ALL ABOUT FOOD 1 – HOW TO MAKE WATER KEFIR

Rasa Alksnyte is a teacher, dancer-choreographer, cook and an artistic adviser-mentor currently working at FoAM. Rasa shows us how to make water kefir using fresh herbs as natural flavoring. Herbs include: lavender, birch leaves, rosemary, basil seeds, thyme, verbena, mint – basically anything that grows in your garden or which you can find in the forest and countryside.

The procedure is simple: you add a small quantity (1 cup) of filtered water to your kefir grains and then dissolve two tablespoons of sugar in it. You can use a glass jar or glass bottle and everything must be very clean. You close your jar and bottle, set aside and wait for a day or two. Kefir grains will start breaking down the sugars and feeding off them, producing a kefir concentrate that is slightly carbonated. After the one or two days, you pour out the concentrated sweet liquid into a glass jug or bottle, you add one or two cups of filtered water, a herb of your choice and you let this ferment for a further day or two (or more if you want a stronger, more tangy flavor). At the same time, you feed your grains with more sugar and water. Over time, grains will grow in quantity. Kefir grains are exchanged between people, you cannot buy them anywhere. If you are leaving, you can store them in the refrigerator. The cold will hibernate them and they will keep without the need to be fed for a while.

LINKS:
FoAM is a cultural laboratory re-imagining possible futures at the interstices of art, science, nature and everyday life.

http://fo.am

SITE FOR EXCHANGING KEFIR GRAINS

http://www.torontoadvisors.com/suppliers?keywords=

 

   

NUT CHEESE AND REJUVELAC VARIATIONS (and the kamut scam)

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You can’t exactly say that grains are very popular these days. It’s not just because of intolerance to gluten but also because those nice whole grains like wheat or rye are meant to remain intact until they reach the ground and are able to grow into a plant. They are meant to survive the encounter with possible predator who could consider them as food and therefore grains are enveloped in substances that discourage ingestion and make digestion problematic. This is why we rehydrate whole grains, to get those toxins to dissolve in water and the grains to start sprouting. When you have sprouted grains (rye, wheat but also quinoa, buckwheat, millet) you can make a simple drink called rejuvelac. Rejuvelac was discovered by Ann Wigmore, the inventor of living foods and of the raw food diet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=BE&v=vs3FaCpHAxE

(this is a link in which Ann Wigmore shows how to make rejuvelac)

It contains many enzymes and vitamins. The nutrients in rejuvelac are broken down to their simplest form, aminoacids and simple sugars, making the nutrients immediately available for assimilation. It contains the full vitamin B complex. It helps cleanse the intestinal tract and it helps with constipation problems.

It should be used as a tonic, which you can drink in small quantities a few times a day. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days but, as most raw foods, it’s best made fresh and consumed fresh. At first I made rejuvelac with kamut, which has become ubiquitous in most health food stores. But then I came across an article explaining how kamut is a protected brand from a huge farm in Montana (so protected that you cannot even copy paste their mission statement from their website…), it’s marketed using false claims about it having been found in Egyptian tombs. Basically nobody can freely grow kamut and sell it under this name because it’s a trademark imposing a commercial monopoly. So you will pay from 80% to 100% more than normal wheat for a grain that is not so different from organic wholewheat and you will also leave a larger ecological footprint in the process.

http://www.qbsenigallia.it/articoli/articoli/news/kamut-tutta-la-verita

(sorry the article is from a trusted Italian source – I could not find any echo on English speaking literature…pressure from the firm must be pretty hard to keep dissenting voices out).

Anyway, if you decide to use rye you will have to wait more days. The same goes with buckwheat, which actually yields a very subtle and refreshing rejuvelac. I have been experimenting with buckwheat in order to have a lower content of gluten. On the issue of whether people allergic to gluten will be allergic to rejuvelac made from wheat, the Ann Wigmore health institute says that not everyone will have an allergic reaction. That’s why I’m currently experimenting with a second batch of millet. My first batch of organic millet did not sprout. I’m afraid this may have to do with the quality of the millet that was sold to me. Though labeled as organic, it may have been treated during the production process and thus unable to sprout.

