Shrubs – a great “waist” reducer

 

March’s “Food in Jars” Mastery challenge was either jellies or shrubs.  Now, if you’re like me, you probably thought “I know what a jelly is, but why would I want to eat a low-lying bush”.  I quickly discovered through some research that a “shrub” is another word for a drinking vinegar.  I was intrigued and decided to explore shrubs a bit more.

March was a particularly busy month for me with a 2-year project at work finishing up, followed by a family trip to Disney, and then two weeks of teaching out of town.  I was glad to see that shrubs are quick to make, and even better, they can be made to use up fruits that are going soft.

Organic strawberries were on sale this past month so I decided to make a strawberry balsamic shrub  (recipe in the link).  I was worried that the balsamic vinegar would overwhelm the strawberries, and was pleased to find that over time, the smell changed from vinegar, to vinegar smelling strawberries.  I mixed the finished product with mineral water and found it to be a refreshing drink that wasn’t sweet!  Bonus!

Today in the kitchen while I was drinking my shrub and puttering around, I decided to make another shrub.  I dug around in the fridge and found  a carton of strawberries, 2 kiwis and some mint that were starting to go soft.  I chopped them all up, mixed in some Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (the best brand to go with), added coconut sugar and left it lightly covered on the counter.  Fingers crossed that it turns out.  I realized after that I wasn’t supposed to add the vinegar right away, so only time will tell if it still works out.

As I was putting today’s shrub together, I started thinking about all the health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and decided to share this information with you.  There are tons of websites promising all kinds of health benefits to ACV, and it turns out that they’re not all wrong.  Looking into my main resource, based on Eastern medicine, (“Healing with Whole Foods”), I discovered the following:

  • vinegar helps release toxins accumulated from a rich diet
  • vinegar can be helpful in reducing weight, edema and excess mucous
  • vinegar can help improve mood
  • the best types of vinegars to use are organic and naturally brewed, unfiltered and unpateurized – apple cider, brown rice wine, white wine and umeboshi.

Here are some  Western medicine based web resources:

Video highlighting the benefits of apple cider vinegar

Healthy benefits of Vinegar

Reader’s Digest – 13 health benefits of ACV

Convinced?  Want to try to make your own?  Here are some resources to check out:

Recipes

History of drinking vinegars

Food in Jars mastery round up – jellies and shrubs (with recipe links)

Drop me a line if you make a shrub and let me know how it went!

Leta

Food In Jars Mastery Challenge – Salting

This month’s mastery challenge was related to salt preserving or curing.  I had already tried many of the recipes that were being suggested (salt preserved lemons, kimchi, sauerkraut, herbes salees) and was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t learn anything new this month.  Then enter salt cured egg yolks.  I had never heard such a thing!  So I went online and did a bit of research to see if this was my project for the month.

What I learned was that when egg yolks are preserved, they can be grated onto foods to add a delicate salty buttery flavour to foods – particularly pastas.  I also learned that preserving eggs has long been a tradition in Asian cultures – curing the egg yolks in soy sauce or miso instead of plain salt.

Before I started I checked out a number of different recipes as there were multiple variations.  Most used a mix of salt and sugar.  I was worried that the sugar would make the yolks too sweet so I stuck to straight salt.

I served the finished yolks grated with a microplane on pasta with a cauliflower based garlic sauce and it was just as I was promised – dairy free salty buttery goodness!  I shared the pasta with friends and dinner and they not only enjoyed trying the eggs on the bit of pasta I had leftover, but they happily grated more egg yolk on their hasselback potatoes as well.

Here’s how I made them:

Salt Cured Egg Yolks

 (For a printable PDF version click here)

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks – chicken, duck or goose

course sea salt (2-4 cups depending on your container)

apple cider vinegar (optional)

Tools needed:

Dehydrator, OR

Oven and small cooling rack

Directions:

  • Find a container large enough to hold all the yolks (approx. double the yolk size). Some have used a muffin tin and put one yolk in each hole.  Cover the bottom of the container with ½ – 1” of salt.
  • Use an egg to make a little divot in the salt to place your egg yolk in.

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  1. Crack the eggs one at a time, separating the white from the yolk. Be careful not to break the yolk.
  2. Place one yolk in each divot and cover the yolks completely with salt

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  • Leave the container uncovered and place it in the fridge (Some recipes call to cover the container.  I found the salt to be too wet and took my lid off)
  • Check the yolks at day 5. Remove one yolk from the salt and give it a gentle squeeze.  If it is the consistency of a gummy candy, you’re ready to remove all the yolks from the salt.  If not, put it back and wait 2 more days.

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  • Remove the yolks from the salt and rinse them in the vinegar to remove the stuck-on salt.
  • If using a dehydrator, place the yolks on a tray and dry them at a low setting overnight until they have lost some “squish” and are the consistency of a stale gummy candy.

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  • If not using a dehydrator, you can put them in the oven at 150 for around 2 hours or leave them in the oven for two days with the oven off.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

There are many different versions of this recipe on the web.  Some use only salt, some a mix of salt and sugar.  The timing for curing and drying varies greatly so don’t worry if you leave the yolks in salt longer or dry them longer.

 

Dairy Free? You bet! Making fermented cashew “cheese”

I was advised many years ago to stay away from dairy, but it’s always been a struggle for me.  I LOVE ice-cream and cheese is in everything!  Over the past few years it’s been much easier to do with options like almond milk or coconut milk popping up as more mainstream.  While I will probably never completely give up my Dairy Queen, I had long ago given up on cheese, especially cream cheese.

