Cold Brewed Tea and Tea “Latte” Style Drinks

I know that most of you probably aren’t thinking, “Wow, I could use a nice tall glass of iced tea right now,” at this time of year. But the fact is, there are a lot of kinds of tea with really good health giving properties, and sometimes a variety of preparation methods helps to keep your enthusiasm from waning as you’re trying to drink tea regularly.

In particular, I find this method of brewing tea to make green tea a lot more palatable for me, and since green tea matches up point for point with many of my health problems and symptoms, I’ve figured I should really be trying to drink more of it. (Even if doesn’t taste all that great naturally.)

I discovered this method of brewing tea after trying Ree Drummond’s Perfect Iced Coffee. I figured if the method worked so well for coffee (and it does–you should try the coffee version too if you ever drink coffee) it should work for tea too.

Admittedly, unlike my homemade ketchup, this is not a healthy recipe that I constantly use and keep on hand. This is a ‘fun for changing up my normal routine’ kind of recipe that sees use when I feel like it. But, it’s kind of good to have an arsenal of healthy recipes that are fun and different too, instead of always having to turn to unhealthy recipes when you want a change from your normal routine.

I  use agave in this recipe. I’m not completely sold on agave’s healthiness. In fact, I’m sure it’s not as good for you as raw honey, and possibly not even as good for you as turbinado sugar. But it does have some attributes that make it handy for recipes like these, such as a more neutral flavor than honey, and an ability to dissolve easily into cold liquids. I’ve decided that for us, agave falls into that category of ‘eat lots of different kinds of foods, and it will probably all balance out’.

Yes, agave is high in fructose. It would probably be bad for you to eat it all the time. It might (or might not, depending on who you ask) be processed in such a way as removes all of it’s health benefits. Or, it might just be one of many options for a mostly natural sweetener that like everything else, has it’s pros and cons.

If you don’t want to use agave, you have a couple of options. for replacing it. You can make a simple syrup out of sugar (white or turbinado) and water. Or you can warm honey in a small amount of water until it dissolves easily into the water and stir that into the tea. Or, possibly, you could try blending honey into it in your blender or using an immersion blender and see how well that works.

The chai tea I used in the video really is the best chai I’ve ever had. It’s rooibos based, so it’s naturally caffeine free, and adapts well to various water temperatures and brewing times. (Meaning, if you tend to forget about your tea after you start brewing it and over brew it, this is the chai for you.)  If you’re interested in trying it, you can buy here from my friend Whitney’s Etsy shop.

I’ve made this recipe with both green tea and chai, and I also want to try this tea with spearmint and/or peppermint soon. I think it should work with any of your favorite teas.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Given the proviso about agave, I would definitely classify this as healthy. Tea and milk are both good for you, and you can adapt this the healthy sweetener of your choice if you’re willing to put a bit more work into it.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband enjoyed both the green tea and the chai tea versions of this drink I made, despite not usually being a fan of chai, and despite usually being skeptical of agave. I also enjoyed them both, despite not being a fan of green tea flavor, and being a huge fan of chai.

Cold Brewed Tea

1 tea bag or 1 TBSP loose leaf tea

1 quart cold water

This amount of tea makes a normal strength iced tea, or a very mild tea latte drink. If you want a stronger tea latte drink, double the amount of tea used.

Put the tea bag, or spoonful of loose leaf tea into a quart jar. Cover with water, put lid on jar, and let sit for 18-24 hours. Remove tea bag or strain tea through mesh strainer. Refrigerate until use. You can drink this plain, sweetened as you would iced tea, or make the following tea latte out of it.

 

Tea “Latte”

1 quart brewed tea

1 quart milik

1/2 cup agave

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

Menu Plan and Grocery List 1/30-2/5

Menu Plan

Dinners:

Bacon Guacamole Grilled Cheese with roasted cauliflower (This is for my birthday meal: fun, but easy to make. The idea for the sandwich is from this recipe, but I’ll be making up my own version.)

Salmon Patties on homemade rolls with a lemon yogurt sauce and sauteed spinach, mushrooms and onions

“Pork” Dumplings, using ground turkey (I use this recipe for the filling, and this recipe for the wrappers, and as always, I adjust seasonings to my taste.) with fried cabbage

Some kind of meat for fellowship meal on Sunday (I know this is a little vague, but I’m going to have to do some looking and pricing at the store to decide on exactly what I’m getting this week.)

