Probiotic Ketchup

Some people are the ketchup with fries people. And I have yet to understand them. I’ve always been the fries with ketchup person. As in, “Yes. I did just go through half a bottle of ketchup in one sitting, why do you ask?” So when I started becoming more aware of what I was eating in ketchup – high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, additives, “natural flavors” – whatever those mean, MSG, gluten (WHY does gluten have to be in ketchup?!) and random chemicals that even my five hundred courses in biology, chemistry and nutrition didn’t set me up to understand, I knew it was time to look elsewhere.

My first course of action was to buy “safe” ketchup at the store. There are some great brands out there of ready-made ketchup (and the manufacturers don’t use BPA in their bottles, either!  Here’s a few if ready-made is more your cup of tea:

Annie’s Organic Ketchup
Woodstock Farms Organic Ketchup
Nature’s Promise Organic Ketchup
Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Ketchup
Muir Glenn Organic Ketchup

I tend to stay away from Heinz and Hunt’s – I disagree with their use of and support of GMO products and their lobbying against a consumer’s right to know what’s GMO and what’s not GMO. Even though both make an organic line, I just can’t bring myself to support them and take my business elsewhere.

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Sauerkraut

I have another recipe for sauerkraut on my website but this one is so much easier to make! A few months ago, I had a few clients who were unable to pound sauerkraut so I started using this method instead and found the texture to be much more enjoyable! It’s a simple sauerkraut and can be forgotten between turnings – which makes it perfect for those who don’t have enough time to make it in one sitting! It’s also gentle on joints, as it requires no pounding, and is much less messy. (Pounding sauerkraut seems to go every which way sometimes except for in the bowl.)
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Fermented Zucchini Noodles

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Zucchini noodles are a tasty alternative to wheat-based noodles but can often be a tad bit soggy. “Wetting” the noodles with some salt can help firm them up a bit when they are cooked, but they can still be soggy. Fermented zucchini noodles, on the other hand, don’t get soggy. Ever. At least not in the gazillions of times that I’ve made them.

You’ll want a Spiralizer – either one that sits on the counter or a handheld tool. It just makes life easier in every aspect. In the summer, our Spiralizer is a permanent fixture on the counter. And, spiralizing veggies is a fun and creative way to get kids to eat their veggies (hint, hint, parents). Other tools needed will include a jar with sealable lid, sea salt, weight and filtered water.
 
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Fruit Vinegar

Some of you may recall grandparents talking about sipping vinegar “back in their day” and how it was good for their constitution, gout, the sugar or insert-any-other-old-timey-ailment-word-here. And really, they weren’t all that off. Although their Windex-styled fix-it-all solution is hilarious, they really were on to something.

Natural raw vinegars, ya know, the ones with the mother in them, are quite good for you and are a great source of good bacteria that aid in the health of your gut and overall body. (If your gut is horrid, the rest of you is going to feel horrid because you’re not getting the necessary nutrients to pass through the blood-gut barrier or you’re getting mal-digested nutrients passing through. Bottom line – it’s horrid.)

Anyway, fruit vinegar is easy to make and isn’t super vinegary. In fact it makes a great mocktail. In the heat of the summer, I’ll grab a tumbler, throw a few ice cubes in it, some gassy mineral water (San Pellegrino is my fave) and a bit of the vinegar. The result? A light and refreshing drink that’s outta this world.

You’re going to look at it and wonder how you ever bought your own vinegars. Trust me. I do it to myself. In the mirror. True story. I frequent vinegar shops all the time and have been known to drop $100 on a few bottles of fruit vinegars. Yea. I did that. A lot. Whoops.

