Here’s some of what Andrew, class of 2018 gained from teacher training:
Knowledge of alignment and anatomy so
that I can practice safely and confidently for the rest of my life
History of yoga and how the blending of
different cultures over thousands of years has
led to what we know and see today
More strength and mobility in my physical practice
A stronger relationship with my partner
– grateful to share this experience with someone
close to me. It spawned many long conversations after class and opened
up to new ways of being and communicating with each other.
New friends and community
Increased awareness of my emotional
states and the tools to work through difficult moments or periods in life
A more nuanced understanding of how to
approach fitness and nutrition and align these
elements with my lifestyle and goals
More confidence in public speaking and
leadership abilities in general, which has been a huge help as I’ve become a small business owner since
Knowledge of how to apply mindfulness techniques to
Increased compassion and ability to understand other
points of view
An opportunity to teach! I still don’t
see myself as a teacher , but I’m honored to be able to lead one class a week at Spira. If nothing else, it has
added a new dimension to my own practice and challenged my introverted nature
in new ways
If you want to know more than just bullet points, do read Andrew’s full letter below. After all it is a nine months long training, you should learn all you can about your investment!
Andrew finished Spira Power Yoga’s 200 HR Mindfulness and Yoga training in 2018, she is now teaching every Monday at 6am in out West Seattle location
I practiced at home only for a long time, until my friend told me about Spira
While I’s maintained a home yoga practice for a few years, it wasn’t until a friend recommended recommended Spira Power Yoga that I began to consistently attend classes at a studio. My experiences at other studios over the years had been pretty mixed, and as a relative beginner, I was particularly self-conscious about not being very flexible or as strong as I’d like. Spira was a breath of fresh air. Not only are there no mirrors for people to fixate on, but the teaching style is truly
all-levels. The focus is on mindfulness, breath, and
really feeling the sensations in the body. There is no perfect posture or
“goal” in a particular pose; as long as you’re practicing with safe alignment,
you are free to explore and find your own level of challenge. In the age of
#yogisofinstagram, this is a rare and empowering thing. I found that the
teachers at Spira taught difficult classes with a good dose of mindfulness and
philosophy. While they all have a unique style and voice, I began to understand
over a year of taking classes at Spira that they all shared a common
I had no intention of teaching, and here we go teaching every Monday!
Although I had no intention of teaching, I became very intrigued about taking Dora’s 200-hour teacher training to learn more about this secret sauce. She was promoting it at the time (quite accurately) as “human training” – a course not just for teachers, but really for anyone curious about improving their physical practice, learning history and philosophy, and understanding yoga as a holistic lifestyle practice beyond the mat. Dora’s goal is not necessarily certify a ton of new teachers, but rather to give students the tools to live with more awareness, compassion, and resilience. I took some time weighing the commitment, but after giving it some thought and talking to others who had been through the training in the past, my partner Kara and I decided to enroll together.
Spira is different than the rest of the trainings…
Unlike some intensive trainings I’ve seen online, Spira’s is structured in a way that makes it accessible to anyone with a busy work/family schedule. Friday-Sunday every few weeks was a great pace for our meetings, as we dove deep into various topics and then had ample time in between to read supplemental material and allow everything to soak in. There were lots of engaging lectures, with Dora occasionally bringing in other teachers to provide different perspectives. Carina’s module on chakras, which included a blend of her wisdom gained as a yogi and as well as a student of physics, demystified a difficult topic for us westerners and was particularly fascinating for me. We spent plenty of time breaking down poses, work-shopping sequences, and had plenty of practice teaching so that we were all fully competent in time for our “final exam” by the end of the course.
Overall, Dora provided a challenging learning environment, but also one where we could safely open up and be vulnerable without judgement. This is not “light and love” yoga. We talked a lot about our own life experiences and Dora was honest and real with us about the struggles of being a yoga teacher and business owner. The real “spiritual” work of yoga happens when you start doing the work of applying the philosophy and physical practice to your everyday life. It’s not alway pretty, but it’s mindful and real.
