Homemade Elderberry+ Anti-Viral Syrup

Last year I got to pick some Blackberries to make jam and this year my foraging activities have gone up another notch.  Foraging is not something you can put on the long finger as the collection of this ‘free food’ is seasonal and a little time consuming.  Late August/September and possibly into October is Blackberry season in Ireland, as well as many other wild berries.  This year I also managed to locate some Elderberry trees/shrubs right alongside the Blackberry bushes.  Elderberry is increasingly used in nutritional supplements, syrups and teas for it’s anti-viral, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  A newish branch of the health industry ‘Nutraceuticals’ (functional food), explores and isolates the healing properties of individual foods.  New by name but not really a new concept, it is the wheel reinvented.  ‘Curcumin’ a healing property found in turmeric is a good example of this.  Even some of our pharmaceutical drugs have their roots in nature.  Aspirin, for example, has its origins in the Weeping Willow tree.  The pain relieving property called ‘salicylic acid’ is present in willow bark and was used as far back as 3500 years ago for pain relief.  Other foods that contain ‘salicylates’ include clover, beans, peas, tomatoes and cruciferous greens like broccoli.   Back then, of course, it wasn’t isolated in a lab or available in the form of an over-the-counter pill.  Still, it is useful to be reminded that most of our modern day medicines can be found in their natural form in food.   Why??  Well, so that you can take health and wellness into your own hands as much as possible and regain some trust in the power of nature!  The added bonus is you can get it from nature ‘at little or no cost’ except for your time and effort.

It is advisable, of course, to research whatever wild berries you decide to pick and eat.  No excuse, YouTube and the internet are awash with information.  Don’t spend money on expensive courses, set yourself the task of doing your own research.  I have never picked or used elderberry before this year so I needed to do some research and here’s what I found out:

Elderberry

It can be called by many other names including Black elder.  Known as ‘the medicine chest of the country people’.   Traditionally grown in gardens for protection from the ‘Elder Mother or Spirit of the Elder’.   It was believed that if you stood underneath it at midnight on midsummer night you would see the King of the Elves go by and if you planted one near the house it would guard the inhabitants from the evil spells of witchcraft and thunder.

With just one Elderberry tree you won’t be able to have both the flowers that appear in June/July and the berries that grow in the Autumn.  If the flowers are all harvested there will be no berries. The wood of the tree has been used to make musical instruments.  The leaves are not edible but they have insecticide properties and can be used around other plants to ward off pests.  The berries should not be eaten raw.  They are odourless, sour and astringent.  They can be harvested when they have turned dark purple, almost black.  Interestingly, the berries have been used in the distant past to dye cloth and as a hair dye by the Greeks and Romans.

Medicinally, elderberries are used to support immune health, to treat colds and flu, relieve digestive issues, induce perspiration and are anti-viral.  It has a beneficial effect on chronic catarrh of the respiratory passage.  It is a stimulant for the immune system.** [See safety note below]

I picked up a very useful hint about picking the berries off the stem, but only AFTER I had already made my syrup!!   Next time 🙂   This tip could save you a lot of time.  Elderberries are picked by the stem with its cluster of berries attached.  ‘Put these in a bag and into the freezer.  When frozen the berries can just be pulled off effortlessly’.  Could be cold on the ol’ hands though!

My Recipe For Elderberry Syrup

I reckon I had about 200-300 grams of berries all thoroughly washed.  I put these directly into a pot. To them I added the juice of one lemon and a teaspoon of dried ginger.  I could have added cinnamon or a cinnamon stick but decided not to.  I brought it to boiling point for about 5 minutes stirring it regularly and turned the heat down to a simmer for about 45 more minutes.  I also washed and cooked some rosehips separately.  To that I added lemon and some brown sugar.  Rosehips have a beautifully sweet taste and I though they would compliment the elderberries but they are optional.  Rosehips are packed with Vitamin C.  When cooked sufficiently I sieved both the elderberry and the small rosehip mix into a clean bowl.  It took a while to extract as much of the syrupy juice as possible.  The kitchen looked like a murder scene with all the RED stained dish cloths, pots and bowls.  Still, I ended up with a bottle of syrup.  When it had cooled down sufficiently I added two teaspoons of Manuka honey.  Once bottled it needs to be stored in the fridge.  Oh and it passed the taste test, it’s really delicious!!

This syrup is mostly made of elderberries and the + (plus ingredients) included lemon juice, ginger, rosehips and manuka honey, all of which are also used to fight colds and flu.

Use and Safety

The syrup can be used as a preventative measure heading into the winter months (2-3 teaspoons per day).  And at the first sign of a sore throat or cold, the anti-viral syrup acts as an immune booster (1-3 tablespoons per day three times per day).  The syrup can be added to hot water for a medicinal hydrating drink.

Elderberry is generally considered safe.  There are no known drug interactions with Elderberry at the writing of this blog.  However, as previously stated, it should not be eaten raw and anyone with an autoimmune condition may want to be cautious with elderberry.  Why??  **Autoimmune conditions are caused by a hyper-vigilant / hyper-active immune system and this syrup is an immune ‘booster’.  Its purpose is to activate the army of natural killers cells, T and B cells etc. to fight those invading pathogens.  In this respect Elderberry is similar to Echinacea in that it is best used at the onset of a cold or flu to knock it on the head and reduce recovery time.  But unlike Echinacea, Elderberry in a smaller dose (above) can also be used as preventative medicine.  It may serve someone with an autoimmune condition to opt for immune ‘modulating’ food medicine to treat colds and flu.

