Make 2013 healthier than ever. Introduce homemade fermented foods into your diet. This month I’ll share recipes for easy-to-make fig jam and country-style mustard as well as my very favorite white kimchi. These enzyme and nutrient-rich foods are easily digested and highly beneficial to our overall health. Plus, when you eat or drink lacto-fermented foods, they actually boost the nutrient level of all the other foods in your meal as well. From my reading, classes and personal experience, fermented foods play an important role in living everyday healthy, everyday delicious.
New Year’s resolution fulfilled
Quick and easy to prepare, fig jam makes the perfect introduction to fermented foods and fulfills your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. With very few ingredients, a food processor and a mason jar you can add the many benefits of probiotic-rich lacto-fermented foods to your diet.
Cultured foods such as yogurt and fermented vegetables and fruits contain beneficial microbes that help balance our intestinal flora and boost our overall immunity. During an all-day workshop offered by Rebekah Mocerino & Kaelin Kiesel-Germann last October, we tasted many different fermented foods. Once I learned that these foods are nutritionally richer after fermentation than before, I was sold on fermentation. This just isn’t so with canning or freezing foods, where you lose nutrients.
The preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines.”
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 89
During the past three plus months that I’ve been fermenting, each of my ferments has been successful. So I don’t have firsthand experience with a bad batch. I understand, though, you’ll know if it’s bad by a smell so rank that you won’t be at all tempted to try it.
Here are a few books, websites and articles where you can learn all you need to feel comfortable with the fermentation process. Have fun, be healthy and feel free to ask any questions that come up along the way.
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods, Wardeh Harmon
How to Easily & Inexpensively Ferment Your Own Vegetables, Mercola.com
Weston A. Price Foundation, Bozeman Chapter, Rebekah Mocerino & Kaelin Kiesel-Germann
Cultures for HealthFig Jam from Black Mission and Calimyrna Figs
with Yogurt Cheese and Apples
Fig Jam makes a very tasty introduction to lacto-fermented foods and a great gift. This recipe was inspired by and lightly adapted from a recipe for Fig Butter from Wardeh Harmon’s book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods.
Start preparing the yogurt cheese at least an hour before beginning Fig Jam so that you’ll have enough whey (the by-product of yogurt cheese) for the jam recipe. Prepare yogurt cheese and whey from a high-quality, plain, organic whole milk yogurt that contains “live and active cultures.”
Makes 2 ½ cups
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
2 cups (10 ounces) dried, unsulphured figs (half Black Mission Figs, half Calimyrna Figs)
1 cup hot water
¼ cup light, raw honey
¾ teaspoon high-quality salt
2 tablespoons whey (recipe below)
- Remove the stems from the figs.
- Place the figs in a small bowl along with the hot water. Soak about 30 minutes until the figs have softened.
- Put the figs and half of their soaking water into a food processor. Add the honey, salt and whey. Process till smooth.
- Add the remaining soaking water and process a couple of seconds more to incorporate.
- Put the jam into wide mouth jars. (Either a quart jar, or 3 half-pint jars, or a pint jar and a half-pint jar.) Leave 1 inch air space between the top of the jar and the jam. Cover the jars tightly.
- Store at room temperature for 2 days or 3 days if your room temperature is below 68 degrees.
- Transfer the jam to the refrigerator where it will keep for a month or two.
For your convenience, I’m once again including the basic recipe and technique for making Yogurt Cheese (Labneh) and Whey.
Yogurt cheese makes a great light lunch, breakfast and spread for wraps and sandwiches.
- 4 cups organic, plain whole milk yogurt with “live and active cultures”
- ½ teaspoon fine, mineral-rich salt (i.e., Celtic, Himalayan), optional
- Line a strainer with four layers of damp cheesecloth. Place the strainer over a glass or ceramic bowl or measuring cup.
- Stir the salt, if using, into the yogurt. Transfer the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.
- Gather together and tie up the ends of the cheesecloth.
- If it is cool in your kitchen, let the yogurt drain for 4-8 hours sitting on a kitchen counter. Otherwise place everything in the refrigerator and let it drain overnight. The consistency will be similar to cream cheese—thick yet spreadable.
- Remove from the cheesecloth and store the yogurt cheese in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Store the liquid whey in a clean jar in the fridge. Add the whey to smoothies, bread dough and/or any number of recipes for fermented beverages, vegetables and fruits.
Note: The longer the yogurt drains, the thicker and denser the yogurt cheese becomes. After 24 hours of draining, you can make Labneh Korat—yogurt cheese balls. Make walnut-size balls (I like to use a small scoop). Drop them into a clean glass jar filled with olive oil and fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary. Storing the cheese balls in olive oil extends their life to about 6 months.
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