Enter cashew cheese.  Cashews are an exceptionally soft and creamy nut that blend really well to add a creamy taste and texture to plant-based foods.  But cheese made from nuts?  Am I nuts?!  I guess I am!

In my exploratory journey over the past year, I took an interest in fermentation and the health benefits in fermentation for digestibility of plant products, and the beneficial bacteria involved in fermentation.  I took an online course on fermentation products by Meghan Telpner at her Academy of Culinary Nutrition.  One of the projects was a fermented nut cheese.  To my surprise, and to the surprise of everyone that I fed it to, it was super easy to do and really tasty.  Many of my friends have asked me how to make it, so it was an easy choice for my first project.

Cashews are high in magnesium, which is important in keeping calcium in your bones, where it belongs.  So even though you are not eating a calcium rich food, the magnesium that is in cashews will help maintain the calcium levels that are stored in your body.  Nuts and seeds are powerhouses that contain protein, minerals, enzymes and healthy fats.  In order to make sure the enzymes are intact and the oils are in their natural unprocessed state, choose raw unsalted nuts.  Organic is preferred as pesticides tend to be stored in fat, and with the high fat content of nuts the potential of toxins being passed on and stored in the fat in your body is much higher.

When talking about nuts and seeds, it is also essential to talk about soaking. Nuts and seeds have a natural coating on them made from phytic acid that resists digestion. When phytic acid is broken down during digestion, it binds to minerals and reduces the minerals available for absorption, particularly iron and B vitamins. The easiest way to reduce this effect, is to soak your nuts in water with a little bit of salt.  A chart of how long to soak each type of nut is found here.  After soaking, rinse your nuts in water.  I find that cashews take on a purple tinge after soaking.

Fermented Nut Cheese (this link takes you to the original recipe by Meghan Telpner of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition).

Basic fermented cheese:

1 cup cashews (soaked)

1 probiotic capsule (acidophilus, from the refrigerated section in a health food store)

3 Tbsp water

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Blend all the ingredients in a high-powered blender until completely smooth.  Be careful to do this slowly because the mixture will heat up during blending.  The first time I did this the nut mixture was steaming when I removed it, which meant the probiotics were dead.

Place the nut paste into cheesecloth or a nut milk bag so that it can breathe and form it into a ball.

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To allow fermentation to take place, you have 3 options:

  1. put the bag into a colander, and put the colander over a bowl to catch any liquid – leaving it 36 to 48 hours
  2. hang the bag (I wrapped the string around a cupboard knob), with a bowl or towel underneath to catch any liquid (again 36 to 48 hours)
  3. place in a dehydrator at the lowest setting (raw, around 100 F) for 24 hours.

After the nut mixture has had time to ferment and dry, remove it from the cloth and add your flavour.  The mixture should have a slightly sour smell due to the fermentation – this is good!  The original recipe in the link above called for dill, lemon juice and salt.  My favourite is dill, smoked garlic powder (I make my own), fresh lemon juice and salt.  For this batch, I decided to split the recipe into two different flavours.  One the garlic dill, and one with honey, cinnamon, slivered almonds, and dried blueberries.  You can see here the cashews are quite crumbly.  I flattened out the mixture too much in my dehydrator, so it dried the mixture out quite a bit and I needed to add more liquid to it.

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Once you mix everything together, roll it in some parchment paper and then cover it with plastic wrap or waxed cloth (as seen here) to “age” your cheese.  Keep it in the fridge for about 6 days before eating.

I love to eat this cheese on rice crackers, cucumber slices or celery sticks.  The cinnamon version was an experiment for me this time and I’m not sure how it will turn out.  Stay tuned for the final result!  I’ll update the post once I’m done aging the cheese.

Update February 19:

Here’s the end results:

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My standby favourite with the smoked garlic and dill was fabulous as usual, and quite savoury.  The sweet honey cinnamon blueberry almond was tasty, but next time, I will use about 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon and omit the almonds and blueberries.  The cinnamon was too strong and the texture with the almonds was too crumbly.  It’s still quite edible though!

To store the finished product, remove the parchment paper and just wrap in plastic or store in an airtight container.

How did it work for you?  What flavour mixes did you try?  Drop me a line and let me know!

I’m so Excited!

When I first started changing up the way I looked at food, I would never have imagined how these little changes would spark such a passion for learning more about making my own healthy food at home.  After all, I have been mostly gluten and dairy free for over 5 years, what else could I change?

I’ll write my story about how I got here on another page, and won’t bore you with the details here.  What I will tell you is that over the past year or so I have learned so much about what fats to cook with, how to cook plant based meals that even my husband enjoys, and how to play with preserving food through canning, smoking, salting and dehydrating.

This past Christmas I shared many of my new creations with family and friends and their feedback was amazing.  They have been bugging my for recipes and asking me to share what I’ve learned so that they can do the same for their own families.  So here I am!

My plan over the next few months to a year is to post twice a month.  One of the posts will share information and/or a technique that I have already learned during my journey over the last year or two.  The second post will be related to an online challenge that I have joined at Food In Jars.  Each month, Marisa has given members a different preserving challenge to explore.  I’ll share what I’m making, and hopefully will have a recipe to go with the preserved food.  I’m trying to have fun with this challenge and Marisa and the members are coming up with some very interesting projects.  I have already completed January’s Mastery Challenge, marmalade, and February’s challenge is in the works.

So, welcome and come join in the fun!  Pop on over to Food In Jars, and check out their Facebook group Food In Jars Community.  You’ll see me there posting from time to time and I’d love to see what you’re doing too!

Alimentally yours,

Leta