This is a dish I made on New Year's Day yesterday, as black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year's to bring good luck and prosperity for the year. Who couldn't use a bit more of that? This was one of the food traditions I remember from growing up and have held on to myself. Not only is this a fun tradition, but it is so delicious and comforting on a cold January day. This dish is also packed with nutrients, which is really what brings prosperity, right? Black-eyed peas are a good source of folate and fiber, the greens are rich in vitamin K, folate, calcium, and magnesium, and the bone broth is full of glutamine, glycine, collagen and plenty of minerals. Pair this with a fermented vegetable or hot sauce to balance out the rich flavors and add some probiotics, and you have started your year in the best way possible. Here's to 2020!
Black-Eyed Peas and Greens in Pork Broth
1 lb dried black-eyed peas
Pinch of salt and dash of apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs bacon fat or lard
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4cups pork bone broth (see below for instructions)
2 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
Meat removed from pork bones
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
A few dashes of hot sauce, to taste
The day before making this dish, prepare the peas and broth:
To start the peas, begin by soaking 24 hours before you want to begin cooking them. Rinse the dried black-eyed peas and put in a medium bowl. Cover with warm water and add a pinch of salt and splash of apple cider vinegar to begin the fermentation process. Set aside until the next day.
To make the broth, place about 3 lbs of pork neck bones, pork soup bones, pig tails, or smoked pork hocks in a slow cooker and cover with water, about 4 quarts. Add a tsp of salt and 1 Tbs of apple cider vinegar. You can also add other ingredients like herbs, spices, onions, etc. to your preference. Turn to low and let cook 18-24 hours, then strain out the bones before using in this recipe. Remove the meat from the bones and set aside to add to the beans.
To prepare the dish:
Heat the bacon fat or lard in a medium stock pot. Once melted and hot, add the onions. Saute for 5-8 minutes until softened and beginning to brown, then add the onions and saute for 1-2 more minutes. Add the bone broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat to medium. Let cook about 45 minutes.
Once the beans are cooked most of the way, add the greens, paprika, cayenne and meat. Cover and let cook another 30 or so minutes, until the black-eyed peas are fully cooked through and soft. Add the apple cider vinegar and hot sauce, if using, and let cook on low another 5 minutes.
Serve hot with cornbread and plenty of butter.
Beefy Beet Borscht with Bone Broth
For the broth:
3 lbs beef soup bones, with plenty of meat on them
6 quarts water
1 sprig fresh rosemary or other fresh herb such as thyme
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
2 tsp sea salt
Fresh black pepper
Combine ingredients in a slow cooker and set to low. Let cook for 24 hours. Let cool, then remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Strain the remaining broth to remove bones and herbs. Refrigerate until ready to use or immediately make into soup using recipe below.
For the soup:
2 Tbs butter or other cooking fat like tallow or lard
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs beets, scrubbed and diced
1 lb potatoes (I used red or blue), scrubbed and diced
3 quarts beef broth, made with soup bones (see above)
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 ½ tsp Hungarian paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried dill
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Meat from soup bones (if using store-bought broth, sub 1 lb cubed stew meat)
To garnish: full-fat sour cream and fresh dill
In a medium stock pot, heat the butter over medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the onion and garlic; sauté 5-10 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the beets and potatoes, cooking for 5 more minutes.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to medium heat; let simmer 30 minutes until the beets and potatoes become tender. If using stew meat, add at this time.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, dill, salt, pepper and soup bone meat if using. Keep heat on low and simmer for 20-30 more minutes until the soup has reduced and thickened slightly.
Season to taste and serve with sour cream and fresh dill.
Laab (also spelled laap or larb) is a Thai meat-based salad that combines flavorful ground meat and fresh vegetables, served in lettuce cups. This is typically served with sticky rice, but we will often make rice noodles to go with them instead if we are looking for a quick-cooking dinner. You could leave the rice or noodles out if you follow a grain-free diet, however, and just add more vegetables to the filling.
Laab has become a staple at our house, as it is comes together quickly and easily, creates a nice vessel for organ meats, and is seriously just so delicious. This is probably the most-requested meal from my partner, which I would say is a glowing review! If you love Thai flavors like ginger, fish sauce, and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint, I encourage you to give this one a try. You get a meal that is full of fresh vegetables, as well as protein and healthy fats, plus it is easy to serve to a crowd and they can make their own lettuce cups. If you have nice lettuce leaves available you can serve the meat-and-veggie mixture in those, or try the filling in napa cabbage leaves during the cooler months when lettuce isn't in season. We have also made this filling and put it into spring rolls or mixed it with rice noodles to make a pack-able lunch as well. Another modification is that, if you don't eat pork, you could make this with ground chicken instead, using chicken, beef, or lamb organs. Feel free to make this to suit your dietary needs; it will still be delicious.