MAKING REJUVELAC

Take 100g of dry soft wheat grains (or more, see below), wash them under tap water, drain them and place them in a 500ml glass jar. Soak in water for 10 to 15 hours.

Discard the water, rinse the grains and place in the jar once again. Cover with a cheese cloth and fix to the brim of the jar with a rubber band. Place the jar in a dark corner of the kitchen, better if in a warmer place. Make sure the grains are slightly wet, maybe sprinkle them with a few drops of water once a day for a couple of days. You should start to notice that the grains sprout. In warmer temperatures, they will already have a root that is 4 to 6mm long. If they have not sprouted, keep for an extra day. If it takes much longer, then something is wrong with the grains (rye does take much longer and must be rinsed more often to avoid mold).

After two days of sprouting, fill the jar with the grains with pure water (better if bottle or filtered water). The amount of water you add to the grains at this point, will be the amount of rejuvelac you will get. So if you want more than 500ml of rejuvelac, you will need a bigger jar and more water.

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Rejuvelac is ready after 24hours. If you want a stronger rejuvelac you can wait an extra day. It’s ready when the water gets cloudy and small bubbles form on the surface. A white foam can also form on the surface of the jar and it should be skimmed off. Rejuvelac can taste a little lemony and flavor will be stronger, the longer the berries have been soaking in the water. After removing the rejuvelac from the berries, it should be stored in the fridge, where it will keep for about 5 days.

NOTE: It can be handy to sprout more grains than you actually need to make rejuvelac. You can store the swollen grains in the fridge for a few days and you can use them to cook, you can add them to soups as you would do with rice or make raw cereal with fresh fruit and nuts. They are a very healthy food, much better than pasta!

YOU CAN USE REJUVELAC TO MAKE FERMENTED NUT CHEESE

When you add pure water to the sprouted grains to make rejuvelac, you can already begin preparations for making fermented nut cheese. In a time of lactose intolerance, making your own nut cheese offers a surprisingly delicious alternative.

You can use macadamia nuts (which are horribly expensive) or cashew nuts (more reasonably priced and equally delicious), hazelnuts or almonds (ideally with their skin on, but then the skin will have to be removed after soaking). Sunflowers and pumpkin seeds can also be used but the soaking time and fermentation time are much shorter and the taste more pungent and less creamy.

Soak 150g of cashew nuts in filtered water for 8 hours (Almonds take about 10 to 12 hours, sundried seeds are fine after 2 hours).

When your rejuvelac is ready, pour it off the wheat berries into a jug. Strain the soaked nuts and place them in a glass jar. Add a small quantity of rejuvelac, just enough to be able to mix the nuts into a smooth, thick paste. You can add more rejuvelac to mix more easily but then you may have to strain your cheese through a cheesecloth at the end.

Basically you leave the paste in the jar, cover it with a cheesecloth and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen, away from direct light. You will notice small bubbles forming, assign that rejuvelac is fermenting with the nut paste. After 10 hours the paste will acquire a slightly acidic flavor. You can wait a few hours more for a stronger flavor, if you prefer. If the paste is too liquid, strain it through a cheesecloth until it gets firmer. Nut cheese usually comes out as a spread. You can add salt, dry spices such as thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, cumin seeds or crushed cardamom for a different flavor. The nut cheese keeps very well in the fridge for 1 week and up to ten days.

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If you make cheese in this way, you are going to be busy for a certain number of days (the time is takes to have rejuvelac). While giving a workshop about rejuvelac and nut cheese in London, back in February, one of the participants asked me whether the fermented juice of lactofermented veggies could be used as a starter. On the moment I could not really imagine if the lactobacteria would enjoy eating up the liquidized nut puree but I told myself I would give it a try.

My first attempt was to use a mild gingery juice from Korean style kimchi on cashew nuts. It actually added a complex and pleasant flavor to the nuts. At that point, herbs were not necessary anymore. The second time round I used the juice of fermented salicornia with sunflower seeds. The result was ok but nothing to scream about, maybe not because of the juice but also because sunflower seeds tend to go a bit bitter and after a couple of days they developed oxydation and a pungent yeasty smess.

