…according to me. Me, who is not the world’s foremost authority on traditional foods.
This post is just an effort to share with you what we have learned thus far ~ while I grew up drinking raw milk, I entered my adulthood knowing nothing of kombucha, so husbie and I are still learning.
When I first heard about such things as lacto fermentation out and about in the blogosphere, it was just assumed that because I was reading, I knew what they were.
I didn’t. And I was afraid to ask.
So, if you are a full fledged traditional foodie with something currently fermenting on your kitchen counter, this will probably seem overly simple to you, maybe even a bit ridiculous.
But this is what I wish I had known, what I wish someone had explained to me early on in very simple terms.
First off let me define traditional foods
Traditional in the sense of food does not necessarily define family recipes. It refers instead to the traditional, age old approach to food preparation that has been passed down from generation to generation, from before the beginning of the food industry. Think of the pioneers churning their butter at home, rendering their own lard, and baking sourdough bread.
And let me define a few more terms
This isn’t really meant to be a technical post but here are a few terms that will come up and that you may not be familiar with:
CLA ~ Conjugated Linoleic Acid, a fatty acid found in the fat of pasture fed cows. It has strong anticancer properties, encourages the building of muscle while preventing weight gain.
Lactic Acid ~ A natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria.
Lacto Fermentation ~ A fermentation, or pickling process, whereby the nutrients of the food are preserved while also providing the intestinal tract with healthy bacteria.
The list that follows are in my opinion the five things that you will hear about the most when the topic of traditional foods come up. The things where, if you learn them, you could probably hold your own in a conversation at a Traditional Foodie Cocktail Party. But then traditional foodies probably don’t hold cocktail parties, more like Raw Cream Parties, but I digress…
This is not an exhaustive list, and it is just enough to give you a very general understanding in a nutshell: just the tiny tip of a very large iceberg. There is much, much more that could be said.
If you are interested in pursuing some of these techniques in your kitchen you will want to search out more info so be sure to check out the resources I’ve listed at the end of this post.
1. Raw milk, raw milk products, and cultured dairy
What is it?
Raw milk, obviously is milk – milk that hasn’t been pasteurized, and preferably comes from grass fed cows making it rich in cancer fighting CLA and a lovely supply of vitamins and minerals.
Cultured dairy refers to those milk products such as yoghurt, cheese, or dairy kefir that are produced when the milk is heated (gently) and cultures are added.
For example when a small amount of buttermilk (culture) is added to raw cream and allowed to sit at room temperature for a few days, friendly bacteria break down the proteins and sugars in the cream, producing lactic acid in the process: a natural preservative. The result is creme fraiche, a lovely addition to soups and sauces; and one that, stored properly, should keep for a time.
Why should I eat it?
For many reasons: regular consumption of cultured dairy products lowers cholesterol, helps prevent bone loss, and guard against illness. However, the biggest reason, in my opinion is that they provide beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract, helping along digestion.
2. Fermented foods
This category embraces a wide variety of products from sauerkraut preserved through
lacto fermentation; to kombucha made through the use of a wickedly scary looking “mushroom” called a scoby.
Probably a better title would be “fermentation” as it essentially refers to the process of preservation (vegetables, fruits, beverages) more than it does the finished product.
What are they?
Pickled foods, condiments, and as mentioned, some beverages: kombucha, kefir (both water and dairy), kvass to name a few.
Like cultured dairy, beneficial bacteria are introduced to vegetables or liquid. The bacteria eat away at the natural sugars, the sugars are converted to lactic acid. The result can then be preserved for months.
Why should I eat it?
Nutrition value is not lost as it would be through the high heat of the conventional canning process, and again, the happy bacteria benefit the digestive tract.
3. Free Range, Grass Fed Meat
What is it?
This refers to what it says: meat that has been fed on grass; although I know of some cows that are finished on non GMO grains, and fowl obviously eat some grain besides grass.
Pigs, from what I understand (having never raised a pig) do not eat grass exclusively and can be fed grains and kitchen scraps as well. However, there are those that feel that while the pig fat (lard) is a beneficial food, the pig meat is not. In our kitchen, pork is served about once a week. If I know where it came from and what it ate, I’m comfortable serving it.
The main thing that should be remembered here is that the animal should be raised in as natural an environment as possible, eating a diet that is as natural as possible: free from pesticide ridden grass and grains and free from GMOs.
