Lacto-fermented Garlic and Dill Pickles

I ended up with a bunch of pickling cucumbers in my CSA box a week or two ago, so decided that it was time to make some pickles.

I like to enjoy some probiotic rich food with every meal if I can, and these pickles fit the bill perfectly….

2 Chicken drumsticks, collard greens with bacon, half a sliced avocado and some pickles

2 Chicken drumsticks, collard greens with bacon, half a sliced avocado and some pickles

Because the cucumbers I received were not very even in size, I decided to slice them this time and make pickle slices.  You could easily make whole cucumber pickles or even use cucumbers cut lengthwise into spears.  Whole cucumbers may take a little longer depending on the size, but the process is exactly the same.

In order to keep the cucumber pickles crunchy, you need to use a source of tannin – some people use grape leaves, but I decided to use green tea because that is what I have handy for making my kombucha.

Lacto-Fermented Garlic and Dill Pickles

Makes 1 pint jar

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Place the teabag and the salt in the 2 cups of boiling water and leave to stand until at room temperature.  Stir well to dissolve the salt.

Meanwhile slice the cucumbers into ¼” thick slices.

Peel the garlic but leave the cloves whole.  Place the garlic and dill in the bottom of the jar and then fill the jar with the cucumber slices.

Once the tea/brine has cooled to room temperature, pour this in the jar until they are covered with the brine. You probably will not need all the brine, but it is better to have made too much!

Now you need to weigh them down.  As you can see in the picture above, I used a smaller mason jar that fit nicely inside the mouth of the larger jar.  Other people use clean, boiled river-rocks, glass marbles or even a food-grade plastic bag filled with more brine.  Anything will work as long as it is non-toxic, will fit inside the jar, and will hold the pickles under the brine.  A glass jar just works well for me.

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Cover the jar and any weights with a clean, densely woven cloth.  I like to use a tea-cloth as they wash well in case of any accidental brine spillage, yet they are densely woven enough to keep bugs out.  Do NOT try to use the cheap, loosely woven “Cheesecloth” sold in grocery stores – the weave is far too loose on this, and even with multiple layers fruit-flies and other bugs will get into your pickles!  Hold the cloth in place with either string tied tightly round the jar or an elastic band.

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Leave your pickles on the counter for 4-6 days at room temperature.  I like to stand the jar in a dish to catch any brine that might spill over the edge of the jar – it makes less of a mess on the counter.

After 4 days, taste one of the pickles and see if it is to your liking.  If it is, now is the time to put a lid on the jar and stash them in the fridge.

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If not, leave them on the counter-top for an extra day or two.

Serve cold with your favourite meals….

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If using small whole pickles, they may take an extra 3-4 days depending on size.  Really large whole pickles might take up to a week or two to get properly pickled.

When making whole pickles I will sometimes use a crock or a large pot – in this case a baked bean pot that I will never use for cooking beans…

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Just scale up the recipe, remembering to use 2 cloves of garlic and 2 sprigs of dill for every cup of brine you are making up, and using 1 TBSP of salt and 1 green teabag per cup of brine.

Place the garlic and dill at the bottom of the crock, then pack the cucumbers on top:

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Pour over the brine, and then weight down with something that will keep the pickles under the surface of the brine.  In the case of my bean-pot, because of the shape and the narrow neck, I use a ziplock bag filled with brine.  If you are using a straight sided crock, you could use an appropriately sized dinner plate or anything else that fits.

Cover the crock tightly with a lid or a cloth (I like to put a piece of clingwrap over the mouth of my bean pot, and then place the lid on top to make sure no insects get in.

Ferment for 1-2 weeks depending on the size of the pickles before transferring them to smaller jars and storing in the fridge.

Shared at:  Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable

Coconut Milk Yogurt

Traditional yogurt, made with cow’s milk, is off-limits to those with milk allergies or anyone following the Autoimmune protocol.  But yogurt is one food that I miss.

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Coconut yogurt is a healthy alternative that’s made with coconut milk instead. In addition to being dairy free, coconut yogurt also supplies several important vitamins and minerals and can have live and active cultures just like milk-based yogurts.

Not only is coconut milk yogurt a great idea, it’s really delicious. It’s tangy and creamy like a yogurt should be. The only problem is that there is almost no protein in it, and this means that it does not thicken up in the same way that a regular cows milk yogurt does.  And this is the reason why those store bought brands contain the added gums and thickeners that I would prefer to avoid.

