From April through June I marvel at the quantity of strawberries that pass through our kitchen. Some don’t even make it that far — enjoyed in the warm sun straight from my raised bed or the perfect mounds at the berry farm.
May is apparently National Strawberry Month, and the celebration is clearly well underway here. As we polish off the last of this year’s harvest, eaten fresh or frozen to restock the freezer (see my tips on successfully freezing fruit), the less than perfect “jam berries” become many pints of preserves.
Early this week we felt the first hint of autumn. Moody grey skies gave way to intense winds and ominous storm clouds. Behind those a dramatic chill, seeing 30s at sunrise, afternoons barely doubling. Suffice it to say, the extra blankets came out and slippers went on. Nevermind that it’s 70 now — as soon as the nights lengthen, rainy grey days are on heavy rotation and the air changes from crisp to cool, even once, warm drinks make their delicious return to my kitchen.
There is nothing like a mug of something hot and creamy to comfort and calm. Golden milk, a new staple for me, is particularly welcome of late. The combination of turmeric, cardamom, ginger and coconut offers a richly warming quality that wards off the nip and lifts my spirits. It gave me an idea to make it a hand-held nibble, adding a few nutrient bonuses, for maximum enjoyment on the hoof.
With a vibrant autumnal hue flecked with those same grounding spices, these tote-able beauties are fresh and bright, and taste just like the drink that inspired them. Kids and adults, golden milk newbies and aficionados alike are sure to approve. (And they give a nod to new flickering faces on neighborhood doorsteps.)
“Fall [is] the time when everything bursts with its last beauty,
as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
— Lauren DeStefano
Our southern autumns may not be as beautifully striking as those we grew up with in Wisconsin, but the upshot is an extended growing season that keeps the kitchen well-stocked with freshness. It presents the best kind of dilemma: how to preserve the harvests before they fade.
Sauerkraut is one of the simplest preserved foods, made by curing shredded cabbage with salt in a crock or jar. The drained liquid — drawn out of the cabbage by the salt through the process of osmosis — becomes the kraut’s flavorful, self-preserving brine. But there’s another process at work here, and it involves wee beasties. Bacteria.
Let’s set the record straight: Bacteria aren’t all bad. Several types of these microorganisms are very bad indeed, but others are beneficial, and necessary, to the processing of many foods. Take Lactobacillus. This bacteria is crucial to the creation of everything from pickles, yogurt and miso, to kimchi, sourdough and sauerkraut. Wine and beer? Those, too!
In the case of kraut, Lactobacillus converts the natural sugars found in cabbage to lactic acid through a process called lactic acid fermentation, or lacto-fermentation for short. This conversion ultimately imparts the appealingly acidic flavor we associate with sauerkraut. Furthermore, lactic acid is a natural preservative that prevents growth of more harmful bacteria — particularly important historically when fresh ingredients were scarce and refrigeration was a thing of the future.
Through the years the art of preservation persisted, more to satisfy our tastes than as a means of nourishment during the lean winter months. Though popularity has come in spurts and stops, sauerkraut and other fermented foods once again have a strong pulse. Encouraged by my German heritage, it felt about time to try my hand at homemade sauerkraut.
We know by now that nuts are as virtuous as they are delicious, receiving serious adulation for off-the-charts healthy nutrition profile. They probably show up one way or another in your daily diet, or at least several times per week.
ButI’m willing to bet this rarely, if ever, includes Brazil nuts. Admit it — you forage through the bowl of mixed nuts for the almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios… anything other than the Brazils.
What is it exactly that puts so many of us off? Their giantness? Their mild and sweet taste? Their distinctly smooth texture? Add their wonderfully nourishing properties, and those are some pretty groovy accolades if you ask me.
If you’re still keen to be a nut bowl forager, consider giving Brazils a go with the new favorite in our home: Brazil nut milk. It’s rich. It’s creamy. It’s the new almond milk.
Similar to other nut and seed milks, Brazil nut milk is mild and slightly nutty tasting. It’s also vegetarian/vegan-friendly, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free and, naturally, dairy-free. Because you already read my post about, maybe tried and seen for yourself, how easy, inexpensive, customizable, wholesome and tasty, tasty, tasty homemade nut and seed milks can be, I’ll jump right in to the merits of the Brazils themselves.
What’s in it for me?
Brazil nuts are rich in protein and fiber, providing 4 grams and 2 grams per 1-ounce serving (6 to 8 nuts*), respectively. While Brazil nuts contain a fair amount of saturated fat, their proportion of good-for-your-heart poly-unsaturated(omega-3s) and mono-unsaturated fats is much higher. They are also rich in plant sterols and contain no cholesterol. This unique combination of fiber, protein and beneficial fats promotes satiety, making them an excellent weapon in your weight management arsenal, and may also may reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes with improvements to blood pressure and glucose levels.
Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin E, to help fight infections and cell-damaging free radicals, as well as copper, the B vitaminthiamin,zinc and magnesium for healthy bones and muscles, energy and immune health. Magnesium is a mineral most people, women in particular, are deficient in. Ensuring adequate intake can help alleviate symptoms of PMS and insomnia, and headaches.
They are perhaps the richest food source of selenium providing approximately 777% of your daily needs. (No, that’s not a typo.) Selenium is important for DNA synthesis and prevention of cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers; is an antioxidant nutrient, like vitamin E; and promotes thyroid and reproductive health. Studies have shown selenium is essential for a healthy sperm count, improved sperm quality and fertility…
Despite their name Brazil nuts are not predominantly grown in Brazil, but Bolivia, harvested from ridiculously tall trees that help form the Amazon rain forests’ canopy. These tree nuts have their own physics principle as well. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Add into smoothies, pancake and waffle batter or other baking recipes, pour over cereal, splash into iced coffee, hot tea or a creamy cocktail, enjoy straight from the container. Brazil nut milk is the dreamiest one to hit our kitchen yet… and perhaps yours soon as well.
If nothing else, you now have a recipe to use up the lonely passed over nuts at the bottom of the bowl after a dinner party.
Recipe Type: Alternative milk, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw
Makes: 3 to 4 cups
1 cup raw brazil nuts
4 cups water, plus more to soak
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
Place brazil nuts in a bowl or large measuring cup and cover with water just to cover. Refrigerate uncovered at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When you're ready to blend, drain and rinse the nuts thoroughly, and dump them into a high-powered blender. Add 2 cups of the water, vanilla and salt. Run the blender at a low setting for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and run until the nuts are blitzed up well. Stop the blender, add another 1 cup of the water, and run on high for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Stop the blender again and check the consistency. At this point, you may want to stop if you like a thicker, richer milk, say for use as a coffee creamer. [If that's the case, move ahead to the next step.] If you like a thinner, more "drinking-friendly" milk, add as much of the final 1 cup water (or more) as you wish until the desired consistency is achieved.
Now it's time to strain. Place a small sieve over a 4-cup measuring cup or large bowl, and line it with a nut milk bag, a jelly bag (which is what I use), a couple layers of fine cheesecloth/kitchen muslin, or even a clean tea towel. [If you use one of the latter two, leave a good amount hanging over the sides.]
Pour the blitzed nut mixture into your lined sieve, and walk away for about 10 minutes to allow the liquid to drain from the solid pulp. [This would be a good time to make a cup of coffee in which to add your fresh milk!]
When the nut pulp looks dry, gather the sides of your bag or cloth to squeeze, wring, and gently coax out all of the remaining liquid. This might take a minute.
Set aside the sieve and pulp (see HGN Notes), and transfer your pure white brazil nut milk into a tightly sealing bottle or jar. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 to 7 days. Shake or swirl the container before using, as the mixture will naturally separate upon sitting.
Homemade milks are easy work for high-powered blenders like the Ninja (what we have) or Vitamix. Don't have one? Don't panic! I started out successfully making ours with a basic KitchenAid blender. No difference other than perhaps blending for an extra minute or two.
The recipe is easy to halve or double, depending on your needs and the size of your blender. But don't let it go to waste! If you can't use your milk within the recommended 5 to 7 days storage time, freeze extra in ice cube trays and store in a zipper-top bag or tightly-sealing container in the freezer. This is a great way to add creaminess and nutrition to your smoothies, and to make iced coffee extra cold and flavorful!
Leftover nut pulp can be re-purposed by dehydrating it into "flour" in the oven, or a dehydrator, if you have one. For quicker, simpler use, add the wet pulp to porridge, baked goods, or smoothies for a boost of protein, healthy fat and satiating fiber.
MORE IDEAS + Most store-bought alternative milks made from nuts, seeds, grains or soy are fortified with calcium. To boost the calcium content of your homemade milks, blend in 1 to 2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste). + Give it a protein, iron and antioxidant bump (+ a fun blue hue) with 1 to 2 tsp spirulina powder. I promise it won't make your milk taste like seaweed. + Sweeten your milk: Add 1 to 2 Tbsp honey, maple syrup, agave or coconut sugar; or 2 to 3 fresh dates that soaked for 5 minutes in a bowl of hot water (you could also soak them overnight with the nuts/seeds).