Quiche sans Crust

Swedish apronI’ve always loved quiche, but it’s been decades since I’ve made any in my kitchen. I’m not sure why I dropped it from my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it was ever in my repertoire. A shame.

But last week, my daughter who hates eggs announced that she’d been served quiche at a friend’s house and really liked it. I leapt on my opportunity to get some luscious, farm-fresh eggs into my beloved child. 😉

Since it has been many months since I’ve posted a recipe, I’m leaping on the chance to do that as well.

It’s been years since the food researchers conceded that they were wrong about the cholesterol in eggs. It’s not harmful, never has been harmful, and you can eat as many eggs as you want. Actually, they conceded that the cholesterol in eggs is not harmful and has never been harmful, but they wussed out of reversing their recommendation to limit eggs. It just looks so bad. Heaven help their reputations!

So what’s good about the nutrition in eggs?

Just about everything. They are rich in vitamins, especially the important fat-soluble A and D.

(Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, healthy mucous membranes, proper immune system function, healthy eyes, and good vision. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, the proper functioning of the immune system and the brain and nervous system, regulating insulin levels, support of the lungs and cardiovascular system, and preventing cancer.)

Eggs contain ample high-quality protein. They are an excellent source of EPA and DHA – long-chain fatty acids that are vital to the development of the nervous system in young children and to the preservation of mental acuity in adults. Eggs are truly a complete nutritional package, provided they come from chickens raised on pasture, where they scratch for bugs and worms.

quiche eggsChickens sitting in vast warehouses produce eggs that lack some of the superlative benefits of pasture-raised birds. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 instead of the optimum 1:1. And you can see from simply looking at the egg yolks – pale lemon yellow versus rich orange – that warehoused chickens produce eggs with less beta-carotene. They also have 28% less vitamin A.

But enough of weighing the pros and cons of eggs. What about my quiche?

quiche milkWhen I made it for my family, I made two, one crustless and one with a crust. That way I can eat low-carb, while my kids and husband get the kind of taste sensation they prefer. The recipe below is for one crustless quiche. You can double it, if you want to make a pair like I did. Or you can pour it into a crust, if you prefer your quiche with wheat. 😀

Ingredients

quiche cheesedab of butter
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices of deli ham
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives

Directions

1Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven, and either remove the second one or place it below the middle one. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

quiche spices2Smear the butter all over the interior of a 9-inch glass pie dish.

3Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until a few tendrils of steam start to rise from its surface. Then set it aside, off the heat.

4Grate the cheddar cheese, if you have not already done so. (I do my grating after heating the milk, to give the milk a chance to cool a little.)

quiche ham5Cut the deli ham in strips, roughly half an inch wide and 2 inches long.

6Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

7Add the salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and chives to the eggs and mix well.

8Lay the ham strips all over the bottom of the pie dish.

quiche ham and cheese9Cover the ham with the grated cheese.

10Pour the egg mixture into the milk and mix thoroughly.

11Gently pour the egg-milk mixture over the cheese and ham.

quiche uncooked12Getting that full pie dish into the oven without spilling it is tricky! Take it slow and use pot lifters, so that all your attention can be on the liquid level and not on your vulnerable fingers.

13Let the quiche bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

quiche cooked14Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into the edge of the quiche custard. The rubric says that if it comes out clean, the quiche is done. I say: know your oven! The knife came out clean from last week’s quiche at 40 minutes, but it could have used another 5 minutes. This week’s quiche generated a knife that never came out clean. After 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven anyway. I should have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. Both week’s quiches were good, but not at the ultimate sweet spot.

quiche slice15Let the quiche cool to lukewarm – about 15 minutes – and serve. Cut the quiche to create 6 pieces.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies - alternative floursI’ve wanted to try baking cookies using alternative flours for a while now. My body seems to tolerate wheat less and less well as the years go by. I was hoping that coconut flour and almond flour would be friendlier choices for me.

