Fermented At Home Sauerkraut Smothering The BEST All Beef Hot Dogs

Tara Whitsitt’s recipe for Classic Sauerkraut requires only 4 ingredients: cabbage, caraway seeds, juniper berry and salt

Organic Prairie (Farmer-owned) organic uncured beef hot dogs, made with 100% grassfed beef with no nitrate or nitrite added (fully cooked, skinless & hardwood smoked) hands-down are the very BEST hot dogs available

Hot dogs served up on Vermont Bread Company’s 100% Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns and a side helping of delicious and pure Eden Foods’ organic baked beans, a satisfying alternative to fast food

Using the very finest ingredients, including homemade sauerkraut, which used up two cabbages included in the final winter box of veggies in a CSA farm share from Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook (Columbia County), New York, to smother all beef hot dogs was a surprising meal for this mostly vegetarian, mindful eater.  But as I awaited the two week magic of fermenting the cabbages into sauerkraut, a certain craving rooted in childhood took over (even though it’s been decades avoiding the consumption of hot dogs even at the ballpark).

This dietary surprise was the result of finally trying out the easy-to-make recipe for sauerkraut included in Tara Whitsitt’s highly-recommended Fermentation on Wheels which we praised in a book review over a year ago. Now with St. Patrick’s Day a few days away and many households cooking up corned beef and cabbage, why not turn an extra head of cabbage or two (on sale at many markets and co-ops) into sauerkraut?

Classic Sauerkraut
Yields 1 gallon, 1-4 weeks

Ingredients
7 lbs cabbage (2 medium-sized heads)
2 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp juniper berry
2-3 tbsp salt

Materials
Gallon glass jar or crock
Weight and cover

Process
1. Cut cabbage into quarters and finely chop. Place chopped cabbage into a large bowl. If you have outer leaves of cabbage, rather than compost them, place them aside.

2. Add caraway seeds and juniper berries to the bowl of chopped cabbage.

3. Add 2 tbsp of salt and massage the cabbage for 5-10 minutes. Your cabbage will release water, which will serve as the kraut’s brine. Taste the cabbage—you may want to add more salt to your liking.

4. Check for a puddle at the bottom of your bowl and squeeze a handful of cabbage above the bowl to check whether it has produced enough brine. Once gently squeezed, brine should drip with ease from the cabbage.

5. Pack the cabbage into your gallon jar until it’s submerged below brine. Take the cabbage leaves you set aside from earlier and layer them on top of your kraut, pressing down.

6. Add weight, such as scrubbed and boiled river rocks or a small jar filled with water, on top of the layer of cabbage leaves. Secure a tea towel to the mouth of your jar with a rubber band to keep dust and bugs out.

7. Wait a week and taste—you may want to keep it going another week, but it’s good practice to try your ferments along their journey. Vegetables will ferment at different speeds depending on their environment—the warmer it is, the faster it will ferment, while the colder it is, the slower it will ferment. Most vegetable ferments thrive between 68ºF to 76ºF.

8. When the sauerkraut is to your liking, cover it with a lid and store in the fridge. Keeping your new kraut cool slows fermentation, so you can more or less enjoy the fermented flavor from when you sealed the jar.

Since in the winter, the temperature in my home in wintry Albany, NY is kept well below the 68ºF to 76ºF range of temperature noted in Tara Whitsitt’s recipe as ideal for fermentation, it took two weeks until the cabbages in my farm share reached the stage of tanginess where I decided it was time to cover the jar with a lid and store in the fridge.

Despite using the very finest ingredients available at the Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, New York, I calculate that the per hot dog cost came to $1.75.  How’s that for beating the cost of cheap fast food?