The addition of organ meats is certainly optional here, but I would encourage you to try and add them in if possible. Organ meats are more nutrient-dense than muscle meat, providing more vitamins and minerals in your meal than when just cooking with muscle meat alone. Liver is high in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, as well as vitamins B12 and B6, choline, iron and folate. Some of these nutrients can be difficult to get, even in a "whole food-based" diet, unless adding in liver or other organs 1-2 times per week. Hearts are also very nutritious, offering the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), known for benefiting heart and brain health, but with few dietary sources. Chicken hearts, chopped into small pieces, work great in this recipe. With all of the flavors and textures, you can hardly tell they are in there, which may be preferable for family or friends who want to eat organ meats but aren't huge fans of the taste and texture. Liver or other organs chopped or ground will also incorporate well into the seasoned ground meat, and is such an easy way to get your 1-2 weekly doses of organs. Using organic and/or pasture-raised sources of organs is important, both to avoid hormone and antibiotic-laden conventional meat, but also to ensure a higher nutrient content and better quality of life for the animals used for their meat. Check with your local health food store or local farmers to purchase high-quality organ meats, as they are likely not available at conventional grocery stores.
Pork Laab with Organ Meats
For the meat filling:
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 small red onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp toasted rice powder, optional--available at Asian grocery stores or online
1 lb ground pastured pork
4 ounces chopped hearts or liver
1-2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce, or substitute red chili flakes to taste
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce (I use Red Boat brand)
2 Tbs lime juice
For the vegetable mixture:
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 medium carrots, grated
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
~1 tsp fish sauce
2 Tbs lime juice
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
Garnishes: extra chopped fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, lime wedges, and chopped peanuts
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Fish sauce or organic soy sauce
Sticky white rice or cooked rice noodles
Butter lettuce leaves or cabbage leaves
In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. When melted and hot, add in the onions. Saute 5-8 minutes until softened and beginning to brown, stirring regularly. Add the garlic, ginger, and toasted rice powder (if using) and cook for 3-5 more minutes.
Add the ground pork and chopped organ meats to the pan. Break up the meat as best you can, so it can cook evenly and begin to brown. Cook, stirring regularly, until all of the pink is gone, about 10-12 minutes. Then, continue to let the meat cook without stirring often to allow the meat to brown and crisp.
Add the hot sauce, fish sauce and lime juice to the browned pork, letting the liquid de-glaze the pan and stirring to get all of the crispy meat bits off the bottom of the pan.
Remove pan from the heat and set aside until ready to add to the vegetable mixture.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetable mixture and lettuce cups.
Combine the cabbage, carrots, scallions, cilantro, and mint in a large mixing bowl. Wash and dry the lettuce or cabbage leaves for serving, then set aside.
When then pork is cooked, add to the cabbage mixture. Season with the rest of the fish sauce and lime juice, to taste, then stir to combine. Toss in peanuts just before serving to keep them crunchy.
Serve with cooked rice or rice noodles in prepared lettuce cups, garnishing with extra herbs, peanuts, and sauces as desired.
The meat and veggie filling can be made ahead of time, but is best when served fresh and warm. Leftover filling will keep for several days in the fridge, and makes great leftovers mixed in with rice or noodles for a quick salad to bring for your lunch!
Winter is hard. At least it is here in Wisconsin. The days are short, it is bone-chillingly cold, and there is not as much going on in general. During the winter, we tend to get lonelier, sick more often and have more seasonal depression, but I do not think it has to be so tough for us. To me, having some special routines is key, and not treating the cold months the same as warmer months. This is a time for extra self-care, prioritizing social interactions, and getting more rest than we think we need. If we can employ a few self-care strategies and treat winter as the restful, special time that it is, I believe that we can achieve more health and happiness, and actually thrive during the winter, rather than just trying to survive it.
warmin Nutrition and Supplements
Taking care of our nutrition in the winter is essential, especially to keep up our immune systems and to help with seasonal mood changes. Because of the longer nights and less time spent outdoors, we do not get enough vitamin D in the winter. Even if you were outside a lot during the winter, you likely aren't getting enough vitamin D from the sun because your skin in covered with clothing, and at the latitude where I live, not much D would be available even if you went outside naked. It is below zero today, so don't even try it. I recommend that everyone take a vitamin D supplement in the winter, though you can get your levels checked to be sure that it is appropriate for you. Getting enough vitamin D will help with mood and energy in the winter, as well as immune health and more.
Along with vitamin D, supporting your body with other fat-soluble vitamins, A and K2, is also important. I use cod liver oil to get my supplemental vitamin A (naturally-occurring) as well as extra omega 3 fats for inflammation and immune boosting properties. Some people find adding in a zinc supplement in the winter can improve their immune system, especially if they are prone to getting whatever bug is going around. Chris Masterjohn, PhD, has a great post about supplementing with zinc, which you could check out to find what type is right for you.
Herbs can be really beneficial during the winter to help with the immune system as well. For those who work around a lot of people, such as a school or large office, taking astragalus during the winter can help with keeping those office bugs at bay. It is an immune tonic, which can be taken daily for long periods of time to improve the immune system. This is available in capsules, tinctures and glycerites, or can be added in its dried form to broths, teas and soups. Elderberry is another potent herb with anti-viral properties, that I always take at the first sign of a potential cold. These can be in lozenges, tinctures, or syrups, which I prefer, as it is delicious and usually mixed with other warming, immune-boosting herbs. Warming herbs or foods can be helpful for stimulating the circulation as well, such as ginger, cinnamon, hot peppers, and garlic. Fire Cider/Fire Tonic/Dragon Tonic, an herbal infusion of garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and other immune-boosting herbs into apple cider vinegar and honey, can be a great daily tonic as well. This is hot and sour and full of nutrients that are beneficial in keeping you healthy in the winter. Other herbs you may find useful are echinacea or reishi, both of which can be used in supplemental forms for fighting off bacteria and viruses.