The ideal solution to wanting to avoid all those gums is to make your own.

Some recipes for homemade coconut milk yogurt use tapioca starch or pectin as a thickener.  But I like to use gelatin as it provides some protein, and has other health benefits.  This is the brand of gelatin that I prefer to use because it comes from grass-fed cows.

I like to use this brand of coconut milk as it does not contain any gums or thickeners, and it comes in a BPA free can:

The final thing that you need is a yogurt starter or culture.  You could use a spoonful of purchased coconut milk yogurt, but as I mentioned, that will most likely contain gums and thickeners.  Another suggestion is to use a yogurt starter.

The final option that you could use is some probiotic capsules.  I find this the most convenient starter to use as I always have some probiotic capsules to hand.  I use this one as I find it suits me best.

I don’t have a yogurt maker – I make my yogurt by heating the milk and then wrapping it in a towel and placing it in a warm place (the cupboard over the top of the fridge is ideal in my house.  If you have a yogurt maker, you can certainly use that.  Other suggestions are to place the jar containing the yogurt in an oven with the pilot light turned on, to place it in an insulated cooler with some jars of hot water, in a slow cooker or even placing the jar on a heating pad.  If you have a dehydrator with a temperature setting that goes low enough for raw foods, you can also use that to incubate your yogurt.  The key thing is to keep the yogurt at a temperature between 108°F and 112°F.

Coconut Milk Yogurt

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Heat the coconut milk to 115°F.

Sprinkle over the gelatin and mix well.

Allow the milk to cool to 110°F.  Now sprinkle over the contents of the probiotic capsule, or stir in your yogurt starter.  Mix well.

Transfer the coconut milk mixture to a mason jar.  Keep the jar at a temperature of between 108°F and 112°F.  This can be achieved by wrapping the jar in a towel and placing it in a warm place, by placing it in the oven with the pilot light on, by using a slow-cooker or dehydrator, or by using a yogurt maker.  Whatever method you choose, it is important that the heat does not go above 112°F as that will kill the cultures.

Allow the yogurt to incubate for anything from 12 up to 24 hours.  A longer incubation time will result in a more sour, tangy yogurt.  Experiment and find what time-frame produces a yogurt that you like.

After the fermentation, you may find that your yogurt has separated slightly – this is normal.  It will also be quite thin and runny.

I use a whisk and mix the 2 layers back together again.

Place the yogurt in the fridge for 2-4 hours and it will thicken slightly as the gelatin sets.

The yogurt will keep in the fridge for at least 7 days.  Use in recipes that call for yogurt, or eat it topped with berries.

Shared at: Hearth and Soul Hop, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, This is how we roll Thursdays, The Handmade Hangout

Simple Small Batch Sauerkraut

I don’t own a large fermentation crock, so I make my sauerkraut in small batches in mason jars.

It does take a bit more work to do it this way because you have to make and fill several small jars rather than just packing it into one large fermentation crock or jar.

But I have a large number of wide-mouthed mason jars, so this method works well for me.

I posted about my vegetable ferments that I made a while ago, and sauerkraut was part of this batch.

I made a batch with red cabbage and another batch with green/white cabbage.  You could use either or even mix the two.

I don’t add any spices to my kraut, but if you are not AIP and like the flavour, you could add some caraway or fennel seeds to provide a slight aniseed flavour.

Sauerkraut is very good for you – it has been shown that a small amount of sauerkraut will provide you with far more healthy probiotic bacteria than even some of the very high quality probiotic supplements.

This makes it a very valued addition to any diet as far as I am concerned.

But in addition to it’s probiotic content, sauerkraut is a good source of vitamins A and C, and has all the health benefits of the other cruciferous vegetables.

It is also very tasty – tangy and slightly salty.

Simple Small Batch Sauerkraut

makes 1 quart sized mason jar

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  • ½ head of cabbage (you could double up the recipe and use the entire head if you prefer).  Either red cabbage or white, or a mixture of the two – it really does not matter.
  • 2 tbsp sea salt

Take your cabbage and remove the core and some of the outside leaves.  Reserve one or two leaves.

Now shred the cabbage finely – I like to do this in my food processor to save time, but you could use a knife.

Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt evenly over the surface.

Now you need to pound the heck out of the cabbage – I use the end of my rolling pin, but you could use a meat pounder or even your fists.  What you need to do is to break down some of the structure of the cabbage and make it release it’s liquid as this forms the brine that will preserve your kraut.

