Friday, December 10, 2010

Fear without loathing in the Kitchen

Many years ago I had a garden and I did a lot of caning of the bounty. Hot water bath method for those items that had a high acid content ( pickles) , and everything else done with a pressure canner , and scrupulous hygiene for both processes. Botulisim was the demon that lurked under every doily, and one step in error could result in a toxic stew for me and mine. Lots of ultra clean equipment, surfaces, tools  and product gave you good odds from escaping this beastie, but even with being vigilant, botulisim could sink in.  Bacteria was a big bad wolf and cleanliness and attention to food temperature were the weapons of choice, and hey were my constant companion. Long after I gave up canning, those weapons remained in my holster.

Recently, I have been severely challenged in this department . The concept of lacto-fermentation( soaking grains at room temperature with a lactic acid starter solution) is at first a terrifying idea. "All foods must be kept at ____ temperature or food borne illness could result". You hear stories of salmonella outbreaks everywhere on virtually every food stuff, and the idea of doing something to encourage bacterial growth is terrifying ! Yet, to do this step means to break down the phytic acid in grains, nuts and beans means getting a resulting product that is better digested. It also means a method of introducing beneficial bacteria to your intestinal tract, which will further boost your absorption and disease fighting ability ( probiotics). One must be brave about these things. The grain products were one thing- I consoled myself that the heat in the cooking process would save me from some kind of evil, killer bacteria. However, there was a bigger fear to conquer- drinking beet kvass !!

Beet Kvass is made by placing peeled and cut beets in a salt or whey solution and letting them sit on a counter , covered, at room temperature for 48 hours, and then refrigerating another 48 hours before drinking the juice without any further processing. Benefits are one of the most healthful foodstuffs on the planet  that is used as a daily tonic, afternoon pick me up, aid in cancer treatment and more. I argued with myself that many people drink this and live, and have done so for many , many years. To take this step involved un-learning everything I had previously had ingrained about food safety. Preciously held beliefs would have to go away in order to try this health step for myself. I rationalized that this is what happens with yogurt making, cheese making, sourdough cultures and saurkraut making, so it is not s new thing. I started my own brew. It sat on the counter for two days, reminding me of my mental battle and then moved into the fridge for two more , where it leered at me every time I opened the door. Then on the 5th day, it was time to face the music. Time to pour off a small cup and drink it. Reason  for a small cup  is that it seems some people have found this stuff to be a little too powerful on their intestinal tract and cramping happens. Another reason seemed to be if I ingested a botulisim slurry, less would be easier to have cleaned out of my system  ( not really, but it sounded logical).

I opened the jar and sniffed- what resulted was a pleasant aroma. Good sign ! Nature has ordered that if it smells  pleasant, odds are very good that it is edible, and if it is bad it will smell bad. No cloudy liquid, no bulging lid, nothing that looked in the least dubious. So only thing lest was to actually drink the stuff. Over the lips, through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes !. The taste was  sort of like a very mild pickled unsweetened beet , with a base of salty and an overtone of earthy beet flavor. Not something that you would expect from a cold liquid, but not unplesant. I drank it down and watched how it preformed in my body. Within 25 minutes I felt a short , small burst of energy. Seems that it was agreeing with my body. The next afternoon I found myself actually craving the taste again. Strange, as I had never tasted this before. I blame my Ukranian DNA for this ! Nick disliked it, but Bob found it to be "interesting". I suspect that the health claims behind this might be true, and I intend to drink this daily for a month to see if it improves anything.

So another step taken towards a more nourishing diet. So far, I  have loved them all and found them to benefit the taste and texture of foods as well. Saturday I will be trying another step- making and eating sourdough noodles. It is another form of Russian/Ukrainian "peasant" cuisine. Noodle dough is made with eggs, whole wheat flour and whey and left to ferment at room temperature for 3 days and then rolled into noodles or dumplings and cooked. I have a batch currently working on the counter, ad I am reminding myself that salmonella is not found in the eggs themselves but rather on the shells. I am also reminding myself that for years, eggs were commonly stored at room temperature in baskets and no one got sick. Butter was also kept out at room temperature for that matter  and no one became ill. It's another leap of faith !


blessedmama said...

Interesting beet concoction. I hope it continues to revitalize your health!

Diane, Fit to the Finish said...

You are brave and adventurous! I have never even had beets cooked, much less like you are doing! Glad you like it and it made you feel good.