(Frank W. Barrie, 3/15/19)

Farm To Table Korean Dining Putting Down Strong Roots in New York’s Hudson Valley

Jinah Kim in her talk, A Place At the Table, at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY, discusses the reasons why she opened Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen

Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen on Ferry Street in downtown Troy (Rensselaer County), NY on a late winter day is open for lunch

Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen is a casual, pleasant space to enjoy a variety of Korean fare

Lunch included a variety of small dishes of Korean fare including a spicy pork rice bowl, a rice bowl with a medley of julienned vegetables, dumplings, & seaweed wrapped rolls

As a child, Jinah Kim’s favorite dish was pan-fried yellow croaker. When her mother would prepare it for the family, it reaffirmed their Korean roots. The family had moved from Inchon, South Korea, to Framingham, Massachusetts, when Jinah was three. Other family members had a jewelry store there, which probably kindled Jinah’s entrepreneurial spirit. But there were more moves to come: to Chicago in 1998, where her father could work as a pastor, and then to Troy, NY, in 2001, where he founded a church and also started a jewelry shop nearby.

I was 12, Jinah explained, so I was very sensitive to – everything. She was speaking at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York, on February 21, at a talk titled A Place at the Table. It was part of the college’s Voices lecture series, which seeks to stimulate community awareness and discussion, a mission Kim fulfills with passionate dedication.

I wanted to bring some school friends home, she continued, and I was so excited when my friends and I got off the bus in front of my house. She was hoping the visit would help her achieve the assimilation she sought; instead, she was mortified to discover her mother cooking yellow croaker. The smell of that fish – it’s hard to describe. The stink is unbelievable. It smells like the ocean, and that smell sticks to your clothes. I was so upset, I ended up scolding my mom. It was terrible.

But there’s a postscript to the story. Before the schoolfriends incident, when eating the fish was a pleasure, she was surprised to see her father heading only the heads of the fish, which she disliked, and giving her the rest. He declared that he preferred the heads – but she eventually discovered that he took the heads only so that she could enjoy the favored part. I learned about sacrifice through food, she concluded.

Three years ago, Kim opened Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, a restaurant in downtown Troy that serves Korean fare in a pleasant space on Ferry Street. It’s a casual, welcoming place with a semi-serve-yourself setup. You order at a counter, but your food is then brought to your table. Overseeing the kitchen is Chun Hee (Jinah’s mother), working alongside her friend Sun Hwa. The name of the restaurant combines the names of the two of them.

Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen is the most visible manifestation of Kim’s mission. I wanted to provide a safe, supportive place for immigrants and refugees. She realized that one of the easiest ways to break down cultural barriers is to introduce your culture to another through food. But it was a slightly labyrinthine journey that brought her to this point.

Humiliation and embarrassment characterized her earliest months in the United States. I ended up having an identity crisis about what it means to be Korean-American. By the time she was in high school, she’d decided that she wanted to start some kind of business. I used to call about available spaces back then. They weren’t expecting to see a high-school kid. She studied International Relations at Boston College, and traveled extensively after she graduated, eventually settling in New York City for a while, where she taught beginning English to immigrants. After about six months that turned into a full-time paid position, and I was also advising people on professional development and doing other career counseling.

She went on to work for Catholic Charities, helping refugees who needed to flee violence and drug wars, and for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an agency that was established for a similar purpose, by which time she was back in New York’s Capital Region, near her parents – who had by this time moved to a farm they bought in Cambridge (Washington County), NY, a bucolic area that’s been home to a revival of sensible farming.

Jinah knew she had to create a business for herself, but it wasn’t a restaurant she envisioned at first. I was thinking along the lines of a café or a farm, which then turned into the idea of a gathering place that would start out as a restaurant and evolve into something more. A space where people feel comfortable, and a place that can be a learning environment. And I wanted to create a business that would support the community in as many ways as possible.

