Simple Sauerkraut

No doubt you’ve all heard by now how good fermented foods are for you, for your gut health, which science is now discovering plays an incredibly significant role in your overall health and wellbeing.
Looking into the types of fermented foods that are espoused by Those In The Know, I considered sauerkraut to be the easiest one to attempt myself (besides natural yoghurt… which I already make… But my sourdough bread attempts haven’t been ultra successful) :/
So, Googling in my usual style, I discovered the basic elements for homemade sauerkraut. And they are cabbage and salt. Yep, that’s all folks. Of course you can add things in for variety and taste – like other veggies, herbs and spices, even extra probiotic cultures – but on the whole I usually stick with the basics.
It’s ridiculously easy. The hardest part is waiting for it to become edible: waiting out the fermentation period.Food Fervour

You can buy special equipment for the process (this can ensure better success) but I literally began with a 1 litre glass jar. An ex-coconut oil jar (pictured right). No frills whosoever. (Except that it had to have a mouth that I could fit my hand into; that’s imperative …you’ll see why.) Food FervourIf, however, you end up liking and wanting to continue production after your first test batch, I’d highly recommend at the very least purchasing a jar with a proper rubber seal, such as the one pictured left.

Food FervourLuckily for me, a very inventive friend made a couple of purpose-built jars (equipped with beer brewing parts that allow oxygen to escape but not enter, for a more sterile environment) and gave them to me (pic right) so I can make ‘kraut til the cows come home 😛

For a 1 litre container you’ll need 1kg of cabbage (about half of a large head) and 1 tablespoon of salt (I opt for Celtic sea or Himalayan for the higher trace mineral content). When I remember, I pop a bay leaf in too. Note: if you’re trying this for the first time and fear failure (don’t worry, I often do too) simply halve the amounts and the jar size. That way there’ll be less to throw out if (1) it fails or (2) you decide you don’t like it!

Step One: Peel off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and set them aside… don’t discard, we’ll be needing them later.

Step Two: Simply shred the cabbage and place into a very large bowl. You can finely chop with a large knife on a large chopping board, in batches. Or using a food processor if preferred, and also in batches (I have done it in my Thermomix, smaller batches, a few seconds on Speed 4-5)

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Yes, ALL of this does eventually fit in that jar…and easily!

Step Three: Add the salt (*and any other herbs or spices you’d like to include) and now you gotta git yer hands dirty! So make sure they’re clean. You need to get both hands into the bowl and massage the salt though the cabbage (et al). Really squeeze it, crush the life out of it! Food FervourThis is important to release the fluids (predominantly water) in the vegetable so that – combined with the salt you added – a brine can manifest. Give it a good couple of minutes… the longer, the better.

Step Four: Let it rest. Wash your hands, set the timer for 15 minutes and go have a cuppa or something. The magic happens here: the salt continues to draw the fluid from the cabbage, increasing the amount of all-important brine.

Step Five: Grab your jar and (with clean hands of course) begin stuffing the cabbage mixture in. Take a break when you think it’s lookin’ kinda full and start squashing the cabbage down to the bottom of the jar. As hard as you can. You are squeezing out as much air as possible and you’ll probably notice all of a sudden the brine is coming to the top. Food FervourYeah! Keep going! Chuck more of that stuff in and keep pressing it down. Eventually you’ll reach the end and you should be lucky enough to have all of the mixture well below the level of brine.

 

Step Six: Those spare outer cabbage leaves you kept at the start? This is where they come in. Choose one and push it in, down below the brine, as level as you can, across the top of your original ‘kraut mixture. Again, you’re trying to get as much of the air out from underneath that baby as possible. Food FervourI often do it with a couple of pieces to make well-and-sure that my mix is well under the waterline. When you’re satisfied, tightly cap the jar. (Professional home-sauerkraut makers buy special weights to ensure the sheltering cabbage leaf stays down but… I’ve never felt the need…)

Step Seven: Date your creation (I pop little stickers on the lid, see pic below) and store for at least one week, maximum two, in a cool dark place (the back of the pantry is ideal). Food FervourAfter one or two ‘explosive’ experiences (not really as scary as it sounds, just pressure build-up..) I decided to sit the jar in a little bowl just in case there’s a Great Brine Escape (leakage).