Pounding the cabbage can take upwards of 10 minutes, and you want it to be really juicy when you squeeze it.

After this, transfer the cabbage to a wide mouthed mason jar, packing it down well with your fists.

If you have pounded it enough, you should see the brine starting to rise up over the surface to cover the cabbage.  If not enough brine rises up, no worries, just mix up a little more brine (2 tbsp salt in 1 quart of water) and pour that over the surface.

Now take the reserved cabbage leaves and lay them on the surface of the cabbage, pushing them underneath the brine.  These will stop lots of little bits of cabbage from rising to the surface, which will help prevent mold forming.

After this, I like to weight the cabbage leaves down – I use the very small jelly-sized mason jars as they fit perfectly inside a wide-mouthed mason jar.  I fill them up with a little brine to help hold them down and prevent them from floating.

And finally, screw the lid on the mason jar.

Leave your sauerkraut to ferment for 2-3 weeks, opening the jar to release any gas every day.  I like to taste it towards the end of the fermentation period at this point as well.

The sauerkraut is ready when it tastes good to you.  In cold weather it may take longer to ferment than it will in the summer.

If you don’t think it is ready, reseal and leave it for a few more days.  Some people like to ferment their kraut for several weeks (6-8), but I prefer it “younger”.

Once you think it is ready, transfer it to the fridge as this will slow down the fermentation process.  Now it will keep for months.

If you make sure that your cabbage is well submerged under the brine, you should have very few problems with spoilage or mold formation – but in the unlikely event that it does mold, throw the whole lot out.  Mold produces toxins that can spread rapidly throughout the entire jar of sauerkraut, and you cannot just scrape it off the surface.

When I make red cabbage sauerkraut, it looks like this:

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And the green cabbage sauerkraut looks like this:

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Because this is a live culture, I don’t really recommend that you cook your sauerkraut – it will be tasty if cooked, but it won’t contain any of the probiotic bacteria as they are killed by high temperatures.

I most often eat my sauerkraut raw – either with sausage patties for breakfast:

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Or with other meats/fish/eggs (this is pulled pork)

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I also sometimes add it to coleslaw to make a lacto-fermented slaw.

Beet Kvass & Lacto-Fermented Beets

This is another recipe in my cultured/lacto-fermented foods series.

And the best bit is that this is a 2-in-1 recipe.

Not only do you get a wonderful probiotic beverage (the Beet Kvass), you also end up with some lacto-fermented beets that can be used in salads or as a condiment to provide yet more probiotics in your diet.

I love Beet Kvass – it has a slightly sweet, slightly salt, earthy flavour that is full of beet.

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When you sip it, you can feel that it is doing you some good!

Beet Kvass is a cleansing tonic, that is good for many systems of the body.

Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions says: “This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.”

In addition to the cleansing nature of kvass, the finished drink is full of beneficial enzymes and probiotic bacteria as a result of the lacto-fermentation process.   As the beets ferment, the sugar and starch in the beets are converted to lactic-acid preserving the kvass and stopping it from going bad.

Regularly eating lacto-fermented vegetables, including beet kvass, will promote healthy gut flora, and greater absorption of nutrients from your food.

I add both garlic and ginger to my kvass for extra flavour and nutrition.  If you don’t like them or you cannot handle them in your diet, it will work just as well without.

This is another fairly quick ferment, taking less than a week on the counter top, but it does benefit from a week or two in the refrigerator to allow the flavours to mellow and even out.  It can be drunk straight off the counter however, but I think it is better to wait…

You do need dechlorinated water for this as chlorine will prevent the growth of the lactic-acid bacteria that ferment the beets.

The water you use can be dechlorinated in a number of ways – you can buy reverse osmosis filtered water or distilled water.  You can run your water through a household filter that will remove the chlorine.  You can leave it to stand on the counter-top for 24 hours, you can boil it for 20 minutes and then allow it to cool, or you can whir it in a blender for 5 minutes.  These last 3 methods will remove chlorine from the water but they will not remove chloramine.  Some municipalities have moved from using chlorine in their water supply to using chloramines.  These cannot be removed from the water, so it is important that you contact your water provider and check.  The city of Calgary does not use chloramines, so all of these methods work for me.

