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I love sauerkraut. I eat it almost every day. When it’s raw, it is full of probiotic bacteria, shown in lab tests to be more beneficial than probiotic supplements. While this post shows you how to make your own, if you do want to buy sauerkraut, make sure it is raw / unpasteurised, the pasteurisation process kills all the beneficial bacteria.

To start with, making sauerkraut might seem like a daunting task, and maybe it does seem that way the first few times you make it, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature.

The basics ready for making sauerkraut

I find the recipe to be very flexible, it always works as long as you get the basics right. I use Kilner jars to make my sauerkraut, jars with a rubber seal and clasp (see photo above and photos of the finished sauerkraut in the jar near the end). Kilner jars are not necessary, but they make it slightly less likely to go wrong as they stop any oxygen getting into the jar so you never get mould. And at the same time, they allow any pressure building up in the jar to escape – if you use a jar which seals tightly you will need to open the jar every few days to allow the gasses to escape.

Ingredients

You can make sauerkraut with just cabbage and salt, after all sauerkraut is just the German word for sour cabbage. But we can make it much more interesting that. I choose a selection of seasonal vegetables from the farmers market.

Vegetables I use on a regular basis

Cabbage – green or red, regular, savoy, Chinese, take your pick
Carrot
Pumpkin/Squash
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Red/Yellow/Orange pepper
Courgette (zucchini)
Apple
Radish
Onion (I really like onion in sauerkraut, but don’t put too much as then it doesn’t taste good, half a medium onion per 1 litre works for me)

Other vegetables

Seaweed – I think I tried this once with dried wakame and it worked well, I need to experiment more!

Tomatoes – I once read that tomatoes don’t go in sauerkraut, but I have done it a few times and it worked fine for me. Maybe just a small amount if you use them.

Turnip – works ok, just not on my list of favourite vegetables!

Beans – seem to take longer to ferment than other vegetables, so you end up with the sauerkraut ready apart from the beans. I need to experiment more with this.

Cucumbers – traditionally fermented whole, I’ve never tried putting them in sauerkraut, I imagine they might disintegrate if they are chopped up

What not to put in

Aubergine – I tried once, didn’t really work
Avocado – I’ve never tried, but fatty foods are not usually fermented this way

Salt

I use 1 teaspoon per litre of finished sauerkraut – so if I’m using a 2 litre kilner jar I will use 2 teaspoons of salt. This is never measured very accurately and doesn’t matter too much. The basic principle is the more salt you add, the slower it will ferment. So if it gets really hot in summer and your sauerkraut is fermenting too fast, you can use a little more salt.

Herbs and Spices

You can add all kinds of spices, I particularly like ground coriander seeds. Other traditional spices are caraway seeds or juniper berries.

You can add fresh coriander, fennel, dill, etc, you can flavour it how you like.

Kimchi is a Korean fermented food made with Napa (Chinese) cabbage, which traditionally has a different method, but you can use kimchi spices to make spicy sauerkraut including chilli, ginger, garlic and onion.

Directions

Chop the cabbage

1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and then chop. Or some people prefer to grate it.

2. Add the salt.

3. Smash the cabbage. This is where you need to find suitable tools. I have a wooden bowl and a wooden mallet. You could use the end of a rolling pin. The idea is to release all the juices from the cabbage.

Smash the cabbage

4. Chop the other vegetables. You will need approx 850g of veggies (including cabbage) per litre. I would suggest that you want approx half of this to be cabbage and the other half a mixture of vegetables. Other combinations will work, although if the amount of cabbage is too little there won’t be enough juices to cover everything (and maybe it stops being sauerkraut, there are many other ways to ferment vegetables, see my fermented butternut squashfermented broccoli and carrot with leek and fermented courgettes recipes).

To get an even ferment, size the pieces based on how quickly they will ferment, generally harder vegetables will take longer than softer ones. So for example pumpkin will need to be much smaller pieces compared to courgette and red pepper. (Note: Don’t smash the vegetables, you only smash the cabbage).

