I’ve been reading “Deep Nutrition” by Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D., as one of my books for my Nutrition program. Let me just go ahead and say I HIGHLY recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in the history of how we are supposed to eat and more in depth information on how food affects us. Dr. Shanahan talks about nutrition in the context of how it impacts genes and we have more control over the genetic outcome of our children then we may actually realize. It’s actually really fascinating. The best part is that I didn’t even realize I was supposed to read this book until I had 1 week left in my course and had to get through 6 chapters. I’m lucky its a good read.
The author has studied healthy cultures around the world. She looks at those cultures who live the longest with rare cases of chronic illness and in great health, then identifies the links between all their diets. After explaining how the food we consume affects our and our children’s genetics, she goes into what she call the “4 pillars of nutrition.” They are: (1) eat meat on the bone, (2) organ meats, (3) fermenting and sprouting, and (4) fruits and vegetables cooked and raw. Sweets and cakes are always there too, just visit The Glass Knife. The thing is to stay away from overeating.
It really got me thinking about what is missing from my diet. For the past nearly 3 years we have done a great job of eliminating the harmful foods. I’m very particular when I go out to eat just as much as am about the foods that are brought into my home. But lately, especially with the holistic nutrition course I’m involved in, I’m beginning to see that there is still a lot of room for improvement in my diet, primarily in the areas I simply just haven’t ventured into yet. I’ve been stumbling across a lot of fermented recipes lately and decided this is the first avenue I want to explore. About a month ago I bought my first Kombucha mother and it is growing and fermenting beautifully. It’s actually a real treat to drink and something I look forward to consuming. But I’ll talk about that in another post. There are so many foods that you can ferment and it is such a natural process. Before refrigeration, people used to ferment foods in order to store them for longer periods of time. It seems this is a lost form that not many people in the Western culture dive into.
Fermenting foods is actually quite simple. In a very basic sense it involves submerging food in a salt brine. What you submerge with what seasonings and for how long is more of the art form. You can make sauerkraut 5 times and it can come out differently all 5 times even through you basically follow the same steps. That is one of the beautiful things about fermenting. Commercially bought “fermented foods” are not really fermented at all. Beware, it’s usually just food submerged in a vinegar solution. And in cases where the food is fermented, once pasteurized, it looses the vast majority of the beneficial nutrients that fermenting can provide us.
Fermenting creates acids and bacteria in foods that are very beneficial. Some of the benefits of these types of foods are:
- Improves digestion: They contain bacteria and probiotics that can restore the bacteria balance in the gut. This can aid in digestion, especially those who are sensitive to certain types of food. They are also rich in enzymes which our bodies need to properly digest, absorb, and make the best use of food.
- Increased Nutrition: Not only do these foods allow you to digest and absorb more nutrients from other foods but they also provide necessary vitamins & minerals. There is an increase in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and even cancer cells.
- Longer Shelf Life: Many of these foods can last for months. This was how food was preserved before refrigeration. We now always have some kind of fermented food sitting on our shelves.
- Affordable: It’s relatively cheap to ferment foods. At a basic level all you need is the food item, like cabbage or beets, and a salt brine solution (salt & water). There are no fancy ingredients, unless you decide to take it there.
So the recipe I wanted to share is adapted from another one of my textbooks “Nourishing Traditions” and is a recipe for raisin chutney. I was going to share a much simpler recipe but this was so freaking delicious that I had to go with this one first. All the spices and seeds I was able to find at my local grocery store.
The Good Stuff:
- 3 cups of raisins (soaked in warm water for 1 hour)
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, without stems
- 20 black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (place in freezer and it will grate easier)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup filtered water
The How To:
- Place garlic and cilantro in a food processor and pulse a few times.
- Drain raisins and add to food processor with all the rest of the ingredients except salt and water. Pulse until the mixture becomes a course paste.
- Transfer into a large jar with a lid and press down with a wooden mallet or meat hammer. Then poke a few holes in the mixture (I used a skewer).
- Mix salt and water and pour into jar. Most will sit on top of the chutney. Make sure there is at least 1 inch between the chutney mixture and the top of the water. Add more water if necessary.
- Cover with a lid and let sit on your counter for 2 days.
- Transfer to the fridge and stir before eating. Will last 2 months.
This can be eaten with meat or as a side dish. It is just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert. I made chicken curry and mixed this chutney in with it.