Monday, September 28, 2009

A month’s worth of probiotics for the price of a cabbage!

Did you know that you can easily make your own probiotics at home in your own kitchen from simple ingredients like salt, water and cabbage?
Lacto-fermented cabbage, aka Sauerkraut, is an ancient cultured vegetable that is loaded with probiotics and enzymes that grow through natural fermentation. I like getting my probiotics and enzymes from a food rather than a bottled supplement. I believe these probiotics and enzymes become highly available to the body because they are live right from the food rather than processed in an industrial plant awaiting rehydration in the digestive tract.

People that have taken many courses of antibiotics usually have reduced and out-of-balance intestinal bacteria opening the door for illnesses like candida, IBS, fungal infections, and parasites. Eating small amounts of lacto-fermented vegetables (1-2 tablespoons) at lunch and dinner on a regular basis helps to gently repair the intestinal environment. The enzymes help to digest the meal while the probiotics repopulate the intestines with friendly bacteria.

Watch Sauerkraut Video!

Here is the recipe for Sauerkraut:


1 medium cabbage, green, red or savoy (curly)
For leaf layer: 3-4 whole cabbage leaves peeled from the outside of the cabbage

For the brine
2 quarts filtered or spring water
Pure salt, kosher, pickling or coarse sea salt, with no additives

Large pot for boiling water
2 wide mouth quart canning jars
2 canning lids and rings
2-4 rocks that easily fit through the mouth of the canning jar. Garden rocks are great. Look for a rock about 2-3 inches in diameter and not more than 1 inch high. Alternately, you can use 2 smaller rocks in each jar.
Scrub rocks with a brush, run through dishwasher or wash thoroughly by hand.
Small pot for sterilizing the canning lids, rings and rocks
Something to press the cabbage into the jar, a crab mallet, a wooden food pusher, etc
Wide mouth funnel (optional) for filling the jar

Bring the filtered water to a boil for 4 minutes.
After it’s cooled a bit add 3 tablespoons of salt and stir to dissolve.
Allow brine to cool to near room temperature (2-4 hours or overnight)

In small pot sterilize lids, rings and rocks by boiling for 4 minutes.
Let them cool about 10 minutes and pour out the water to let them cool further.

Peel off, and set aside, a few outer leaves of the cabbage for the top leaf layer (you can also use horseradish leaves, raspberry leaves or grape leaves instead of cabbage).

When the brine is almost cool, chop or grate cabbage.
If using herbs or spices put them at the bottom of the quart jars.
Start layering the cut cabbage into the jar an inch or two high at a time, gently pressing it down with hands or pressing tool.
Keep adding 1-2 inch layers of cabbage until about 2-3 inches of space is left at the top.
Press it down again.
Fold a cabbage leaf, or other leaf to fit over the top layer of cabbage and press it in.
Place a rock or rocks on top of the leaf.
Pour brine into the jar leaving about 1 inch of space from the top.
Wipe any brine off top of jar, put lid on jar, and screw on band.

Allow to ferment on kitchen counter or shelf for 3 days at room temperature, 72 degrees.
Gently move to the refrigerator for 3 weeks.
Eat after 3-4 weeks. Store in refrigerator. Taste gets better with time.
Lasts 3-6 months in refrigerator.

Watch Sauerkraut Video!

Purchase Lacto-Fermentation Through The Seasons recipe book!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kombucha Tea in the Kitchen

Kombucha Tea has become a staple in my kitchen. I turn to it often.
Sometimes I use a ladle full of kombucha tea in a stir fry, especially if I’ve cooked the food too fast and it’s sticking to the pan. The Kombucha releases the food from the pan and lends an unexpected flavor to the stir fry.

I’ve used it as a marinade for fish like Haddock, Tilapia, Perch and Catfish. I put the fish in a dish, add Kombucha to nearly covering the fish, let it marinate for a half hour or so, turn it and let sit for another 20 minutes and cook. I usually cook a veggie-fish saute’ but I’m sure this marinated fish would also be great grilled, baked or broiled.

Due to my high sensitivity to wine I haven’t had any in decades. I’m not sure if it’s the alcohol, the sugar, or the sulfites but I have a strong unpleasant reaction very quickly. I’ve taken to substituting Kombucha tea, ounce for ounce, in recipes that call for wine or beer. It brightens up the finished product lending a hint of the fermented taste we expect from a recipe with wine. I used it successfully in a braised short rib recipe and it was fantastic.I suppose it could be used in French Onion Soup so I will give it a try soon, as our onion harvest is plentiful this year.

In cold and flu season I make Kombucha Horseradish Tonic. I fill a jar with 8-16 ounces of Kombucha tea and drop a 1-inch peeled chunk of horseradish root in it. I let it steep a day or two and then drink 2-4 ounces every morning. If I’m very congested I’ll squeeze some lemon into my glass and then add the Kombucha Horseradish Tonic. This combination quickly breaks up any congestion. I replace the horseradish chunk every 7-10 days.

My recipe for Herbal Kombucha tea below.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kombucha on the Road

On a recent family vacation I brought my giant jar of Kombucha tea complete with mature culture. This was not the first time I took Kombucha tea on vacation with us. I use a deli-size pickle jar. During regular fermentation I use a cloth and rubber band to allow air flow but when I take it on the road I use the glass lid it came with and tape the lid to the jar using masking tape. I line a special box, saved specifically for this purpose, with bubble wrap. I carefully nestle the sealed jar into the box and lay a towel on top before folding the box top closed. I’m sure the jostling of the car is not the best thing for the culture as the film on top disconnects from the sides of the jar. It takes a few days for it to settle in but it still tastes just fine.

On this vacation we were met with large, hungry mosquitoes that gave us large, itchy bites. My 11 year old grandson was very uncomfortable and after getting no relief from products that were supposed to reduce the itch I suggested the Kombucha tea. My grandchildren thought that “thing” was weird enough, with its brain-like culture... “you mean you’re going to drink that???” but discomfort pushes us to try new things so we poured some Kombucha tea into a cup. He dipped into it and began dabbing at the nasty bites. He said the itch was almost gone! He returned almost hourly for reapplication and in a day he had no more discomfort. Chalk up another use for Kombucha tea!

When it was time to pack up the mostly finished Kombucha I got out my trusty box and bubble wrap only to find the bubble wrap had lost all its bubbles! When I asked around I learned that my 5 year old grandson had found the bubble wrap and decided to have a bubble wrap stomping party.
Oh, well…no problem. I used towels to cushion the jar on the way home.

After vacation I have noticed that when I make a new batch the fermentation time is slower probably due to all that disruptive jostling. It’s good to know so I can allow some extra time until it returns to its normal fermentation cycle.