Lately I’ve been inspired by the dinner recipes of Danielle Walker. I’m sure her recipes work perfectly without any tinkering – she seems to test them thoroughly. But somehow I have not yet managed to follow any of them exactly. My inner cook comes out, and I make a few changes. 😉

I decided to see what Danielle had to offer for cookies. You can find her recipe here. I stuck pretty closely to it, but not exactly. However, I was delighted by my results. These cookies are super delicious – delicate and yet slightly chewy, and they don’t upset my tummy!

Ingredients

Cookies - ingredients1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon cane sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/2 chocolate chips

Directions

In a food processor, cream together the butter, coconut sugar, cane sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla until well mixed, about 15 seconds.

(Creaming the butter and sugar the old-fashioned way – with a fork – would likely work equally well. I used the food processor for my first attempt. I may not bother rousting it out on my second.)

Add the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt to the processor and process again until well mixed, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the processor, if needed, to get all the dry ingredients mixed in.

(I tasted my batch at this point and decided that it was not quite sweet enough. That’s where the “extra” teaspoon of cane sugar – listed above in the ingredients – came from. I also assessed the dough and felt that it was a little too liquid. So I added the “extra” teaspoon of coconut flour – also listed above in ingredients.)

Cookies - the doughTurn the dough out into a mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, and stir by hand until they are well mixed in.

(My batch in the photos likely looks a little strange to you. That’s because we had no chocolate chips in the house, and my husband and my daughter were out with car, shopping. So I improvised. I dug through the Halloween candy in the freezer and pulled out a mini chocolate bar, two kitkat bars, and a bar of white chocolate. I chopped them up and used them in place of the chocolate chips.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cookies - on baking sheet

Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls on the baking sheets. Flatten the cookies, because they will not change shape much while baking.

Bake 9 minutes and then cool on a rack. Makes 29 cookies.

More recipes:
Arugula Beef
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

Cookies - baked

 

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London Broil at Casa Ney-Grimm

londo 600 pxI adore the savor of London broil, but for decades I didn’t realize how easy it is to make at home. Now that I prefer to serve grassfed meat to my family, I’ve discovered that London broil is one of the easiest to find and most reasonably priced cuts of grassfed beef available. Here’s how I make it.

Ingredients
london marinade2 to 2-1/2 pounds London broil beef

Marinade
4 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2/3 cup olive oil

london broilerDirections
Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Put the meat in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out the air.

Put the bag in a shallow dish in the refrigerator. Marinate for 8 hours or over night. Turn the bag twice.

When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and let the liquid drip off it. Discard the marinade.

Place the meat on a broiling pan and set it under the broiler. I use the second rack slot from the broiler coils, about 4 inches away. Broil the first side for 10 minutes. (The meat in my photo was broiled for 11 minutes, which was a bit too long. It was still scrumptious; I just prefer mine more rare.) Flip the meat and broil the second side for 9 minutes.

london cookedTransfer the meat to a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut it diagonally across the grain in thin slices. Serve.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Apples á la Ney-Grimm
Pie Crust Cookies

 

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Parsnip Turnip Purée

rutabagas and parsnips

I’ve tried cooking this combination – parsnips and turnips – two ways. They’re both good, but distinctly different as an eating experience. The broth-cooked method yields a smoother, almost sweeter result. The roasted method delivers a denser, starchier one. I’m going to share them both.

Ingredients

root puree with broth3 large turnips or rutabagas
8 – 10 parsnips
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 cups chicken broth (for broth version; omit for roasted version)

Broth Directions

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot and warm over medium heat.

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add the vegetables to the chicken broth. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the veggies are fork tender. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool 10 minutes.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor. Add the butter and salt and process until smooth and creamy. Serve.

cubed rutabagas and parsnips

Roast Directions

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Put the chopped parsnips in one baking dish, the turnips in another.

Melt the butter and drizzle it over both portions of vegetables. Cover both baking dishes and place them in a 350ºF oven.

Bake the turnips for 45 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

roots pureeBake the parsnips for 90 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

Place both vegetables, the salt, and more butter into a food processor. Process until smooth. Re-heat the purée and serve.