Social Events x3 (This is more than normal for us, but we happen to have several events going on where we’ll be contributing various snacks and drinks, but not having to make a a full dinner. One of these might actually be  a dinner of sandwiches in the car on the way, depending on how details work out.)

(Normally we have burritos/Mexican once a week, but for this particular rotation, because of the social events, it’s getting pushed aside.)

Lunches:

Lunches are almost always leftovers from dinner the night before. Because of the number of social events in the evenings, I’ll probably have to pull some soup out of the freezer for one or two lunches. Also, I’ll probably add a salad to the leftovers most days, as there’s rarely enough vegetables left from the  night before.

Breakfasts:

(I don’t plan my breakfasts in detail, but these are the options we’re likely to use in the next week.)

Homemade yogurt with chia, honey, fruit and/or cinnamon

Oatmeal with yogurt, chia, honey and cinnamon (for me)

Eggs (for my husband)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes (if I get ambitious about breakfast this week)

Shopping List:

(This is just the highlights as opposed to my full shopping list. Even that much is subject to change depending on the deals I find when I get to the store. Price are for the Central IL area.)

Aldi:

Organic mild salsa, $1.50×3

White sugar (only because I used up the last of mine around Christmas and it’s good to have some on hand), not sure of price

Tuna, .69×4 (I like to keep tuna around for a quick and easy meal, or in case I run out of salmon and still want a fish meal for the week.)

Organic Bananas, .59/lbx5 (Aldi just started carrying organic bananas, so I want to try them out.)

Roma Tomatoes, about .99

Pineapple, about $1.29

Mushrooms, .69×4

Organic spinach, 1.49×2

Eggs, about 1.39×4

Feta cheese, 2.99 (This helps with making salads more interesting.)

Butter about 2.39×8 (The price of butter fluctuates a lot at Aldi. It’s often cheaper at Costco, but since I don’t have my own Costco membership it’s usually simpler for me to go ahead and buy it at Aldi.)

Ground beef 5lb/8.99×2 (Nope, I don’t buy organic ground beef. And yes, when I can get ground beef on sale for under $2 a pound, I buy a lot of it at a time.)

Ground turkey, about 1.79

I may or may not be going to Kroger this week, but they do have sour cream on sale for $1, which is the cheapest it gets anywhere in the  normal sale rotation around here. I usually buy a few of the ‘natural’ line of sour cream every time it hits $1. (Natural has only cream and cultures. Original has a bunch of junk added for texture.) I also like to cruise the meat markdowns at Kroger when I get the chance, as when you can find them, they’re often really good deals.

If you noticed any good sales this week, or found any good clearance or manager’s specials on your shopping trip, leave a comment and let me know!

100% Whole Wheat Bread (soaked flour, soft and fluffy!)

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I didn’t believe 100% whole wheat bread could be this soft and fluffy until I tried this recipe over at Passionate Homemaking. It was amazing. Even my husband, who is a devoted fan of white flour, truly enjoys this bread, without asking me if we can have white bread sometimes too. He does enjoy a variety of bread, so I need to get a couple of my other good bread recipes back in the rotation, but this makes a really good every day bread. It’s good for sandwiches and toast and eating plain with butter. What more could you ask for from a loaf of bread?

But, of course, in true Good Bad Food style, I couldn’t just leave the recipe alone. I substituted chia seeds, which I’ve been trying to get into my diet more, for the flax, which I don’t always have around. (I know, cooked chia doesn’t have the full benefit of omega 3s, but it still has fiber and protein and is generally good for you.) I didn’t want to have to deal with sprouted flour (to many steps and too much work to make, and too expensive to buy when you could just mill your own non-sprouted flour for pennies) or with the phytic acid from the unsoaked flour (see this post for a full discussion of my thoughts on phytic acid and soaking grains), so I found the perfect ratio of flour/chia/grains to water to make a dough soft enough to be kneaded but still stiff enough to use only the soaked dough without the addition of extra flour. And of course, I had to employ the technique I learned from Ada Lou Roberts in Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farms and add ginger to the yeast proofing mixture.