Why make it yourself?

Obviously if you don’t have access to the great outdoors then you always have the option of buying elderberries and all the plus ingredients.  Alternatively you can buy Elderberry Syrup.  I looked it up on-line and the price varies.  I’ve seen 195ml for €26 reduced from €34.  Another site had 237ml for €27.  These would not include postage etc.   I managed to get 270ml almost free or at very little cost.

Apart from the money saving, it was an opportunity to have a slow but productive day out in nature with an appreciation of just what I have access to close by and which can provide abundant health properties.  It is kinda cliche to talk about ‘connecting to nature’ and far be it from me to go all ‘woo woo’, however, I did feel a sense of identifying with ‘the land’ I live in.  Also, when I was picking off the berries (it took a while) I was wondering if I just bought them in a shop or ordered them online, would I be connecting with my environment – meaning “these have grown in my locality, I eat them, they become part of me”. Circle of life type of thing!  Somehow it made sense!!

Above all else, for me it is just about taking another step towards building ‘trust’ in natural remedies.  In my experience as a Nutritional Therapist I have found the biggest block for people seeking health solutions through alternative means, is ‘trust’.  When it comes to ‘trusting’ food as medicine people, and I include myself in this, are a long way off recovering that trust.  Collectively, we have very little awareness of how our minds have been educated to fear anything that the doctor doesn’t prescribe, whilst everyone and everything else is subject to intense scrutiny and suspicion.   The mindset perceives the different modalities as opposed but in reality they are not.  Why not use both?   Do what works for you.  The only way to break through those fears that have been imposed on us is to try natural health solutions for yourself.   Research it, try it, taste it (trust your body) find out what works for you.  Ultimately your health is ”your’ responsibility this is the truth.

Just like the pharmaceutical industry seeks to find a pill for every ill, the health industry can also follow a similar pattern by matching a nutraceutical to a condition, and unfortunately the health practitioner can be treated in a similar manner to a GP (but perhaps viewed as a healthier version).  It is a step forward in most cases but the wellness industry is still an ‘industry’ beyond the knowledge and control of the individual.  Also, most people are unable to get their heads around the concept of an ‘holistic’ approach to health.  We seem to need proof with qualifications, statistics and approval from on-high before we can ‘trust’.  The old adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” no longer seems relevant.  Example, the cure for your digestive issues MAY be in ‘chewing your food slowly’ but a client might feel cheated by this as a prescription instead of a tub of digestive enzymes!

You won’t have to follow anyone else’s advice if you have the benefit of your own experience.  Empower yourself!  Eat well, sleep well, stress less, exercise to moderation, get out in the daylight early in the day, take time out in nature.  You know this makes sense, no one needs to tell you… .maybe just a little reminder? 🙂

References:
  • Herbs – a Concise Guide in Colour: Stary, Dr.  F, Jirasek Dr. V :Hamlyn [Middlesex] 1973
  • Herbal – The Country Diary:  Sarah Hollis : Bloomsbury Books [London] 1994
  • YouTube : Search ‘Elderberry Syrup’
  • The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion:  Amy K. Fewell : Guilford, Connecticut 2018

DIY Kitchen Herbs

Fresh or dried herbs are relatively inexpensive to buy, so why cultivate your own?  Only you can answer that for yourself.  I like to grow as many of the herbs I use in the kitchen, myself!  Why?  Because they are fresh, I know they are not sprayed with pesticides etc. and they are just there right outside the back door.  I only ‘pick fresh’, dry or freeze whatever I will use, so no waste of produce or of money.   For me, there is also the basic satisfaction of seeing something grow, from seed in some cases, into something that adds, at its least, nutritional value and at its best may provide medicinal benefits with no inherent side-effects.  Bonus – they look so good in the garden!

I am not a qualified herbalist so any of the herbs I talk about in this post are in general circulation and use.  The benefits are easily researched and I will try to provide links for a deeper dive should you be interested in knowing more.  Apologies in advance for the links provided.  Many websites have an annoying number of ads and ‘request to subscribe’ pop-ups.  So, it is just extra information if you want and, of course, you can always do your own research.

You don’t need a big garden or even a garden at all, to grow herbs.  Most herbs can be grown in pots/planters.  My advice would be to grow the herbs you know you will use.  I have parsley, rosemary, sage, chives, lemon balm, thyme and lemon verbena.  I have recently started some coriander from seed as I read that even this late in the year it will grow.  I can verify that this is true as within a week the seeds have peeped above the soil.  I will soon need to transfer them into a bigger tray.  Another herb I will add next year is oregano.  I have grown mint in the past and it grows like crazy so you would need lots of growing space for it.  This would be a good example of weighing up whether to grow a herb or not.  Q) What would I use mint for?  A) Tea, flavouring drinks like Kombucha.  Q2) Would it be easier to buy some mint tea?  A2) Yes!   Conclusion – the inconvenience outweighs the benefit of growing it myself.

How to use your DIY Herbs

In the past I have used herbs fresh or frozen.  It is only this year that I have ventured into drying herbs for ‘future’ use.  Why?  It is somewhat prompted by rumours of possible disruption to food and energy supplies.  My personal philosophy being “better safe than sorry” and “sure why not”!   Once a herb is completely dried it can be stored long term and used in many ways.