Beet Kvass and Lacto-Fermented Beets

Makes 1 quart-sized jar

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  • 3-4 large beets
  • 1″ piece of root ginger
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • dechlorinated water

Take the beets and wash them well – there is no need to peel.  Cut the beets into large chunks – I usually cut them into 8 wedges.  Slice the root ginger into thin slices – again, no need to peel.

Place the ginger and garlic in the bottom of a quart sized mason jar and add the beets.

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Mix the sea salt with the water to make a brine and pour this over the beets to within 1″ of the top of the jar.

Seal and stand at room temperature for 2-7 days.  The ambient temperature will determine exactly how long the fermentation process will take.  Check the kvass each day, removing the lid to allow any gas to escape.

After a couple of days, it is also a good idea to taste a little – the kvass is ready when it is a deep red colour and there are a few small bubbles working their way to the top.  It should smell and taste earthy and salty and a bit like beets.  If your home is very warm, it could ferment in as little as 2 days, during the winter or if your house is colder, it could take up to a week.

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Store the kvass in the refridgerator.  You can drink it straight away, but if you leave it for a couple of weeks, the saltiness will diminish and the flavours will keep getting better and better.

Some of the best kvass I have ever drunk was forgotten at the back of the fridge for around 8 weeks!

You can use the leftover beets to make a second batch of kvass – follow the directions above, using the beets, ginger and garlic, and adding more brine.

After the second batch of kvass, use the beets in salads or just eat them as a snack.

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I love to grate the fermented beets and mix them with grated carrot and some green onion to make a fermented beet salad.

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The Kvass can be drunk just as it is as a cleansing probiotic tonic.  It can also be added to salad dressings, soups or used as an interesting addition to a cocktail (it tastes wonderful when added to a Caesar!)

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Shared at Gluten Free Fridays #98

Shared at Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable #34

Shared at Homestead Blog Hop

How To Make Kombucha And Grow Your Own Scoby

Kombucha is a fantastic beverage. Naturally fermented, it contains large amounts of gut-friendly microbes (bacteria and yeasts).  In essence, it is a slightly effervescent drink made from fermented, sweetened tea.

While you can purchase kombucha from health food stores, this can work out as a very expensive option, especially if there are large amounts of people in your family.

For example, to purchase a 500ml bottle of GT’s Original Organic Raw Kombucha from Community Natural Foods in Calgary costs $3.87. Even if I were to share one bottle between 2 people, that would still mean buying 3 bottles at a cost of $11.61 to supply my family of 6. And if I were to do that every day, it would run to a cost of $81.27 a week!  $4226.04 a year!  Just for a healthy drink. I don’t know about you, but I can think of plenty of other things that I could spend that money on,

But Kombucha is very easy to make. All you need is some tea (black or green, your choice), a fermentable sweetener, you could use pasteurized honey (Raw honey is not recommended as it has an antimicrobial action that can affect the growth of your scoby),  coconut sugar, raw cane sugar or even regular sugar as the sweetener  See this post by the Paleo Mom about using sugar. And the final thing you need is a Kombucha Scoby, which contains all the bacteria and yeast cultures that will ferment your drink and be so good for your gut-health.  Scoby stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts….  Essentially, a scoby looks a little bit like a lump of jelly.

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You could use a scoby saved from your previous batch of Kombucha, but if this is your first time making this drink you will need to obtain one from somewhere.

You could consider buying one over the internet from sites such as Cultures for Health or KombuchaKamp.

Occasionally I have seen people offering scobys on Freecycle, and I have also seen them offered for sale on Kijiji.   You could also try craigslist.  But it is also possible to grow your own Scoby from a bottle of raw Kombucha.

Growing a scoby is as simple as picking up a bottle of raw kombucha, tipping half of it into a mason jar and adding the tea and fermentable sweetener of your choice. Make sure that the Kombucha is raw. If it does not specifically state “RAW” on the label, it may have been pasteurized which will have killed all those active cultures that will ferment your beverage and grow your Scoby.

I grew the scoby pictured above from a bottle of GT’s original unpasteruized (raw) kombucha.

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I used 2 green tea-bags that I brewed in 1 cup of boiling water and added 2 tbsp of sugar.  I covered this with a cloth held in place with an elastic band and left it on the kitchen counter until it was almost cold.  Then I poured in my kombucha (I used half a bottle and drank the rest).

Then I covered the mouth of the jar with a cloth to keep out any beasties and bugs, and I then stashed it in a cool, dark place to ferment. I kept mine in the pantry.

After a week or two, you will notice a jelly like mass in the liquid in the jar.