Also, I cut the recipe in half so my Kitchen Aid wouldn’t die while kneading it. (Seriously, this recipe almost killed my Kitchen Aid at first. I have a Professional 600 model, the same one used by my sister who has 9 children and hasn’t killed her mixer yet, to the best of my knowledge. I didn’t know you could overheat this mixer with bread dough until the first time I tried making the full batch version of this recipe.)

The result is a reliable healthy recipe for bread, using only ingredients I usually have on hand (no added vital wheat gluten or dough conditioner), and that’s really enjoyable. It’s also versatile as I often make hamburger buns and sometimes hot dog buns out of the same dough I use for my every day bread. (The buns are a little less flexible than store bought white buns, which is especially noticeable with the hot dog buns, but the hamburger buns at least have always worked just fine for us.)

In the bread I made for the video, real life intervened, and my bread dough soaked for an extra day before I got around to making the bread. The bread was still good, though with just a hint of sourness in the flavor from the extra soaking time. Also, you’ll notice in the video that it didn’t rise nearly as high as it should have. While the texture was still soft, this particular batch of bread was just a bit less fluffy than normal, and doesn’t demonstrate quite what ideally ‘doubled’ dough should look like.

Also in the video I make the comment that you can substitute coconut oil for the butter if you want to make it dairy free. I neglected to mention that if making the bread dairy free, you can substitute 1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice in 1/2 cup warm water for the yogurt.

You can use honey instead of agave in this recipe, but I prefer to save my raw honey for eating, well, raw.

You’ll really want to check out my videos for this post, as in the course of making this recipe, I demonstrate all the basic techniques of bread making, which can applied to any recipe. For instance, if you’re not sure how to tell when your dough is done being kneaded, take a look Part Two of my video, around the 5′ 53″ time mark, where I show you how properly kneaded bread dough stretches thin without tearing.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

No bad ingredients, all whole grain. This bread is about as healthy as bread gets.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Even people who don’t like whole wheat bread like this bread. It’s soft and fluffy, hold together well for sandwiches and toast, and is hearty without being dense.

Whole Wheat Bread

6 TBSP butter, melted

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat, ground)

1 cup oats (I use quick oats)

2 TBSP millet, (optional, though I haven’t tried the bread without it)

2 TBSP chia seeds

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup agave

 

1/4 cup water

1 tsp honey

1 TBSP + 3/4 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp ginger

2 1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Melt and cool the butter.

Rather than measure an exact amount of flour, I usually calculate how much wheat I need to make the right amount of flour for the recipe. So in this recipe, aiming for 5 1/2 cups of flour, I grind a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat and don’t bother to measure the resulting flour. Mix the flour with the oats, millet and chia. Add the butter, yogurt, 2 cups warm water and agave.

Let the mixture soak for 12 to 24 hours.

Mix together yeast, ginger and 1/4 cup warm water. (Very warm water but not hot enough to burn you is about the right temperature.) Wait for the yeast mixture to become very foamy then mix into the soaked flour mixture, along with the salt.

Knead for 20 minutes, or into a small piece of the dough will stretch very thin, almost translucent. Remove the dough from the bowl, put a small amount of oil in the bottom of the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl and flip it over so all sides of the dough are coated in oil. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled, probably for 1-2 hours. (Note: In the video I put the dough on top of my oven to rise. This works very well if the oven if set on warm or 200, but when I’ve tried to do this while cooking other food at 350 or higher, the bowl has gotten hot enough to start to cook the dough. This is not helpful. So, be careful that you find a warm place, but not too hot, for letting your dough rise.)

Punch the dough down and, if you have time, put the dough back in a warm place to rise until doubled again, for 30-60 minutes. (This makes a better finished product, but isn’t strictly necessary if you’re running short on time.)

Punch the dough down and shape as desired. This dough makes 2 loaves of bread or 12 large hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog buns. I often make one loaf and 8 large hamburger rolls.

Put the shaped dough in a slightly warm oven to rise. (If you’ve had your oven on warm or 200 degrees and then turn it off when you put the dough in the oven, this is perfect.) In 20 to 30 minutes, when the dough is doubled, turn on your oven to 350 degrees. Rolls with take about 20 minutes to cook. Loaves will normally take about 30 minutes.

