natural side of things – taking cod liver oil is like getting a flu shot (without the potentially nasty side effects, one of which being, the efficacy of flu shots is questioned by the CDC itself! Not exactly a winning endorsement).  But, besides that, *fermented* cod liver oil had a great ratio of Vitamin D and A, which is important. And, you get the additional enzymatic benefits of fermentation, not to mention omega-3s present in sea critters! 

The taste? I get the ‘mint’ flavored variety, and we call it ‘gum juice’ (as much as to entice myself as the kids). To me, it tastes like when you just have spit out your gum, and you still have minty-gum-flavor in the your mouth. Not unpleasant. I do have to say, I can’t take it on an empty stomach, so when I administer the ‘gum juice’ to everyone, its usually right after breakfast, or, if I forget, lunch. I don’t take it every day, but probably 3 times a week. 

Why fermented? Simply, because its the traditional way. You don’t get nearly the same benefits, and there are even some causes for concern when the oil is not fermented, and by what process it is made. In non-fermented oil, vitamins are removed, and added back in. (Think pasteurized milk..more on that in a book review to come…)In general, and with very few exceptions, traditional food processes are healthier. You can learn more HERE.

Book review: Winter Blues by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD

The review of this book may seem, to some, untimely, as we’re now (at least here in North Dakota) fairly rapidly coming out of winter, and on our way to spring. However, one can never predict when one will find a good and helpful book, and I submit this now as a way to ‘plan ahead’ and, if you or someone you know/love struggles with seasonal depression, this book can greatly help to alleviate the suffering that goes along with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or its milder cousin, ‘winter blues’.

I learned much about the history of this disorder, which is now recognized by the diagnostic tools of the mental health profession. Once not understood, mis-understood, or ignored, seasonal depression is now more widely recognized and those who are affected by it have a real chance to regaining half their life.

Half their life? Yes, indeed. As the book describes, and its suffers attest, it feels like they are lost, or absent, for about half their life. The winter half.

The book presents the history of research and discovery, the treatment options available, and some self-assessments as to the severity of seasonal depression a person is experiencing. I especially appreciated the chapter outlining how to assess the seasonal ‘swing’ of children and adolescents: is it normal, is it the ‘winter blues, or is it SAD?

The book is readable in style, without being overly academic or tough. It really gave me a lot of hope to read it, both for myself (more on the ‘winter blues’) side, and several loved ones that I know suffer from the more serious form, SAD. Rosenthal’s book simultaneously helps those who suffer from seasonal depression not to blame themselves, as they cannot control how many hours the sun shines in their neck of the woods, while empowering them to know that there are reasonable and reliable steps that they CAN take to alleviate or even totally remit their suffering.

Well-done, and highly recommended.

 

Fermented Things Friday: Easy Homemade Sour Cream

Thanks to this Mother Earth News article, I have successfully made homemade sour cream, and thus Fermented Things Friday can return, after a long hiatus, during which I *gasp* threw away my kefir grains, and have my kombucha scobys stacked up in a veritable high-rise, and just await the energy to want to ferment more things again! This was an easy entry back, and a delightful and tangy spring treat. What’s more, it was made….

…In about 2 seconds (plus fermenting time).

It is seriously so easy, my children could do it. And come to think of it, I will teach them, so they could do it.

But first, “Why would a person want to make sour cream?” If you are asking, I will answer from my own perspective.

I just get sick and tired of seeing a long list of ingredients in my sour cream, when I know what sour cream is (should be) made of. Cream. Cream that has soured, and thickened.

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My first batch of homemade sour cream. Ingredients: cream, and vinegar to start the souring/culturing process!

Just as in this post from a few years back on chowhound.com, I don’t like the thickeners and weird things added, but was feeling lazy about doing anything about it. Well, after 2 seconds work and some fermentation on my countertop, I have sour cream made of cream once again.

I also think, and I think this blog attests, that I’m one of those weirdos who gets satisfaction from doing traditional things in a traditional way, and knowing that, even if my supermarket down the street explodes, I might still be able to feed myself. Rah!

Basic method:

Fill a clean glass jar with 1 c. of cream, and add 1/4 c. white vinegar (or, already prepared sour cream). I let it sit with a napkin over the top, held in place by a canning ring, for about 48 hours. I kept checking to see if it was thickening, or gelling up. It stayed fairly ‘milky’, though did thicken somewhat. After 48 hours, I plopped it in the fridge, where it cooled and thickened up very nicely!

The difference in taste between homemade and store-bought for me is – my homemade has a tangier bite to it, and is perhaps slightly less thick and gelled. I would imagine that over time, as I continue to make the soured cream in this method, it might gel more and loose a little bite. The neato thing is, after my first batch, and moving onto my second, I didn’t need to add the vinegar. I just topped up with some cream (and no, I didn’t measure) and then left it out. I left it out half as long this time also, before putting in the ‘fridge. So far, I’ve used it with my Wildtree spices to make a potato topped, and to make a dip for tortilla chips. Both were gobbled up, which I would equate with success.

This process does make me wish I had local organic heavy cream available, but alas, I do not. Many of the organic brands are ultra-pasteurized, making them perhaps unsuitable for this task. So, I’m using a locally available regional-based brand of heavy cream for making this, and will call that good.