Supplements and herbs, while essential during the winter, are not enough to keep up truly healthy during this time of year. Giving extra care and attention to our food during this time is important as well. Though the holidays are over, winter tends to be a time for extra indulgence in general, be it in alcohol or sugar or processed foods. Prioritize seasonal fruits and vegetables, like squash, cabbage, citrus, and apples, to ensure you are getting adequate vitamin C, potassium and fiber, which are usually lacking in our produce-poor winter diets. Our immune system also needs plenty of probiotics, available in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, and yogurt. Vitamin D is available not only in supplements, but in foods as well. Pastured pork, especially with fat and/or skin, liver, and seafood like sardines are good sources of vitamin D that can add to what you supplement in other forms. And of course, the most important food for staying healthy in the winter: soup! Soups, stews, and curries made from bone broth or meat stock are not only warming and comforting, but also offer an incredible amount of nutrition. Minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and collagen are available in these broths, helping support the immune system, digestion, and even preventing dry, cracking skin during the winter. It can be hard to get enough water in the colder months, so sipping on warm broth can help keep you hydrated as well. Whether you sip it, make rice with it, or turn it into a lovely soup, stocks and broths should be in heavy rotation in your kitchen this winter.
Supplemental Light and Heat
Where I live, the winter months can start to wear on you emotionally and physically, as it just stays cold and dark for such a long period of time. This is where supplemental light and heat sources (not just for heating your home) can really be beneficial. In the mornings, especially on those dreary, grey winter mornings, I like to use a light therapy box, such as a Happy Light. This simulates the light from the sun, helping with mood and energy, which can feel really nice when it has been gloomy for a few days in a row. 10-20 minutes of this in the morning, such as while you are eating breakfast, is all it really takes to get some benefit from these light therapy lamps.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, are the more warming, relaxing light and heat sources. Infrared saunas offer warmth and relaxation, as well as detoxification and other health benefits, and can feel really nice on a freezing winter night. If an infrared sauna is not available to you, finding a spa or even a friend with a traditional sauna can be a wonderful warming experience as well. This has the added benefit of sauna-ing with others, helping abate the loneliness many feel in the winter. Hot tubs, hot springs, mineral baths and even an epsom salt bath at home can be a great part of your self-care routine to bring some warmth, moisture and relaxation to your wintertime. Of course, sitting by a roaring fire with a book or your loved ones (or both!) are classic ways to warm yourself when it's cold outside.
Getting Outside and Enjoying Winter
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get outside during the winter. We must to do this, as getting fresh air to help prevent illness, soaking up whatever sunlight is available to boost our moods, and ensuring we interact with nature, even when it is cold outside, help to keep us healthy during this time of year. So much of what we hate about winter can be improved, though not necessarily fixed altogether, by simply going outside more. Where we live, winter can be beautiful, from snowy woods to ice caves, and would never be appreciated by staying indoors. Certainly, being wise and safe regarding temperatures and conditions is important. I probably won't be going on a hike today with a windchill that is -20F, but on those days when it is in the 30's or even 20's, adequate clothing and gear can keep me safe and warm for enjoying all of the beauty the winter has to offer here. Perhaps you are stuck inside working all day and want to get some of this benefit; in this case, I would encourage you to even open your windows at home or work for a few minutes to let in some fresh, cold air to purify the air indoors. The stagnant, stale air inside during the winter makes us more likely to get sick, and unless we periodically let some freshness in, we are stuck with this air until it is "nice" out again. We must be willing to interact with our natural world, even when it isn't totally comfortable for us, in order to keep our mental and physical health up during the colder months. If you aren't acclimated yet, start with a short 5-10 minute walk, bundled up well, and increase your outdoor time and is safe and appropriate for you. There is much beauty to be seen, even this time of year!
Outdoor time also gives us what most people desperately lack in the winter time: movement. Just as the air in our homes gets stagnant, so do many of our bodies. This is another reason people get depressed and sick more often in the winter. Movement is essential for the functioning of our lymphatic system, which helps with our immunity. It also is essential for our mental health as well. Going on a hike, snowshoeing, winter fat tire biking, cross-country skiing, or even shoveling snow in your driveway can all be ways to interact with our natural surroundings, but also get our hearts pumping and muscles working.
If outdoor exercise isn't going to be a part of your regular winter routine, then finding an indoor movement practice that you enjoy should be a priority. Especially during the winter, I recommend a movement class as opposed to an individual workout. This could be a crossfit/HIIT class, yoga class, martial arts class, dance class or even a natural movement-focused class, but the group setting gives the benefit of solving two cold-weather problems: too little movement and too little socializing. Classes often help with consistency as well, so you will be more likely to show up regularly if there are folks who expect you to be there. The winter could be a time when you try a new movement class or group, which could be something to look forward to, both for a new movement challenge and for possibly meeting new people. Or, combine the best of both worlds, and start a winter hiking group, so you all get to move together and get outside! If you are a solo workout type of person, then find an indoor activity and space, such as a bouldering/climbing gym or indoor lap pool, that could meet your physical movement and alone-time needs...in this case, you could try something new as well!