If you’re not sure whether your bread is done, carefully remove it from the loaf pan and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Technically, you’re supposed to let your bread cool before slicing into it, or it smooshes somewhat. But if you happen to want to slice into it immediately and enjoy hot bread, straight from the oven, slathered in butter, I shan’t disapprove this choice. I might even join you.

A Quote on Baking Bread

If all goes according to plan, on Friday I’ll have a recipe and video for 100% whole wheat bread that my carb-loving, ‘Why don’t we just use white flour for everything?’ husband enjoys. In the meantime, here’s a quote on baking bread, from a cookbook by Ada Lou Roberts. (If you are at all serious about baking bread, you should probably read, if not own, her cookbook A New Book of Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm.)

‘A fascinating little book, Cottage Economy by William Cobbett of England…contains a vigorous sermon urging laboring-class people to take care of their baking at home for reasons of both economy and health. He states flatly that, “Every woman, high or low, ought to know how to make bread. If she do not, she is unworthy of trust and confidence, and, indeed, a mere burden upon the community! Yet, it is a sad thing that many women seem to know nothing about bread other than the part which belongs to its consumption.” Mr. Cobbett was a large landownder and, to put his beliefs into action, he always asked a prospective tenant if his wife could bake. If she could not, there was no chance of her husband being hired. Mr. Cobbett figured that not only would a baking wife be worth a pound or two more to the family in savings, but that the husband would be worth more to him for, being better nourished, he would be able to do more and better work.’

Breads and Coffee Cakes with Homemade Starters by Ada Lou Roberts

How To Soak Brown Rice

I suppose the first question I should answer before “How should I soak my rice?” is “Why should I soak my rice?”

Rice, as many grains do, contains phytic acid, which blocks mineral absorption. Soaking allows the phytase present in the grains to break down the phytic acid and make the grain overall more digestible and the nutrients more accessible to the body. Because rice doesn’t contain as much phytase as other common grains, the best effect is from reusing the soaking water repeatedly to allow the phytase to build up to useful levels in the soaking water. (I’ll explain this whole technique later in the post.)

There’s a lot of debate over how important it is to soak your grains. Some are even opposed to soaking grains because (apparently) higher phytic acid levels may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer. In my opinion this just comes back to a variety of food in  your diet being important. If you eat some grains soaked you’ll get the maximum nutrient absorption, and if you skip soaking some of the time for convenience, well, I guess  you may be fighting cancer at the same time.

I think there are two groups of people for who soaking grains is more important on the nutritional priority list.

First, those who eat a lot grains in their diets. If you’re eating a vegetarian diet, for example, or are stretching out all your meals with a lot of grains because of a low food budget, you really want to make sure you’re getting maximum nutrition from those grains. You also don’t want to to risk all that phytic acid blocking the nutrients from all the other foods you eat as well. In fact, with a large grain consumption,  you may even want to move beyond soaking, and try sprouting or fermenting to get even more nutrition from your grains.

Second, those with food allergies (even not grain related), other digestive problems, and general chronic health problems. If you have food allergies, it’s very likely that you have leaky gut, and your gut will have more chances to heal the easier it is for it to digest the food you give it. Similarly, if you have any kind of chronic health problems, you want to be providing as much nutrition to your body as you can, without making it work any harder to get that nutrition than is absolutely necessary. It may even be helpful to give your body a break from grains entirely for a while as it heals, but if that’s not practical for some reason, make sure you’re soaking (and again, maybe even sprouting or fermenting) the grains you do eat.

On the other hand, if you have a diet full of lots of veggies, animal fats and proteins and some grains, and you’re relatively healthy, you may not see as much problem with eating some of your grains unsoaked. (Eating vitamin C with your grains does seems to significantly mitigate the ill effects of the phytic acid, so all those fruits and veggies in your diet will help a lot.) Life is busy. Set your priorities where they really matter, and don’t get bullied into making that include soaking  your grains unless you really want it to.

