Some of you may recall grandparents talking about sipping vinegar “back in their day” and how it was good for their constitution, gout, the sugar or insert-any-other-old-timey-ailment-word-here. And really, they weren’t all that off. Although their Windex-styled fix-it-all solution is hilarious, they really were on to something.
Natural raw vinegars, ya know, the ones with the mother in them, are quite good for you and are a great source of good bacteria that aid in the health of your gut and overall body. (If your gut is horrid, the rest of you is going to feel horrid because you’re not getting the necessary nutrients to pass through the blood-gut barrier or you’re getting mal-digested nutrients passing through. Bottom line - it’s horrid.)
Anyway, fruit vinegar is easy to make and isn’t super vinegary. In fact it makes a great mocktail. In the heat of the summer, I’ll grab a tumbler, throw a few ice cubes in it, some gassy mineral water (San Pellegrino is my fave) and a bit of the vinegar. The result? A light and refreshing drink that’s outta this world.
You’re going to look at it and wonder how you ever bought your own vinegars. Trust me. I do it to myself. In the mirror. True story. I frequent vinegar shops all the time and have been known to drop $100 on a few bottles of fruit vinegars. Yea. I did that. A lot. Whoops.
A few key things:
- Your fruit shouldn’t be moldy or rotten.
- They should be fresh, not frozen (I made that mistake once).
- Scraps work, too! And they’re economical. Which I like. Bruised fruit is also okay. Use peels, rinds, cores, etc.
- Use organic. If you can’t afford organic, ask your organic grocer if they have “seconds” in the back. Sometimes they’ll sell you those for a discounted price.
- Also, if you can’t use organic, stay away from using peels.
- It’s a lot of sugar, but you need to feed the bacteria something. By the time it’s all processed and fermented, the sugar count will be much less, making it usable if you have a special diet.
- Keep fruit submerged with a glass plate, rock, plastic lid (like a yogurt lid, BPA-free).
- A bowl or wide-mouth jar works best because it encourages oxygen.
- Save the mother!!! If it develops a mother, save it for a starter for the next batch (and omit the apple cider vinegar).
- The ratio is 1 part fruit to 2 parts water.
- 4 cups fruit scraps or fresh fruit
- 1 qt filtered water
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
- 1 tbsp organic raw apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg’s)
- Put scraps in the jar or bowl.
- In a separate container, dissolve water in the sugar and pour over fruit. (There should be about 1 part scraps to 2 parts water, just eyeball it and add more fruit if necessary.)
- Use a rock, plate or a plastic lid to keep fruit submerged. If it won’t stay under, stir daily to prevent mold growth.
- Cover the jar or bowl with a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. (Make sure fruit flies can’t get in, they LOVE this stuff!)
- Let it sit on the counter for a week and then strain out all the fruit using a fine mesh colander and a coffee filter.
- Return the liquid to the container and cover it again with the cloth or filter and let it sit another 3-4 weeks.
- If white yeast develops, called Kahm yeast, try to scrape it off - it’s not bad for you. So don’t worry. Otherwise, you can strain it out in the end. If mold develops, also known as the fuzzy stuff, pitch it.
- Bottle in narrow-neck bottles, cover and store indefinitely (as in it doesn’t go bad) at room temperature.
Sometimes I’m just too lazy to cook. I’m up early in the morning, work a long day, do a bit of cleaning, catch up with the never-ending task of laundry/folding/dusting/wiping walls/ironing, tend to my little garden… and by the time I know it, it’s late in the day and I’m tired. And cooking? Heck. No.
Sound familiar? I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s like this. Sometimes life just gets in the way of making a healthy meal. In my old days, when I was the pasta queen (seriously - I had one shelf in my cupboard dedicated to pasta), I would open a box of Barilla and a jar of Classico. 20 minutes and a bit of fresh shaved parmesan later, voila! Dinner was served. Now that I know that food was what was killing me, it’s no longer an option. Eggs are a good go-to. But… I sometimes tire from having eggs too much in my diet - I eat a few (ahem. 3.) a day for breakfast.
Now, this recipe is by no means a beautiful thing. Nor is it mind-blowing. It’s simply my “what I eat when I don’t want to cook but I don’t have leftovers to eat” meal. And after a bit of prodding from my boyfriend to put this up on the blog, here it is. He said it’s creative, I told him it’s out of necessity - end of the pay period meals are always interesting in my house. (Dave Ramsey, you should be proud!)
Anyway, enough of that. Here’s what I do when I’d rather not be cooking or whatever.
Kale and Garlic Saute
- 1 bunch kale, rinsed, spine removed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 3 heads garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb mild Italian pork sausage (cooked) or 1 cup minced ham
- 1 cup soaked, sprouted, and cooked organic brown rice (If you have a hard time with sprouted rice, use 1 cup cauliflower “rice”)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
- 2 tbsp lard or grass-fed butter
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, melt the lard or butter.
- Add kale and garlic and cook until kale is wilted.
- Add cooked sausage or ham and rice and stir to incorporate.