So far I have not found it necessary to have a dehydrator to dry herbs.  These can be quite expensive machines but if you can afford one – good for you.  I hear dehydrators don’t use so much electricity so it would be ideal to have one if you are dehydrating lots of produce.  Some air fryers, as well a regular oven, can also be used to dehydrate food.

You can air dry your herbs, especially this time of year when it is warm and dry.  We are experiencing some lovely weather here in Ireland.   This is what I am doing at the moment (as seen in the picture on the left).  Here are the steps I follow – first pick a small amount of fresh herbs and then wash them thoroughly but gently.  Dry them off with a paper towel or clean tea towel.  The herbs are then ready to be ‘air dried’.  I just use some net bags and hang them from a pole in the utility room which gets plenty of light.  I have found that Rosemary and Lemon Balm dry quickly.  Parsley and Sage seem to take a little longer.  So, if you want to do your ‘storing’ all in the one day, you can finish off the drying in the oven.  The leaves should feel crunchy, not pliable in any way.  Spread the herbs onto a baking sheet in the oven.  Heat the oven to 50°C and leave the oven door ajar.   Check after 1/2 hr. to see if the herbs are crisp and dry, keep going until they are.  [Any moisture left in the leaves may cause the herb to grow mouldy in time and render them useless].  You can also do the whole drying process in the oven but you may as well benefit from this nice weather we are having.  Won’t cost you a thing!!

Once dried completely,  just add the Sage leaves and Lemon balm leaves to storage jars, just as they are.  I use the lemon balm for tea and cold drink flavouring.  Fresh lemon balm leaves can be used when baking fish in the oven.  Dried it can be added to any recipe to provide a lemony flavour.    Lemon balm is recommended for anxiety and insomnia.  It can be taken as a herbal tea at night.  More about the benefits of Lemon balm here.

Sage, I would use it mostly in savoury foods like soup, meat dishes and savoury breads.  It is quite delicious cooked in butter on the pan with sliced mushrooms.  It can also be used to make Sage tea and its benefits are many.  More about the benefits of Sage tea here.

Parsley – my favourite!!  The smell always bring me back to secondary school days – cookery class – you always had to have that sprig of parsley to garnish your dish!!  Shame if it is cast to one side.  Parsley is full of great nutrition.  It grows best in spring and summer so if you want to enjoy the taste and benefits all year round, drying is a good way to preserve it.  I got flat leaf  parsley seeds and started planting from seed this year for the first time.  Turned out great!!  It is flourishing in the garden planter.  I use it liberally in salads.  I’ve added it to lentil bread instead of dill and little by little I’m drying and storing it to use in the winter.  Parsley is rich in vitamins and minerals, and its high cholorophyll content makes is an excellent blood purifier.  After I dried a recent batch of parsley I ran it through the high speed blender to produce a powder.  This would be an excellent nutritious addition to a smoothie, soup or sauce.

Rosemary usually survives the winter and flourishes again in the spring, summer and autumn.  I add fresh cleaned rosemary sprigs to the bottle of any new purchase of olive oil.  Though it is not ‘obvious’ to the naked eye, oils go rancid over time and rancid oils are not healthy to consume.  Adding some fresh sprigs of Rosemary to the bottle slows down the ‘ageing’ process.   The electrons in the oil and those in the rosemary connect harmoniously making the oil more stable, not to mention more nutritious.  Place fresh clean springs of Rosemary on any meat you are going to cook.  Cooking meat produces ‘carcinogens’ in the process and Rosemary mitigates some of that damage.  I chopped up my last batch of dried Rosemary into really small pieces.  This would be perfect for including in meat dishes, for making Rosemary potato wedges etc.  The benefits of Rosemary are many and you can read more about it here.

All of the above herbs are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and rich in phyto-nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Growing and using your own herbs costs you one thing you may need to consider – TIME!  If you have a little time to spare, it is well worth the effort.  I would like to think that our food and fuel supply will always be assured, but ‘just in case’ this is one way to boost your nutrition using fresh and dried herbs from your own back yard.

Once you start you won’t be able to stop.

Anne ♥

 

Red Split Lentil Bread

I came across this recipe on YouTube.  I’ll provide the link below.  There are many versions of it online so you can check them out.

This one is basic and within the video the presenter gives a second option which includes the addition of cheese, herbs and spices to make a more savoury bread.  I hope to try that for my next bake.

The ingredients are simple and accessible.  It is ‘gluten free’ but not dairy free.  The presenter does mention ways around that, so you could check that out.  For bread I usually buy sourdough from Lidl and have noticed a recent price increase which is quite a leap from €1.95 to €2.15 for a cob.  I’m aware that I can make bread from oat flour and I do use this for crumbles and other bakes but for me personally I tend not to digest grains very well, especially early in the day when I’m most likely to eat bread.  The fermenting process with sourdough makes digestion easier for me, but I’m always looking for other healthy alternatives.  Also, in case my ‘go to’ bread becomes even more expensive, in these ‘uncertain times’, I will have some tried and tested options to fall back on.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of red split lentils
  • 1 cup natural yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 20g baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 60 mls of Olive Oil
Method:

Wash the red split lentils in a bowl until the water runs clear.  Leave the lentils to soak overnight in water.  Drain off the water through a sieve.  With a food processor (blade attachment) liquidize the lentils.  Remove half the mixture into a separate bowl.  To half the mixture still in the food processor, add the eggs, yogurt, olive oil, salt and baking powder.  Run until completely blended opening the lid to scrap down the side a couple of times.   Pour this mixture into the bowl with the rest of the lentils and mix well.  Pour into a greased tin.  Spread some seeds on top.  The video presenter used Sesame and Nigella seeds.  I did not have these to hand so I used sunflower seeds.  Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 35-40 minutes.