I mentioned attending group exercise classes in the movement section, because much of the unhappiness we experience during winter has to do with our isolation and loneliness. There are usually fewer social functions happening, especially after the holidays are over, and we often don't feel like going out as much in general. But, the computer or television are not good substitutes for the social interactions we need as humans. While we may be more interested in solitude and contemplation during the winter, we must go out of our way to ensure we get adequate time with our people. This could be family, friends, co-workers or even meeting new people, but we can't get complacent in the winter and just expect to wait to hang out with our people in the spring...this will not lead to happiness during the cold, dark time of the year. My best advice is to combine social time with one of the other self-care strategies already discussed: attend a workout class or start a winter hiking group, go to a sauna with some friends, host a game, craft, or movie night, or call an old friend if you are snowed in. My favorite winter group activity, of course is cooking and/or eating together. Make a big pot of soup and share it with your favorite folks, bake a batch of sourdough bread or maple-sweetened brownies and bring them to someone dear, or host a winter-stinks-so-let's-hang-out potluck dinner party. Everyone will be healthier for it!
Rest and Relaxation
Traditionally, life in the winter would not have looked like life in the summer but just indoors. However, this is often how we live today, as technology has made up capable of this. But when we live without rhythms and seasonality, we often lose the lesson that each phase can teach us. In the winter, giving more attention to our self-care, to rest, to relaxing and going inward, can be valuable for our overall health. Longer nights might be letting us know we should be sleeping more in the winter, and less time spent outdoors may be telling us to spend more time reading and meditating, or even drinking herbal tea and taking hot baths. With fewer obligations post-holidays, we can take this time to keep ourselves healthy and reset in a way that keeps up feeling good, even when it is brutal outside.
Above all, creating a routine of self-care is what is most important in the winter. Different supplements, foods, movements and activities may need to be incorporated depending on where you live, your health status and even personality, but keeping a consistent routine is what I see as the way to maintain well-being over these winter months. Winter is a strong force, making us rest, recharge, and slow down, but also challenging us more in our minds and bodies as well. Giving winter the reverence it deserves by appreciating its beauty and carving out time for taking care of ourselves can help us to not only stay healthy this winter, but also look forward to winters to come.
I am of course a fan of all things fermented, but it can be easy to get in a rut with making ferments, sticking to sauerkraut or kombucha and not venturing out into new ferment territory. This Curry Cauliflower-Onion Chutney is just the thing to mix up your ferment game. All sorts of condiments can be made into a lacto-fermented version, and this chutney is a great one to start with.
This recipe can be lacto-fermented just using the salt method like sauerkraut or can be made by adding whey, drained from probiotic yogurt . The whey acts as a starter culture to get the fermentation process started. You can make salsas, chutneys, sauces and relishes using whey as your starter, but you can also make them without, or substitute a dairy-free starter like sauerkraut juice or brine from pickled vegetables. Using the whey makes the fermentation happen more quickly, so the ferment will be done within a few days instead of a week or two. I like to ferment the veggies in larger pieces and then puree to my preferred consistency before using, as I find it is easier to keep the veggies submerged in brine. You can puree this as thin as you like, or leave it in larger chunks for more texture.
Cauliflower-Onion Chutney is stinky yet delicious and goes great in a variety of dishes. You can serve alone or add a scoop into plain yogurt for a quick raita to serve alongside your favorite Indian dishes. I suggest you try it folded into scrambled eggs with spinach and goat cheese then served with warm naan bread. Of course, simply added to a tossed salad would be great or even on a brat with curry ketchup. Get wild with this one! You can adjust the heat to your comfort level by increasing the amount of pepper flakes or throwing a fresh hot pepper in if you like.
Lacto-Fermented Curry Cauliflower Onion Chutney
Makes ~2 quarts
3 cups cauliflower, finely chopped--about 1 head
1 cup green cabbage, finely chopped
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
4” fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbs whole cumin seeds
2 tsp whole mustard seeds, black or yellow
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder ( or 1 Tbs fresh grated turmeric)
1 tsp curry powder
4 Tbs liquid whey or brine, optional
~2 Tbs sea salt
Combine the cauliflower, cabbage, onion, garlic and ginger in a large bowl. Add salt, using the ratio of 1 tsp per pound of vegetables. Massage the salt into the vegetables until the are softened and produce an adequate amount of brine.
Add the spices and whey to the vegetable mixture. You may want to use gloves if mixing by hand, as the turmeric will stain your skin.
Transfer the mixture to a quart jar and tamp down with a wooden spoon to remove air and push up the brine. Place a weight on top of the mixture to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine. Add a non-reactive lid, not too tightly, and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Ferment for about 3-5 days if using starter, or 10-14 days if not, until it has a slightly tangy flavor and fermented smell.
For a finer, chutney-like texture, pulse several times in the food processor or blender to your preferred texture. Return to the jar and press down to push brine to the surface.
Transfer to the fridge for storage, where it will keep for several months.