When you’re ready to open it, discard the top cabbage leaves (and the excess brine if you like) and keep refrigerated. I’ve had opened jars in the fridge for up to 4 months!

Now I must stress this is not the most hygienic way to make sauerkraut (as I said, there is proper equipment available out there in the marketplace) but of all the batches I’ve made (I’d guess nearly a dozen?) in the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one batch that failed. And I knew it simply because it just didn’t smell right. Trust your nose, People. Science tells us there is no better apparatus to recognise bad food, than our own noses.

If you’re wondering whose sauerkraut recipe inspired me, take a look at The Healthy Chef (Teresa Cutter)’s Polish Sauerkraut. If you’re not exactly sure what to do with your sauerkraut once it’s ready open, check out some of the meals I’ve used it in:

https://foodfervour.com/2014/11/25/a-probiotic-toastie/

https://foodfervour.com/2016/01/18/an-eclectic-rainbow-salad/

https://foodfervour.com/2014/12/11/asparagus-sprouted-lentils-with-avocado-sauerkraut-mash/

 

 

 

 

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The Quickest, Easiest Nutrient-Dense Meal

Don’t you just love those ads that appear on almost every website, enticing you click, to find out what “5 foods you should never eat”? It’s laughable. Oh I have gone there, never you mind. Pretty much every time you are subjected to some long-winded video that culminates in no answer but a sales pitch.

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A simple salad with avocado & seeds

I’m going to give you an answer for free.

The quickest, easiest, healthiest meal you can make is:

Salad.
Just salad.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m lazy. On the whole, I hate complex recipes and heaps of washing up …and I’m also impulsive: if I’m hungry, I want it NOW.
But I’m passionate about eating well, as ‘cleanly’ (where ‘clean’ means as unprocessed and free of toxins, read: organic) as possible. And since veggies are the most nutrient -dense and -varied, my aim is to get as many in each day as possible …many more than the government’s “5 per day” guideline.

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Rushing to work? This healthy lunchbox takes no time at all

Salads make this possible when you are limited for time.  The only equipment you need to start with is:

One chopping board, a knife & your choice of serving vessel.

(I prefer bowls, so I can toss my salad more easily without scattering bits everywhere. Oh and they hold ‘fluid’ better, should I go overboard on the dressing) That’s it. Makes for a very quick and easy clean up.

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My favourite salad dish is a big square bowl

Then it’s just a matter of pulling all your foodstuffs out of the fridge. A little bit of organisation will take you a long way here: to put it simply, I try to keep everything together so I don’t have to make multiple trips. (Again, time-saving. Yes okay, as well as lazy…) The veggie crisper/drawer/bin (whatever you like to call it) is good for that. Who knows… maybe it was even designed with this in mind? 😉
Since I buy a lot of produce, it usually won’t all fit in my crisper, so I use another large plastic container in which I store the overflow (I bought it YEARS ago and it still works a treat)…

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Next it’s chopping time. Literally, chop: roughly or finely, however you prefer. (just no fingers, please!) I’ll usually cut finely because I like more variety in one mouthful!

I tend to put green leafy stuff underneath (spinach/lettuce/rocket) unless it’s more of a garnish (basil/watercress/mint) then load in the rest and toss it all together. Seriously, MOST foods/flavours combine well. All you have to do if you’re the slightest bit uncertain, is envisage salads you may have eaten in the past, or standard salads everybody knows. For example, I’ve turned Waldorf salad – basically celery, apply & walnuts – into a nutritional giant by throwing in green leafy stuff, cucumber, mint, eshallots, snowpeas. If you are really stuck, just Google. (Or follow me on Instagram for inspiration!) Pick an ingredient you want to use, type it in with “salad recipes” behind it and Bob’s your uncle. You will find literally tonnes of recipes on the net, and you’ll also discover that many of them are quite similar. (This is one way to become familiar with food pairings: you’ll surprised how easily you’ll absorb the info you glean…)

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Here’s my ‘pimped up’ version of a basic Beetroot & Feta salad recipe I found on the ‘net…

 

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I’m so lazy that most of the time I don’t even blend the oil & vinegar, I just pour them directly onto the dish from the bottles.