To the left is a picture of the bread.  It turned out well.  I made the mistake of turning the oven dial to 280°C and only noticed it at about 15 minutes in, so this may have affected the bake? I’ll know the next time I bake it if there is a difference!  When I am making this again I think it might be better to line the baking tin, as I found it difficult to get the bread out.  The video had suggested using olive oil to grease the tin.

My thoughts on the bread

It’s texture is more ‘cake like’ than standard ‘bread like’ and the taste is more savoury than floury.  It is a little bit crumbly at first but when it is completely cooled down it holds together quite well.  It has a richer taste than standard bread.  It goes well with savoury food like nut butter and with a salad.  I have tried toasting some under the grill and in a toaster for a heated up version. It does not brown like standard bread, but it still works well toasted.   It goes down very well (digestion wise) I have had no acid or digestive discomfort after eating it.  It also goes well with sweet foods like banana or jam, however, the more ‘cake like’ texture may not stand up to a lot of handling.  For example, it might be better to slice some banana onto the bread rather than mash it on which could cause the bread to break up under the pressure.  Not ideal if you want to lift a slice up to your mouth!

In terms of nutritional value and value for money I will definitely be adding this to my ‘go to recipes’.  Lentils are a very good source of beneficial carbohydrates, protein, fibre, B vitamins and a variety of minerals including iron.  They are ‘gluten free’ and inexpensive.  I always use Free Range or Organic eggs.  Thankfully these are easily available to me.  Extra Virgin Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids which are very healthy fats to consume.   So lots of good nutrition there!!

I am storing this bread in an airtight container and because temperatures are quite warm at the moment, I’m keeping this in the fridge.  If you are of the mindset that bread should only present and taste a certain way, then this may be a bit of a stretch for you, but I have to say I’m very happy with the outcome.

 

 

←  Click this icon to view the video entitled:

Lentil Bread Recipe’ by Refika’s Kitchen

[Video is approximately 9 mins]

 

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

 

Pomegranate Flavour Fizzy Drink

This post is an update on a previous post entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  You can check that out under Blog / Recipes.  Since then I have tried new flavours for this homemade drink.  I often use fresh pomegranate in my breakfast bowl but I came to try pomegranate as a fizzy drink flavour after my sister was clearing her kitchen of fresh produce to travel abroad and gave me a spare one.  In that first batch I made I also added some fresh lime juice (as I just happen to have a left over lime).  It turned out to be a delicious flavour combination.  I’ve since made a little video of how to use a pomegranate to make probiotic fizzy drinks.  [Click YouTube Icon below – it is 5 mins 31 seconds long]

Next time around I might add ‘star anise’ to the fermenting bottle of pomegranate to see how that flavour combination works.  I have used star anise in Kombucha in the past.  I really like the flavour it adds to the drink.  Finding flavour combinations that appeal to you is a matter of experimenting, but no matter what the outcome, the drink remains a really healthy option!

I just need to NOTE here that every time you use a pomegranate the flavour outcome will depend on the quality and ripeness of the fruit.  If you open a pomegranate and the seeds are a dark red and the juice rushes out as you cut into the fruit, this is likely to ultimately produce a richer, sweeter flavoured drink.  Unfortunately, when buying a pomegranate it can be pot luck as to whether it is ideal for juicing.  I have often purchased pomegranate that had quite dry and opaque looking seeds which are ok for sprinkling on your breakfast bowl or salad, but I wouldn’t recommend it for juicing.  It’s hard to tell before you open the fruit what you are going to find inside!

If you have watched the video I hope you enjoyed it and realize I am not a professional video maker by far.  I just produced it on my phone with an app called ‘Film Maker’ as a handy visual to follow.  If you are like me, I tend to follow a visual better than reading down through written text.  However, as previously stated, you will find the written instructions on how to make the ‘ginger bug’ starter and fizzy drink in my previous blog entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

How to make Sauerkraut

I have to admit that even since childhood I have NOT been a fan of cooked cabbage or any cooked cruciferous vegetables for that matter.  In retrospect, when I consider how it was offered ‘plain cooked, perhaps even overcooked, smelly veg’ 😦 , I’m not surprised it didn’t appeal.  ‘No offence mother’!!  I could not be swayed, and I mean, AT ALL!!

Turns out cruciferous vegetables (cabbage in all its forms, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes etc.) are one of the most nutritionally valuable and health beneficial foods you can consume.  The phytonutrients (phyto = plant) in crucifers protect our health by working as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol.  These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

In any case, I won’t be too hard on myself for having rejected crucifers for so long, since boiling drastically reduces the nutritional benefits which is lost through heat and into the water that went down the plug hole 😊.  In later years however, I happily consume various forms of raw cabbage e.g. coleslaw and other cruciferous containing salad dishes and of course, sauerkraut.   Some lightly steamed Broccoli drenched in butter with a sprinkle of pepper is also very pleasing to my taste buds, whereas to eat it overcooked is still a chore ☹  Here it is worth noting for anyone with Thyroid issues, it is best to cook crucifers even a little to deactivate the goitrogens contained in these vegetables.

You can read more about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables here.

Finally, with regard to the benefit of cruciferous vegetable in general, most nutritional therapists will be familiar with these benefits in relation to hormonal balance for both male and female hormones.  An increase in consumption of cruciferous vegetables is usually recommended and/or supplementation with diindolylmethane or DIM for short.