More recipes:
Chicken Stock
Coconut Salmon
Sauerkraut
Arugula Beef

 

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I Love Soup!

Meat and fish stocks have been a staple of traditional cuisines for a long time. Consider the Japanese breakfast of fish broth with rice. French onion soup. Korean sol long tang (beef broth and thinly shaved beef brisket). Russsian chlodnik (shrimp soup).

Lima Bean Soup

Yum! I want some right now! 😀

No question that a homemade soup based on homemade stock is delicious. Makes me wish for a do-over of my winter cooking this year. I didn’t make nearly as much soup as I’d intended.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldBut homemade soup stock is great for a bunch other reasons too. Most of which I didn’t know before I read the book Nourishing Traditions.

Broth Is Super Nutritious

Okay, I “knew” soup was nutritious. You hear it all the time. But I didn’t know why. And, honestly, most commercial soups aren’t, because they’re made with cheap hydrolyzed vegetable protein as a base instead of actual beef stock or chicken stock.

So why is meat and fish broth so good for us? Two reasons.

All the minerals present in bone, cartilage, and marrow are present in the broth, especially the biggies of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

These minerals, plus those of any vegetables you’ve included in your stock-making, are present as electrolytes, a form that is particularly easy for the body to assimilate – that is, your body will take in more of them, more easily.

Broth Is Hydrophilic

“What?” I hear you say. I said it too!

Hydrophilic means it attracts liquids. Most raw foods are hydrophilic. When we eat them, the particles attract the digestive juices present in the gut, causing the food particles to be rapidly and thoroughly digested.

But most cooked foods are hydrophobic. That is, they repel liquids. And repel the digestive juices. Which means your body has to use (and make) more enzymes to accomplish digestion, and it takes longer.

The gelatin in stock possesses the unusual property that even after heating it is hydrophilic. It attracts liquid. So all those lovely vegetable chunks and meat pieces in your soup? They’re coated in broth and thus become far easier to digest.

When I was a young thing, the emphasis placed by my elders on digestibility seemed incomprehensible. You swallow your food; it’s digested; end of story. After I’d experienced indigestion – ouch! – their concern made more sense. And after I’d experienced years of a painful gut from eating soy products such as tofu, digestibility seemed paramount! (All better, BTW, now that I’ve been avoiding soy for nearly a decade.)

Broth Is Protein Sparing

I said “what?” to that one as well.

Here’s the thing: all living cells are composed of protein. Or, put another way, protein is essential to life.

Proteins are assembled from amino acids. And our bodies can build many of the amino acids we need. But not all. There are eight of them that must be supplied by our diet. All essential eight are present in their most assimilable form in meat.

Roast Beefbeef stewBut meat is expensive. Plus, we now know that cooked meat is hydrophobic, which reduces the bio-availability of those amino acids.

So how does this protein sparing thing work?

It has to do with the protein in broth gelatin. The protein in broth gelatin is not complete. That is, it does not contain all eight essential amino acids. In fact, it’s mostly composed of two: arginine and glycine.

But meat broth (and fish broth) gelatin has another special property. It allows the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are eaten with it.

In other words, the chunks of beef in a beef stew (with its broth) will give you much more protein than the same amount of beef sliced from a roast. For those of us on a budget, soup with homemade stock is our friend. 😀

So how do you make soup stock?

I’ll confess that I make more chicken stock than any other, because it’s the easiest. Here’s how I do it.

Chicken StockChicken Stock Recipe

bones & necks from 2 free-range chickens
4 quarts cold, filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar or whey
1 large onion
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled
3 celery sticks

Put the chicken bones into a large pot, fill it with the water, and add the vinegar (or the whey – the liquid that runs off yogurt). Let it sit for an hour. This allows the acidic water to draw the minerals, especially calcium, out of the bones and into the liquid.

Stick the cloves into the onion.