She sees Sunhee’s as a place that is empowering refugees through employment, even as it offers the community a gathering place to share healthy food. We went from three employees when we opened to over twenty now. The restaurant’s mission is threefold: Creating a positive food culture, encouraging community engagement, and providing immigrant and refugee empowerment. Which is why the restaurant is also a doorway to cooking workshops, English classes, adult computer education, resume development, among other advocacy and support projects. As part of our computer classes last year, we were able to match fifty percent of the cost of buying a laptop while financing the remainder. We’re teaching people to speak for themselves. Culturally, in Korea it’s not considered acceptable to speak up for yourself. Even now, it makes my parents nervous.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant has become a platform for immigration issues, which she tries to make an aspect of community engagement. “That kind of engagement is never limited to any one thing,” Kim explained. Empowerment is a process of bridging cultures by sharing stories. People are resilient, with unique skills, so we have to recognize that education and employment are both a kind of partnership. She purchased some additional real estate in Troy last year, so we now have an Airbnb on a site where we also teach classes. And we’ve opened Kim’s Convenience, an Asian bodega, nearby. It’s at 88 Third Street, about three blocks away from Sunhee’s.

It seemed only fitting to dine at the restaurant after Kim’s talk, where my wife and I were able to enjoy another of the items Jinah mentioned as a favorite, a dumpling preparation called mandoo. It’s a cousin to the Chinese and Japanese varieties, although they all seem to share a Mongolian origin. A portion of five meat-and vegetable stuffed dumplings is $5, served with the house soy-based dipping sauce.  It’s a transient delicacy, finished in two bites, so it’s good that so much flavor bursts through.

We also shared an appetizer order of kimbap rolls ($7), which are as handsome as they are tasty. It’s a meatless dish, but you’d never know it from the busy flavors packed into a seaweed wrapper. Spinach and carrot, tofu and egg are rolled with marinated burdock and pickled radish, with purple rice filling out the concoction. Ten slices are served, which could be an entrée if you’re a light eater.

I’m not. I went on an order of spicy pork ($12), attracted to it in part because it has some spiciness to it. It’s one of the items on the Rice Bowls list, so it, too, is served with purple rice, but the pork slices are sautéed with onions and green peppers in a rich (and not overly spicy) red pepper sauce, with roasted sesame seeds to deepen the flavor.

Bulgogi ($14) is a classic preparation of marinated beef slices , while the house chicken ($9) also gets a soy-sesame seasoning. But my wife opted for bibimbap ($12), probably Korea’s most famous dish, which presents a medley of julienned ingredients: carrot, turnip, shiitake mushroom, hard-boiled eggs, and bean sprouts, all poised in individual areas atop a mound of rice. You can get fancier by adding tofu or beef or a sunny-side egg to the top, but the base preparation was more than satisfying. Chopsticks are provided, of course, but, should your appetite outpace your dexterity, there’s also a spoon.

Side-dishes of salads and pickles are available, among which is the house kimchi ($5). The kimchi is homemade, and jars of it are available at the restaurant and convenience store, with other outlets planned as well. I ordered the side-dish, forgetting that the entrées are served with small kimchi sides. But I’m a great fan of the stuff, particularly as made here. It’s a fermented preparation of cabbage and radish, and the flavor can vary wildly; Sunhee’s is very comfortable on the Western palate.

The menu also includes some stews featuring tofu ($10), kimchi and pork belly ($14), soybean paste, squash, tofu, and other veggies ($10), and a Korean New Year’s Soup ($12), where rice cakes and dumplings are featured in a light broth.

Having the farm is a huge asset to running a place like this, Kim told us, but we’re not a hundred percent farm-to-table. While I believe that accessibility to healthy food is important, you have to know where to pick your battles. For instance, the price of local chicken makes it too expensive for our menu, so we have to bring that in from elsewhere.

The restaurant business is really tough, she told the HVCC audience. It’s taxing. Food is the minimal thing you need, the starting point. You have to build off that in order to diversify your business options. We’re doing wholesale. We’re renting kitchen space in one of our buildings – it’s become a Vietnamese bistro. As the weather gets nicer, we’ll be offering farm visits in Cambridge, with kimchi workshops and Korean barbecue.