A few key things:

  • Your fruit shouldn’t be moldy or rotten.
  • They should be fresh, not frozen (I made that mistake once).
  • Scraps work, too! And they’re economical. Which I like. Bruised fruit is also okay. Use peels, rinds, cores, etc.
  • Use organic. If you can’t afford organic, ask your organic grocer if they have “seconds” in the back. Sometimes they’ll sell you those for a discounted price.
  • Also, if you can’t use organic, stay away from using peels.
  • It’s a lot of sugar, but you need to feed the bacteria something. By the time it’s all processed and fermented, the sugar count will be much less, making it usable if you have a special diet. 
  • Keep fruit submerged with a glass plate, rock, plastic lid (like a yogurt lid, BPA-free).
  • A bowl or wide-mouth jar works best because it encourages oxygen.
  • Save the mother!!! If it develops a mother, save it for a starter for the next batch (and omit the apple cider vinegar).
  • The ratio is 1 part fruit to 2 parts water.

Fruit Vinegar

  • 4 cups fruit scraps or fresh fruit
  • 1 qt filtered water
  • ¼ cup organic sugar
  • 1 tbsp organic raw apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg’s)
  1. Put scraps in the jar or bowl.
  2. In a separate container, dissolve water in the sugar and pour over fruit. (There should be about 1 part scraps to 2 parts water, just eyeball it and add more fruit if necessary.)
  3. Use a rock, plate or a plastic lid to keep fruit submerged. If it won’t stay under, stir daily to prevent mold growth. 
  4. Cover the jar or bowl with a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. (Make sure fruit flies can’t get in, they LOVE this stuff!) 
  5. Let it sit on the counter for a week and then strain out all the fruit using a fine mesh colander and a coffee filter. 
  6. Return the liquid to the container and cover it again with the cloth or filter and let it sit another 3-4 weeks. 
  7. If white yeast develops, called Kahm yeast, try to scrape it off – it’s not bad for you. So don’t worry. Otherwise, you can strain it out in the end. If mold develops, also known as the fuzzy stuff, pitch it.
  8. Bottle in narrow-neck bottles, cover and store indefinitely (as in it doesn’t go bad) at room temperature.

Dilly Beans with Scapes

I freaken love all things dill. When I was a baby, I would beg my mom and her friends for their kosher dill pickles when we were out at Rose’s (a New York deli here in Portland – back in the 80s, they were in their heyday and their food was FANTASTIC). After a few kosher dill pickle spears, my lips would be white from all the vinegar. I didn’t care. I wanted more. And my mom and her friends wanted to laugh even harder. It was a win for everyone.

Fast forward 30 years, and I still love my dilled foods. I bought a bunch of green beans two weeks ago and realized that with my neck, any and all cooking wasn’t happening. So, before they had an opportunity to rot on me, I shoved them in a jar with some scapes I had also bought with the dream of sauteing them in butter… Yea. Not happening, either.

Two weeks later, I cracked open the jar and my goodness! Childhood memories of eating dill pickles until my lips turned white came flooding back. They are so. so. so. good. Even the roommate who sometimes thinks my food is a bit hippie (admit it. I know you think this – and I know you’re reading this post), wanted more.

Okay. Enough of me typing. You want to hurry up and make these. And then wait two weeks. It might be the longest two weeks of your life but you’ll have to deal.

The end result is fantastic.

Times 10.

Note: The grape leaves sound random but they help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Other options are a bay leaf (or two).

Dilly Beans with Scapes

  • 1 lb fresh, organic green beans, with ends snipped
  • 4 organic scapes (garlic spears)
  • a handful of fresh dill – about 1 ½" in diameter if you hold the bunch together
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 grape leaves (organic and non-sprayed)
  • 33 grams sea salt (no iodine or caking agent) to every quart of  filtered water
  1. Leave water out for at least 30 minutes to evaporate trace minerals. In the meantime, weigh out the salt and rinse green beans and scapes. Trim both so will fit in the jar.
  2. Add the salt to the water, stir to dissolve and set aside.
  3. In your jar, layer the red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and dill on the bottom.
  4. Place the green beans and scape spears on top of the spices, stick straight up. Stuff the grape leafs on the side.
  5. Pour the saltwater solution atop of everything and work out any bubbles. The veggies or grape leaves cannot be above the water line.
  6. Place a dunker (either a clean rock or a glass weight) atop to keep the veggies below the brine line.
  7. Seal tightly with a lid and allow to ferment for 3 to 10 days. The beans will get tangier as they age. If mold forms, dump it.
  8. Transfer to cold storage and enjoy on warm summer days! (I’m willing to bet these would taste really good in a Bloody Mary!)