Bring the soaking bones to a boil. Skim the foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat, put the onion and the bay leaf in, cover, and simmer for 4 hours. Add the vegetables and simmer for another 2 to 6 hours.

Remove the chicken bones and wilted vegetables with a slotted spoon. Let the stock cool. Strain it through a seive and pour it into jars to store. It will stay good for 5 days in the fridge, several months in the freezer.

Use as a base for soups and sauces. Plain broth with some salt added makes a great breakfast addition.

For more about nutrition, see:
Grass Green
Handle with Care

For more about food chemistry, see:
Electrolytes iin Solution
Essential Amino Acids

 

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Lacto-fermented Corn

corn earsThe first corn of summer arrived in my kitchen last week.

Half of it I simply cooked and served, slathered in butter, to my family. The other half I made into corn relish.

I promised last August that I’d share the corn relish recipe with you when corn was in season again. Time to make good on my promise!

Corn relish is a lacto-fermented food. The same lacto-bacilli that turn milk into yogurt also turn corn and a few other vegetables into corn relish.

photo of corn, tomato, onion melange in canning jarThere are several benefits to this.

For me personally, it means I can eat corn! Cooked in any ordinary way, corn makes me really ill. Lacto-fermented corn bothers my system not in the least.

Of course, most people can eat corn without my difficulty, but lacto-fermented corn offers everyone the great benefits of any lacto-fermented food.

The process of lacto-fermentation creates valuable enzymes which add to the health of the entire gastro-intestinal tract. We digest our food more thoroughly and easily, and receive more of its nutrition, when we eat enzymes.

Lacto-fermentation also creates pro-biotics. You know how your doctor recommends eating yogurt after a course of anti-biotics? Well, eating lacto-fermented vegetables does the same thing, repopulating the intestine with the beneficial bacteria that must be present in order for humans to be healthy!

And lacto-fermentation makes the vitamins and minerals in our foods more bio-available, so that our bodies absorb more of these vital substances, instead of letting them merely pass through and out.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldI learned about lacto-fermantation in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. It’s an incredible treasury of the old food ways, and I encourage you to check it out for yourself! One caution: whenever you eat foods new to you, it’s wise to go slow. Your body isn’t used to the new substance. Eat just a spoonful or two and wait. Everyone’s body is a little different. Check to make sure yours is okay with something new before you eat a large serving!

For more information about lacto-fermented foods, check here and here.

And now, without more ado, here’s the recipe. (P.S. It’s delicious!)

Corn Relish

3 large ears of fresh organic corn
1 small onion (or a quarter of a large one)
3 tomatoes or 3 peaches
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
4 tablespoons whey

It’s important to use organic vegetables, because pesticide residues on conventional produce can halt the process of lacto-fermentation.

Also, do not use ordinary table salt. The anti-caking chemicals in it can likewise interfere with lacto-fermentation.

I obtain whey by allowing raw milk (from my herd share in a local dairy farm) to become old-fashioned curds and whey! But you can get it from draining the liquid – whey – from any yogurt with active cultures.

Last summer I made corn relish with tomatoes. It tasted marvelous. Last week, I had no tomatoes on hand, and I substituted peaches for them. This corn relish tastes very similar. The lacto-fermented corn and onions are somewhat spicy and dominant. If you have neither tomatoes nor peaches on hand, I encourage you to experiment. I suspect other substitutions might work equally well.

The first step is shucking the corn of its husks and rinsing the threads that cling to the corn away under running water. You may notice that the very tip of the corn is slightly brown. This is a good thing! It’s a bonafide that the corn really is organic. The browning is from a type of pest that loves corn, but is kept away by pesticides. Just cut the brown tip off and discard it.

Next, cut the corn kernels from the cob into a large bowl.

Wash the peaches, remove their pits, and dice the flesh. Add to the mix. (Or peel the tomatoes, dice them, and add them to the mix. The best way to peel tomatoes: immerse them in boiling water for 60 seconds, then in cold water. The skins will slip right off.)

Dice the onion very fine. Add to mixture.

corn relish in the makingPluck the cilantro leaves from their stems, if you are using cilantro, and add.