Classic Sauerkraut Recipe
(Dry salting method)     [To make one – 2 Litre Jar]
  • Head of Red or White Cabbage or mix
  • Sea Salt (800g of cabbage to 1 tablespoon of salt)
  • Juniper berries (1 ½ tblsp)
  • Caraway seeds (1 tblsp)
Method:
  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core, then shred the cabbage. You can use a sharp kitchen knife or the shredder blade on a food processor.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage and leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.  Mix in the berries and seeds.  (These add flavour but are optional).
  3. With washed hands massage the mixture until it is wet and limp.
  4. Fill a sterilized jar with handfuls of the mixture, making sure to press it firmly down with your fist. You will see more liquid seeping out.
  5. Fill the jar to within 2.5cm of the top. For successful fermentation it is crucial to keep the cabbage submerged, so place a weight on it.  [You can use the outer leaves at the top of the kraut and place a weight in the middle.  I have some heavy glass t-light holders which I have found to work well].
  6. Close the lid. Leave it sit for anything from 1 to 6 weeks.
  7. If you are using an airtight jar you may need to burp (release the build-up of carbon dioxide gas) by opening the lid once in a while. [Personally, I have never had to do this and have left my Sauerkraut ferments for 21 days unopened on most occasions.   Just keep an eye on it.  Local temperature is a key factor and in Ireland anyway, temperatures are generally not that high so it slows the process down.  Fermenting is definitely a learning process and you’ll get to know what to expect the more you experiment].
  8. When you are happy with the flavour and texture you can store the jar in the fridge. [I tend to make a bigger amount than I can use so I usually transfer it to smaller jars in the fridge].

Note:  The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment the more of a probiotic punch it will contain.

Sauerkraut benefits:

The process of fermentation increases the bio-availability of the plants nutrients making it even more nutritious than the original cabbage.  It is high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and a very good source of dietary fibre.  Other minerals it contains are iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If you happen to find yourself in love with sauerkraut, please note that moderation is advised.  It is best to eat fermented cruciferous vegetables as condiments, not as large components of the diet.

You can do a deeper dive into the benefits of Sauerkraut here.

For me, as I’ve said, it provides a tasty, easily made and stored source of vegetable and at the same time a source of natural probiotic.  The strains of live friendly bacteria are diverse.  Probiotics in supplement form are great but you could cut out this expense by regularly including fermented foods into your diet.  It is comparatively way less expensive.  It may cost you a little more time in the kitchen but even this is minimal as it becomes just part of your routine.

I started my fermenting journey with Kefir.  I’m not a big fan of milk so I didn’t continue making this for very long.  Then I moved on to making Kombucha.  This is really nice and I tried many and varied types of tea and added flavours.  But, to date my favourite ferment besides Sauerkraut, is ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  It doesn’t have to be lemon. You can find my instructions on this website here. I have most recently tried pomegranate and this turned out to be really, really tasty.

Though my fermenting journey started with my Nutritional Therapy training where we learned to make kefir and water kefir, I currently rely on ‘The Cultured Club’ book by Dearbhla Reynolds to expand my knowledge and experience with ferments.

References

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

World’s Healthiest Foods [On-line] – ‘Optimizing Your Cells’ Detoxification/Cleansing Ability by Eating Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veg’

Dr. Axe [On-line] – ‘5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut and How to Make Your Own’

Oven cake – Oat, Cocoa, Banana

I would be more inclined to classify this as a pudding because it is moist and a little dense without being too sweet. All the ingredients are healthy. There is no added sugar, you just have the natural sweetness of the ripe bananas. I’ve taken this recipe from YouTube, I’ll share the link below so you have a good visual to follow.

In the original recipe the oven cake is topped with nuts and melted chocolate. I’ve changed it up a bit and topped it with chopped dried fruit and nuts, by taking a short cut and skipping the melting of the chocolate. I have to say it needs the sweetness of the dried fruit, otherwise you may find it lacking that sweet hit!!  So, either top with chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and almonds chopped) or use dark chocolate melted as in the original recipe.

Ingredients
  • 120g  Oats
  • 250 ml hot milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g Cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5g Baking Powder
  • Butter to line oven dish

Topping:

  • Chopped Nuts of choice or dried fruit of choice
  • 50g Dark Chocolate melted

Note: You can buy ‘Gluten free’ Oats if you have issues with wheat sensitivity or Coeliac, otherwise Oats are considered gluten free.  You can use nut milk in place of dairy milk and chia seeds instead of the eggs if you want the recipe to be dairy free.

Method

Separately soak the oats in the hot milk and leave to stand from 10 minutes.

Mash bananas.  Add 2 eggs and mix well.  Add 30g cocoa, pinch of salt, baking powder and mix well.

Combine the oats when cooled off completely.  Mix well.

Place the mixture in a buttered oven dish.  Sprinkle topping of choice (the melted chocolate should only be added after the cake is removed from the oven)

Oven 180°C  for 40-50 mins.