Now that that’s out of the way, for those of you who are interested in taking a little extra time to extract the maximum nutrition from your food, may I present my method of soaking rice. ( I use double this recipe in the video. The amounts listed below provide two meals worth of cooked rice for my husband and I, plus one meals worth for the freezer.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

I know the Paleo types will disagree, but in my book soaked grains are healthy, provided you’re getting a proper range of nutrition in your diet overall.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This post is a little different from my normal recipes, in that it’s more a  base technique than a full blown recipe. However, I think it still deserves a Yummy rating, because my husband normally prefers white rice to brown rice, but he doesn’t mind the brown rice when I soak it like this. That means getting more nutrients into a meal without having to use ‘I’m eating this because it’s healthy, but I don’t like it’ points.

Soaked Rice

2 cups of brown rice

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or yogurt whey

4 cups of filtered water

Put all ingredients in a bowl and soak overnight or for at least 7 hours. Strain soaking water out of rice and save in a jar for next time. Rinse the rice and cook as desired, or following the recipe below.

Next time you want to soak rice, take your soaking water out of the fridge. Add water if needed until you have liquid equal to twice as much rice as you want to soak. Pour the soaking liquid over rice and, as before, soak overnight or for at least 7 hours.

The more times you reuse the soaking water the fluffier and more digestible your rice will be.

Brown Rice

2 cups of rice, soaked

4 cups of water

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP butter

Put all ingredients in medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. (Officially brown rice takes 45 minutes to cook, but I find that soaked brown rice usually cooks faster than I expect it to, sometimes in closer to 30 minutes.)

Why I Menu Plan

Individual recipes are all well and good, but I thought some of you might enjoy getting a peek at how I put them together into meals, and what kinds of meals we eat in the course of a week. I’ll start posting my weekly menu plans soon, but in the meantime here’s the why and how of it.

I have to admit up front that I don’t always strictly follow my menu plans. Sometimes at the last minute I realize that I have more leftovers than I thought I would and I have to use them up. Sometimes we get invited over to someone’s house for dinner at the last minute, or we invite people over at the last minute and have to stretch out our meal with extra food, or switch to a more stretchable meal.

So why do I menu plan at all?

1. Because it gives me a base to work from when I make my shopping list. I know that if I have two chicken meals, one beef meal and one fish meal this week I should probably get a larger package of chicken to make sure I have enough. Or, looked at the other way round, when I look at the sale items I know how much of say, fresh tomatoes, I can reasonably use up in a week. If I’m standing at the display noticing how cheap they are I might think, “Sure, I’ll use tomatoes every night this week,” but if I’m making the plan ahead of time I’ll realize that we have a birthday party one night and another night is a freezer meal because of a busy day, and I’ll know I need to buy fewer tomatoes, or make time to freeze some.

2. I can sit down once and brainstorm to remember recipes I wanted to try, instead of having to repeatedly brainstorm, or just falling back on the same meals every week.

3. Similarly, it gives me a chance to make sure that we’re getting different kinds of foods over the course of the week. I try to serve fish of some kind, mexican (beans and rice) and homemade pizza weekly, and I’m moving toward eating fermented foods once a day or more. I probably wouldn’t remember to  fit in everything ever week without a plan.

4. It gives me a reminder to use up ingredients. When I’m making my menu plan I usually do a quick check of my fridge and fruit/veggie basket to see both what I need to replace while shopping, and what is nearing the end of its life expectancy and needs to be used soon. (I try to clean out my fridge at the same time so it’s ready for new groceries, but that doesn’t always happen.) Then when I read on my menu plan that we’re having baked potatoes, I remember that my potatoes are starting to grow eyes. I might still switch it around and make scalloped potatoes, but I’ll know which ingredients I’m trying to use for the meal.

5. I can plan ahead for out of the ordinary days. If we’re going to need a quick meal or an ‘eat in the car on our way somewhere’ meal I need make sure I have ingredients for easy, portable meals. Usually this means I have to either buy bread or remember to make to make it the day before, and if I’m menu planning I can make the appropriate shopping or task list notes at the same time. Similarly, if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I’ll try to plan an easy crockpot meal for that day.

Vinegar Cheese aka The World’s Easiest Cheese

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Do not be put off by the title of ‘vinegar cheese’. This cheese is creamy and mild and does not taste of the vinegar used to make it. (Unless you try to make it using red wine vinegar–I’m telling you right now that’s just a bad idea. Don’t even bother trying it.)