Open to everyone who is curious about yoga, staying healthy and happy. Click here to find out more about our Self Enrichment / Teacher Training
I have since taken several other weekend
trainings/workshops in the last year and Spira continues to be an important hub
for my wellness. This is a place where I can expand my knowledge, feed my
curiosity about life, and ultimately become a better human being.
Thank you Spira Power Yoga
I am so grateful to Dora, Carina, and the
rest of the teachers at Spira. Whether or not I teach the rest of my life, I
know that I will forever be a student, and that’s something that continues to
Can we change our culture? How could technology help small businesses?
Greater Seattle is a very progressive town. Shop local and organic is practically tattooed on our forehead.
But local does not stop with food. Many of our gyms, yoga studios, and restaurants are increasingly corporately owned, as a consumer we know it feels different to step into a family owned a gym, restaurant or yoga studio. Our world is more and more isolated, and these local small businesses are often the last hold-out of the urban community.
Seattle is also a technologically driven town. We love our Apps that provide convenience, discounts, and one-stop shopping. But very few of us think about the effects of technology. How many butchers and bakers do you know in your community? Small stores are disappearing, for the convenience of big box stores or online deliveries, and we do pay the price for convenience, besides losing important aspects of society that provide community and thus the quality of life, we are also missing out on quality of service. That baker, butcher, tailor provided a lifetime of knowledge to customers and was willing to carry merchandise beyond the top sellers.
Dora and Panni at Spira Power Yoga
Don’t get me wrong, technology is not all bad. Apps and Daily deals are wonderful ways to get the word out to new clients. But I am cautious to only do deals for new customers only, as a small business, I simply cannot operate on these low prices. A large corporate gym is structured differently, they can weather the discount storms a bit better.
The biggest problem for small businesses with technology-driven shopping is that technology has trained our customers for bargain hunting. It is NOT the fault of our customers, it is simply human neurobiology. Once we pay a certain amount for something, we have a hard time paying more. Even if we somewhere know that that original price hardly paid for the electricity bill, not to talk about a livable wage for service providers.
Seattle is a growing town with increasing real estate prices and wages, that combined with increasing Apps is quite a storm; this will change our town, it already has…
As a small business, I try to adjust to the new culture. I make sure that all customers start with a great deal, this is why I have a new student special. Even if there is no daily deal running, all of my customers get to try us at with a great deal. After that, I have faith that the quality of yoga we provide will make our customers come back for more and will pay prices that allow us to stay open and pay respectable wages.
Lately, I started wondering if adjusting to keeping up with discount culture was the wrong thing to do…How does it go; “If you want to make a change in the world, start with yourself.” Maybe a change is needed. I love teaching yoga, and I am passionate about providing yoga that still carries philosophy and is not reduced to exercise.
I am curious about what you think! Let me know how you would structure the new student experience to be beneficial to both the customer and the business? Could technology companies take a turn and instead help with keeping small business alive?
Why not more retail and fancy stuff? Instead just my mom’s paintings on the wall.
I often get the question; Dora, why don’t you do more retail? How about a restaurant on the side? Why not add a nice spa or a lounge area? My answer is always the same; I am a yoga teacher, I teach teachers, mindfulness, and yoga. My interest is not to make a spa experience, my interest is to provide the best education in yoga with the best teachers in an environment where you don’t feel like you got to keep up with the Joneses. Yoga is not about fancy pants, and spa, and the latest trends. Yoga for the past 3000 years has been about finding inner harmony while developing physical strength. Yoga as a philosophy is about letting go of materialistic labels and finding more profound meaning in life.
Unfortunately for the past ten years, the big business has been pushing the philosophy of yoga out of the picture, or minimizing it down to chishes for big profit. It is baffling to the mind how we managed to turn the art of “letting go” “giving up needs” “connecting to humanity and greater power” about pants, kombucha, and feeling good and being pampered.
