Saturday, August 16, 2008

Salty and strange addictions

Recipe: Multi National, Multi Mineral Sauerkraut

I am prone to fascinations. Fetishes. Strange addictions.

Colored glass items, mainly cobalt. Vessels, especially glass, especially carafes, the 50’s type with graceful shapes and gold or silver foil paint on the outside. Stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans.

I’ve had to make agreements with my husband that if it doesn’t fit in the cupboards, I can’t get it. If I do get it, something has to go.

He has to check with me before recycling any different style bottle or jar. And I’m disconsolate when he forgets. ‘Where’s that little square jar? Where's the tall soda bottle with the plastic lid? I only bought it because I was going to keep it!’

My latest fixation is salt. It’s been growing for a while.

I was first introduced to alternatives to Morton’s in India. Certain Hindu holidays require specific types of fasting, and often only certain types of salt are permitted in these fasts. I still have a couple hen's egg sized salt crystals in jars high up on my spice rack. One is black and sulfurous smelling, and one a beautiful pink. I’ve had them for at least 14 years, and I never knew what to do with them. I’ve put them on altars, smelled them, held them up to the light. I always related to eating them as a religious practice that wasn’t my own, but the aesthetics of the crystals were fascinating to me.

Black hawaiian salt was offered to me at an altar I adorned a couple of years ago, and after the ritual, when the altar was taken down, the salt was not gathered, cast on the earth. I was sad. I wanted that salt.

I purchased a Himalayan pink salt crystal candle holder awhile back. It adorns our dining table, and I catch my kids licking it fairly often.

You must be living under a (salt) rock if you haven’t heard of gourmet salts as the latest rage. Himalayan pink (which is probably the pink crystal high on my shelf), Black Salt (probably the sulfurous one), Celtic Salt, Coarse Salt, Flake Salt, Fleur De Sel, French Sea Salt, Grey Salt, Grinder Salt, Hawaiian Sea Salt, Italian Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Organic Salt, Sea Salt, Smoked Sea Salt, Table Salt.

I’d been reading about the depletion of the minerals in our soil, leading to the depletion of minerals in our food supply. And I’d been pricing trace mineral supplements for the family. Yikes. I’m not sure I can face adding another supplement to the lineup on the counter every morning anyway. Not to mention the hint of mutiny from the kids whenever something is added to the list.

Besides, nutrition is best in the form of food. Gee, what an idea. I’m interested in finding ways to throw the jars and bottles away, thank you. Not my beautiful vessels, mind you, but the vitamin bottles.

And there’s a piece about our bodies being of the earth. Bones, flesh, hair, nails, pieces of earth. What more natural thing to do than eat the earth. These are the missing pieces of our food, the colors, flavors, aromas in these salts.

But I haven’t figured out how to get them all in our diet. There are different minerals in all the different types of salts, and I’m sure we’re depleted of all of them as a race, unless you’ve been blessed to grow up in one of the rare areas of the earth where there are large humic shale deposits, and all of your food was grown where you live. Ha. Likely.

Suddenly the five pound bags of white sea salt I’d been buying as a healthy alternative to iodized is just oh so yesterday. I still use it to brine my poultry and salt my pasta water, because in those cases most of it ends up down the drain.

Part of the challenge is I want convenience, too. And I’ve got repetitive stress issues, so I haven’t pulled the whole crystals down off the shelf to use with a grater. I don’t like numb fingers in the mornings. And I don’t have an endless budget with which to buy salt grinding apparati.

Slowly, slowly, I’m working new types in. Real Salt from Utah is a staple. It’s finely ground, comparable to table salt. I use it most times when I need more than a sprinkle, and when I need it to dissolve completely and quickly. In veggies, cooking for crowds, and baking. Pinkish grey, it leaves a slightly gritty residue that I’ve gotten used to in my pickles. Chewing earth.

I have a black ceramic grinder on the dining room table filled with Celtic sea salt, moist and grey. Also a shaker with Real Salt.

On my kitchen counter and shelf over my range I have decorative glass jars (vessels again) of coarse ground Celtic sea salt, Real Salt, and regular sea salt. An electric grinder (with a light!) pilfered from my mother, (a gadget freak) of Himalayan pink.