Add sea salt and whey. Stir the mixture with a spoon. Then pound it lightly with a wooden mallet or a meat pounder.

Spoon the mixture into a 1-quart canning jar. (Be sure you have put the jar and its lid through the hottest cycle of your dishwasher, or else fill the jar with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes before pouring it out. And immerse the lid in boiling water as well. You want the lacto-bacilli to grow, not any pathogenic bacteria!)

Leave at least 1 inch of headroom between the top of the corn mixture and the lip of the jar. Pres the mixture down firmly, so that the whey and the vegetable juices cover the corn mixture. If there is not enough liquid for this, add a little filtered water or more whey. Screw the lid on to finger tight.

serving of corn relishLet the jar sit on your counter at room temperature for 3 days. This is when it lacto-ferments. After 3 days, refrigerate the corn relish. It is ready to eat now and will keep in the refrigerator for many months.

More recipes:
Sauerkraut
Coconut Salmon
Baked Carrots
Baked Apples

More on nutrition:
Test first, then conclude!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

 

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Apples á la Ney-Grimm

Basket of ApplesI love fine cuisine, but the daily grind of cooking is truly not my thing. My husband does more of it than I, but I do cook. We both emphasize simple recipes with excellent ingredients. Complicated food is fun to eat, not so much fun to prepare for a Wednesday dinner!

I’m going to share another of my “un-recipes.” I call them that, because they’re so simple they barely deserve the epithet of recipe. Gourmets will laugh at me, but if it’s yummy and healthful, I’m satisfied.

Baked apples always featured as a dessert in my mind. And, certainly, if you add a sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar to this dish, it makes an excellent dessert. Avoid the sweeteners, however (but keep plenty of butter from grass-fed cows), and you’ve got a good accompaniment to roast pork or roast fowl.

Here’s my simple procedure.

Baking ApplesBaked Apples

8 organic apples
1/4 cup butter

 

Grease the baking dish with butter.
 

Wash and peel the apples.

 

Core and cut the apples into bite-sized chunks. Arrange them in the baking dish.

 

Melt the butter. Drizzle it over the apples.
 

Cover the baking dish and place it in the oven. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F.
 

Serves 4 generously.

 

For more simple recipes, see:
Sautéed Eggplant
Sauerkraut
Baked Carrots
Coconut Salmon
Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Granola, and Crisp Nuts
Coconut Chocolates

For more about butter, see:
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

 

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Coconut Salmon

photos of making coconut salmonI love how crispy the coconut crust becomes and how beautifully it keeps the salmon moist. I have trouble hitting the sweet spot with salmon – not undercooked, but not over dry – and this recipe makes it easy!

 

1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
12 – 18 oz salmon filets

 

Preheat your oven to 375F.

 

Arrange the salmon in a buttered baking dish.

 

Mix the coconut, salt, and paprika in a small bowl.

 

Melt the butter.

 

Add the melted butter to the coconut mixture and stir until the butter is well diffused through the dry ingredients.

 

Spread the coconut-butter mixture on top of the salmon.

 

Place the salmon in the oven.

 

Bake 12 minutes, if salmon is thawed (or fresh). Bake 25 minutes if the salmon is frozen.

 

More Recipes
Baked Carrots
Sauerkraut
Sautéed Eggplant

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The Carrot Un-Recipe

photos of the whole processI love raw carrots, but I like cooked carrots even more. I didn’t eat them often, because of all that slicing and then all that standing over the steamer on the stove top. A few months ago, my kids’ liking for cooked carrots inspired me. If they’ll eat their veggies without complaint, by golly, I’ll cook carrots. But there had to be a better way.

The trick, for me, was bite-sized chunks (not coin-sized slices) and oven baking instead of stove top steaming. The result . . . I find I prefer them to the steamed variety! The flavor is more intense, less watered down.