- Mix in spices and cook until warmed through.
For dinner: Serve with steamed veggies and some sauerkraut.
For breakfast: Serve with eggs and some sauerkraut.
I freaken love all things dill. When I was a baby, I would beg my mom and her friends for their kosher dill pickles when we were out at Rose’s (a New York deli here in Portland - back in the 80s, they were in their heyday and their food was FANTASTIC). After a few kosher dill pickle spears, my lips would be white from all the vinegar. I didn’t care. I wanted more. And my mom and her friends wanted to laugh even harder. It was a win for everyone.
Fast forward 30 years, and I still love my dilled foods. I bought a bunch of green beans two weeks ago and realized that with my neck, any and all cooking wasn’t happening. So, before they had an opportunity to rot on me, I shoved them in a jar with some scapes I had also bought with the dream of sauteing them in butter… Yea. Not happening, either.
Two weeks later, I cracked open the jar and my goodness! Childhood memories of eating dill pickles until my lips turned white came flooding back. They are so. so. so. good. Even the roommate who sometimes thinks my food is a bit hippie (admit it. I know you think this - and I know you’re reading this post), wanted more.
Okay. Enough of me typing. You want to hurry up and make these. And then wait two weeks. It might be the longest two weeks of your life but you’ll have to deal.
The end result is fantastic.
Note: The grape leaves sound random but they help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Other options are a bay leaf (or two).
Dilly Beans with Scapes
- 1 lb fresh, organic green beans, with ends snipped
- 4 organic scapes (garlic spears)
- a handful of fresh dill - about 1 1/2” in diameter if you hold the bunch together
- 20 black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 grape leaves (organic and non-sprayed)
- 33 grams sea salt (no iodine or caking agent) to every quart of filtered water
- Leave water out for at least 30 minutes to evaporate trace minerals. In the meantime, weigh out the salt and rinse green beans and scapes. Trim both so will fit in the jar.
- Add the salt to the water, stir to dissolve and set aside.
- In your jar, layer the red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and dill on the bottom.
- Place the green beans and scape spears on top of the spices, stick straight up. Stuff the grape leafs on the side.
- Pour the saltwater solution atop of everything and work out any bubbles. The veggies or grape leaves cannot be above the water line.
- Place a dunker (either a clean rock or a glass weight) atop to keep the veggies below the brine line.
- Seal tightly with a lid and allow to ferment for 3 to 10 days. The beans will get tangier as they age. If mold forms, dump it.
- Transfer to cold storage and enjoy on warm summer days! (I’m willing to bet these would taste really good in a Bloody Mary!)
I know I’ve been focused on fermenting lately but the bacteria that natural ferments provide are such an important part of the diet.
Here’s why: In a healthy gut, up to 5 pounds (yes - you read that right, 5 pounds) of healthy bacteria should be living symbiotically with our body. That’s crazy! Fermented foods aid in that symbiosis by providing the gut with new waves of bacteria as old ones die off.
Vitamin K2, a vitamin that is totally and completely underrated but rocks my socks, is found in ferments. Dr. Weston Price identified it during his research days as “The X Factor” (not to be confused with the television show). He posited that there was some factor in these indigenous foods that was allowing for good calcium absorption and assimilation that resulted in healthy teeth, bones and tissues. Science, unfortunately, had not caught up with him and only recently have they discovered what he was talking about. Natural foods FTW! (I’ve talked a little bit about this in my butter post.)
So these carrots. They are my favorite. So much so that sometimes I eat too many of them. If that’s even possible! ha! They’re gingery and tangy and full of delightful goodness. On a warm summer day, pulling one of these bad boys out of the fridge is just so refreshing. They’re also super super easy. And super quick to put on. And super cheap. All three are a super win in my book. (I’ll stop with the “super” superlatives, don’t worry! - hehe. See what I did there?)
Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrots
- 4-8 organic carrots, scrubbed with peels on and cut into spears
- 1 to 1 1/2 inch fresh ginger, either grated or julienne’d
- 1 quart filtered water
- 33 grams sea salt (see scale information on this post) (Do not use kosher, iodized, salt with anti-caking stuff or table salt!)
- organic/non-sprayed grape leaf or organic bay leaf
- Measure out 1 quart of water and set aside for no less than 30 minutes (to let the minerals like chlorine evaporate out).
- Scrub carrots, keeping skin on them and cut into spears, peel and cut ginger.
- Pack the ginger on the bottom of a quart jar and layer the carrots on top. Pack as many carrots as you can in so they don’t float to the top of the jar. You may need to get creative on this one.
- Shove the bay leaf or grape leaf (this helps keep the carrots crisp during fermenting) into the side of the jar.
- Weigh salt and mix it into the water, stir until dissolved. Pour over jar with carrots and ginger.
- Weigh down with a glass weight or a clean rock (I find river rocks that are small and flat, scrub them and send them through a cycle in the dishwasher.)
- Work out any air bubbles (I like to use an old chop stick) and seal with a lid. Let it sit for 2 weeks and then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!