Strawberry-rhubarb is the quintessential early summer flavor combination. We have had rhubarb in for a while now, and now we finally have an overflow of strawberries around here, so naturally, a dessert is in order! I love mine served warm with some homemade vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. This is the perfect treat for the official first day of summer, with today being the summer solstice.
I love making my cobblers in a cast iron skillet. It gives a really wonderful rustic look and bakes up really nicely.. You could totally make this recipe in a 9x9 square glass baking dish or pie pan, but I encourage you to try baking in cast iron for a change if you have a good skillet. Once you do, you probably will always want to bake cobbler that way.
You can use frozen rhubarb or berries for this recipe if that's what you have available, especially if you put up lots of fruit in the freezer after harvesting!
Skillet Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes
For the filling:
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
1 c strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
2 Tbs butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cast iron skillet or 9" square glass baking dish.
Combine filling ingredients, except the butter, together in a medium bowl. Mix well to dissolve arrowroot powder. Let sit and macerate slightly while you prepare the cobbler topping.
For the crust:
1 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
2 Tbs coconut flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 Tbs butter, chilled and cubed
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs cold water
Combine almond, arrowroot and coconut flours. Add salt and baking soda and mix well.
Cut the butter into the flour mixture until well combined and it begins to resemble wet sand.
Add in the honey and water and mix with your hands until the dough just comes together.
Pour the filling into the prepared pan. Spread out to create an even layer. Dot the 2 Tbs of butter evenly along the top of the fruit filling.
Separate the cobbler dough into 7-8 pieces, and create biscuit-like pieces of dough. Set over the top of the fruit filling to create a "cobbled" together crust appearance. I like to make mine into a circle with one in the middle to make serving easier.
Bake for 40 minutes, checking and rotating the pan after 20 minutes to ensure even browning of the crust. The crust should be lightly browned and slightly firm. The biscuits will still be a little soft, but will firm up as it cools. The filling should have gelled and cooked down, but will continue to gel and set as it cools.
Let cool for about 30 minutes before serving to allow setting if you like yours warm, or wait a few hours to allow to fully set.
Serve topped with ice cream or whipped cream for a real crowd-pleaser!
Leftovers (why do you have leftovers??) can be transferred to a storage container and kept in the fridge. This should keep in the fridge for several days, but will likely be all eaten up before then!
Kombucha, the fermented tea beverage, has become the darling drink of the health food world in the last few years. Health foods stores and conventional stores alike are carrying so many different brands and flavors, and the popularity of the drink seems to only be increasing.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage, made by culturing a sweetened black tea with the kombucha starter, also known as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The bacteria and yeast that are present in the SCOBY feed on the sugar, therefore facilitating fermentation. By ingesting kombucha, you get to consume lots of good bacteria and yeasts, even more potent than a supplement. This is good news for your digestive health, skin, and even immune system! The beverage also has a detoxifying effect on the liver, is high in antioxidants, and can improve stomach acid levels.
Unfortunately for those who are already kombucha fans, these tasty beverages run at least 3 dollars for a 16 oz. bottle, so if your kombucha habit is anything like mine, it can get pretty expensive! That is why making your own kombucha at home is so wonderful; it is extremely cheap, pretty easy to make when you get the hang of it, and you still get all the health benefits. Plus, you can make any flavors you want and get creative in the kitchen.
I use the continuous brew method of making my own kombucha. There are two basic methods, the other being the batch method. For me the continuous brew method is a lot easier, and I have found I get much better results, including a better tasting end product that has better carbonation. For this how-to, I will be giving the instructions for the continuous brew method, but if you want to try the batch method, you may try it and see if it is for you.
For even more information of the how's and why's of kombucha making, check out the Kombucha Kamp website, which is full of great stuff on the topic! You can also purchase a SCOBY, or mother culture, on this website if you don't have a friend to give you one.
To make your kombucha you will need a one gallon jar, and it is best and easiest to use one with a spigot, like a sun tea jar, and some bottles for after its brewed. I use flip-top bottles often used in home-brewing beer for the second fermentation, which you can find online or at home brew stores. You will also need loose leaf black tea, organic evaporated cane juice, and filtered water.
Step 1: Obtain your starter culture
If you already know someone who brews their own kombucha, you can easily get a "mother" culture from them. Each time you brew a new batch of kombucha, a new scoby (the big, gelatin-like form) will grow. You only need one scoby for a gallon batch of kombucha, so the new ones can be given away to others to start their own home brews! If you can't get one from someone you know, you can get them online from Kombucha Kamp or Cultures for Health.
Do not use a starter culture that has been dried/dehydrated. Fresh is the best, and preferably one that has not been refrigerated. You can also use a bottle of plain, unflavored kombucha that is store-bought as your starter culture if you can't find one anywhere else--but be sure it has no additives and has not been pasteurized!
If you already have a scoby and some kombucha (this is your second time through the process, perhaps), then you remove the scoby with clean hands and set it aside in a bowl, along with 1 cup of the kombucha tea, which will be your starter liquid. This will work to inoculate the sweetened tea to start the fermentation process. Use the kombucha from the top of the jar for your next batch, and save the brew at the bottom for drinking this round. It has more yeast in it, so the new culture will grow better from the stuff on top and the kombucha at the bottom will produce better fizz.