If Jinah seems relentlessly enthusiastic about what she’s doing – and doing successfully – that enthusiasm was born at home. Since day one, my parents have been unbelievably supportive of me. ‘Follow your dreams,’ they said. ‘You don’t have to make a lot of money.’ Which doesn’t sound at all like what you might expect from Asian parents.
[Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen, 95-97 Ferry Street, 518.272.3413, Lunch & Dinner: Mon-Thurs 11:00AM-9:00PM, Fri & Sat11:00AM-10:00PM, www.sunhees.com]

(B.A. Nilsson, 3/6/19)

Obesity Epidemic Spreading to Dogs

A sunny afternoon in late winter, no dogs to enjoy a game of fetch on the snow covered field, where dogs can run off leash, in historic Washington Park in Albany, NY

On another late winter day, on the same field (snowless) puppy named Stella (a pit bull & lab mix) running off-leash finds a friendly human to greet: no food treats required for friendly human interaction

Jane K. Brody’s Personal Health column in the New York Times recently spotlighted the news that nearly half the dogs veterinarians see are overweight or obese in That Furry Friend May Need to Be on a Diet (2/5/19). Why is this?

Michael Pollan in his Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual, now available in paperback, provides the roots for the answer in the final section of his “rulebook” (which is full of humor and good cheer and vital advice) on “How” to eat. In this final section, he discusses the human relationship to food which clearly has had an impact on how humans feed their dogs. Pollan’s Rule 55 (one of 83 total rules in this reader-friendly book and one particularly worthy of mindfulness) states in its meaty conciseness: Stop eating before you’re full.

In explaining this rule, Pollan notes the French paradox: A population that eats all sorts of supposedly lethal fatty foods, and washes them down with red wine . . . is nevertheless healthier, slimmer, and slightly longer lived than we are.

It is the traditional French relationship to food which explains the paradox. They seldom snack, eat small portions from small plates, don’t go back for second helpings, and eat most of their food at long, leisurely meals shared with other people. In French, to say “I’m hungry” is J’ai faim, and when you are finished, you do not say that you are full, but Je n’ai plus faim, I have no more hunger.

In an article, The Overweight Pet, on the website petmd.com, the four typical settings encountered by veterinarians when presented with a dog that is overweight suggests the relevancy of Pollan’s Rule 55: (1) The Nibbler, a dog that has food out for him/her all day and nibbles a little at a time; (2) The Beggar, using food to reward and not to satisfy hunger; (3) The Good Dog, where an owner expresses affection by focusing on feeding (which prompts the excellent advice to show affection by thinking Fetch, not Food); and (4) The Gourmet Dog which is eating for taste, which does not always equate with good nutrition. In sum, in feeding a dog, the focus should be on relieving the dog’s hunger.

A closing note: Ted Kerasote’s Pukka’s Promise, The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, now available in paperback, and reviewed here a few years ago, includes nearly 70 pages focused on improving a dog’s diet, and is highly recommended.

(Frank W. Barrie, 3/1/18)

Almonds or Walnuts: One Nut More Nutritious Than Another?

Buying nuts at the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY offers an extraordinary range of choices (click on photo to enlarge)

Choosing organic nuts places value on farmworkers’ health and avoiding negative environmental effects from the use of chemical sprays (click on photo to enlarge to see 3 types of organic cashews available)

Peanuts, also known as ground nuts, are really legumes, but peanuts (dry roasted, unsalted, organic & high in protein) are a staple food for this mindful eater

Invaluable foods since the dawn of time is the sentence that leads off the chapter on Nuts in Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, published in 2008 by the National Geographic Society. We noted in our book review posted seven years ago, that this nearly 400 page illustrated guide is a worthy addition to just about anyone’s collection of books. It’s a go-to reference book for this good food lover.