I actually noticed that a complex juice from a mixture of veggies and herbs, worked better. I then took the fermented juice of homemade umeboshi plums (will have to write a separate post on this…). It worked again and the combination was really nice. My next experience will be with fermented tomato salsa…

EXPERIMENTS IN FERMENTATION – SALSIFY

 

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Only a few weeks have gone by from the workshops at the WISE TRADITIONS conference in London but the fermentation activity has not stopped. Following the comments of participants, I have undertaken to explore some new paths:

1. Rejuvelac with grains containing little or no gluten (that means sprouting buckwheat and millet).

2. Making nut cheese with a fermentation juice starter instead of rejuvelac. Experimenting with the spices already in the nut mix during fermentation.

3. fermenting grains to make fermented porridge or kishk-type cheese.

Expect some new posts on these subjects soon. In the meantime, a nice recipe I successfully tested during the last weeks!

Salsify is a thin root with a brownish skin. When you peel it, you notice little drops of sticky latex forming on the flesh of the root. The best way to stop it from browning is to place it in water with some drops of vinegar or lemon juice.

Salsify is not a very common but this winter it has appeared on the shelves of several organic sellers. The cooked roots taste delicious but the pickled ones are really a treat. I adapted a Korean recipe that was calling for burdock root (which is pretty hard to find in Europe but which is popular in Koreas and Japan, where I had the chance to try it at a Shinto monastery on Gassan mountain).

You basically clean and skin 1kg of salsify, you cut in slices that are 5cm long and let it rest in water with a few drops of vineger. You chop 30g of fresh garlic, 10g of ginger, 220g of radish (in thin strips of 5cm), 1tsp of dry Korean pepper and 40g of spring onion (thin strips of 5cm).

You mix garlic, ginger in a bowl, add 20g of sugar and 45g of salt. Mix in the spring onions, radish and chili. Add the salsify, which you drained and rinsed again with cold water. Fill up one or more jars, packing them carefully. After 2 days, observe the liquid that will have risen from the cut veggies. Top up the level with filtered water. Fermentation will start after a week and you can begin to taste after 2 weeks.

WISE TRADITIONS – WORKSHOPS ON FERMENTATION TECHNIQUES – 7-8-9 FEBRUARY 2014

For more information and tickets:

http://chapters.westonaprice.org/londonuk/

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FRIDAY FULL-DAY WORKSHOP ON VEGETABLE FERMENTATION – 10:00 to 16:00

In this workshop you will get an extensive introduction to the practice of fermenting vegetables and making fermented condiments.

We will focus on a hands-on approach to fermentation: how to ferment successfully and safely in our own’s (often small) kitchens, using quality vegetables from farms, which we have grown ourselves or foraged in the wild.

To illustrate all this, we have prepared several samples that illustrate the effects of different fermentation techniques, the flavors of wild herbs, the texture of vegetables and role of spices:

-       foraged salicornia in brine;

-       fermented garden vegetables with whey;

-       fermented juice tonic (with cucumbers and mushrooms);

-       gherkins with lavender and wild sea tansy;

-       fermented cooked pumpkin veloute’;

We will discuss samples and go through the necessary steps of fermentation. We will then split the group in two and organize the work around four tables, each of them exploring a different technique/style of fermentation.

LUNCH 13:00 to 14:00

After lunch, we will finish the preparations that people will bring back home.

We will have a shorter tasting and explanation of:

-       homemade fermented ketchup (from Nourishing Traditions);

-       homemade fermented mustard (from Nourishing Traditions);

-       homemade fermented ginger beer (from Wild Fermentation).

There will room for questions and remarks.

 

ASIAN FERMENTATIONS FROM 1 hour to ten years – Satuday 10:00 to 12.30

After a brief introduction to the marvelous and inspiring heritage of Asian fermentations, we will present three samples:

-       instant Japanese tsukemono;

-       4-month old garlic in tamari sauce;

-       Korean-style kimchi.

We will then proceed to make a jar of kimchi that people can take home.

 

FERMENTATION LOOPS: REJUVELAC, NUT CHEESE AND ESSENE BREAD – Sunday 10:00 to 12:30

This is a practical workshop.

We will go through the very simple steps necessary to make the lightly fermented drink “rejuvelac” from sprouted grain, how to ferment nuts and recycle the sprouted grains to make Essene bread crackers.

