Crack Leather: Fermented Fruit and Herb Leather

img_1635What do you get when you mix together a sprouted cracker recipe with a fruit leather recipe.  You get crack leather. Recently I was playing around with making fruit leather, based on another blog which I had written a while back, https://herbalgoddessmedicinals.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/making-medicinal-herbal-fruit-leather/.

I teach a class on cooking with medicinal herbs and am always trying to push the envelope with different creations.  In the class, we explore how one can incorporate medicinal herbs into cooking.  The use of tonic herbs (gentle food like herbs) into everyday cooking is prevalent in food from China and India.  One of the easiest techniques  is to combine astragalus in cooking broths and soups.

Now to get back to crack leather. For this experiment, I decided to incorporate sprouted seeds and nuts into the fruit leather along with some powdered medicinal herbs.  Sprouting of seeds and nuts replicates germination, which activates and multiplies nutrients (particularly Vitamins A, B, and C), neutralizes enzyme inhibitor’s, and promotes the growth of vital digestive enzymes. Taking it a step further,  I also opted to ferment the leather before I dried it.  After checking in my with local fermentation expert, Kristy Shapla the author of the Brew Your Medicine, on whether fermentation would destroy the healthy probiotic fermentation, she assured me that if I kept the temps below 110 degrees it would be fine.  I am a firm believer that the fermentation of herbs assists with the bioavailability of their chemical constituents, not to mention the added benefit of incorporating fermented food into your daily diet. The fermenting of herbs is increasingly finding its way into supplements and has been shown to increase the herbs bioavailability,

I am a firm believer that the fermentation of herbs assists with the bioavailability of their chemical constituents, not to mention the importance of incorporating fermented food into your daily diet. The fermenting of herbs is increasingly finding its way into supplements and has been shown to increase the herbs bioavailability, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2758/abstract

The results were delicious.  This recipe is fairly loose and is open to lots of substitutes including the addition of other herbal powders, nuts, and dried fruits.  The secret is to make sure the mixture is not too liquid or too thick, rather the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Equipment:

  • Food dehydrator or lowest temperature in the oven
  • Fruit leather latex sheets or cookie sheet
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup tbsp chia seeds, sprouted
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cup herbal tea (I used nettle, ginger and rose hips)
  • 1 Tablespoon maca and Shatavari (you can use any combination of herbal powders)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, sprouted
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, sprouted
  • 1 1/2 cup of chunky applesauce
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt
  • 1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tbsp za’ atar

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients together in large bowl, adding more herbal tea or water to the mixture so it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in dark warm place for 24-48 hours. When ready heap a couple of large spoonfuls of mixture onto food dryer sheets or  cookie sheet.  Spread evenly to about 1/4 of an inch thick. The secret of spreading the thick mixture is to use a wooden spatula that you keep dipping in water.  Dry thoroughly, 110 degrees or less, to preserve the lactobacillus. When done it will still be flexible, so it is easy to bend and break into crackers.  Enjoy.

 

 

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Beet Kvass-A Russian Beverage Probiotic Tonic

beetsBeet kvass is extremely easy make and is a great “first” for those who have never fermented anything before.  Not only is it  delicious, but beets provide a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

We have all heard that fermented foods are important for our digestion. The reason why is that the fermentation process fosters the growth of beneficial  microorganisms. These microorganisms create compounds such as lactic acid bacteria that “predigest” the food, making them easier for our gut to absorb nutrients. beet probiotics-chart

Because the gut is the largest component of your immune system, introducing friendly bacteria into your digestive system, may also help keep illness away. Evidence suggests that the status of our gut health can affect inflammation, allergies and autoimmune disorders in the body.  The healthy bacteria that is produced through the fermentation process are currently being researched and point to a whole host of benefits, including a direct link to reduced bouts of digestive complaints. One of the organisms, lactobacillus plantarum has been linked to reduced inflammatory bowel, small bowel bacterial overgrowth in children, and reduced problems for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome. Another product of fermentation is the friendly bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, which has shown, in animal studies, to prevent polyps, adenomas, and colon cancer.  Needless to say – all of us could benefit from a daily intake of probiotics.

That is where beet kvass comes in.  I recently made my first batch of beets 2beet kvass and was instantly hooked.  It is delicious and so simple to make that anyone, anywhere can make this beverage, without the intimidation that often accompanies making sauerkraut,  and other fermented foods.  Some sites suggested the addition of a starter culture, but mine was fine, just using salt.  My motto is keep it simple.

So here it goes:  Take a few organic beets (3 large beets), cubing them into small pieces, placing them in a mason jar, adding 1 tablespoon salt, filling the jar (I used a half-gallon mason jar) with filtered water and screwing on a lid. Presto it is done.  You then just put it somewhere warm to ferment for 2-7 days.  Even better, you can make a second batch using the same beets.  Just drain off the juice from the first batch beet kvassleaving just a bit of the liquid in the jar along with the same beets and fill it back up with filtered water.  Set it aside to ferment again.  The first batch I let ferment for 1 week and the second batch I let ferment for 2 weeks.  Note:  I checked the jars every other day and would  unscrew the top and put it back on to release the gas.  I follow the same procedure with my other fermented foods.  If there isn’t any gas build up, then either move into a warmer place or let it sit longer.

You can get creative with your beet kvass by adding other items to your  including spices like ginger, caraway seeds, and other items like dried fruits, berries, let your imagination run wild.  As an herbalist I am going to start including medicinal herbs into the process starting with Hawthorne berries and other digestive enhancing herbs.  The sky is the limit.