Last week I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a fermentation class held at For His Temple Family Foods in downtown West Monroe. The event was facilitated by chef and owner, Dana Milford, and our teacher for the evening was chef Gabriel Balderas from the Shreveport/Bossier area. Dana sells jars of salsa created by chef Gabriel’s company, El Cabo Verde. He is also a Certified Wholistic Health Coach. Dana met chef Gabriel through a mutual friend, Evan McCommon, who owns and operates Mahaffey Farms in Princeton, Louisiana. If you have been pursuing a healthy eating life style for any length of time, you will find the greatest challenge, and also the most potential for adventure, is the sourcing of good, quality ingredients. Especially in our area where we do not have a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s nearby. What a thrill to discover people who are like-minded and furthering the cause of healthy eating through farming and out-sourcing local, organically grown produce! The best way to start your journey to health is to find others who are doing the same and grow a network of people. It will only benefit those around you and I feel honored to be a beneficiary of Mrs. Dana’s growing network!
Chef Gabriel started the class off explaining what fermentation is and how fermented fruits and vegetables are beneficial because of their high number of probiotics and bio-availability of nutrients. He also talked about the important role these foods have played in cultures around the world. Some of these super foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. (check out this article by Donna Schwenk explaining how kimchi helped the people of Korea fight off the bird flu back in 2005). To be sure, our own food history includes some forms of fermentation as well, but the industrialization of agriculture and food production have essentially removed most of them from our diets. Cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream and pickles were all produced through a process of fermentation. It would also be a way of preserving excess fruits and veggies from the garden long before there was a refrigerator in every household. This was the primary source of many vitamins, minerals and nutrients for generations before us. Unfortunately, even though we can still find these products in our grocery stores, most of the nutritional value has been removed from our foods during the process of pasteurization.
One of the things that I was super excited about was when chef Gabriel gave us ideas about how to incorporate fermented foods into our daily diets. I have actually been experimenting with ferments for a while now and one of the things that I struggle with the most is how to get them in every day. I have made sauerkraut several times and we try to eat a tablespoon of it along with our supper. I also make kombucha, which my boys love to drink, and I actually have to ration it out so it’s not gone in a day. On the other hand, they kind of feel like eating the sauerkraut is a form of torture, so I was really excited to get some ideas from this portion of the class.
So, chef Gabriel brought out some really beautiful avocados and a jar of sauerkraut that had been fermented along with onions and jalapenos. He told us that he was going to make guacamole using the sauerkraut in place of the lemon or lime juice that you would normally add to it. He explained that the onion and jalapeno would give it flavor and texture, and the acidity of the juices would break down the avocado and give it a really rich, creamy consistency. Honestly, I was not sure how this was going to taste. In my mind, I just could not work out how sauerkraut would translate into guacamole, but I can tell y’all with all honesty, it was probably some of the best guacamole I have ever tasted. It was amazing! He uses it for everything; as a garnish, on scrambled eggs, in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich, and of course as a dip. It was so good and I can’t wait to make it and see if my boys approve…they don’t have to know what’s in it. Truly, I don’t think it will matter…it was that good! 😉
For the last part of the class, we made our own sauerkraut to take home with us. It is such a simple thing to make. It’s literally just chopped cabbage, a little Himalayan pink salt and a lot of mixing and squeezing until the juices come out. I was really surprised how much water was extracted and it was a lot of fun for everybody to get in there and get their hands dirty. I really loved that it wasn’t complicated or intimidating, which is definitely what you want when you are getting started with fermentation. Anybody can make this and have success. Here is a blog from Nourished Kitchen to inspire you how to arrange your own sauerkraut party. If you’re going to do this, you might as well make it fun and share it with friends! =)
Making the transition into traditional foods and a natural, healthy eating lifestyle can be tough and it’s a lot easier to do when you have people to walk through it with you. I appreciate Dana Milford so much, because she has figured that out through her own journey and is now passing her wisdom and experience on to our community. She has always loved to cook and serve people and feels that food is a bridge builder that brings people together. Her own journey to clean eating actually started by accident when she went on a 30 day detox and discovered that she had a sensitivity to gluten and dairy. That’s when she started reading and studying about how to really nourish her body in the way that God intended. After 30 years in corporate America, she found herself “retired” through her company’s downsizing, and was left to wonder, what’s next? Several people had encouraged her to open a restaurant, but instead, she started out slowly cooking for 10 families, once a week. This continued for three months until she was able to lease a restaurant kitchen from a friend on the weekends. She began advertising on Facebook and her business continued to grow. After 4 months, she decided to open her own restaurant, for His Temple Family Foods. They have now been open for eight months and her customer base is growing every month. It’s amazing to see how clean eating has become a growing movement in our community. Dana is relatively new to fermentation but hopes to continue using her restaurant to offer more classes and educate people on the role of food as medicine.
For more information about the health benefits of Sauerkraut and other fermented foods, check out this article from mercola.com, as well as Donna Schwenk’s website, culturedfoodlife.com, and Wardee Harmon’s website, Traditional Cooking School by gnowfglins.com. God bless! ~Shanna