Eating and Serving

I find this so easy to make and it lasts for days in the fridge.  If it makes it past the front door it would travel very well in a container for a hill walk or picnic.  It is filling and sweet without being too sweet.   I take mine with some whipped up coconut cream and sometimes even a drizzle of maple syrup.  Yum!!    🙂 

YouTube link to Video 

Getting started with Sauerkraut

Following the experts

Below is a post that I added to Instagram in April 2020 during the first global lockdown!!   Given the situation, I was doing my best to put out any information I had that would help people support their immune system with everyday foods.  I was new to homemade probiotic food then and so I included a variety of links to the experts. You will find them mentioned in the post below.  I won’t say I’m an expert now, by any means, but I have gained some confidence along the way.  When we try to master a new skill that we haven’t practiced before, the self doubt seems to rise rapidly to the surface.  Fear not!!  Worst case scenario you lose a few fresh ingredients in the process, but even that is unlikely.  More likely you find yourself expanding your knowledge and trying more home made healthy options.

A previous post Probiotic Lemonade is perhaps one of my favourite ways to build my army of friendly microbes.   A more detailed post on the benefits of Sauerkraut as a homemade food based probiotic will follow shortly and in that post I will add a variety of optional flavours and what equipment you may need to get started.

Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade

I follow @theculturedclub on Instagram.  Not… by the way … ‘The Culture Club’.  Am I giving my age away by mentioning that band?? 🙂 🙂  I also have the book entitled ‘The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.  To make my first batch of probiotic fizzy lemonade I just followed Derbhla’s video instructions on Instagram.  There are a couple of video posts dated around end of March 2021 on how to make Lemonade from ‘Ginger Bug’.  There is also a recipe in the book but it is so much easier to follow a visual when you are starting something new.  The ginger bug is like a little production factory of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.  When the fermentation process is established it provides a starter culture added to other ingredients to make a fizzy probiotic drink.  The ginger bug liquid acts in a similar way to a ‘starter dough’ or ‘yeast’ that is added to a bread recipe.

I have to say I am in love with making my own summer fizzy drinks now.  I have tried lemon flavour on its own.  Love it!  I have tried orange flavour on its own.  I’m not so keen on this, it just doesn’t have the same kick [thirst quenching bite] that the lemon has.  However, my favourite combination so far is lemon and lime.  It is simply delicious.  I can hardly stop myself drinking the whole lot once I start.

There are two components to making your probiotic fizzy drink.  The first is making the ‘Ginger Bug’ and the second is making the fizzy drink, we’ll say lemonade, but you can experiment with any flavour you like.

Making the ‘Ginger Bug’

Please note that you only need to make this once after which you just keep it alive.  I’ll explain how further down.

You will need:

  • Organic root ginger and root turmeric  –  1 or 2 stems of each
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water
  • A big enough glass jar with a lid [that would hold approx. 1 litre]

Why organic?  I haven’t tried non-organic so I can’t say for sure, but many of the commenters on the related Instagram post said their attempts using supermarket root ginger and turmeric didn’t produce results and the advice was to use organic.  Perhaps the chemicals used in non-organic doesn’t allow for the same beneficial microflora to grown on the food and subsequently in your ‘ginger bug’ mix.  I bought mine at ‘The Green Door Pantry’ a farmers market in Dublin which sells fresh organic produce.

What to do:

Step 1:  Cut the root ginger and turmeric into small chunks and place them in the glass jar.  Make sure that the jar has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized (especially if it is a food jar that is being re-used).  Next add the filtered water leaving a good inch or two of space at the top.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar can be white or brown.  I tend to use brown because that is what I usually buy.  Stir it well.

Step 2:  For the first 24 hours leave the lid off the jar.  In order for the mixture to interact with the microorganisms in the atmosphere you will need to place it outdoors, if possible.  I covered mine with a Lidl mesh bag to keep out anything that wasn’t ‘micro’ e.g. flies etc.   [After this initial ‘lid off’ 24 hours, the lid will always be closed on the jar, except when you are feeding or burping the mixture].

Step 3:  Feeding the ‘ginger bug’ initially.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Empty a little of the liquid off and add a little bit of fresh water.   Repeat this for the next 3 days.  The fermentation process is underway.  On the 4th day your ginger bug should be ready for use to make lemonade.

Making the Lemonade

You will need:

  • A separate glass bottle [you can use an old wine bottle with a screw top]
  • Ginger bug starter liquid 
  • Sugar
  • Lemons / Limes  (I find the juice of 3 in total is enough to add to make a pint of liquid)
  • Filtered water

I use measuring spoons for the ginger bug liquid and sugar, but the amount of juice from the fruit doesn’t have to be exact.  You could add 100ml or more.  You can adjust this to suit your own taste.  Derbhla’s instructions says to add 200ml but it’s up to you!!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug solution
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 100-200ml  of fresh squeezed lemon/lime (or other flavour)
  • Filtered water [Enough to fill the rest of the bottle to about 1 to 1½ inches below the neck]

What to do:

You can directly use the glass bottle to mix.  If so, you may need a plastic funnel otherwise it might get messy.  I use a separate plastic pouring jug to mix and then add the mixture to the bottle, before adding the water.

Scoop out 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug syrup from the jar (the ginger and turmeric solids remains in the jar).  Add 4 tablespoons of sugar.  Add your 100-200ml of freshly squeezed juice.  Mix.  (Add this mix to the bottle now if you are using the jug).  Now fill the bottle up to no more than 1 to 1½ inches from the neck with filtered water.  Put the cap on and give it a good shake up and down to mix it well.

Leave your lemonade to stand for 3 days at room temperature.  The warmer the temperature the quicker it will ferment.  More fermentation equals more fizz.   After 3 days have a little taste to sample it.  If it is fizzy enough for your liking you can now put it in the fridge to chill.  Once chilled it is ready to use and enjoy.  Otherwise, you can leave it to ferment for another couple of days and then refrigerate it.