‘Rabbit Food’ can be tedious, I’ll grant you, but it’s only due to a lack of imagination and experimentation. The dressing is often the key to salads’ flavour, and will definitely help those who (think they) detest veggies to consume them with more ease. The problem is, shop-bought (ready-made/processed) dressings house a lot of the nasties (including excessive amounts of sugar) we need to avoid. If you haven’t the time or inclination to Google dressing recipes (by the way, here’s 50 of them, I found just now on the ‘Food Network’ site…) the easiest thing to do is throw either fresh citrus juice or your choice of vinegar with some extra virgin olive oil into a small jar, screw on the cap, then shake vigorously. Instant ‘clean’ dressing. Voila!

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‘Leftover’ Lamb Salad

Another consideration for the ‘veggie-haters’ is protein. Since our meals should include some of this macronutrient anyway (lazy me prefers nuts, seeds, boiled eggs & cheeses) the addition of your favourite meat will make salads even more palatable. Obviously for time-saving purposes, you’d look at using leftovers from a previous meal… unless you also had time to cook something. In which case, you wouldn’t be needing to read this post in the first place…?

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‘Sweetlip’ fish on a bed of salad

So, there’s really no excuse, as far as I can see. Eating healthily really doesn’t take much more time than it would to hop in your car and head to McDonald’s. But it’s a whole world more beneficial to your Insides. Which – quite bluntly – is the only thing that matters, because it’s where pretty much all Disease originates.

So, grab a knife and get healthy… Chop-chop!

 

My Sore Throat Soother

I don’t get sick often. But I’m pleased that, becoming so well-acquainted with my body, I can now pre-empt an immune system crash. You truly need to learn to listen to your body…

I worked 22 hours over the weekend and could sense a composite energy pattern at play: I was stimulated by the social nature of the work (customer service…as well as entertaining my fellow workmates!) as well as the coffee I’d knocked back earlier in the day but then exhaustion was also discernible in some little mishaps (read: brain fog) and the loss of self discipline (poor food choices!) the further the shifts progressed. The physical ‘dead-giveaway’ was how dry my lips were, despite drinking heaps of water….

So upon waking with a sore throat in the morning, I’ve swapped out my usual cup of black tea (dehydrating caffeine) with the old lemon-water trick. But mine is a little different… because I (pretty much) always have “nutrient density” on my mind. It’s by no means an original idea to add honey and ginger to a hot lemon & water drink, for their flavour (honey tames the lemon, ginger’s fire combats the stinging throat) and health properties, but I have found that a little turmeric (one of the flavour-of-the-month ‘superfoods’) goes well too.
It actually happened by mistake: I’d been given a turmeric root that was very pale in colour (not the usual vivid yellow) so I kind of mistook it for my ginger bulb (I store them both in a container in the freezer). Luckily I didn’t use too much, and the result was quite palatable.

food fervourSo what I do is pop the kettle on boil, ‘shave’ thin slivers of frozen ginger and turmeric (more ginger than turmeric, for taste) and pop them straight into my mug. Pouring the boiled water straight in, the root spices have a little time to steep, while I collect and add half a teaspoon of (raw) honey, stirring to dissolve. Then I’ll cut and juice half a lemon, and it’s ready to drink (at quite a palatable temperature too, thanks to the ‘cold’ lemon juice) immediately.

Oh, the relief! Thing is, it tastes so good I sometimes opt for a mug of the stuff when I’m not feeling off-colour, and that certainly cannot be a bad thing! 😉

The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me. Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years, but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the still-partially-frozen Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)…. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight! 😉

Liquid Health: Pros & Cons of Smoothies

I just gorged on cheese. I felt like some cheese on toast for lunch but thanks to my relationship with ‘instant gratification’ I started hoeing into the Nimbin Natural before my GF bread was toasted. Then I had a couple more pieces while the griller took its turn. So by the time I’d eaten, I was full as a goog (Aussie slang for “I’ve had sufficient”).