 

Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrots

I know I’ve been focused on fermenting lately but the bacteria that natural ferments provide are such an important part of the diet.

Here’s why: In a healthy gut, up to 5 pounds (yes – you read that right, 5 pounds) of healthy bacteria should be living symbiotically with our body. That’s crazy! Fermented foods aid in that symbiosis by providing the gut with new waves of bacteria as old ones die off.

Vitamin K2, a vitamin that is totally and completely underrated but rocks my socks, is found in ferments. Dr. Weston Price identified it during his research days as “The X Factor” (not to be confused with the television show). He posited that there was some factor in these indigenous foods that was allowing for good calcium absorption and assimilation that resulted in healthy teeth, bones and tissues. Science, unfortunately, had not caught up with him and only recently have they discovered what he was talking about. Natural foods FTW! (I’ve talked a little bit about this in my butter post.)

So these carrots. They are my favorite. So much so that sometimes I eat too many of them. If that’s even possible! ha! They’re gingery and tangy and full of delightful goodness. On a warm summer day, pulling one of these bad boys out of the fridge is just so refreshing. They’re also super super easy. And super quick to put on. And super cheap. All three are a super win in my book. (I’ll stop with the “super” superlatives, don’t worry! – hehe. See what I did there?)

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How to Make Whey (and Yummy Cream Cheese)

It’s so ridiculously easy and I’ve done it many times before but never posted about it for a few reasons:

  1. Everyone seems to have a “how to make whey” post on their website
  2. Everyone seems to have….
  3. It’s a skill that I’ve taken for granted. 
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(The before… after about 10 minutes of dripping)

This is seriously one of the easiest things in the world. So if you’re new to the world of primal food preparation or fermenting, this is a good starting point. 

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(The after)

Here’s an overview of the supplies: 

  • Full-fat organic plain yogurt. I use Nancy’s Organic Whole Milk Yogurt. You DO NOT want to use anything that is fat-reduced. Why? Because I said. Okay, it’s because reduced-fat milk products replace the fat with additives – like sugar and dried milk (which is bad for you). So stick with the full-fat organic plain yogurt that has absolutely nothing in it.
  • Organic Muslin. Cotton is GMO’d here in America and in India and they use crazy amounts of pesticides on it. You’ll pay more for organic but it’s worth it, especially if you have your food sitting in it for extended periods of time. I’ll buy a few yards at a time and keep it on hand in my ever-growing fabric stash. 
  • A large jar or a deep bowl. I buy my honey by the gallon and save the jars for future use. They’re just so so handy. Especially when you need something to hang your yogurt bag off of and don’t feel like cleaning up whey splash in the morning. 

Enough about that, here’s the complete tool list and the how-to for….

Whey (and Yummy Cream Cheese)

  • One 32-ounce tub Nancy’s Organic Whole Milk Yogurt (can use a half tub, I’d rather get it all done with right then).
  • A few large rubber bands – like the ones that hold broccoli heads together. If you don’t save them, start doing it. Or, you’ll need lots of string.
  • Organic muslin or a thin dish towel – no terry cloth towels!
  • A deep bowl, medium-sized
  • Something to suspend the bag of yogurt – I use a wooden spoon
  1. Drape the fabric/towel over the bowl and empty the yogurt tub into the middle.
  2. Bring up the corners and secure with the rubber band or a string.
  3. Either secure yogurt bag off of a cupboard handle (if you have one) with a string, with bowl underneath to catch the dripping liquid -OR- using another rubber band, secure a wooden spoon to the bag and hang over bowl, having enough clearance to not let it sit in the whey that will be catching at the bottom.
  4. Set out overnight, or until the bag is no longer dripping. You will have about 2 cups of whey and 2 cups of cream cheese. 
  5. Store whey in a sealed glass container for up to 6 months, use it for a Beet Kvass or Lacto-Fermented Ketchup starter and for many more ferments coming soon to Northwest Primal.
  6. Store cream cheese in a glass container as well and use as you would store bought cream cheese. (If you’re looking for inspiration, I highly suggest my Grapefruit Torte.)