Baked Carrots

10 large carrots

1/3 cup butter

7” x 11” glass baking dish

Scrub the carrots well, then peel them. Carrots, unlike many other vegetables and fruits, do not store the majority of their nutrients in the skin. Good stuff spreads bountifully through the entire root.

Cut off the tops and discard. Slice the carrots into bite-sized chunks. This goes so much faster than slicing them into coin-sized rounds. You’ll be amazed.

Use a small pat of butter to grease your baking dish. Toss the remnant in with the rest of the butter stick and melt. Place the carrots in the baking dish and drizzle the melted butter over them, coating their surfaces well.

Cover the dish and place in a 350F oven.

Bake for 1 hour.

Be careful removing the cover. The steam contained within is very hot and can burn you.

A Word About Butter

Old-style margarine was chock full of transfats. We now know that transfats are so injurious to the human body that there is no known safe level for eating them. (Talk to the actual fats researchers. They know!)

Enter new-style margarines with “no” transfats.

But . . . there is a big but. Actually three but’s.

First, if the amount of transfat in the margarine is below a certain level, the manufacturer is allowed to claim zero transfats on the label. But that legal “zero” is not what you and I mean by zero. And given how harmful the transfats are, I want that zero to mean literally none at all. It doesn’t.

The second problem is more obscure. It has to do with polyunsaturated fats. (Margarines are made from polyunsarurates.) Until the modern era, humans ate very few. They occurred naturally in grains and cheese and meat and fish, but constituted less than 4% of of the calories ingested.

The process by which we switched to eating nearly 30% of our calories from polyunsaturated fats owes more to corporate greed (a lot of money to be made in corn oil) and political interference than good research. Political correctness may demand we consume corn oil and safflower oil and such, but this political correctness does not dovetail well with good health! Our bodies weren’t made to handle the load.

The third issue with polyunsaturates concerns the manufacturing process. The oils are processed at very high heats. Because polyunsaturates are very fragile, they break down easily. Becoming rancid under the high factory heat, they smell and taste so awful that no one would put them anywhere near the mouth! So the manufacturers must then use harsh chemical scrubbers to remove the odor. Some residues of the chemicals remain in the oils.

Do yourself a favor: cook with butter and extra-virgin olive oil.

 

More Recipes
Sauerkraut
Sautéed Eggplant
Coconut Salmon

 

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Amazing Lactobacilli

photo of corn, tomato, onion melange in canning jarSix weeks ago I made a quart of lacto-fermented corn relish. It was an experiment, because corn in its ordinary state – boiled, slathered with butter, and gnawed from the cob – makes me very ill. Sad, since I love the taste. I hoped lacto-fermented corn might not irritate my system When our CSA delivered yet another eight ears of corn, I decided to risk it. And it went well! I can eat lacto-fermented corn with nary a murmur from my digestion. Plus it tastes like seconds, thirds, and fourths!

(I know. I said that before about the eggplant dish below, but it’s true!)

images depicting traditional peoples from around the worldSo let me tell you about lacto-fermentation. The corn relish recipe was my own creation, but I learned the principles from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

Lactobacilli – lactic acid producing bacteria – are everywhere. They thrive on the surface of all living things and are particularly numerous on the roots and leaves of low-growing plants.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative. It inhibits the action of bacteria that produce decay. Before the invention of freezers or canning machines, cooks preserved vegetables and fruits by lacto-fermentation.

The benefits of lacto-fermentation go far beyond mere preservation, however.

Lacto-fermented foods:
• are more digestible
• make their nutrients more bio-available to our bodies
• possess higher vitamin levels
• acquire many helpful enzymes during lacto-fermentation
• include substances that kill harmful bacteria and prevent cancer
• promote the growth of healthy flora along the entire length of the intestine.

Lacto-fermented or “pickled” cabbage was (and is) popular worldwide. Europe developed sauerkraut; Latin America, cortido; Korea, kimchi; and Japan, tsukemono. But many other vegetables (and fruits) respond delisciously to lacto-fermentation: cucumber, corn, and watermelon rind, to name a few.