So at Spira you will not find the latest and hippest, but you will practice in a simple and clean space, with great teachers, in an environment that takes you away from the pressures of society. Hopefully you will make friends with people without needing to know “what they do for a living,” a space where we simply see each other as human beings practicing. That is my goal – everything else is a distraction and a way to make more money if you are the owner, or spend money if you are the student. Don’t get me wrong, I want the business to be successful, but I want to be successful without giving up the soul of yoga…
Now, there is the argument of why not do both; get people in with the materialistic attractions, then teach yoga. Hmmm.. yeah, no, that argument will make you feel better as a business owner, but it simply doesn’t work. Every architecture student knows; form dictates function. And we all know that we feel different in a fancy space with things to purchase. The mind unconsciously goes toward materialism, toward comparison, toward judgement and expectations. To keep yoga yoga, we owners, must give up on some revenue. And that is OK with me, yoga does not need to make me rich. Yoga is here to sustain all of us in harmony.
So it is; no fancy retail, just humanity and family. What better way to reflect all this but to decorate the space with my mama’s paintings!
Looking for a great workout without the superficial pressures of society?
Are you an athlete who needs to stretch more?
Are you someone who could use a little less stress in life?
Are you past your early 20’s and looking for a gym where you don’t feel out of place?
Spira Power Yoga has you in mind….Spira offers a great workout, safe stretching for all mobile human beings, we teach yoga with mindfulness and joy in a warm (not hot) room. Our West Seattle location has been open for 8 successful years, we just been named top 10 studio in the Greater Seattle area.
We offer so much more than yoga asana. Mindfulness allows the mind to become more resilient to adversity, more present to joy, and more efficient at work. Mindfulness teaches us to engage with our friends, family, and profession in a way that is more productive and emotionally rewarding.
Three Major Health Benefits of Mindfulness and Mindful-Yoga
You may remember the skit on Saturday Night Live with Will Ferrell as he walks onto the stage “we need more cowbell!”
I am as persistent about “we need more mindfulness!” If I could, without risking looking ridiculous, and counterproductive, I would walk through town with a cowbell shouting; we need more mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows us to become more resilient to emotional adversity, physical pain, more present to joy, and more efficient at work. Mindfulness teaches us to engage with our friends, family, and profession in a way that is more productive and emotionally rewarding. I am not the only one saying this; at the latest count the number of scientific research papers published on mindfulness in 2017 alone is close to 700, and interest in this research field is growing exponentially.
Mindfulness works by increasing our capacity to bear discomfort. This may not sound like a whole lot of fun, but it is, and the reason why is hidden in our neurobiology. Our mind developed in a way that we cannot suppress a specific emotion. We cannot choose to feel only the good and numb the bad. When we try not to feel the “negative” emotion, we repress the joy, the passion, and the fun. Thus, learning to mindfully feel and direct emotion will lead you towards a heightened experience of happiness while you learn to tolerate the adverse moments better.
Yoga is a wonderful way of training the brain to be more mindful. Now, you must be careful, not all yoga is created equal, and with the popularity and commercialization of the art, a lot of yoga is anything but mindful nowadays. Starring in a mirror while judging your waistline, pushing past 110F while keeping up with the 20-year-old Cirque du Soleil graduate is not what I had in mind when I mentioned yoga…
So what do I mean by mindful? Let’s look at mindfulness through its three major benefits.
Thoughts and emotions are to the brain as weightlifting is to the muscle. When you work, exercise, parent, do anything while being critical, competitive, judgmental and angry, then those are the brain connections that you are strengthening. Mindfulness teaches us how to feel an emotion honestly and direct the mind to constructive thinking and breath; this is a tricky concept to learn. For example; I often hear yoga teachers say, “don’t judge your ability.” Though these teachers mean well, they just made you think of judging yourself. The brain works by a negative feedback loop, therefore inadvertently introducing the concept of judgment to the thinking brain will direct the mind to think about judgment. The mind should always be guided to a healthy focus, not reminded what not to do… It is a subtle difference in teaching and thinking that can create big changes in how we feel.