‘Ginger bug’ maintenance

Okay …. don’t panic, it really is NO big deal.   Feeding and temperature are key factors in keeping your ‘ginger bug factory’ alive and ready for lemonade production.

Now that your ginger bug is established,  feeding it is just a simple matter of adding one spoon of sugar, emptying off a little of the liquid and replacing it with a little fresh filtered water.  That’s it!!

You will notice when you add the sugar the ginger bug fizzes up before your eyes.

If your ‘ginger bug’ is sitting with it’s lid on at room temperature 20°C, or warmer,  fermentation will happen.  If that is the case you may need to ‘pop’ or ‘burp’ it once a day.  My ‘ginger bug’ is in a flip top jar [photo above].  I just flip the lid open to release the gas.  It makes a sort of popping sound, similar to when you open a bottle of fizzy drink.  Close it again straight away.  Warning:  Due to carbonation, pressure can build up in the closed jar over a few days and result in an almighty pop when you open the lid or, worse case scenario if you have left it much longer, the jar may explode!!!  So, if in doubt place the jar in the fridge until you plan on using it again.  The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process completely.

For example…. if you only want to make one bottle of lemonade per week and you fear you might not remember to ‘burp’ the ginger bug, OR, if you are going away for a few days or weeks, the best thing to do is to simply place the jar of ‘ginger bug’ in the fridge.

To start up fermentation again, take the ginger bug out of the fridge the night before or early on the day you want to use it again, letting it reach room temperature for at least a few hours before using it.  When you have taken out your starter liquid to make the next bottle(s) of lemonade, remember to feed it again (one spoon of sugar, remove some liquid and top up with fresh water).

Why bother making your own?

For one thing it is just so delicious.  It is made with natural fresh healthy ingredients.  What about the sugar??  The sugar is NOT for you it is what feeds the friendly yeasts and bacteria.  They get the sugar and we get to enjoy the by-product – a probiotic drink!!  That means it is full of beneficial, gut friendly bacteria.  Without going into too much detail, it contains many and varied strains of friendly bacteria including lactobacillus which has many health benefits.

Comparing this drink to a shop bought fizzy lemonade which contains all sort of sugars and chemicals and which might at best be ‘thirst quenching’, but is definitely not health promoting.

More than 2000 years ago the father of modern medicine ‘Hippocrates’ suggested that all diseases begin in the gut.  We now know that 70-80% of our immune system lies directly behind the gut wall.  Increasing the amount of friendly microbes you consume in your diet is key to crowding out pathogens (harmful, disease producing microbes) and is one of the best ways to support your gut, brain and immune health.

It is now widely accepted that adequate beneficial bacteria act as immune modulators.  This means that they are instrumental in regulating how our immune system responds when it encounters harmful (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (microbes).  A modulated immune system responds appropriately, neither over or under reacting to a threat.  This ‘appropriate’ balanced response is when the immune system is working at its best.

Not to mention that this is a really, really cheap and tasty way to enjoy homemade lemonade while at the same time benefiting from the probiotics it contains.

I hope you will give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Reference:

Instagram @theculturedclub

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

Immune Support – Vitamin C

The Role of Vitamin C in Immunity

Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.  In times of high stress the adrenals glands are also under more pressure to produce the stress hormones to keep us going, but at a cost.  Vitamin C helps to heal any damage caused by excess stress.

But we can only get Vitamin C from our diet.  The body cannot make it. 

Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin so it doesn’t stay in the body for long.  This is good in one sense as there is no chance of toxicity.  On the other hand, this means we need to be sure of getting our daily dose.

Food is a great bio-available way to boost your vitamin C intake.  Make sure to get some into your diet to build a strong immune system.

Research into the use of high dose IV Vitamin C with Corona Virus patients in China showed promising results by reducing symptoms and speeding recovery.  You can read more about it at this website www.vitaminC4covid.com

Getting your daily Vitamin C

Although getting IV Vitamin C is not something we can generally avail of, we can take preventive measure by ensuring we have adequate Vitamin C in our diet for a start.  The photo above gives the best food sources.

After that, if you feel a cold or any infection coming on, you can easily boost your Vitamin C levels.  A good powdered form of Vitamin C is available from most health stores.  You could add 1 gram to a bottle of water and take a few mouthfuls every hour throughout the day.  You can also buy ‘slow release Vitamin C ‘ which will be released into the body over time.  This is the best way to take Vitamin C because the body will eliminate any Vitamin C it cannot use there and then.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body like the fat soluble vitamins A and D.

Another link

Alliance of Natural Health – Research :  Covid 19 and Vitamin C

♥ Anne

Insulin and Fertility

I have been doing lots of research to back up my presentation slides for the workshop on ‘Hormone Balance’ and it has become very apparent that for this and related issues like infertility and excess weight, which are very common today, there are a couple of key drivers.   By making our lives more and more convenient with convenience foods, transport, labour saving devices etc. we run the risk of losing our natural metabolism and balance, resulting in the many chronic diseases we now suffer.  If the original intention was to make life easier it has not equated to less stress and better health.  What we need are whole foods, fresh air, movement, relaxation, sleep, spending time in a natural environment and doing activities that engage us fully.  Modern life has disconnected us from our human nature and even though it makes perfect sense when we are reminded of the simple and basic needs of the body, we have a hard time believing that addressing these needs can have a significant impact on our health.  We can’t turn back time but we can take more control and make better choices for the sake of our health.