Some people call this homemade mozzarella cheese, and while you can get mild, stretchy cheese out of it, that is where the similarity ends. True, fresh mozzarella is a more involved process resulting in an out of this world taste experience. I would be doing you a disservice if I claimed this cheese was the same as fresh mozzarella. I will say though, that this homemade vinegar cheese can be used in place of mozzarella in recipes, and works quite well as a mozzarella substitute. It’s particularly good on homemade pizza.

I often use this recipe to use up raw milk that’s about to go sour. You know, when it’s not actually sour yet, but it’s just not the same as when it was fresh, and you know it’s going to finish turning any time now. That milk. You can even use sour milk, but if it’s gone completely sour that does affect the taste (and sometimes texture) of the finished cheese, so it’s best to catch it on the cusp of change.

A variety of temperatures are recommended for making this cheese. If you want to make a raw cheese, heat the milk no hotter than 104 degrees (the body temperature of a cow). (It may require extra vinegar to get a full yield of cheese at this temperature.) If you forget about the milk and it gets very hot it’s still perfectly good for making cheese, as long as it’s not burnt. My preferred temperature is somewhere around 110 degrees, or just under–I can stick my finger in it and it feels very hot, but doesn’t burn me at all. (For the record, I in no way recommend sticking  your finger in hot milk to see if it would burn you. It’s really a very bad idea.) On my stove, on medium heat, it takes about 5 minutes for a quart of milk to reach this temperature, or 20 minutes for a gallon of milk.

You can substitute other acids (such as white vinegar or lemon juice) but I find the best flavor comes from using apple cider vinegar.

If, after adding the vinegar and letting cheese sit for a minutes, the whey is still cloudy, I add a little more vinegar until the whey is translucent and yellowish. Here’s a picture of what the whey should look like when all the cheese particles  have been extracted from it:

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The white part is cheese and foam, the yellowy clear part in the back is whey.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Once again, it’s  a simple recipe. Milk, vinegar, salt and spices all qualify as healthy foods in my book.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband will go get this cheese out of the fridge to eat with crackers as a snack, which places it solidly in the taste-approved category. (Now I just need to work on a healthier cracker option to go with the cheese.)

 Vinegar Cheese

1 quart of milk

2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

salt to taste (perhaps 1/2 a tsp)

optional seasonings: basil, onion powder or flakes, garlic powder, etc

In medium saucepan, heat milk to desired temperature. Stir in vinegar. Let sit for a few minutes to curdle. (If at this point I see that the whey is still opaque rather than yellowish and translucent I add a bit more vinegar to make sure I get the maximum yield of cheese.)

Strain cheese through a cheesecloth or cotton dishtowel lined colander or mesh strainer. (I generally use a mesh strainer, but I try very hard to clean it immediately so the tiny bits of cheese don’t get stuck in all the tiny holes.)

If harder, more mozzarella like cheese is desired, strain out as much whey as possible.

If softer, spreadable cheese is desired, transfer back to the pot while some whey (perhaps 1/4 of a cup) is remaining in the strainer with the cheese.

Mix salt and (if desired) seasonings into the cheese. Refrigerate. (Even if the cheese seems harder than you want, refrigerating it in just enough whey to cover it will usually result in a softer cheese within 24 hours as the cheese absorbs the whey back in. If it’s already the desired consistency there’s no need to add extra whey.)

I usually make a softer cheese add about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp of basil, and 1/4 tsp of onion powder and my husband eats it with crackers.

Homemade Sauerkraut

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If your New Year’s resolutions involved phrases like ‘learn to make sauerkraut’ and ‘eat more fermented vegetables’ you have come to the right place. Seriously, you’re going to like it around here. Bookmark my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel. I’ll wait.

The other reason you’ve come to the right place is that I happen to be posting about making your own home fermented sauerkraut today. What a crazy, random happenstance, huh?

Sauerkraut is made out of cheap ingredients (cabbage and salt) and is really fairly simple to make. (There are a few pitfalls to avoid, which I’ll cover later, but the process is not overly complex.) It stimulates the production of stomach acid (which is often low in people with digestive problems, including acid reflux and ulcers–sufficient stomach acid actually helps *prevent* these problems, counter intuitive as it may seem) and provides needed probiotics.

