Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's In A Pickle?

It's just over a week since the OSLSS What's In a Pickle Workshop and I'm drinking the Beet Kvass we made that day. It is bubbly and tangy and I've grown to love it! I brought it home and let it sit on the counter to ferment. I shook it every day for a week before I began hearing it fizz. This, I learned at the workshop, meant that it was fermenting.

Jill Oneglia led the What's In a Pickle Workshop for Motherhouse and she explained what pickling is - a process of preserving food by fermentation in brine, to produce lactic acid. She referred to the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. In addition to many recipes, Nourishing Traditions contains information about how pickling not only preserves food, but unlike modern preservation methods, the process of lacto-fermentation makes nutrients in foods more available, and supplies the intestinal tract with health-promoting lactic acid and lactic-acid-producing bacteria.

Nourishing Traditions is based on research done by a dentist, Dr. Weston Price, who studied the health and eating habits of isolated traditional societies. He found that, almost universally, all these peoples allowed grains, milk products and often vegetables, fruits and meats to ferment or pickle before they were eaten.

At the workshop Jill had us get started coring, chopping, and shredding cabbage for sauerkraut. We started with 1 medium cabbage; because the cabbages were so big, we cut them in half. The cabbages and other vegetables were from Chubby Bunny Farm.

In a large bowl, we mixed the shredded cabbage with 1 Tblsp of caraway seeds, 1 Tblsp of sea salt, and 4 Tblsp of whey.

We used wooden pounders Debra Tyler made to release the juices from the cabbage. Then we packed wide mouth quart jars with the cabbage and pressed down firmly with the pounder until the juices came to the top of the cabbage. The top of cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. We covered the jars tightly and brought them home to keep at room temperature for about 3 days, Jill said better for 7 to 10 days, before storing in the refrigerator or cold storage. The Sauerkraut may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.

At the workshop we also made Lactic Acid Fermented Butternut Squash with Lemons and Spice, Ginger Carrots, Fermented Red Cabbage, and the Beet Kvass that I already mentioned and am especially taken with. What is trully marvelous about pickling is neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required; it is an ancient way (i.e. Old Style Life Skill) of preserving food that also improves health and makes delicious foods and drinks.

We enjoyed a pot-luck lunch together after all the chopping, shredding, and packing. At lunch time we sampled some jars of sauerkraut Jill had brought with her for us to try. She said she has two refrigerators at home, her husband bought her a second one for all of her experiments. Everything was delicious!

Jill gave us some tips for pickling: Use well or spring water, not chlorinated water, for all pickling; Date your jars; When you've drunk most of the Beet Kvass, you may fill up the jar with water and keep on the counter, at room temperature, for a few more days. This second batch will not be as strong as the first, but still good. After the second time, discard the beets and start again; Try to use fresh whey made from raw milk, if not available add another Tblsp of salt; Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is a great resource to have.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wreath Making Workshop

knotty! knotty!
all tied up
a balient effort
knot at all abrading
tangled up
all together
blessed be the tie that binds - Debra

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumn We'd Walk

A small group of women took an Autumn We'd Walk around Local Farm today. We'd Walks, in all seasons, are part of the Old Style Life Skills Series offered by Motherhouse. Founder Debra Tyler says it is especially important, she feels, for mothers to connect with the mother (earth) and she offers these walks as times to do so.

This We'd Walk had the extra distinction of being part of the CT History Hunt. Visit for more information about this program.

Our fearless leader, Alicia North of Northstar Botanicals, arrived with a car full of goodies and offered us each a cup of Holy Basil tea she had just made. Holy Basil or Tulsi is an herb native to India and revered for it's amazing healing power. Alicia said many people use Holy Basil to help counteract the effects of stress.

One of the first plants we encountered on our walk was a type of Plantain and Alicia told us we could eat the seeds at this time of year.

We dug up two types of Burdock roots. Debra is holding a Yellow Burdock plant above. The roots of these biennial plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. These plants have burrs in their second year, it is best to harvest the roots from first year plants and Fall is the time of year to do this. Alicia recommended roasting them with Dandelion and Chicory roots and also gave us a Burdock Pickle recipe.

We sampled some Rose hips from this wild rose bush just outside of the pasture. The cows had eaten all of the Rose hips on other bushes we passed. Rose hips are particularly high in Vitamin C. Alicia said the best time to collect Rose hips is after the first frost.

These Cattails growing in the culvert by the road are one of the most common wild foods, with a variety of uses at different times of the year. The early heads can be eaten like corn on the cob and the roots can be ground into flour. It was a staple for the American Indians, they put Cattail fluff into soups.

Near the end of our walk we passed Coltswood and Horsetails growing along the road. Herbalists have recommended Horsetail for joint pain and it was interesting to see that Horsetails themselves have joints. Alicia referred to a system known as the Doctrine of Signatures that Herbalists can use. By careful observation one can learn the healing properties of a plant from some aspect of it or where it is growing.

After our walk we gathered for a pot-luck lunch and tasted some Carrot HorseRadish Salad Alicia had made. I found that taking the time to see what is growing around me was fascinating and nourishing.