One such example is the overproduction of Insulin produced by the pancreas in response to food we have eaten with a high sugar or (glycaemic load), leading to blood sugar imbalance.  We’re not just talking here about white refined sugar, although it is that too, its also white bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, processed food containing sugar or flour, sweets, alcohol, sodas and even fruit juices that tend to spike blood sugar and cause excess release of insulin. Historically, people had sugar as an occasional treat.  Today …… it is tempting you everywhere you go!  It’s even hidden in foods you would never have expected to find it in.  And, given that sugar in all its forms is highly addictive, as it fires up (endorphins) the addiction chemicals in the brain, it is little wonder we are hooked and coming back for more!

Dr. Mark Hyman has summed it up in a nutshell in his instagram post below.  I couldn’t have put it better myself so you have it here from the expert!  For the ladies and gentlemen who suffer issues of infertility, take note!

What I love about good nutritional advice is that even if you don’t have these particular issues, lowering the glycaemic load of your diet has health benefits for everyone bar none!  Modern life is set up to encourage us all to lean more towards higher glycaemic load foods and lifestyle factors.

View this post on Instagram

I don’t believe it’s coincidence that infertility has increased just like diabetes and obesity has. That’s because excess sugar and subsequent belly fat drive hormonal imbalances and create infertility.⠀ ⠀ In women, these imbalances manifest as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is really a nutritional and metabolic problem that adversely affects insulin and other hormones.⠀ ⠀ PCOS symptoms include irregular or heavy periods, acne, facial hair, scalp hair loss, increased belly fat, and increased levels of testosterone. Studies show PCOS affects 8 to 12 percent of all women, which interestingly correlates with the number of couples who suffer infertility.⠀ ⠀ In men, infertility manifests as lower testosterone, which indicates other hormones like insulin are also out of whack. Among the consequences are bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.⠀ ⠀ While problems like PCOS and low testosterone need to be properly assessed, diagnosed, and treated to get your metabolism working again, you have far more control over infertility than you might realize.⠀ ⠀ Studies confirm addressing lifestyle factors – including nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposure –could have substantial effects on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ I recommend my patients take a multivitamin and other supplements and eat a whole food, low-glycemic-load, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Those strategies alone can have an enormous impact on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ While I ultimately encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine doctor to address and correct these problems, I have found these seven strategies can help anyone (female and male) balance hormones, reverse infertility, and create abundant health.⠀ ⠀ – Go low glycemic. ⠀ – Implement supplements like vitamin D, B vitamins, fish oil L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 ⠀ – Fix your gut by including gut-supporting foods like fermented foods, as well as fiber and probiotics.⠀ – Exercise regularly.⠀ – Control stress.⠀ – Get sufficient sleep.⠀ – Reduce your environmental toxin exposure. ⠀ ⠀ #pcos #hormonalimbalance #insulin #infertility

A post shared by Mark Hyman, M.D. (@drmarkhyman) on

If you click into the post on-line, among the hundreds of comments is one from a woman who states that her 17 year old daughter exists only because she changed her diet and lifestyle after being told she would never have children.  There are many more stories like this in the comments and around us everyday that you don’t hear about.

I have seen for myself in clinic, on a number of occasions, the very real success of balancing hormones for fertility.  It does require dedicated compliance to dietary and lifestyle changes but these are not beyond anyone’s capabilities.

The other driver of hormonal imbalances including infertility is excess ‘cortisol‘ levels in the body.  Cortisol is the stress hormone.  Eating a lower glycaemic load diet will help with overproduction of cortisol too.  Getting some moderate exercise, managing stress levels with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or finding a hobby that is engaging enough to reduce stress levels.    Also, getting adequate shut eye (sleep), will really help.

Conditions are more favourable for fertility when the body is in ‘relaxed mode’ or parasympathetic nervous system mode, and not in ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic nervous system mode.  Our modern high stimulation diet and a lifestyle which is fast paced, indulgent, highly stressful and busy busy busy, sends a message to the body…… “this is not a good time to have a baby, I’m way too busy just surviving”.  The dietary and nutrition suggestions in the post are right on point to aid fertility.  Also, to bring your body into parasympathetic mode instantly, practice deep breathing or tuning in to your breathing on a regular basis.  Start by doing some long exhales (10 in succession) and soon you will be breathing deeply.  Another easy technique to switch your body into parasympathetic mode is to elevate your legs above the level of your heart.  Lying flat on the floor use a chair, the bed or the wall to elevate your legs and relax for 5 minutes in this position.  A daily practice will impact over time and the body will get the message “life is good, I am calm and capable, all is well, I have plenty of resources to reproduce”!

You can follow Dr Mark Hyman on instagram or by searching for ‘Dr Mark Hyman Instagram’ on line.

These strategies are not rocket science but are shown to bring about positive results for those that implement them.   The view that there needs to be a pill for every ill, as if we are machines that need a screw here and a drop of oil there, is being replaced with an integrative approach to restoring health to the body that recognizes us as individual beings, affected by our unique genetics, environment, food, movement, sleep, thoughts, emotions and beliefs.

 

Further reading recommendations:

  • The Low-GL Diet Bible, Patrick Holford
  • The Low- GL Diet Cookbook, Patrick Holford
  • Fat Around the Middle, Marilyn Glenville, PhD
  • The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee [Balanced Living]
  • The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried M.D. [Hormone Balance]

 

© Limelight Nutrition 2019