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You can tell a bit in this picture, I think, that the cream has really thickened. It ‘traces’ when you stir it and let it drip into the jar, that is, you can see the lines where it has dripped, maintained on the surface.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Update: I added pictures, and, wanted to give an update on subsequent batches….My third batch of the sour cream was really runny. I’m not quite sure why! I left a little bit, maybe 2 Tbl. in the bottom of the jar, and then added more heavy cream (country style) and 2 Tbl. of white vinegar. The resulting sour cream tasted the most like ‘boughten’ sour cream of any of the batches! Success! I will try the next batch without adding any vinegar, and if I get the runny problem again, will consider continuing to add between 1 and 2 Tbl. of vinegar to each batch, with the residual sour cream from the last batch left in the jar to help get things going.

I won a book! ‘Vegetable Literacy’ by Deborah Madison, and review

Wow, now I can never again say, “I never win anything!” 😉 Following along with Margaret Roach’s gardening blog (horticultural how-to and ‘woo-woo’), I regularly enter the giveaways for the wonderful goodies, many of them books. And, right before Easter, I won a book!

picture of cover, Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison

Tempted as I am to devour the whole book in a day, I’m instead taking my time and reading the ample chapters just one at a time. The book, Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison, features a beautiful picture of garlic scapes on the cover (and I was sort of impressed with myself for knowing what they were, as a year ago, I would not have known!), and includes many pictures inside as well, of the delicious recipes she puts forth, each tucked neatly into her ‘family’ chapters – families of vegetables, that is. *One recipes I’m especially eager to try is a carrot cake unlike the traditional ‘American’ version, made with yellow carrots, and drizzled with a lemon ricotta sauce. The picture is breath-taking. As much as I love words, I’m a sucker for good, tempting pictures of food as well.

Madison groups vegetables and herbs by their family classification, and in the beginning of each chapter, talks about growing habits and conditions, a little bit of history at times, and the characteristics of the family — many members of which can be diverse even within a family group. the key, as she points out, came when she threw a handful of seeds into an un-used bed, mid-season in her garden. “I didn’t take time to label my plantings, believing foolishly that I’d remember what I had planted and where. I noticed that the seeds were all round and looked pretty much alike and when they came up the cotyledons were round and fleshy, and the true leaves, when they emerged, looked similar to one another. Similarities are what characterize related plants, after all, and there they were” (from Chapter 5: the Cabbage Family: The Sometimes Difficult Crucifers).  She then takes each vegetable and herb at its turn, telling more about its history or cultivation, popular varieties, and then, the recipes!

This books makes me take a deeper look at vegetable pairings to cook with, and also encourages me to make herbs an important part of my garden in the future. The herbs represented in each family have wonderful and unique recipes, maybe more impressive to me because, while I’ve definitely grown in using herbs, I still have a lot to learn! I will have no shortage of new recipes to try with the help of this book.

I also appreciate learning about some “old” vegetables and herbs that are uncommon in this day and age. While Madison readily admits that some of these oldies aren’t necessarily the “goodies” (and therefore it is no reason they’ve fallen out of fashion, due to such factors as taste or difficulty in preparation), some deserve to be rediscovered. On my list for further reading and review, inspired by this book, are Jerusalem artichokes, and chia seeds.

Lastly, what I have appreciated about this book is its approachable nature. While Madison is no doubt quite knowledgeable about gardening, this journey occurred more lately in her life, and so there is an aspect to her writing that suggests we’re on this learning journey together. I enjoy that, and it makes me want to read more..

Thanks to Margaret Roach at ‘A Way to Garden’ for the book, and of course, to Deborah Madison for writing it!

Book Review: Urban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume

I am both amazed and delighted by the growing number of similar books on the public library shelves dealing with the topic of doing traditional things (such as homesteading, farming, and the like) in the urban setting. As much as I sometimes yearn for a simpler, country life, with the way the world is, cities aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. And, its soothing to the soul to interact with the dirt and the living things wherever you find yourself.

So, that, really, is at the heart of this anthology, Urban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan, with K. Ruby Blume (founder of the Institute for Urban Homesteading).

Using what you have, treading lightly, living simply and traditionally — and yet in a modern way that doesn’t villify the city, but explores the vast range of things you can do to connect with your little square of earth. When you homestead, you build a home, in a frontier wilderness, doing things that have not been done before, clearing land, creating interdependence among fellow homesteaders, and employing a DIY-attitude.

In my opinion, the book is a good reference, and piqued my interest to research some topics further, such as growing my own mushrooms — that was probably my favorite article within the book. Of the concepts presented that were new to me, one thing I really resonated with and want to explore further is the concept of an urban homesteading ‘guild’, called a Homegrown Guild. This is a concept that author Rachel Kaplan has come up with through her non-profit homesteading education program, Daily Acts. This really made sense to me. Whether in the city, or in the country, we’re not meant to be independent islands, but interdependent social beings. We’ve each been blessed with differing skills and gifts. A new-fangled guild like this would pair a diverse set of people with a diverse set of skills together to help and support one another — the commonality being the shared vision of urban homesteading. Very cool.

Other topics covered (in the very wide range) included: choosing, caring for, and harvesting your animal friends, engineering greywater systems, and, of course, a lot about growing you own food in your yard.

As I’ve blogged about before, I sometimes feel torn about where I belong – out in the country, or in the heart of the city. However, I do know that cultivating my little patch of urban wilderness has brought joy into my life, and I’m heartened that this growing movement reaches more and more each year. People are curious – people want to connect, not only with dirt, but with each other – people want to recover lost knowledge – people want to slow down. This book encourages all of those good things. Definitely worth a read, to be inspired, and to be emboldened to take the next step, wherever you find yourself on the journey.