Edible refers to nuts, which first appeared at the end of the Cretaceous period when the dinosaurs were in decline, as Brain Food and justifies this designation convincingly:

65.5 million years ago, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, all rich in oil and omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), were among the emerging flowering and seed-bearing plants. A diet that combined the omega-6 EFAs of nuts with the omega-3 group of EFAs in seafood, in the vital ratio of 1:1, enabled new placental animals to develop. The ideal environment for the new species of mammals to maintain brain size (emphasis added) while growing larger was where land and water were in close proximity.

Nearly every morning, especially in winter, cooking up a bowlful of organic oats is a start to the day for this mindful eater, and when they are in season, local strawberries and rhubarb are cooked into my oatmeal. A recipe for Five Minute Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal was shared a few years ago. But always, a handful of walnuts or almonds or hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are sprinkled on top.

Does it make a difference nutritionally what nut is used? As a habit of late, I’ve been varying the nuts. (Similarly, my most recent method for cooking up a morning bowl of hot cereal has included substituting some barley flakes, rye flakes or wheat flakes for oats.) It’s widely accepted that it’s important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group because different foods provide different types and amounts of key nutrients, as succinctly stated in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Seems logical, to apply this eating principle to grains and nuts and to vary the grains and nuts consumed.

A recent article Know Your Nut Nutrition in the February 2019 issue of Consumer Reports spotlights the benefits of mixing up the types of nuts you eat because in the words of Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating, R.D., each nut has its own unique medley of nutrients. [This magazine article is incorporated into an 0n-line Consumer Reports article, Choose the Right Nuts for Your Health by Jesse Hirsch (December 23, 2018).] The nutritional value of the nuts I commonly add to my bowl of oatmeal were noted as follows: almonds are among the nuts highest in fiber and have calcium and vitamin E, walnuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s, and hazelnuts are a good source of healthy fats, as well as an abundance of phenolic compounds, a class of antioxidants linked to heart health and lower cholesterol levels.

And two recommendations on how to buy nuts: (1) buy your nuts in bulk and (2) buy organic. The bulk food aisle at a food co-op or even in some supermarkets is the best way to buy nuts. The website Treehugger concisely states the reasons to buy food in bulk including cutting down on food waste and saving money.

The extraordinary Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, NY, with its nearly 1000 bins of bulk food, offers a remarkable variety of nuts. For example, it’s not just one choice in almonds. Rather, there are 15 bins: (1) salted sprouted almonds, (2) sprouted raw almonds, (3) whole almonds, (4) whole organic almonds, (5) dry roasted unsalted almonds, (6) roasted & unsalted organic almonds, and (7) roasted salted organic almonds (8) spicy maple almonds, (9) raw unpasteurized almonds, (10) whole, cocoa dusted almonds, (11) roasted organic almonds picante, (12)  tamari roasted cajun almonds, (13) tamari roasted almonds, (14) tamari roasted organic almonds, and (15) garlic almonds. Wow.

And even though nuts are shelled or peeled before consumption and aren’t found on the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and veggies to avoid due to pesticide residues, organic nuts are not grown using chemical sprays thereby avoiding risk to farmworkers’ health and negative environmental effects, two other excellent reasons to buy organic nuts. Almonds or walnuts? Enjoy both.

(Frank W. Barrie, 2/22/19)

Two Inspiring & Timely Children’s Books Shining Light On The Children Of Migrant Farmworkers & Laborers

Carmen Tafolla is the author of more than 30 books including That’s Not Fair! No Es Justo! which remains relevant now, 11 years after it was first published

Linda Jacobs Altman is the author of dozens of children’s and young adults’ books including the classic Amelia’s Road

 That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s struggle for justice/ No Es Justo! La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia (Wings Press, San Antonio, Texas, 2008) by Carmen Tafolla and Sheryl Teneyuca (illustrated by Terry Ybañez) and Amelia’s Road (Lee & Low Books, Inc., New York, NY, 1993) by Linda Jacobs Altman (illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez) are two timely children’s books despite the passing years since they were first published: 26 years in the case of Amelia’s Road, and 11 years for That’s Not Fair! These stories peer into the lives and struggles of migrant farmworkers who harvest and process the bounty of American farms and laborers in a pecan shelling factory.