The down side, of course, is that it’s sauerkraut, with the pungent intensity that we all know and many of us hate. I, myself, can enjoy sauerkraut just fine, as long as it’s used in small quantities on a food that needed some spicing up anyway. Even so, after doing the GAPS diet and ‘enjoying’ sauerkraut with almost every meal, I was burned out on sauerkraut for a while.

Even if you’re not so fond of store bought sauerkraut, I recommend trying to make your own and see how you like it. My husband can’t stand store bought sauerkraut but he tolerates and will sometimes intentionally eat homemade sauerkraut. He says it has a flavor other than ‘Pow, vinegar!’, which is all the store bought sauerkraut tastes like.

If you’re just trying out homemade sauerkraut for the first time, you probably don’t want to go buy one of those fancy fermenting crocks people are always recommending. On the other hand, I’ve heard some serious warnings about using old crocks that may leech lead into your ferments through tiny cracks in the finish. My solution was to go buy a $20, 1 gallon stoneware crock at Ace Hardware. It’s simple, not too expensive, and unrisky. (Don’t use anything metal for fermenting your sauerkraut in. In a pinch you can probably do a big batch in a five gallon food grade plastic bucket though.)

Whatever kind of crock you use, you need a way to keep the air away from your sauerkraut is it ferments. The good bacteria does not require oxygen to work, while stray bad bacteria that might take over your ferment does require oxygen, so creating an oxygen free environment for your ferment is ideal. In the recipe I explain how to use a ziploc bag to allow the gases from the fermenting cabbage to escape without allowing air in contact with the cabbage.

You may get a white film on top, which is probably harmless, though I recommend doing your own research to confirm what is growing on your sauerkraut. If you get anything fuzzy, brown, green or pink growing on your sauerkraut throw it out and start over.

Edited to add: Once you’ve made your sauerkraut you may be wondering what to eat it with. It goes well with most meats–hot dogs and sausages are obvious ones, but I often put it on hamburgers, and it can also work with pork or beef roasts as well. You can use it in place of pickles for a tang on any sandwich, and don’t forget Rueben sandwiches as a classic use for sauerkraut. (I requested Rueben sandwiches for my birthday meal several years running, and that was before I even made homemade sauerkraut.) If that’s not enough to get you started, you can can also find recipes for soups that use sauerkraut!

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Cabbage and sea salt fermented to provide probiotics. Doesn’t get much healthier than that.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy
Okay, I admit it’s not that amazing as a flavor, but it is tolerable, and once you develop a taste for it you’ll miss it when you don’t have it.

Homemade Sauerkraut

1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds

1 TBSP sea salt

1-2 cups filtered water, if needed

Core and shred the cabbage. I find the easiest method is to slice it thinly, then cut across the slices in two or three places to keep the shreds from being unreasonably long. Put cabbage into a stoneware crock.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until the juices start to come out of the cabbage.

Begin to squeeze and knead the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage is softened and has released it’s juices. You may get enough liquid out of the cabbage to cover it, but I only ever get enough to just barely come up to the level of the cabbage. Press the cabbage down tightly into the bottomof the crock. Unless the cabbage juices completely submerge the cabbage, add filtered water until the level of the liquid is an inch or two above the level of the cabbage.

Remove any stray pieces of cabbage from the sides of the crock.

If you don’t have a special fermenting crock, fill a gallon sized ziploc bag halfway with water. (Tap water is fine for this part.) Squeeze out most of the air before closing it. Put the ziploc bag in the crock on top of the cabbage. This will form fit to the sides of the crock, holding the cabbage underwater. Some liquid, and probably a few shreds of cabbage, will rise around the sides of the bag, but that’s fine as long as most of the cabbage is secure at the bottom of the crock.

Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from one week to a few months depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut and how forgetful you are. I generally transfer the sauerkraut to canning jars in the fridge after two to three weeks. (You may need to add water to the canning jars occasionally to continue to keep the sauerkraut submerged as you use it. There’s less danger of the ferment going wrong at this point, but it’s just kind of gross if it gets dried out.)