And that’s it! It’s so easy! 

Meatloaf!

No, I’m not talking about the rocker-turned-famous-ballad-singer who’s music video is five parts creepy and three parts even creepier.

I’m talking about stick to your ribs meatloaf.

The American classic. And the thing of many jokes.

I decided to make meatloaf before I knew it was going to be 75 here in Portland over the next few days. Had I known, I would have turned the two pounds of ground beef I pulled out of my freezer into taco meat or hamburgers to be served in a lettuce wrap. As it stands, meatloaf isn’t all that bad and I’ll probably crumble it up and serve it on salad (because it’s 75…. and that’s warm for this area).

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Good thing this meatloaf is fantastic and super easy. I even gave my roommate a sample (she really has the best job ever of being my taste tester… except for when things don’t work out) and she said it was fantastic. And then went back for an even bigger second sample. So, here ya go. Super easy meatloaf – that’s bread/gluten/grain free and full of whole foods goodness!

Note: when buying sausage, make sure you check for additives. A lot of prepared meats will have extra stuff in it that’s not good (gluten and sugar are a big one). Talk with your butcher about what goes in it. A safe store to buy from is Whole Foods – their corporate recipe for Italian sausage is good, with no added crud.

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Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds grass-fed beef
  • ½ pound pasture-raised mild Italian pork sausage <OR> ½ pound pasture-raised ground pork and 1 ½ tsp Mild Italian Sausage Seasoning
  • 2 pasture-raised, soy and corn-free eggs
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tbsp Lacto-Fermented Ketchup
  • 1 tsp ground mustard powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. With clean hands, mix two types of meat in a large bowl.
  3. Add onions, egg and coconut flour and continue to mix the meat.
  4. Add ketchup and spices and mix.
  5. Pour into a loaf pan and pat until the surface is even.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, allowing juices to settle. Serve hot.

Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

Some people are the ketchup with fries people. And I have yet to understand them. I’ve always been the fries with ketchup person. As in, yes. I did just go through half a bottle of ketchup in one sitting, why do you ask? Kind of person. So when I started becoming more aware of what I was eating in ketchup – high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, additives, “natural flavors” – whatever those mean, MSG, gluten (WHY does gluten have to be in ketchup?!) and random chemicals that even my five hundred courses in biology, chemistry and nutrition didn’t set me up to understand, I knew it was time to look elsewhere. 

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My first course of action was to buy “safe” ketchup at the store. There are some great brands out there of ready-made ketchup (and the manufacturers don’t use BPA in their bottles, either!  Here’s a few if ready-made is more your cup of tea:

  • Annie’s Organic Ketchup
  • Woodstock Farms Organic Ketchup
  • Nature’s Promise Organic Ketchup
  • Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Ketchup
  • Muir Glenn Organic Ketchup

I tend to stay away from Heinz and Hunt’s – I disagree with their use of and support of GMO products and their lobbying against a consumer’s right to know what’s GMO and what’s not GMO. Even though both make an organic line for the more conscientious consumer, I just can’t bring myself to support them and take my business elsewhere.

So, what makes lacto-fermented ketchup so good?