Chop the vegetables

5. Add any herbs and spices

6. Mix everything together well

7. Stuff into the jar. Really push everything down, the idea is that all the vegetables are covered by the liquid (which will have come out of the cabbage as you bashed it). Leave some space at the top of the jar – the liquid will rise up as it ferments, if you don’t leave enough space it will seep out the top of the jar.

Use a cabbage leaf and piece of stalk to keep everything pressed down under the juices

8. Place one of the outer cabbage leaves on top, then I use part of the stork to push the vegetables down into the liquid – see photo.

9. Leave at room temperature to ferment. Fermenting time depends on temperature, in the winter (in a relativly cold house) it can take up to 2 months, in summer (in Portugal) it can be ready in 1 week.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And let me know what your favourite sauerkraut ingredients are.

Finished jar of sauerkraut

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I just designed this graphic with details about the nutritional benefits of fresh seaweed. It can be downloaded and shared. What do you think of the design?

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I just received this calendar from Theresa Webb (Kitchen Buddy) and my first thought was “why didn’t I think of doing this!” It’s a wonderful idea, each month has it’s own selection of photos related to what you might be able to find. It’s not a wild food identification guide, just something to give you some inspiration for the month, with photos of wild leaves and flowers plus also dishes made with these plants.

Just a quick flick through and I’ve already learnt something new – fuchsia flowers are edible! This fascinated me so I did a quick bit of research and found that fuchsia berries are also edible. I found this blog post which says “The flowers and fruit of all fuchsia species are edible raw but flavours may vary considerably” and that the species Fuchsia splendens has the best fruits.

The month sections includes UK bank holidays, but unfortunately not moon phases (although these can easily be added by hand!) It is slightly larger than A5 when folded, and slightly larger than A4 when open.

The calendar costs £8.50 and is available direct from Kitchen Buddy.

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In August I found this plant growing right outside the house:

I’d never seen it before so I assumed it was something we had inadvertently introduced. I took a guess that it might by physalis (Incan berry, Physalis peruviana – yes even with a name like that it grows well in Europe!), it looked somewhat similar.

Anyway, as the months went by I realised it wasn’t physalis, but I didn’t know what it was. It has beautiful small blue flowers. Then yesterday by chance I saw a photo of a chia plant and the lightbulb went off in my head! So soon, we might be able to harvest some chia seeds

So, now you know, chia plants are easy to grow, just soak the seeds, scatter and wait!

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This is a continuation of my earlier post Making Kombucha and Jun. At the point of bottling your jun or kombucha, you can additional flavours. It’s not something I have experimented too much with, but in the past I have tried raw cacao powder which worked well.

Recently I have been experimenting with ginger – grated fresh ginger worked well, I also tried adding a little turmeric for the medicinal properties, although I wasn’t too keen on the effect on the flavour.

Dried ginger power also works really well. In a previous batch I used 1 teaspoon per 1 litre bottle – good but not quite strong enough for me. This time I used 2 teaspoons per litre – slightly too strong for me… so I’m guessing 1 and a half teaspoons might be the perfect amount (well for me at least, you can experiment to see what you like!)

Note that adding ginger seems to make it more fizzy, so be careful when opening.

Let me know in the comments below what your favourite addition to jun or kombucha is.

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Where my clothing comes from is something which has been close to my heart for a long time, ever since I first found out how clothes are usually made: in poor conditions, with slave labour, using cotton grown with a lot of chemicals, and/or synthetic materials made from petrochemicals.

From that point on, I tried my best to only buy ethical clothes made with natural materials, although due to price and availability this usually meant buying secondhand clothes. So, I’m really excited to announce the launch of my new website, Zazeka.com. If you’ve been following my work for a while, you will know I’ve dabbled in this area in the past, but now I’m really happy with this new project.