We will end with a tasting of:

-       rejuvelac;

-       nut cheese;

-       different kind of Essene crackers.

EXPERIMENTS IN FERMENTATION

 

1b.Exotic cucumbers 1. Kiwano

Ahead of the workshops I will give at the Wise Tradition conference in London in February 2014, several experiments have been under way in my by now too small kitchen.

After visiting Marie at Ortieculture, I acquired four rather remarkable species of exotic cucumbers (featured in the picture below). The bright yellow spiky one, the Kiwano cucumber – is from Kenya. When you cut it in half you see lots of large but soft seeds arranged within a bright green mush. It kind of takes you aback because you first had to remove the spikes and then you discover that the harshness was just there to hide the loose pulp inside. No point in trying to slice it, no chance it would hold. This was still a time of bright warm days, full of summer echoes. The Kiwano made me think of those Thai smoothy drinks using large tapioca pearls mixed with different densities of fruit, for example thick coconut cream and kiwi juice, to create a play of translucent layers. I declined in a salty preparation, a comforting salad one could just eat with a spoon and swallow. I scooped out the Kiwano pulp, added hand-mushed over-ripe pink tomatoes from the farm of “Fanes de Carottes” (they are ripe from the end of September…), a dash of home-made red wine vinegar, fresh marjoram and some good olive oil. And if you really want to play on the slimy translucent while being super-healthy, you can add some flax seeds too (soaked in water for 1h beforehand, of course).

I’m not sure many share my Asian appreciation of cold slimy foodstuff, so I will get back to the point of fermenting the unusual cucumbers in salt.

The small green ones are those that resemble most closely cucumbers as we know them. The two brown skinned ones are white inside, more juicy than European cucumbers but with a tougher skin.

In the second picture you can see the “Snake cucumber”, its thin, dark green with white stripes, a sort of cucumber in a skinny pin-striped suit…This is my favorite one of the batch. Inside it is mostly empty, except for tiny bits of bright red pulp surrounding oblong seeds with curly edges. This bits of pulp taste like fruit, they are decidedly sweet, while the rest of the cucumber is firm and vegetable tasting.

At first we skinned all big cucumbers except the Snake ones, sliced them finely and placed them in different jars with a brine of 30g of salt for 1 litre of water. We differentiated the jars by the fresh herbs we added to them, some had tansy a very aromatic but bitter herb we thought could free marvelous aromas when fermented with salt; others had Wormseeda herb with a strong flavor that is similar to satureja.

After one week we tried the jars: first of all tansy was pungent and full of character. Wormseed worked even better. But the main problem was that the cucumbers had become a mushy pulp. I still had some specimens in my fridge and so I made a new batch using the cucumbers cut in halves with their skin on. I was trying to find a way in which they could keep their crunch and so I added a few chestnut leaves (like the leaves of cherries or vine, they contain tannins which preserve the texture of vegetables). Herbs-wise, I also changed my tune: I added some cloves of garlic and the dry flower of onions (the crown studded with tiny onion seeds), and let the cucumber swim in a large quantity of brine.

I told myself that if texture did not keep, the recipe could have delivered an interesting juice. This was actually the case. The cucumbers collapsed into the brine and after ten days or so, I could already add small quantities of pulp or juice to soups like bortsch or meat stews, to salads to bland steamed vegetables like Chinese cabbage, potatoes or lentils. Basically, it was a very handy jar to keep in the fridge and to use in very different preparations. When textures don’t lend themselves to classical idea of small crunchy vegetables morsels, it is worth investing in aromatic fermented juice.

www.ortie-culture.be

AUTUMN IN THE BELGIAN “ALPS”

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It’s a bit of an exaggeration to compare the “Ardennes” to the Alps but it’s true that there are beautiful wooded hills in the South of Belgium, dotted with prehistoric vestiges, like menhir rocks  and ancient tombstones, and home to a large population of reindeer.

My friend Jean-Paul is a keen walker. It was him who pushed me into a walking holiday this summer, along an ancient pilgrimage route from Piacenza into the Tuscan hills. This autumn Jean-Paul proposed to go mushroom picking and to listen to stags …braming during the night in the mating season. The latter occur between the end of September and the beginning of October, during (and don’t ask me why) the hunting season. At night, the stags confront each other in harsh duels. The winner gets to mate with the females.