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This is your new Scoby. Once the scoby is about 1/4 inch thick and more white than clear it is ready to use.

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Carefully lift it out of the liquid and place it in a clean jar with a small amount of the Kombucha you have just fermented – just enough to keep it moist.

When you come to make a new batch of Kombucha, you take your Scoby and add it to a jar with some tea and fermentable sugars (I use 2 green teabags and 2 tbsp of unrefined organic cane sugar to a quart jar filled ¾ full of boiled water that is then allowed to cool to room temperature) , cover it and leave it to ferment.

Don’t worry if your scoby floats, sinks like a stone or even lies sideways in the liquid – I have had scobies do all of these, although mine mostly float (they seem to have some trapped airbubbles in them).  No matter what they do, they all ferment the sugars in the tea to kombucha pefectly well.

This time it won’t take as long. After about 7-14 days, you will notice a few bubbles in your mixture and there will be 2 scobies in the jar – the original one and a new “baby”.

Carefully lift these out and store them in some of the Kombucha. The remaining liquid can either be drunk as it is, or it can be sealed in a spring clip glass bottle for a few days. If you do this, it will become slightly fizzy.

You can also flavour it using fruits or fruit juice in a secondary fermentation.  This is more likely to make it develop fizz, and will add extra flavour.

To carry out a secondary fermentation, I transfer the brewed kombucha to a clean mason jar and I then add some fruit or fruit juice.

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Favourites of mine are:

  • mixed frozen berries
  • sliced citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit – either individualy or as a mixture)
  • pineapple and mint
  • individual berries (saskatoon berries taste wonderful!)
  • stawberries, mango and mint

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Try all of these or come up with your own combinations.

After carrying out a secondary fermentation in the mason jar at room temperature for 24-48 hours, you should strain your flavoured kombucha off the fruit (you may notice a substantial increase in the fizziness).  At this point I like to store it in a fliptop bottle in the fridge, but you could use any bottle that has a good seal or even another mason jar.

This is the kind of bottles I like to use – the one on the left is a flip-top one, the one on the right is an old GT’s kombucha bottle.

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Store your ready made Kombucha in the fridge and drink it within a week or two.

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At this point, you can now make 2 batches of Kombucha, resulting in 4 scobies. And they will keep doubling up in this fashion.

The scobies can be stored in the liquid in the fridge for a few weeks. But if you notice an unpleasant smell, your Scoby may have died, so throw it out and start again. If you keep a constant batch of Kombucha on the go you shouldn’t run into this problem most of the time, although I have had the odd batch where one Scoby has died for no apparent reason.

When you have more scobies than you can cope with, you could consider offering them on Freecycle, so that others can benefit from this healthy, delicious drink.

But an alternative use that I came across the other day is to dry the scobies out to use as dog-treats….that way your pooch can also benefit from some gut-friendly bacteria.

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Happy fermenting……

Shared at Real Food Wednesday 7/2/2014

Shared at Allergy Free Wednesday

Shared at Thrifty Thursday

Shared at Pennywise Platter Thursday 73

Lemon and Mint Water Kefir Popsicles

I posted about how I made water kefir a few weeks ago.

One of my favourite flavours to make is lemon and mint.  To make this, you simply carry out a secondary fermentation in a sealed mason jar, adding sliced lemons and mint sprigs.

But I don’t always drink the water kefir.

During the summer I like to make the girls popsicles as a treat – homemade popsicles are wonderful – you can control exactly what goes in them to make sure that there is no nasty stuff.  Quite often I use fruit juice, coconut water or even the pureed fruit itself to make popsicles.

But the other day, I was thinking, why not use water kefir.

These are really good!

Not overly sweet, with a tangy lemon flavour and a subtle taste of mint.  They are incredibly refreshing, and a good way of getting some gut-friendly probiotics into your kids tummies.  The bacteria become dormant when frozen, but they “wake-up” again once they are ingested.

Lemon and Mint Water Kefir Popsicles

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  • 1 quart ready made water kefir – see here for instructions on how to make the water kefir
  • 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sprigs of mint
  • popsicle molds

Take the lemon and slice it into thin rounds – no need to peel.  Place the lemon in a quart mason jar and add the mint.

Strain the water kefir over the lemon and mint to make sure you retain all the grains so that you can use them for the next batch.