Benefit 2 – Mindfulness Increases Muscle Strength and Tone
Studies have found that by paying attention to moving a muscle, as in really feeling what it is that you are doing, the muscle fibers became stronger. A recent research at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine indicated a link between brain function and muscle strength; when using mental imagery exercises. They found that simply imagining movement can prevent muscle loss after prolonged lack of activity such as being in a cast.
In other words, next time you go to the gym turn off the television, the loud music and instead pay attention to what you are doing! You will get more out of your workout if you pay attention.
Benefit 3 – Mindfulness as Pain and Addiction Management
Much like how the brain learns emotional habits, the brain can learn to “feel alert, anxious, and painful” towards an experience. This is the culprit of our current opioid epidemic. Yoga can reduce the perception of pain by helping to regulate the pain signaling mechanisms located within the brain while increasing secretion of serotonin and other natural painkillers in the body. Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain and the associated anxiety by releasing tension and activating the parasympathetic nervous system leading to a reduction in the stress response, and the relaxation and meditation benefits of yoga are an antidote to the stress and depression that often accompany chronic pain.
Bottom line, we can all benefit from doing things more mindfully, and practicing mindfulness-based yoga is a great way to train your brain to provide a more joyful and meaningful life.
This blog was written by Dora; she teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resiliency and stress management to healthcare professionals.
Out running the Viking; Mid-Evil times, Comparison and Resiliency action
This last week I had a great opportunity to travel abroad to Ireland. It was an important trip for many reasons. My husband and I were traveling alone for more than a weekend, without out our 2 and half year-old daughter for the first time since she was born, (thank you grandma!). It was also my first transatlantic flight in almost 4 years and I was looking forward to the discovery of a new adventure. As a parent to a toddler travel is different now so having the ability to sleep in, set our own schedule and just mill about was precious. There are so many things I love about Europe. The people, the history, the food and the culture. Everything is just so damn old. It really makes America seem like an infant child. As a tourist in a new city, I try to balance the museum visiting and history study with plenty of stops at local pubs and whiskey bars. Dublin is great for just that and so is the restaurant and music scene. It is one of the fastest growing economy’s in the world and the city is full of young professionals from all over the world. 50% of Dubliners are under the age of 25 and 40% are not from Ireland. Despite the recent growth, Ireland is an old country with a fascinating medieval past. I can’t help but reflect upon the security, abundance and just plain wealth the 21st century has bestowed.
Now I am keenly aware that the 21st century is not without its problems but when I think of myself being born in the 11-12th century Dublin, life would have been incredibly rough and dangerous. In those days I would be surviving past the age 30 was a milestone. If I had children many would not survive infancy and my risk of dying during childbirth was about 20%. If I didn’t die from that then some sort of disease, pestilence or violent crime trauma would probably kill me. And we can’t forget the pain, Prior to the invention of anesthesia and penicillin I would have most likely suffered from horrible tooth decay or other internal ailment and if surgery was needed it was usually completed by the skillful hand of a butcher or a barber without the knowledge of aseptic technique because it was not invented yet.
Ok you may be asking yourself what the heck does mid-evil pain and death have to do with resilience and yoga?!? I am getting there I promise.
Yes, we don’t live with many of the issues that plagued humans in the middle ages but for some reason the modern human continues to suffer despite technological advances and contemporary comforts. We are now living longer than ever but mental health disability continues to rise, especially in the US and my question is why?. A large part has to do with genetics, socialization, economic disparities ect. but our brains and the way we wired as a species for survival also contributes. The brain is trained to recognize and stay away from danger, often creating what is known in psychology as a negativity bias. The problem is the brain isn’t always able to differentiate between an actual threat for example a mid-evil Viking attacking you and the stress that can occur in daily modern life like traffic, homework, finances, email ect. These modern-day stress situations can initiate a flight or fight reflex, gearing the body for action prepping it to run like hell from the killer Viking. Side note; Viking culture was very important to the contribution of the Irish historically and I am not disparager them it’s just a good image for the talk.