  1. For starters, you can put your own spices in it. I like things to be a bit more zesty and put a dash (or two) of cayenne pepper in my ketchup. So. Good. And even better when used for meatloaf. Or tossed in spaghetti sauce. Or as a BBQ base. Or as a cocktail sauce base. Or fry up some of my Fermented Red Potatoes with some Fermented Garlic and onion and top with ketchup. Or as a dipping sauce for my Adobo Sweet Potato Fries. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
  2. It’s not overly sweet. I emphatically dislike ketchup brands that seem like you’re munching on a sugar cube. This ketchup is tangy. The bacteria feast on the maple syrup, making it lower-glycemic than most ketchup.
  3. It’s full of probiotic goodness. If I’m going to eat something, it might as well taste absolutely FANTASTIC and be healthy for me. There’s millions of healthy little buggies that aid in digestion in this stuff. For this girl, who can’t metabolize tomato all too well, coupling ketchup with probiotic goodness provides my system with the necessary buggies to ensure good absorption and assimilation

Enjoy!

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Lacto-Fermented Ketchup

  • 12-oz organic tomato paste (no salt added and BPA-free can)
  • ¼ c plus 2 tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tbsp sauerkraut juice or whey
  • 2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar (such as Brag’s)
  • ¼+ tsp mustard powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8+ tsp cayenne (little heap on top)
  • ½ tsp sea salt, non-iodized and no anti-caking chemicals
  • ¼ cup organic grade-B maple syrup
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
  2. Pour into a clean glass jar and seal.
  3. Let sit on the counter for two to five days – do not open.
  4. Move to the fridge and let it sit for another week. It should smell like ketchup and taste tangy. If it smells off or has grown any mold, pitch it immediately. However, if your starter culture is alive and active (the sauerkraut juice or the whey), you’re good to go!
  5. Stores in the fridge indefinitely. 

Beet Kvass

I’m sure by know you’ve noticed that I’ve been on a fermenting kick… it’ll end. I promise.

… Maybe.

Truth is, having a healthy gut is going to let you absorb the nutrients you’re taking in so much better. I can give you recipes that are “this”-free or “that”-free but if you haven’t given your gut time to heal, given it the nutrients that the body needs to facilitate healing and have repopulated it with healthful bacteria, all of that is for naught. So my latest ferment: Beet Kvass. Sounds tasty, doesn’t it? (Kidding.) It’s definitely an acquired taste and the first few times you make it, you probably won’t like it. But stick with it! Your taste buds will be adjusting and usually people come around.

Kvass is salty and picks up the earthiness of the beets. Historically, it was an Eastern European tonic and was more or less the Windex of that area. (Three points for you if you recognize that movie reference.)It’s weird to think that they have carts in Eastern Europe selling this stuff. But, unlike our fried and greasy food carts or 7-11s selling food laden with high-fructose corn syrup and other nasty additives, this stuff is super healthy.

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(Kvass Wagon from a photo on Wild Fermentation)

According to “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon (which, btw, I highly suggest adding to your library), kvass is

“valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are loaded with nutrients. One 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.”

Traditionally, kvass was not made with beets, but with stale sourdough rye bread. I personally am more than happy with the beets. In an article from  The Weston A. Price Foundation,

Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver cleansing properties and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. Anecdotal reports indicate that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies and digestive problems.

So here’s the recipe, inspired by “Nourishing Traditions” – enjoy!

Beet Kvass

  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • 2 tsp sea salt, non-iodized and no anti-caking agents (add an addt’l 2 tsp if you do not have sauerkraut juice)
  • 1/4 cup sauerkraut juice
  • 3-4 organic beets, gently scrubbed with peel on, and cut into ½” cubes  (any color beet will work and avoid finely chopping or grating the beets, which can lead to very rapid fermentation and alcohol production)
  • Place beets, sauerkraut juice and salt in a half gallon glass container (2 quarts).
  • Add filtered water to fill the container to just below an inch from the top and stir well and cover securely.
  • Keep at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to refrigerator.
  • When most of the liquid has been consumed, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another two days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first.
  • After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your starter instead of the whey.