It should also be noted that nearly all parts of the animal are utilized: chicken skin (no boneless skinless parts here), rendered fat, the bones for bone broth, and the nutrient rich organs besides just the meat.
Why should I eat it?
Grass fed beef is high in the cancer fighting CLA and has a healthy balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids; as well as zinc and magnesium. Red meats are also a good source of Vitamin B12 and provide carnitine for a healthy heart.
The organ meats, as noted, are rich in essential acids and Vitamins A and D. In our home we’re particularly fond of beef heart and tongue. Chicken livers? Not so much.
4. Soaked and sprouted grains
What are they?
Having grown up in a from scratch, healthy eating, raw milk drinking household this was a new one for me. My mother baked all of our bread from fresh milled whole wheat flour but I had no idea that flour was better digested when it had first been soaked or sprouted.
Soaking is the process of combining the flour in a recipe with the liquid and a small amount of acid (buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, whey, etc.) up to 24 hours before baking. Grains such as oats, rice, and quinoa can also be soaked 24 hours prior to cooking in water and a small amount of acid.
Sprouting is when the wheat berries are soaked and sprouted, and then (after the moisture has dried) milled into flour. Sprouting comes in handy in recipes such as cookies when there is little or no liquid for the soaking process. Sprouting isn’t just for grains, it is a process that can be applied to nuts and seeds as well.
Why should I do it?
The purpose of soaking is to activate an enzyme, “phytase” that breaks down the phytic acid present in the grain or grain flour.
Phytic acid is a problem because it combines with needed iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc in the intestinal tract blocking their absorption. Soaking makes baked goods more nutritious and easier to digest.
Sprouting accomplishes basically the same thing: through the sprouting process the grain is predigested, breaking down the phytic acid.
While fat is a by-product of meat that has already been mentioned; I felt it deserved a category all its own because the shameless consumption of fats is, in my opinion, what makes the traditional foods approach a controversial one, and I believe, is one of the key elements that sets the traditional methods apart.
What kind of fat?
Butter, lard (yep), tallow (yep), all produced and rendered from grass fed free range animals. Also tropical fats such as coconut oil and palm oil. Olive oil is also acceptable.
Fats that are not acceptable would include canola oil, vegetable oils and shortening, margarine, or the bucket of lard found in the conventional grocery store.
Why should I eat that?
Mutton and beef tallow are rich in CLA, and both offer protection from viruses and other pathogens.
Fats such as butter, also contain CLA, as well as Vitamins A, D, K, and E.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is rich in antioxidants, while the tropical oils such as coconut have strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
When cooking with fat, it is important to keep it from smoking. This creates the conditions for it to go rancid and that is when you’ve entered The Danger Zone.
Also remember to always use fat from animals that have been fed primarily on pesticide free grass. This diet is what gives fat the proper balance of Omega3 and Omega6 fatty acids.
While some resources state that the more healthy fat the better, I still cook with it in moderation. Husbie and I do however, get quite happy with our homemade butter.
What does this have to do with homesteading?
Traditional foods seems to come up a lot within homesteading circles because it is, in a sense, returning to our roots as far as food is concerned. It also fully embraces “real food” which is the reason that many homesteaders including ourselves, homestead.
What to take away from this:
In my opinion, the primary benefit of traditional preparation is twofold: it either adds beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract, and/or it begins the process of breaking down, making food easier to digest, and allowing you to assimilate more needed nutrients.
Some helpful resources:
Nourishing Traditions is the go to manual/cookbook for traditional preparation. It includes vital information (from which the info for this post was taken) as well as traditional recipes for everything from appetizers and beverages, to entrees and desserts. If you are not sure about all this, I recommend checking it out from the library before investing in a copy of your own.
Some websites I personally enjoy that feature traditional recipes and techniques are:
GNOWFGLINS ~ which offers a blog as well as affordable classes and online menu plans that are beginner friendly. I am not an affiliate, I’m just honored to be a contributor to this website.
Farmhouse Kitchen ~ a beautiful blog with wonderful traditional food recipes.
Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen ~ another blog with gorgeous photographs that feature traditional recipes.
Anything I’ve forgotten? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Anything you see differently? I’d really like to know!
Anything you feel I didn’t quite get right? Please share!
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