Nurturing Whole Health
Today I bought some great pickling cukes and fresh dill at Ashland Food Co-op, having tried first at The Saturday Rogue Valley Grower's and Crafter's Market, where I am guessing farmer's will have their makings for pickles soon. The most difficult thing to find is fresh dill. Often there are piles of pickling cukes but no dill to be found. Gratefully, today I found both. With Covid still running rampant, it's a perfect time to get some immune-boosting lacto-fermented dill pickles or other veggies put up in your pantry.
"The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota."
Lacto-fermented pickles are so simple to make and such a wonderful way to get a powerful hit of healthy probiotics for daily gut and immune health. When I'm eating pickles and raw fermented kraut, I feel my gut and immune system are getting the essential coverage they need for optimal good gut bacteria balance. The word out from my peeps in the field of Nutrition and Chinese Medicine is that, eating fermented food with each meal offers important support for our spleen, digestive and immune system. Though it is always essential to keep our immune system strong, during this time of Covid, it is especially important. I make raw fermented kraut throughout the year and am now so excited to have just put up 3 quarts of lacto-fermented dill pickles. Adding some lacto-fermented foods with each meal is an important self-care practice for not only nutritional/physical health, but also for emotional wellness. There is much evidence-based research correlating healthy gut bacteria to a healthy brain, body and immune system.
"Properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways."
According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology, "The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota." The article states, "It is our contention that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways." A great read on the gut-brain connection is the book, "Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain- for Life", by David Perlmutter, M.D.
So, enjoy these fabulous lacto-fermented, garlic dills. Here's the recipe and method.
Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Makes 6-8 quart wide mouth canning jars
*I like to cut down the recipe and make 2-3 quart batches. This way you get fresher batches that don't over-ferment due to waiting months to eat them.
Brine for about 8 quarts- 9 Tablespoons sea salt or celtic salt to 4 quarts filtered water (mix together very well and remix just before pouring into filled jars- I use a blender)
2 large, folded *Grape Leaves per jar (tannins help keep pickles crisp)
Fresh flowering dill (buy a large bunch and divide between jars)
6 large cloves garlic per jar
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
5-7 small pickling cucumbers- or however many you need to fill canning jar.
Fold grape leaves into bottom of jars.
Place half the dill and some garlic on top of grape leaves.
Pack pickles into jars and add remaining dill and garlic as you pack.
After re-stirring brine, pour into filled jars, all the way to top.
Seal full jar with canning lid ( leave about 3/4 -1 inch to prevent explosion).
Place jar in a low-sided pan, tub or water proof container.
Cover jars with a large dish towel and place in dark cabinet. (55-75 degrees is good)
Let ferment for about 1-3 weeks at room temperature. If your space is warm, you may want to transfer the jars to fridge after only 1-2 weeks. Sample a pickle after one week. They will still continue to ferment in the fridge so judge by the climate of your home. The original method calls for leaving the jars to ferment at room temperature for several weeks but that can be too long unless you have a nice root cellar. Above 75 degrees will require refrigeration sooner than later. If you notice bubbles in the jar, get them into the fridge.
Be careful in opening the jars as they can be wildly fizzy.
* Note on grape leaves- tannins in grape leaves get extra concentrated with fermentation. If you are someone who gets migraine from tannins, simply do not use grape leaves and your pickles will still be awesome..
Yummy Happy Tummy,
This scrumptious cranberry conserve has been my holiday go to recipe for more than 20 years. It is tart, with just enough sweet from dried dates and maple syrup. Toasted pecans add a crunchy richness and the juice and rind of a fresh orange give some citrus kick. And, it is so simple to make.
In a 9"x13" Pyrex, blend together and cover with foil or a flat baking sheet, and place in preheated 350 degree oven, for 30 minutes:
Organic Cranberries -24 oz. (rinsed and drained)
1 cup water
Juice one organic orange (grate rind and save for step 2)
After 30 minutes remove from oven and with the back of a fork, smash cranberries.
(While cranberries bake, chop dates and toast pecans-about 10 minutes and chop)
Mix into Cranberries and then place back in oven, uncovered for 5 minutes:
Grated orange rind
2 cups, chopped; dried organic dates (easy to chop with a chef's knife)
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
Remove cranberries from oven and blend in 1.5 cups toasted, chopped, organic pecans.