Seal the jar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Next day, strain the liquid out of the jar and pour into popsicle molds – any kind works.  Bigger molds will make fewer popscles, with smaller ones you will get more.  If you do not have any popsicle molds, you could improvise with a small dixie cup and popsicle sticks.

Freeze for several hours until frozen solid.

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To release the popsicles from the mold, run them under the hot tap for a few seconds until they release.

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And enjoy!

Shared at Paleo AIP Recipe Roundup #29

Shared at Mostly Homemade Mondays #83

Shared at Gluten-free and DIY Tuesdays

Lacto-Fermented Gingered Carrots

Lacto-fermented vegetables add not only gut-healthy prebiotic bacteria, but also the vitamin-rich vegetables.  And they provide attractive colour, a salty-sour tangy taste and an appetizing crunch to meals. I like to include some kind of lacto-fermented food in every meal I serve.

These ginger-flavoured carrots are one of our favourites.  The have a great crunch, a pleasant saltiness that is tempered with some acidic sharpness, and a subtle ginger flavour. I like to pack these in lunch boxes, to serve them as a snack with a dip or to chop them up and include them in salads.

To gain the most benefits from the gut-friendly bacteria, you really do need to serve these raw and cold.  Think of them as crunchy, salty, sour carrot sticks.

You can obtain the un-chlorinated water in a number of ways – you could run your water through a water filter that will remove chlorine.  You could leave the water on the counter-top for a day or two (but be aware that a number of municipalities are now using chloramines in the place of chlorine to sterilize their water – chloramines will not dissipate over time, unlike chlorine.  Call your water provider to ask if they use them).   You could whirl your water in a blender for a minute or two do “de-gas” it (this does not work for chloramines), you could boil it for 10 minutes (again does not work for chloramines).  You could use bottled, reverse-osmosis filtered water.   Or you could do what I do, and not worry too much about it….  I have never had a fermentation fail due to using tap water!

Don’t be afraid of the salt – the carrots really do not absorb all that much of it – they just have a pleasant salty-sour taste from the salt-solution they were cultured in that remains on the outside.  If salt is an issue for you, please do not try to reduce it (it is there to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria), simply rinse the brine off the carrot sticks before eating them.  You may reduce some of the beneficial bacteria by doing this, but most will remain.

I recommend that you use organic carrots to make these – carrots can absorb toxins from fertilizer use that they store in their skin.  If you have to use regular, grocery-store carrots peel them first as that will remove most of the toxins.

Lacto-Fermented Gingered Carrots

makes 1 quart mason jar

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  • 1lb organic carrots (4-5 medium carrots)
  • 1″ piece of fresh root ginger – thinly sliced into rounds (no need to peel)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • filtered/de-chlorinated water as needed

Wash your carrots well and remove the ends.  Peel if using non-organic carrots.

Cut the carrots into sticks.

Place the ginger and salt in the base of the jar then pack the carrot sticks in tightly.  I like to hold the jar on it’s side and slide the sticks in one by one, filling in any gaps so that all the carrot sticks stand vertically.  You want them so tightly packed that nothing can float to the surface.  Use an extra carrot if necessary.

Pour the water over the carrots so that they are all covered by at least ¼” of water.  The water level should be less than 1″ from the top of the jar. Seal with a lid.  Give a quick shake (gently – you do not want to dislodge any of those carrots!) to dissolve the salt.

Check once a day, loosening the lid to allow any carbon-dioxide build-up to escape. After 3-7 days store in the refrigerator. The best way to judge whether these are ready is to taste one.  If it tastes good to you – pleasantly sour-salty, it is ready.  If not, allow it to ferment for a few more days.

The carrots will continue fermenting in the refridgerator but it will be much slower.  Eat the carrots within a week or two and they should stay crunchy.

If all the carrots are fully submerged in the brine you should not get any mold growth.  But in the unlikely event that you do (most often caused by a stray carrot or piece of ginger floating to the surface) discard the entire jar. Mold most often looks fuzzy and can be white or colored (blue, yellow, green).

Shared at Paleo AIP Roundtable #28

Water Kefir Soda

In an attempt to increase the amount of probiotic foods in our diet, I have been making water kefir a lot lately.

Water Kefir is an effervescent, probiotic rich fermented drink that can be used to make a healthy homemade soda.    Like most other probiotic rich fermented foods, it supports gut health and systemic wellness.

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It is enzyme rich and filled with amino acids, and is also rich in vitamin B12, vitamin K and biotin.