Lacto-fermentated foods are easy and fun to prepare at home. There’s something magical to the process – a little like baking, in which dough transforms into bread or cake or cookies, but requiring less hands-on prep and little precision.

The basic recipe goes as follows. Wash your fruits or vegetables thoroughly. Chop or shred or grate them and mix with sea salt and homemade whey. Pound the mix briefly with a wooden mallet. Then press the mass into a canning jar, leaving an inch of headroom at the top, and seal firmly. Leave the jar at room temperature for two to four days, then refrigerate. Fruits will keep for two months. Vegetables stay good indefinitely. (Experts consider sauerkraut to be best after six months!)

Speaking of sauerkraut, here’s a bit of trivia about it and a famous navigator of the past. Captain Cook loaded sixty barrels of the stuff onto his ship before embarking on his second trip around the world. None of the crew developed scurvy. (Sauerkraut has a lot of vitamin C.) And twenty-seven months later, when Cook was nearing home again, the last barrel was opened. It remained perfectly preserved – despite its long journey through every kind of weather and warmth – and delicious. When served to Portuguese nobles visiting aboard, the partial barrel was carried away to share with friends!

One more jot of trivia: ketchup was once a lacto-fermented food. The word derives from ke-tsiap, a Chinese Amoy term for a pickled fish sauce. (Fish sauce was the universal condiment of the ancient world.) The English added mushroom, walnut, cucumber, and oyster to fish sauce to create their own version. Then Americans added tomatoes for another unique take on the flavor enhancer. American ketchup is now largely high fructose corn syrup, but it is possible for the home cook to return to the old artisanal method of concocting it. (But that’s another blog post!)

What about my corn relish? Are you clamoring for the recipe? It’s worth trying, but I’m going to recommend that you start with sauerkraut instead. Corn relish is a simple recipe, but sauerkraut is the most basic of all. And I think you’ll be delighted with its taste – much fresher than the vinegar-laden and pasteurized stuff from the grocery store. I promise I’ll post the corn relish recipe when fresh corn is back in season!

Update: Corn did eventually come back in season, and I made more corn relish! The recipe is posted here.

Sauerkraut

1 large cabbage

2 tablespoons sea salt
(not ordinary shaker salt, which has additives that damage lacto-fermentation)

1/2 cup homemade whey
(draining and using the excess liquid from any yogurt with live cultures works fine)

The cabbage should be of high quality and preferably organic. Pesticide residues can kill lactobacilli and interfere with lacto-fermentation.

Wash the cabbage, peel off the outermost leaves and discard, and remove and discard the stem stalk and the densest part of the core. Then shred the cabbage. The grating attachment in a food processor works nicely, but you can also simply slice the cabbage with a chef knife.

Put the shredded cabbage in a large, sturdy bowl. Add the salt and the whey. Lightly pound the mixture with a wooden mallet for 10 minutes to release the cabbage juices.

(I know. My mallet is metal, and it shouldn’t be. A wooden one is on my shopping list. Why? The whey can damage metal utensils over time. As you can see, my meat pounder is undamaged after 2 years of use. But I still intend to get something wooden. Just not in any rush!)

Transfer the mixture into a pair of quart-sized canning jars. Press the cabbage down firmly in the jars until the juices come up to cover the cabbage. Be sure there is an inch of headroom between the cabbage and the lids. The cabbage will expand slightly while lacto-fermenting. Tighten the lids securely. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process.

Let the jars rest on your counter at room temperature for 2 – 4 days (2 if it’s summer or you’re using the oven a lot, 4 if it’s winter and you keep your house cool).

Then move the jars to the fridge. Let the kraut mature for 3 weeks to develop the best flavor. Serve!

Some people add caraway seed to the ferment. I tried it, but find cabbage straight up to be tastiest!

Once you’ve eaten a serving of your batch, visit here again and tell me what you think! Good?

 

For more Nourishing Traditions posts, see:
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!
Handle with Care
Beet Kvass

More Recipes
Sautéed Eggplant
Coconut Salmon
Baked Carrots

 

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