Archive for Fermentation


A Bright New Year to You!

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The pale cold skies of January always bring me thoughts of the dense comfort foods of mid-Winter. I started off the New Year with these in my belly, and that feels good! Oatmeal cooked with diced apples and raisins filled the kitchen this morning with delicious smells. It got even better with the addition of chopped pecans (from Ridge Spring, SC – thanks cousin Joe Cal Watson), cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of ginger.  I eat this with a sterling cereal spoon that belonged to my Great Grandmother Kate Hyde Sloan. There’s a crack in it I was always warned to be careful about, and I have been, for over 60 years. This oatmeal was so good, I ate small bites for a long time!

Lunch was as good – if not better! A bowl of rice and spicy baked butter beans (or lima beans) is still warm in my belly. These are not summer foods for me. They are too dense and heavy for the deep heat and light clothes of summer. And that reminds me of a question a friend from California asked me: “What is seasonal eating ?”

She was referring specifically to being able to buy strawberries in November where she lives. What an interesting question! I’ve spent time thinking about this, because it is different for different parts of our broad, wide country. And yet, there are similarities as well.

In the broadest terms, eating seasonally means eating what is ripe and ready, at that moment, in your locale. It means seeing foods in their freshest state come and go from your menu. It means paying attention to the local farmers world around you day by day. And it means listening to your body and it’s demands. California will be different than New York, Minnesota will be different than Texas.

Here in an area where there are four very distinct seasons it is much more obvious: yummy cold hardy leafy greens in the Spring are an ecstatic addition to any meal at the end of Winter! However it is more than that. During the growing season we eat all of the fresh foods we can, sometimes gorging ourselves with the bounty. The surplus gets dried, frozen, pickled, cured, preserved, canned, smoked, fermented, hung in the pantry or put in a root cellar for the Winter. As one of my Canadian friends said in his Year End letter: “Our search for food these days is fairly simple.  What we have is stored in our pantry although there is a stray turnip or two under the foot of snow that finally arrived.” [Thank you, Graham!]

Our bodies have spent millennium adapting and adjusting to what is available, when, and what is not. We have long histories of ‘putting foods by’ so that we have enough to eat all of the time. The temperature and the light tell the cells in our bodies that there is a change in the seasons and we get ready for it. Growing up in a cold winter climate in an uninsulated farm house established a pattern in my body that the first true cold snap brings on. When there is skim ice on the water, my taste for winter foods kicks in – casseroles, baking, hearty soups, and steaming cups of spiced cider. I gain ten pounds each winter (except when I lived in Tucson) and lose it in the Spring once the weather gets warm. I’m used to it. My body obviously needs it. I don’t keep a scale!

My body is primed for seasonal eating, and now that I have added wild foods to my diet, it all makes so much more sense! At the end of winter, there are a few shriveled apples, potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips. The garlic and onions are sprouting, and the pantry is becoming full of empty jars. When those first sprouts of green emerge, be they dandelions, wood sorrel, green onions, or lambsquarters, I want them! My body craves them to help purge the heavy winter foods from my body. I don’t want the tomatoes of high summer at that moment, I want new peas,  asparagus and strawberries, and the wild baby greens that help me regain my summer figure!

Think of the time and money you save by only going to the store once a week for a few staples. It’s so much simpler once you remember to think about your food ahead of time. Just before bed grab something out of the freezer, put a cup of dried beans in to soak, and even soak the grains for a morning bowl of hot cereal in apple juice or cider! That’s ‘instant’ oatmeal that really counts! If you are not shopping on the way home, you have another 30 minutes to cook an outstanding evening meal.

So think ahead; make menus or find them on line; keep track of the seasons; and have a bright and abundant New Year!



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One of my favorite gifts this Christmas is a book by Sandor Katz “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods”. I had forgotten how much I love all those fermented foods, and how easy it is to make them at home. What I didn’t know was how very good they are for our digestive tracts! However they have to still be alive to help us out. This means unpasteurized, and fresh so that these little organisms can re-populate our systems with the good stuff every day.

We don’t realize how dependent we are on these good guys until we start having them again – whole and living – and feel the changes for the better in our guts. There are many different ones in every culture around the world (pun intended). There are the vegetable krauts and kimchis, miso, tempeh, yogurt & kefir, cheese, pickles, meads, wines, and beers. There are also breads, vinegars, soy sauces, and fish sauces. The reason that they are always found on the table in many cultures, including ours just a few decades ago, is because they aid in digestion and elimination – not to mention helping manufacture B vitamins!

But those little organisms have to be live! So it being winter and loving all the heavier foods of winter, I decided to start some sour kraut in a crock on the counter in the kitchen! I’ve made kraut before, years ago, in a #10 crock with a large number of cabbage. It was for the whole winter and little did I know that by canning it, I was killing the best part! So this is a very small batch, less than one large cabbage, layered with sprinkles of sea salt and kosher salt.

A week later when I remove the weight and the plate which keeps the kraut under the brine, it has begun to ferment. The taste is a little bit sharp, salty, and still definitely crunchy to the teeth. Already the kraut tastes yummy and I can hardly wait to see how it tastes next week. I may have to try it every day!

After reading this book, I’ve discovered why my beet borscht was never the right amount of sour. I fiddled with the lemons and the yogurt or sour cream, and still not quite right. Now I find it contains saueruben, or fermented beets, done just like the cabbage kraut! I’ll let you know how it turns out after I’ve fermented the beets for a month or so…

Consider this to be another way to get back to basics and begin to enjoy real, live foods again. We all know the industrialized, factory foods are making us sick; now lets get some real and healing foods back in our lives and on our tables. Start anywhere, making sure the yogurt you buy is alive, making your own sourdough bread, starting sour kraut, eating unpasteurized and/or raw milk cheese. Or there is always making beer at home!