This is why having a spigot is so nice. Not only is it easier to get your tea out, but you also pull from the bottom, and leave the tea at the top for the next batch. If you only have a basic glass jar, that is still totally fine to use.
Once you have set aside a previous culture or have your new one ready, have a clean 1-gallon jar ready. No need to sterilize the jar, just a clean glass jar will do--never plastic or metal!
Step 2: Brew Tea
The tea is important to the brewing process because of the pH level and tannins it lends to the process, which help facilitate fermentation. I have found black tea to work best, and it is said to be the most traditional tea to use, as opposed to the green tea and honey variation, Jun. Some people have success with a blend of black and green tea, but I have found plain black organic tea yields the best results. For 1 gallon of kombucha, I use 2 heaping tablespoons of organic loose leaf black tea.
To brew your sweet tea, bring 1 quart of filtered water to a boil and add the loose tea. Remove from heat and cover. Let steep 8-10 minutes. Brewing the tea too long can leave it bitter, so keep an eye on your steep time. Strain the tea into the empty gallon jar.
Step 3: Add Sugar
Please don't let this step scare you, or deter you from making kombucha all together. The sugar is for the bacteria and yeast to do their jobs, not for you! Bacteria need simple sugar to survive, and straight up evaporated cane juice is the best way to go for this ferment.
Add your sugar, 2/3 cup-1 cup for a gallon of kombucha, to the strained hot tea. Stir well with a wooden spoon--not metal or plastic spoons--to dissolve the sugar completely. Then, add the rest of your water to dilute the tea to the normal strength. Leave a few inches of room at the top for your starter liquid and scoby.
Fill the rest of the jar with cool water, leaving 2-3" headspace at the top for the scoby and starter. By heating a smaller amount of water then diluting the tea to the proper strength, it takes almost no time to cool to room temperature before adding the scoby--if you add a scoby to hot water, it will kill it.
4. Add SCOBY and Starter Liquid to Sweetened Tea
Now that the tea is cooled, you can add the scoby culture and starter liquid. The starter needed is 1 cup of prepared kombucha tea from previous batch or, if this is your first batch, whatever came with your SCOBY. If you don't have this, you can use 1 cup of store-bought plain kombucha.
Simply add the starter and scoby gently into the prepared tea and cover with a clean cloth or towel. Tie a string around the top to keep the cloth in place, or use a rubber band. This keeps out bugs and dust and such, but lets the natural bacteria and yeast in to help populate your tea. Be sure to use a towel with a tight weave for this; if you try using cheese cloth or a towel with a loose weave, fruit flies and mold will most likely make a home in your brew.
5. First Fermentation
This is the easy part, because it is just waiting! The first fermentation lasts about 1 week. Place your brewing kombucha in a warm place, that is relatively dry and out of direct sunlight, and leave it alone. No need to mess with it, stir it, jostle it. Just leave it alone for 5-7 days.
After 5-7 days, you can taste your kombucha and see if it is at the right stage for you. If it is too sweet, let it ferment for a few more days. If it is too sour or tart, it is not ruined, but you might not enjoy it as much, then you know to reduce the time you let it ferment next time. This can depend a lot on temperature and humidity in your house, so you may have to experiment at different times of the year. In the warmer months, this will go more quickly than in the cooler months. If your house is always climate-controlled at the same temperature, then 7 days will be about right.
6. Second Fermentation
Now it's time to bottle the kombucha and get it all bubbly and tasty. If you like the kombucha as is, feel free to just drink it now. You may want to refrigerate it for better taste and more refreshment, but it isn't necessary. However, if you want your kombucha to have that wonderful carbonation--which makes it a great substitute for soda or even beer--then this step is important. To get the best carbonation, I use flip-top amber bottles, but used kombucha bottles from store-bought brands will substitute well.
At this point you also add your flavorings. You can add about 2 tablespoons of fruit juice or fruit puree, pieces of whole fruit, fresh ginger or even your favorite herbs. I like to keep my flavorings to 2 Tbs per 16 oz. bottle, so you still get that nice kombucha flavor. Add whichever extras you're using to your bottles before adding the kombucha to the bottle, however, so you know you leave yourself with enough room in the bottles. Some of my favorite combinations are Rose Hip-Lemon-Ginger, Elderberry-Hibiscus-Orange Peel, Concord Grape, and Watermelon-Mint.
If you have a jar with a spigot, simply decant enough kombucha into your bottle to fill it all the way to the top. Top with the lid and set aside. Repeat again until all the kombucha is used. If you don't have a spigot on your jar, you can take the scoby and 1 cup of liquid off of the top with a ladle, then use a funnel to pour the kombucha into the individual bottles. For this, look for a small funnel that will easily fit into the opening of your bottles.
Once you have flavored and bottled your kombucha, then you get to just let it sit again. I usually leave mine for about 3-5 days, until they are fizzy to my liking. You can check yours after about 3 days and test them, and leave them to ferment a little longer to get them more carbonated.
Because this is the continuous brew method, be sure to save 1 cup of brewed kombucha from the top as your starter liquid for your next batch! Once you have completed this step, you are ready to restart the process back at step one with your scoby!