These flight or flight hormones flood the body, blood and brain allowing the heart rate and blood pressure to increase, the lungs to expand fully for more oxygen delivery and vessels to squeeze shunting blood to vital organs to give you that boost you need to get away. At the same time the Amygdala and the Hippocampus, the areas of the brain responsible for memory, start creating synapses to imprint the danger image in your limbic brain to ensure you don’t forget what that danger was to keep you safe and alive. The problem is this hardwiring can get mixed up creating a negative thinking pattern that can be incredibly maladaptive for current life. Out running the Viking response can get triggered in everyday life situations. Once this negative soundtrack loop gets turned on it can be incredibly difficult to turn off. Unless you harness that wonderful part of our cognitive brain known as the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that lights up like the fourth of July during yoga and meditation. I like to think of the prefrontal cortex as the “Jewel of the Nile” when it comes to our ability for re-wiring negative thoughts and creating resilience.
Resilience or post-traumatic growth is the ability to experience hardship, danger, pain, or emotional suffering and uses it as a positive growth experience. This resilience factor utilizes the brains ability through neuroplasticity to reshape our thoughts through awareness. Just like the limbic brain wires neurons together to keep you safe from harm, the cortex of the upper brain wires together to keep you resilient. Mindfulness and the art of non-attachment is a key component in developing a resiliency practice. It is a sort of “thought training” to becoming aware of your feelings and emotions to serve you in a constructive way.
A very simple example of this is the emotional effect of comparison. I’m a Mom and sometimes I can get down on myself for not always doing what other Moms are doing, constantly comparing myself. This can put me in a very negative space, where I am judging myself which leads to a confidence low, spinning in the negativity bias. But when I approach my thoughts in a more loving/kind way for example “I can’t be perfect, I must embrace failure to help Dylan know that I am human” I am literally re-writing the story of my limbic brain, helping to boost my frontal cortex. I can also share with Dylan that I too have fears as a Mom while encouraging her to share her fears with me. She is still learning language, so the conversations aren’t deep at this point, but hey it’s a start. The more I can normalize the fear of failure and my own mess ups as her Mom the more I can show Dylan this is ok, helping to build her confidence too. Recognizing the negative self-talk is the first step in rewiring our brains for a healthy and resilient mind.
To find more about our resiliency through mindfulness trainings please visit M3bmethod.com or Spira Power Yoga
I have been asking and asking Marva to send us some recipes. Marva teaches yoga at Spira on Wednesdays at noon and Thursdays in the morning. She is pure joy to be around. I challenge anybody to say hello to Marva and remain sad. I don’t know how she does it, but she is always full of love, energy, and excitement. Her classes are well structured, she pays close attention to alignment and focuses on building strength in a safe way. She is also a track and field coach. She will command discipline, but her joyful energy is so uplifting, I always feel I can do whatever she sets out for us to do in her classes.
Marva is also a dedicated family person; she is a big support for her mom, well that is an understatement. Her dedication and love of family often bring me to tears. In short; Marva is a really good soul, I am blessed to know her. But for the past few years, she has been really rubbing me the wrong way. :- ) She keeps texting me all these great pictures of her cooking; cookies, the cakes, the amazing Caribbean dishes… I asked her for recipes and nothing, crickets. I started to think she just enjoyed “torturing” me with her cooking talent. Last Sunday we got into one of our usual games via phone. I am in the kitchen cooking, Marva is in the kitchen cooking, and we just send each other pictures of great food that the other cannot taste. You know the kind of friendly tease that you do with your best friend. Well, she sent me the perfect waffle image. That was it. I needed at least one recipe! And she finally granted this one, apparently the lemon bar was a family secret. So here we go, I will settle for the Waffle.