Now, with the stomach juices working hard (& loud!) I’m feeling a tad guilty about the lack of fibre & nutritional variety in that ‘meal’. Since there’s no way I could fit a whole salad in after all that (a sign in itself…) I’m going to ‘supplement’ with a smoothie.
Good old smoothies!
How did we ever live without them before? Nutrient-dense meals-on-the-run.
They are SO easy. So ridiculously easy. And they’re a blank canvas for the Creative. The one basic ‘rule’ I can ever recall hearing somewhere is:
60% FRUITS + 40% VEGGIES/GREENS

food fervourOf course, when you get used to them (that is, when you “harden up”!) you may find you can reduce the fruit component, which is a good thing for those who want to ‘control’ their fructose intake. Intensely flavoured components of a smoothie can disguise less palatable ingredients. If you have some idea of what fruits & vegetables go well together, you’re unlikely to go too far wrong. If all else fails… Google. There are literally thousands of recipes out there in the ether.

For this one I grabbed an orange, lots of strawberries & blueberries, a banana and a couple of dates and blended them with a chunk of cucumber, a stick of celery (leaves’n’all) a handful of baby spinach and some cabbage.
I blended the solids first to break them up as much as possible, then added my liquid (coconut water in this instance) for a smoother drink.

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So full… More for later!

The thing to remember with smoothies (and here I hark back to the ‘sign’ I mentioned during my cheese story) is that by liquefying your food, it’s easier to consume more than you need, plus there’s less work for your digestive system to undertake. While that can seem like a good thing  – and it can be when you are unwell and need all the energy (& nutrients) you can get for minimal effort, while your immune system is hard at work – healthy peops are likely to become hungrier sooner (despite ingesting a salad bowl’s worth of calories). Because your digestive organs aren’t really getting the ‘workout’ for which they were designed. They need the challenge of some tough fibre or dense proteins to breakdown in the same way your body responds to the fitness challenges you (should) apply to it in training!

To this end, I don’t believe smoothies should be consumed on a regular (daily) basis. After all, human evolution didn’t involve electric blenders!

For a meal on a run, yes – if you really CAN’T make the time. For instant gratification, yes, if you really CAN’T exercise self control. And heck, even for the occasional ‘nutrient supplementation’ after a very average meal (to wit: me, today) and at the expense of excessive energy intake!

 

Welcome to My Passion

This has been a long time coming. And I mean LONG.

I didn’t realise how obsessed I was with food until I recently began looking back over diaries from my youth. I’ve always had this ‘thing’ with food. Lucky for me, my career path led me toward Health by way of the Fitness Industry. Nutrition goes hand-in-hand with fitness so my exposure to the subject deepened. I read, I researched, I experimented. But it was the brief encounter I had with something called Epigenetics that truly awakened my passion for Food, for Clean Eating, but I’ll bore you with that at another time.

Suffice to say, it’s all about Whole Food to me. I subscribe to the Low HI philosophy (credit Dr John Tickell)… Low Human Interference. The more packaged and processed a ‘food’ is, the less benefit it is to you. Fewer processes, fewer additives, fewer nutrients lost. I’m all about nutrient-density and really basic COMMON SENSE eating.

So I’m blogging to give you ideas. I’ll be excited, especially with my new best friend the Thermomix, so I hope my enthusiasm, my fervour, is infectious. But a couple of warnings: I’m blasé and lazy. I often ‘bastardise’ recipes and rarely measure anything, so if you’re hoping to follow my lead, please have patience and moreover, TRUST that whatever happens, you’ll end up eating something that is way better for you than you would get out of a packet.

Let’s do this!

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My sister & I chowing down on Jelly Tip ice blocks in the early 70’s. My, how much has changed.