7. Refrigerate and Enjoy!
I like my kombucha chilled, which I think makes it a really refreshing drink. You don't have to refrigerate it before drinking, but I recommend it. Once they are stored in the fridge, your bottles of kombucha will last several months--though you will likely drink them before then! 4-8 ounces a day is a good serving of regular strength kombucha for most people.
This process is continuous, so you repeat it each time you pour one batch into bottles. Never leave kombucha scoby without sweetened tea in it for long periods of time, more than a few days, as this is its food and it can die without it. If you need or want to wait a few days before starting a new batch, just leave the scoby and the starter liquid in a covered jar, but do not refrigerate. Leave at room temperature until ready to start a new batch.
Don't forget to give away your newly-formed scoby's from each batch to a friend, or start another gallon of kombucha with it, as you only need one scoby per gallon of kombucha. You could have a little kombucha hotel going with lots of jars! If you don't want to make more, however, you can just compost the scoby as well.
Continuous Brew Kombucha
Kombucha has been a health food staple for several years now, and it not just because it tastes so
good! This drink is full of probiotics, as well as organic acids that help promote detoxification,
digestion, improved immune system function and even better skin. This is the perfect alternative to pop
or other sweet drinks and is great for all ages. You can make this all your own by adding your favorite fruit juices or other flavors during the second fermentation.
1 starter culture (aka SCOBY or mother culture)
1-2 cups starter liquid (ready made kombucha tea)
4-6 tsp black tea
3⁄4-1 cup organic sugar
1 gallon filtered water
Add ins: fruit juice, ginger, herbs, rose hips, lemon, berries, etc.
Set aside SCOBY and starter liquid in a small bowl.
Bring 1 quart of the filtered water to a boil and add the tea. Let steep 10 minutes.
While the tea is steeping, add the sugar to your fermentation vessel. A sun tea jar or other glass jar with
a spigot is ideal, but any 1 gallon glass jar will do.
When the tea is steeped, strain and add to the sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
Add the rest of the filtered water, leaving a few inches of room at the top to add in your starter.
When the tea is at room temperature, add the starter liquid and mother culture. Cover your container
with a clean cloth and secure in place using a string or rubber band.
Let sit in a dry place out of direct sunlight for 7 days.
After 1 week, you are ready to bottle for the second fermentation. You will need six 12 ounce bottles.
Add your flavorings, such as 2-3 Tbs of fruit juice or 2-3 tsp of dried herbs to your bottles. Pour off the
prepared kombucha into each bottle, filling to the top. Add your lid and close tightly. Let sit another
week on the counter. This will let the kombucha carbonate and get that nice bubbly fizz that people
love. I re-use amber bottles from store bought kombucha, or you can buy flip top bottles for bottling,
which give the kombucha lots of fizz.
Save 1-2 cups of the prepared kombucha tea to use as the starter for your next batch. Set this aside,
along with the mother culture. If the SCOBY has produced a second mother, you can separate them and
make a second gallon or give away to a friend who wants to try kombucha making! Do not let the
SCOBY get too large, or it will make your kombucha too acidic and won't have as pleasant of a taste.
Start the process over again with the new starter liquid and your SCOBY. You will be making a new
batch once per week or so.
An abundance of rhubarb is never a bad thing. You can make pies, cobblers and crisps with it, ferment it into a tasty shrub or add it to tangy bbq sauce in lieu of tomatoes. You can even slice it a freeze it if you really get overloaded and just can't make enough rhubarb treats in a week. One of my favorite ways to get my rhubarb fix this time of year is to make it into rhubarb preserves. No strawberry to overshadow it, just straight-up rhubarb sweetened with honey and brightened up with a hint of lemon. This super easy recipe can be made in a larger batch and frozen as well, so you can enjoy rhubarb later in the year when it is all over.
My favorite thing about this fruit spread is probably its beautiful pink color. Of course, it tastes delicious, too, but the color is something to behold. You will have to make this in real life to see it, as a picture just doesn't do it justice.
The honey adds a great flavor and sweetness to balance out the tart and bitter qualities of the rhubarb. To keep some of the nutritional value of honey intact, I add it in two stages. First, the honey is added during cooking to thicken the preserves and second, it is added after cooking to round out the sweetness and maintain the nutrients of raw honey. Use good quality, raw and local honey for this recipe, as the flavor it imparts is just as important as its sweetness in this recipe. Stop by your farmers market or health food store for the best honey.
I love this spread on sourdough toast with butter, as the "J" in a PB&J, swirled into full-fat yogurt, or paired with a creamy cheese like chevre or brie to go with crackers. Play around with different combinations to see how you like it best, you can't go wrong.
Honey-Sweetened Rhubarb Preserves
Makes 1 1/2 pints
6 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup honey (can sub maple syrup)
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
Combine rhubarb and 1/2 cup honey in a medium pot over medium heat. Heat until the rhubarb begins to release its juices and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rhubarb has cooked down and the mixture has thickened to preserve consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup honey, lemon juice and sea salt. Adjust sweetness to your preference if needed.
Let cool for 10-15 minutes and transfer to glass jars. Keep refrigerated until ready to use; this will keep for several weeks in the fridge. Once fully cooled in the fridge, you can transfer to the freezer for longer-term storage, where it will keep for several months.