Amelia’s Road and That’s Not Fair! create empathy and understanding for migrant farmworker families and immigrant laborers at a moment when they are threatened by fear mongering. Butterflies, bulldozers and barbed wire worry many opposed to spending billions of dollars on a concrete border wall as headlined in a recent New York Times report. Most unnerving is the dehumanization of our fellow humans seeking a better life. These two children’s book help to shed the light of hope when there is much despair and darkness.

That’s Not Fair!/No Es Justo! is a wonderfully designed book with English and Spanish on the same page. Written for upper grade school aged children, it vividly describes the life of Emma Tenayuca, a Mexican-American born in San Antonio, Texas, who became an activist in the 1930s as a teenager and as a young woman in 1938 helped to organize 12,000 pecan shellers to strike for higher wages.

The story is told from the perspective of Emma Tenayuca as a young girl, teenager and then a young woman, as she witnesses the experiences of injustice in her community. She develops the courage to work to change an exploitative system.

With flashing eyes, young Emma observes a family conned out of a season’s pay and a mother with little to eat and no way to clothe her crying child. And Emma laments how her young friend Maria had to skip school to work in the fields, missing out on learning how to read. Maria tells her: I don’t know how to read. Last year, I was starting to learn the letters. But then, the weather began to warm . . . and my family had to go far away, to pick onions. We picked onions, then strawberries. We picked cabbage, then cotton. We picked beets, then corn. By the time we came back, school had ended . . .

But Emma’s grandfather has wise advice: Sometimes things are not fair. But still, each one of us can usually do something about it, even if it’s just a little thing. These inspiriting words counter an apathetic response of it’s just the way it is, always has been and always will be. Carmen Tafolla’s story reinforces hope for change through action.

For even younger readers, Amelia’s Road spotlights the hard life of migrant farmworkers as seen through the eyes of little Amelia Luisa Martinez. Amelia hates roads because they lead to the cabins of impoverished farmworkers, the only type of home she has come to know. She dreams of having a house that is white and tidy, with blue shutters at the windows and a fine old shade tree growing in the yard. Her aspiration is to have a home where her family can stay in one place instead of following the crop harvests. Amelia’s poignant story is well-told and artfully illustrated while realistically describing the pressures of living as a child of migrant farmworkers.

Amelia is up early from 5:00AM to 8:00AM to partake in a strenuous apple harvest, then she is off to a school for the few weeks her family is harvesting the apple crop, before they all move on to a different harvest in another location. But this time at her temporary school, she has a caring teacher who learns her name and makes her feel worthy.

Amelia has finally found a place that she likes—the teacher is nice, the kids at school are warm and welcoming, and her discovery of an accidental path on the way home from school to her family’s cabin which led her to a special tree. She longs to have a home in this heartfelt story. As her family prepares to move on to the next job in the fields, in another place for another seasonal harvest, Amelia finds a way to keep her dream alive about a better life.

These stories told from the perspective of a young girl and a young woman, Amelia and Emma, humanize a population that has been historically ignored, scapegoated, and even demonized. These two children’s books are highly recommended as a way to appreciate the migrant farmworkers who harvest the apples, strawberries, carrots, lettuce, cabbage…i.e., America’s agricultural  bounty, that would rot in the farm fields without their hard labor.

(Lucas Avery, 2/14/19)

[Editor’s Note (FWB): These two children’s books are included in a Food Tank list of 12 Children’s Books to Grow Future Leaders compiled by writers Katherine Walla and Hayly Hoch that will educate and inspire future eaters, food producers, and innovators. Also to be noted: co-author Sheryl Teneyuca (with Carmen Tafolla) of That’s Not Fair! is the niece of Emma Tenayuca but spells her surname with an e instead of an a.]

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