In a bin in the pantry I have a few ounces of Hawaiian black. I had to get it, after losing the sack full gifted me a couple years ago. I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it yet. I think I need another grinder.

I envision a row of ceramic grinders gracing the dining room table, with elegant labels denoting the part of the earth and the color of the mineral inside.

Maybe I’ll begin to use a mixture of two or three different salts in my pickle ferments. I’ll give you a recipe for one now! Making it up off the cuff, let me know if you try it.

Multi National, Multi Mineral Sauerkraut
gluten free, dairy free, salicylate free, egg free, low carb, GREAT for candida

1 medium head cabbage; green, purple, or mix of the two
1 tsp Real Salt from Utah
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
or whatever mix pleases you

If you are already familiar with making kraut, have at it with your favorite method. If not, I offer one method here, but know that there are many methods, and all have their merits.

Shred your cabbage. I like to cut it in quarters, cut off the core pieces, and either slice the quarter pieces as thin as I can with a large chef’s knife, or pass the pieces through the slicing blade in my cuisinart. Sometimes the pieces need to be cut down a bit to fit into the feeder tube of the cuisinart. I don’t recommend actually shredding it, but some people like their kraut that way.

Place the cabbage into a stainless steel or glass bowl and scatter the salt into it. I’d recommend breaking the salts down to a fairly fine grind before using if possible, although coarse might work just fine.

At this point you have a choice. Most people either massage the salt into the cabbage until the cell walls start to break down and release their liquid, or pound the mass with a wooden mallet or other suitable tool until the liquid is released. (This last method is not recommended with a glass bowl.) I have repetitive stress injury however, so I just toss the salt through the shreds, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it for a few hours. When I come back, there’s already a bit of liquid in the bowl, and with a minimum of massaging I’ve completed the process.

Stuff the cabbage into a mason jar - it should be just about a quart. Have an extra pint jar available in case your cabbage was bigger or denser than average. Make sure to add all the liquid in the bowl, including the minerals that have separated out of the dissolved salt. Push the cabbage down firmly with your fingers or a spoon, until the liquid rises above the level of the vegetable. Seal the jar(s) and put in a warmish, darkish place for a couple of days. Burp the jar(s) and taste. When you get the spicy zing! on your tongue, the kraut is fermented, although it is fine to leave it on the shelf for a few days more for a different flavored product. Burp it occasionally (burst jars are no fun, and they do build up pressure), taste it, and when you feel like it’s done, put it in the fridge or cool storage. Eat it immediately or store for a while for the flavor and texture to mellow. Fresh kraut is usually very crisp and squeaky on the teeth, aged is softer.

If your kraut seems dry, you can add brine to it - about 1 tsp salt of choice per cup of filtered water.

Experiment with more or less salt, depending on your taste. Some salt is required, to inhibit the growth of nasty bacteria, and allow the growth of good probiotics.

Enjoy! Eat it along side meats, mix into salads, or munch all by itself. You now have a multi mineral food based supplement!

Now, if I could just get my kids to eat it.


Anonymous said...

Okay. I've wanted, for years, for you to eventually write a book about the B-- Family Saga.

Scratch that. Maybe later.

Now I see a notable and fascinating cookbook in your future.

*Very* good to see your writing again.

love you


Durga Fuller said...

Thanks, Sistar. Your feedbacck means a lot to me!

Love you, too,

Durga Fuller said...

Durga said: 'Your feedbacck means a lot to me!'

Oops, looks like I should spell-check my comments!


Anonymous said...

My dad got some black salt at Trader Joes. He sprinkled it on asparagus and green beans. Yum! I also came across a great recipe for smashed potatoes (boil small potatoes until just tender, flatten each potato with a masher or jar just until it's broken, and roast at 400 with oil, herbs and salt) that would be amazing with different salts on top. Great post!

Durga Fuller said...

Heh, I just had black salt on green beans tonight. Finally got a grinder for it, and the kids are fascinated with it.

The smashed potato recipe sounds great! I'll try it soon.