Spring is waning and giving way to hotter days and summer time, so ramp season is coming to an end. If you are unfamiliar with ramps, they are a wild onion that can be foraged in the spring, that have a pungent flavor reminiscent of garlic and leeks. You can use the whole plant, including the bulb or just the green leafy tops.
To use up what I have left, I like to throw my end-of-season ramps into sauces like my chimichurri sauce or into scrambles and hashes. One of my favorite sauces to make with ramps is Ramp Pesto. For this recipe, I use the whole ramp, bulb and all, but if you only forage the green tops, you can just use those as well.
This pesto is potent and flavor-packed due to the high percentage of ramps to basil, so a little goes a long way. You can put this on pasta, sourdough grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, asparagus, mix into mayo, or just about anything that you want to add a pop of flavor to or anywhere you would normally use pesto. You could easily double or triple this recipe to make a big batch to stick in the freezer for spring time flavors all year long!
Makes 2 cups
2 cups ramps, chopped and packed
3 cups basil, chopped and packed
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup lemon juice)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
~1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, combine the ramps, basil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, walnuts and cheese. Pulse several times until the large pieces are broken up.
With the blender running, stream in the olive oil gradually until the pesto becomes smooth, which is about a 1/2 cup.
Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
You can also put in freezer-safe containers and freeze for long-term storage, where it will keep for several months.
The flavors of Thai cooking are some of my favorite to use in the kitchen, especially in the summertime. Ginger, lemongrass, lime, chilis and fish sauce can be added to just about anything and I'm going to love it. These lettuce wraps give you the awesome flavors of Thai cooking in an easy to prepare form. These are perfect for an appetizer to a Thai-inspired feast or for a summer potluck. They come together quickly and are a total crowd-pleaser, especially for the gluten-free folks you may be serving.
I used wild-caught shrimp, but you could really use any meat or seafood you like in these if you don't have good shrimp available or you have an allergy. Shrimp are wonderful because they are a source of selenium and iodine to support thyroid health, as well as the super antioxidant astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is anti-inflammatory and has been linked to improvement in eye health, heart health, immune boosting and even increased energy. This is where shrimp, and other foods like salmon, get that characteristic pink color. The pigmentation astaxanthin provides isn't easy to come by in many foods, so including shrimp, salmon, crab and lobster regularly is important. Plus, shrimp are a good source of cholesterol, needed for healthy hormone production and modulating inflammation. To make preparation much easier, I used precooked and peeled small pink shrimp that were wild-caught, but you could cook the shrimp yourself, especially if you have a fresh, local source.
A note on buying your shrimp: look for wild caught in the US. Check the label for "Northwest caught" or "bay shrimp" if you can't get totally wild caught. Avoid wild or farmed fish that is imported, as there are questionable fishing practices done in other parts of the world for catching shrimp that are not good for the environment. The shrimp may be caught in highly polluted and contaminated waters, which could be passed on to the consumer, so these should be avoided. Look for shrimp from the Oregon coast or other sustainably caught source if you can. Since I live in a landlocked area, I am sure to read labels and check sources, as I can't just go to a fish market.
If you want to get ahead of the game, you could make the filling for these one day ahead of time and the filling 2-3 days before serving. Also, if you are paleo or nut-free, you can make the dipping sauce with sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter with equally delicious results. I have done this before and it comes out seriously tasty, so someone with a peanut allergy would love you for bringing that variation to your next potluck.
Thai-Style Shrimp Wraps with Peanut Sauce
1 lb wild caught pink shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 Tbs fish sauce--I used Red Boat brand, it is the best!
1/2 Tbs soy sauce or coconut aminos for soy-free
1 Tbs green curry paste
1 Tbs raw honey
1/4 cup lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
1 tsp--or to taste--chili flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2" ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
Optional: 6 kaffir lime leaves, minced
In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients, except the shrimp, until well combined. Add in the shrimp and stir to coat. Refrigerate about 1 hour before serving.
1 recipe Peanut Sauce (below)
12 leaves romaine or butter lettuce
2 carrots, grated
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
Extra lime for garnish
Place a small scoop of shrimp filling into each lettuce leaf. Top with prepared veggies and squeeze extra lime on top. Serve drizzled with sauce or place the sauce in a dish on the side for dipping. Serve with extra lime wedges and Sriracha sauce on the side for garnish. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
Thai Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter ( or sunflower seed butter for peanut-free/paleo)
2 cloves garlic
1/2" ginger, chopped
2 Tbs fish sauce
1Tbs soy sauce or coconut aminos
2 Tbs coconut sugar
1 tsp chili flakes--or to taste
2 Tbs lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs scallions, sliced
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a sauce pan and let come to a simmer. Turn to low and let cook 8-10 minutes until it has thickened and becomes slightly darker in color.
If it becomes too thick, simply whisk in water a few tablespoons at a time to reach desired consistency. This is really to your preference, so add water as needed.
If making ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to use. When serving, you can serve it chilled or warm up before serving.
If you make a double batch of sauce, this goes great on buckwheat soba noodles, fried rice, or veggie-filled spring rolls, which I highly recommend.
Brine & Broth
I am a nutritionist in Southwest Wisconsin, focused on traditional, nutrient-dense foods. My goal is to provide you with simple and delicious recipes that fit into real life, and information for choosing healthful real foods. Enjoy!