Thank you Marva!
Gluten Free Vegan Waffle with blueberries and Mangoes by Marva
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup of olive , avocado or melted coconut oil
¼ cup of agave nectar or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
½ cup heaping cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 ¾ cups gluten-free flour blend
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
¼ cup dairy-free chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped bananas or other fresh fruit
Combine almond milk and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and let it set for a few minutes to curdle/activate. Then add olive oil, agave nectar or maple syrup and whisk. Set aside.
Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until well incorporated. Test batter for sweetness and flavor. Add more sweetener or some vanilla extract if desired. I added a touch more agave.
Let it set for 5-10 minutes while your waffle iron preheats. (I set mine to 4 out of 5 for a crispier waffle, but adjust yours according to preference.)
Once waffle iron is ready, generously coat with non-stick spray and pour on about 1/2 cup of batter. Cook according to manufacturer instructions and then remove and place on a baking rack in a 200-degree oven to keep warm. Do not stack and instead keep them in a single layer to ensure crispiness remains.
Serve immediately with desired toppings, such as fresh cherry-berry compote and more maple syrup. Store leftovers in a freezer safe bag and reheat in the toaster for best results (see notes for more instructions). Will keep in the freezer for up to a couple of months, although they’re freshest within the first couple of weeks.
Bridget is one of Spira’s Karma-Yogi. She helps us keep our facility spotless as well as giving front desk support to the teaching staff. Bridget is also a mom and a Licensed Nutritionist.Two years ago she finished Spira’s 200 Hour Mindfulness and Yoga Training. She has been mentoring under Dora for the past two years. She has her final presentation on October 18th! We may just see Bridget teaching yoga at Spira in the very near future!
Bridget sent us a soup recipe yesterday, perfect timing for late September!
I was first introduced to miso soup many years ago at a sushi restaurant and immediately thought, “What’s this all about?”. Miso soup has incredible flavor, yet just a few ingredients! I encourage you to try different kinds of miso paste and find out which one you like best. Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji and sometimes rice, barley, seaweed or other ingredients (and can be found at most grocery stores). Fermented food is wonderful for our health and digestion! Also try adding veggies to make it even more nutritious. Right now, kale and mushrooms are my favorite add-ins, and I often top my dish with a fried egg, mmmmm. I usually have (homemade) stock ready to eat in the fridge for soup season, but store bought works just as good, so this soup can literally come together in minutes. Also, it can easily be doubled, or tripled to serve more people. Great for a busy weeknight dinner, lunch, or even in a thermos for breakfast!
1 cup stock (vegetable, chicken or Dashi-traditional Japanese stock/broth)
1 tablespoon, plus more to taste miso paste of choice
Optional veggies to add: kale, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, or anything else that’s in your fridge
Scallion, chopped for garnish/flavor
Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium sized pot.
Once broth is hot add miso paste and stir to combine. Then add your tofu and any other vegetables you’re using.
Let simmer for 1 more minute, adjust seasonings to taste, then remove from heat, and ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped scallion.
This week’s recipe comes to us from Heidi. If you have not taken Heidi’s class yet, oh, go now. Stop reading, look at our schedule and take her class. She is calm, graceful, knowledgeable, and yes you will feel it the next day. She completed her Yoga training with Spira Power Yoga. Heidi is also a licensed Pilates teacher (she has a private studio, just ask her if you are interested) and she also holds a degree in Nutritional Therapy.
I created this fall inspired cheesecake recipe using cream cheese made from almonds! I love cheesecake but dairy is not my friend… it turned our great! Tastes like the real thing.