People are not allowed to go into the forest at night but Jean-Paul has been doing it for years, since the time when their kids were in primary school. He knows the best spots and he has memories of the sudden appearance of a stag duel int the middle of a field under a fool moon. Tonight we climb up a path in complete darkness. Our eyes get used to it slowly but still you have to be at once confident and careful about where you put your feet. At one point we get out of the trees and cross a field that is bathed in moon light. We gain a nice spot on the side of a tree, overlooking the field and the edges of the forest in all directions. After a short moment, the first stags begin to cry at each other from different corners of the forest. They must have smelled us of course but their stake is far more important. We hear them getting closer to each other and at suddenly we hear the sound of antlers clashing. It lasts only a moment. There is silent and then more cries, deep cries that are almost human. One can smell the pungent odor of the males in the air. We remain in our spot for a couple of hours but the stags will be at it all night.

Jean-Paul lives in an ancient stone cottage surrounded by a fruit orchard and a field where his sheep graze among the Lepiota Procera. Those are the first we pick the next morning. Tall brown mushrooms that are excellent cooked in a pan with butter and eggs! Jean-Paul goes to pick mushrooms like someone going to buy vegetables in a market. He has different spots depending on the type of mushroom, he walks briskly towards them and more often than not, he reappers with a few specimen. We find some Boletus and Cantharellus. But I cannot prevent myself from photographing the most colorful poisonous Amanita Muscaria.

Once back, Jean-Paul announces what will turn out to be the most exciting event of the year: soon he will slaughter some lambs and quite probably he will also slaughter a sheep and this is still available, if I want it.

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SOPA DE PEDRAS

Michele

Michele

Sabina

Sabina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legend of the soup made out stones is a story of two beggars who come to village with an empty pot and some stones. They set up a fire by the river, fill up their pot and start cooking the stones. One by one, some of the villagers pass by and ask the beggars what they are up to. They answer that they are making a fabulous stone soup but that they are just missing a couple of things to make it really special. So it happens that each person hands out something, a couple of carrots, some potatoes and so on. After some time, a truly wonderful soup starts simmering inside the pot, thanks to everybody’s contribution, and this is the soup they all eat together.

Last May, I was traveling with my best friends Sabina and Michele to a wonderful spot on the West Coast of Italy: Framura. Literally “between walls”, this is a rocky piece of land with houses trickling along steep slopes that fall into the sea. Numerous aromatic plants grow everywhere in thick bushes: savory, thyme, santolina, critmo, helichrysum…In May, most of them are flowering profusely. The weather is warm but the sun has not had the time to scorch the bushes, everything is a luscious green color. This is the time for wild delights like wild green peas, wild onions and wild asparagus, which one has to fathom from the other plants by following them down to the ground, where the youngest tender sprouts can be picked.

Sabina and Michele are, among other things, chefs. In the past they had adapted the famous “stone soup” for an art event in Torino. They had used special stones from shallow (and clean) sea waters, stones that are covered with a thin slimy film of seaweed and which release wonderful sea aromas when cooked in water. This time we wanted to repeat the experience using wild hand-picked herbs and we wanted to cook the soup by the sea. We began our walk through the bushes, carrying an empty pot and a small quantity of cherry tomatoes. We found garlic, asparagus, green peas, several aromatic herbs. Once on the rocky beach we began gathering pieces of wood that the waves had landed on the shore and the sea had dried into a bone-like shade of white. We constructed a fireplace for the pot and then jumped into the see, using out feet to feel around the smooth stones on the bottom of the water, trying to locate a slimy one we could pick up. We then climbed around the cliffs with small knives to detach some shells that could give some extra flavor to the soup. The pot was half full of stones when we began cooking, slowly, for about 45 minutes. The bright light of the sun and the breeze of the sea made an unforgettable backdrop to the metal pot. We sipped it from a can we found on the ground and shared among us. What a flavor, what a vital energy contained in this dish!

zuppa di pietre tra le pietre

zuppa di pietre tra le pietre

stone soup

stone soup

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