Water kefir is made using a scoby (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) called Tibicos, although most people simply refer to them as water kefir grains.  Unlike a kombucha scoby, water kefir grains are small, translucent jelly like lumps around 5mm in size although they can grow to be much larger.

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You add the grains to a sugar water solution, and the bacteria and yeasts feed on the sugar turning it into a number of beneficial acids and infusing the water with probiotic microorganisims, B vitamins and food enzymes.  This process reduces the amount of sugar in the finished drink.  It does produce a small amount of alcohol as well, but in most cases, this ranges from 0.5% to 0.75% depending on how you brew it.  The longer you brew it, the more alcohol it will contain.  This post deals with the alcohol content of water kefir.

I purchased my water kefir grains in a dried form from Cultures for Health, but you may be able to find someone local who will give or sell you some.  Try searching on Craigslist or Kijiji.  You could also try asking on groups such as Wild Fermentation on Facebook.

It is very easy to make, and because you flavour it yourself with fruit or juice, the variations you can make are endless.

I like to make my water kefir using an unrefined organic cane sugar as this provides the mineral rich environment that the water kefir grains love.  I also add a pinch of sea salt (for minerals again).  In case you are thinking “But sugar is not paleo”, read this post by The Paleo Mom on using sugar as a sweetener.  As long as you do not over consume the water kefir (and really, you do not need to consume more than a single glass in a day) you really won’t be getting huge amounts of sugar, and this beverage contains far less sugar than a can of coke, and none of the harmful artificial flavourings and additives.

Honey does not make a good substitute for the sugar as it has antimicrobial propeties and can weaken or kill your water kefir grains.  Likewise, sugar-free sweeteners such as stevia cannot be used to make water kefir as they would not provide any food for the grains.

Water kefir is made in 2 stages – a primary fermentation where the grains grow in the sugar water for 24-48 hours, then a secondary fermentation where fruit, juice or herbs and spices are added to flavour the liquid.  It is during the secondary fermentation that the carbonation takes place.

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Water Kefir Soda

makes 1 quart

For the primary fermentation:

  • ¼ cup water kefir grains (one packet of dehydrated grains from Cultures for Health will yield ¼ cup when rehydrated)
  • ¼ cup unrefined organic cane sugar
  • 1 pinch of unrefined sea salt
  • un-chlorinated filtered water (if you are using tap water, boil it to remove the chlorine and allow to cool)

Dissolve the sugar and sea salt in the water, and place in a 1 quart jar.  Add the water kefir grains (if using dehydrated ones, follow the instructions that come with them for re-hydrating them).

Cover the mouth of the jar with a coffee filter held in place with an elastic band and place in a room-temperature dark place for 24-48 hours.  I put mine in the pantry.

The longer you leave it, the more of the sugar that will be fermented out, but do not leave it for more than 48 hours or it will starve your grains.

After 48 hours, strain the grains through a strainer, reserving the liquid.  Some people tell you never to use metal, but I have been, and my grains are fine.  I figure the few seconds it takes me to strain out the grains and then dump them into a new container of sugar water won’t harm them or me.

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Place your strained grains into a new jar of sugar water to start the process again.

The strained liquid is what you are going to use to make the water kefir.

Place it in a new mason jar with whatever you decide to flavour it with.  You could use ½ cup of fruit juice, but I most often add whole fruit to the jar.  I also add herbs or spices sometimes.

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These are some of my favourites:

  • 1 cup diced pineapple and a sprig of mint mint
  • a diced grapefruit (this one is WONDERFUL!)
  • a sliced lemon and a sprig of mint
  • ½ cup of frozen mixed berries
  • a 1″ piece of ginger sliced (no need to peel), ½ lemon sliced, 2-3 star anise, a cinnamon stick, a tsp cardamom seeds and a tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup frozen saskatoon berries and a couple of sprigs of fresh basil
  • 2 peppermint teabags (seriously, it is VERY good!)

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Seal the jar with a lid and place it on the kitchen counter for 12-24 hours until the flavours have infused and the drink is starting to get bubbly.  As per the article I linked to above, you don’t want to let it get so bubbly that it fountains out of the jar.  You want it just about the fizziness of a can of coke.

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Now you can strain out any solid flavouring ingredients and store it in the fridge.

I like to transfer it to a flip-top bottle like this one for storage.

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Shared at Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #70

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Shared at Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable #25

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Shared at Whole Food Fridays 5-2-2014