All the clothing we sell is organic, (most of it 100%, although some products have small amounts of synthetic materials) and all is made by Fair Wear Foundation members, a non-profit organisation striving to improve working conditions in the textile industry. Some items are fairtrade and some are ultra low carbon footprint, generating 90% less carbon emissions than equivalent items. (Yeah, I know, it would be great if everything was fairtrade and low carbon, but that’s not available at the moment.)

 

Please visit the site to see the whole range. If you want one of the designs on a different item, just let me know and I’ll set it up. I’m going to be adding more products and more designs – so let me know if you have ideas for designs you’d like to see.

I’d love any feedback you might have…

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Kombucha is a probiotic drink with many health benefits. It is made by fermenting tea and sugar with a kombucha culture, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeasts). Sometimes this gets called a mushroom, although it is not actually a mushroom.

Jun is similar to kombucha but is made using a different SCOBY and uses honey instead of sugar. I started out making kombucha until I discovered jun. I prefer to use local honey rather than sugar, and I prefer the flavour so I stick to making jun now.

Health Benefits

There is a lot written about kombucha, but not much about jun. It is assumed that the health benefits are similar, some say jun is even better.

Kombucha is known to help with detoxification. In fact it is recommended that people new to kombucha start with only a small amount the first few days so that the detoxification is not too strong.

Like other fermented foods, jun and kombucha are full of probiotic lactobacillu bacteria which help with digestion and also the immune system.

Kombucha is also good for energy levels as it is high in B vitamins.

Recipe

This the recipe I use for jun. Kombucha is usually made with black tea rather than green tea, and sugar rather than honey, but the basic idea is the same.

I generally use a mix of green tea and rooibos tea (sometimes called red tea), and then with each batch I add various additional herbs, recently I’ve been using lemon verbena as I particularly like the resulting drink.

Different types of honey affect the flavour of the resulting jun, but the specific flavour of the honey is usually lost. Eg if you use lemon honey, the jun will not taste of lemon, although it will have a lighter flavour compared to if you used a stronger honey such as heather or chestnut which give a deeper flavour to the jun.

I use a 4 litre jar, although I don’t fill it to the top so make slightly less than 4 litres, here’s my recipe:

2 tablespoons green tea
2 tablespoons rooibos tea
2 tablespoons of another herb to give flavour or medicinal benefits – lemon verbena, chaga, chanca piedra, lemongrass, etc
375g honey

Make the tea. I generally make the tea in the evening and leave it to brew overnight and then I continue the next morning.

Mix the honey into the tea, until it is fully dissolved. Top up with more water but don’t overfill the jar.

A couple of weeks ago I put more honey in by accident, I used around 485g and it made very good jun, with a stronger flavour. Experiment and find the amounts you are happy with.

Add some jun from the last batch (if this is your first time, you should get some with the SCOBY) and put the SCOBY on top. (Where to get a SCOBY? If you have a friend making jun, ask them. The SOCBY will keep growing so you can share pieces of it with friends. If not you can try asking on this Facebook group.)

Cover with a light cloth, so it is open to air but dust and flies can’t get in.

Fermentation time is dependant on room temperature. I go from 8 days in winter to 7 days as it is getting warmer, to 6 days in summer. I live in Portugal and have no heating so room temperature varies quite a bit through the year. If you have heating you might find your room temperature stays more constant and you don’t need to vary the fermentation time. I usually taste it when I think it should be ready – with experience you will be able to tell whether it is ready or needs another day.

Use only glass or ceramic containers to ferment in – the acids in the jun or kombucha will eat into plastic and contaminate your drink and metal can kill the cultures.

Bottling

When the jun is ready, take the SCOBY from the top and reserve for your next batch. Strain the jun and put in bottles. The flavour improves and the jun will become fizzy from being in a bottle for a few days – I find a week is a very good time. You have to be careful at this point, bottles can explode if the pressure builds up too much. And be careful opening the bottle, it can spray out if there is too much pressure!

Now it is time to experiment! Recently I used lemongrass for the first time, the resulting jun had an amazing flavour like a bitter beer. Let me know your favourite herbs to use in the comments below.

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