1 ½ cups nut flour (I used a Pamela’s nut flour which is a blend of several different nuts, but you could use almond flour as well)
1/4 cup butter or ghee, softened (you could also use coconut oil)
2 ½ tbsp monk fruit sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
16 oz Kite Hill cream cheese (or regular cream cheese if you tolerate dairy)
½ cup pure pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
½ cup confectioners swerve or powdered monk fruit sweetener
2 large eggs
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie pan.
To make the crust, mix the almond flour and monk fruit until combined then add the softened butter and vanilla mixing with a fork or pastry cutter until combined. The dough will be crumbly. Press evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie pan and bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, pumpkin puree and powdered sweetener together at low to medium speed until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Finally add the vanilla, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Continue beating at low to medium speed until the spices are incorporated.
Pour the filling into the pan over the crust and bake for 25-30 minutes until set but still slightly jiggly in the center.
Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Serve with coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream if desired.
While we still have a little sun left on the horizon, I got to share this recipe.
As you guys know, I am from Hungary. Memories of childhood left strong impressions on my mind, most of these impressions had to do with food… My grandparents were the chefs of the family, and every summer the kitchen was filled with work around the clock. Pickling and canning were not only hobbies but absolute necessities. I never forget how my seemingly frail grandmother in her 70’s and 80’s would carry 10-15 kilos of fruits and vegetables up to the 5th floor via the stairs because the elevator was broken Again. And these were not your short little stairs of the modern constructions; we lived in an old apartment house that used to be own as a single building of a very wealthy family back in the 19th century. As a result, the stairs were grandiose the ceilings very tall. Nowadays, of course, the building is broken into apartment units. The fifth floor is usually a nice elevation, away from the sounds of the city, except when the elevator was broken, and it seems more often than not during canning season the elevator was broken. If people complained it was out of the joy of comradery, I still hear the echoes of voices of neighbors up and down the spiral staircase “It’s broken Aunty Maria, no use pressing the button. Can I help you carry the groceries.” Aunty Maria is how my grandma was addressed by most in the building, she always had the same answer; “Thank you sweetheart, but my kind never shied away from little hard labor, I am just fine thank you.” This of course was followed by a staged “fight” over why not let me help you, then an invitation for a coffee. Wow, as I am writing these words I realize how much more patient and formal relationships used to be, we also had more time… time to just sit and talk to a neighbor and possible help with pickling.
So why don’t I tell you about the art of BRINING! This is a little-known art in the United States; I honestly don’t know why. But Eastern Europe prefers to brine cucumbers. I do believe it is tastier and not just because I am totally biased, which of course I am. It is better because brining involves fermentation, thus creating a dish full of healthy probiotics!
Albert guarding the brining process!
It is super simple.
2 slices of dry sourdough bread
Wash the cucumbers well, then slice into them on each end to allow the fermentation to reach into the cucumber. Place a slice of dried up old sourdough on the bottom of a well-washed glassed jar. Then add half of the garlic and dill. On top of the bread, garlic and dill place the cucumbers, standing up like soldiers. On top of the cucumbers add the rest of the garlic and dill, finish up your jar by adding one more slice of dried up sourdough bread. Then take warm water with plenty of salt. It should taste like light sea water. Cover the jar with either cheesecloth or simply place a tea saucer on top. Place the jar on warm sun for anywhere between 3-5 days. You want to have your cucumbers nice and crunchy, so make sure to monitor the fermentation process, don’t let it over-ferment.
The yeast from the bread is going to start the fermenting the cucumbers; it is important to not lock the top of the jar airtight since fermentation produces gases that will need to escape.
Once the cucumbers are well-fermented transfer everything but the bread into a new clean jar and place in refrigerator. (toss the bread out, it did its job. By the way, you can use fresh bread, but using old hard bread was the way grandma made sure that we did not toss out food. Oh and make sure to get a good sourdough, not a presliced over preserved wonder bread…)
Make sure to keep the wonderful salty brine water, store the cucumbers in the brine, it is a natural preservative, and it is also an amazing probiotic drink, perfect after a long run!