Refrigerate and cover when cool
Serves about 25
Many Blessings and much gratitude, for every single one of you, Sari
Most of my readers know me as a passionate Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, Health Educator and Reiki Energy Healer. What many do not know is that I was a professional pastry chef and baker for over a decade in my early adulthood. I originally trained in a baking cooperative in Eugene, Oregon, apprenticing in the art of classical Viennese and French pastry baking. I learned from a group of rather eccentric Oregon hippies who were serious artists when it came to fine baking. We were The Fine Baking Company. In my time as a a baker, I helped design and set up several bakeries and pastry kitchens.
When I left baking to stay home and raise my young children, I found opportunities to make delectable creations for birthdays, anniversaries and a few weddings. As the years passed and I struggled with chronic asthma and allergies, I moved away from refined sugars, ditched all dairy and in the past several years became gluten-free.
Being gluten-free was initially difficult. I am allergic to corn and sorghum which is in many gluten free flour mixes. So, I never use pre-mixed gluten-free flours or eat gluten-free breads. Being gluten-free and dairy-free has been a great inspiration for me to come up with yummy and healthier alternatives to fine desserts. The below recipe for the quinoa torte is wonderful and no one would ever suspect they are not eating a cake made with flour or a rich chocolate ganache that is not made with heavy cream or butter.
I must admit something. My mother was one of the best pie bakers on the planet. I have been picking blackberries and wild black raspberries with my father since I was a young girl, growing up in Iowa. I learned the art of flaky pie crust from my mother; the real-deal flaky crust with no sugar sprinkled on top-ever. I love, love love the sensory experience of eating the perfect pie crust with the perfect fruit filling. I have experimented with gluten-free pie crusts. I tried one with sorghum and it was flaky, but being in the corn family, I couldn't handle it. I will admit that about once a year, I risk it and eat a small piece of pie made with gluten. I make it with white spelt flour and either monkfruit sweetener or coconut sugar. I invite my friends to share and I eat a slice. It may be blackberry in the summer or apple pie at Thanksgiving. I take Enzymetica Gluten Ease digestive enzymes with my pie to help me digest the gluten. I find it also helps to make sure I eat it with great love and gratitude. I say, "I take you in, as a blessing and in gratitude and allow you to come into my body and do the good works you are going to do." There is nothing more powerful then adding a little Mind-Body Medicine into everything you eat. Enjoy the two recipes below.
Chocolate Quinoa Torte (with Blackberries)
(Makes a 2-layer torte (you can also make 2 single layer cakes)
2 cups soft, cooked quinoa (approximately 3/4 cup dry quinoa will yield 2 cups cooked quinoa.)
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (or preferred milk)
4 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 & 2/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Coconut Cream Ganache
2 (13.5 ounce) can of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 cups dark chocolate chips (as dark a % as you like)
Blackberries for Decoration
1/2- 1 cup Fresh Blackberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two round cake pans (or a 9x13” pan) with parchment paper or oil and flour pans with gluten-free flour.
In a blender or food processor, combine the eggs, preferred milk and vanilla extract, and blend for ten seconds.
Add 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa along with the melted and cooled coconut oil and olive oil- blend until completely smooth, about thirty seconds to one minute.
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt).
Refrigerate the coconut milk for several hours or overnight (in the coldest part of your refrigerator) so that the cream separates.
When ready, melt the chocolate in a sauce pan over low heat or in a stainless steel bowl over a double boiler. Take coconut milk from the fridge without shaking the can. Open and scoop out the solid parts with a spoon, placing them into the pot with the melted chocolate. Try to get as much of the thicker portions of solid coconut cream as possible. (Do not use the liquid) Melt the coconut cream and chocolate together until smooth and thick. Use a wire whisk to beat and thicken the ganache to a spreadable consistency. The Ganache thickens very quickly, but if it is too warm, you may briefly pace in fridge to cool and then get whipping it again until smooth and thick.
Transfer the cake layers to a surface for icing. They are fragile, so handle with care. Even if cake layers crack or break, no worries, just piece them together like a puzzle and all with congeal once iced. Ice top of first layer, then place on second layer and work your way icing down from top layer to sides of torte.
Frost the torte using a good, flat icing knife. Place blackberries on torte wherever your creativity takes you. Place torte in cool place until ready to serve or room temp is fine for several hours if it is not too hot.
Summer Blackberry Pie with Olive Oil Crust