Saturday, 3 April 2010

Get Cultured! Part 3 (kinda)

My next fermented foods project was to be sauerkraut. In an earlier blog, I posted my recipe and technique and then I waited a while (a week-ish). It definitely had got sour, and it didn't smell vile, but it wasn't a smell that appealed to my tastebuds. So it's sitting in my fridge, uneaten. I haven't summoned the courage to taste it. I'm a coward, I know. Thing, is, I love cabbage, and it doesn't give me digestive trouble. I just wanted some bacteria with my veggies, but I just cannot associate the smell with something I'd want to eat, and that's even with all the ginger and fennel I put in.

So feeling rather down about the sauerkraut project "failing", and feeling guilty because it only did so because I'm a bit fussy, I threw myself into another fermented foods project so I could forget the sauerkraut incident. I decided to use a base product that I love- oats, one of my four favourite foods (oats, cruciferous vegetables of any kind, chocolate, peanut butter). I covered 2 cups of steel cut oats/pinhead oatmeal with 2 cups of water and left it for about 12 hours, maybe more? I then blended the lot up, I think I put some more water in, but not much. It didn't go completely smooth like I hoped it might. I stuck the mix in a jar and left it in the hotpress. After 48 hours I could see the fermentation bubbles and it smelled like sourdough starter, that is to say, yeasty, beery even, but not like yogurt, which I sort of hoped it would. The smell of it while warm was a bit weird (I wouldn't fancy shovelling my sourdough starter into me) so I hoped giving it a good chilling before eating would help. The bad sign is I'm not really excited about trying this. It's been in the fridge from almost 12 hours and I can think of loads of other things I'd rather eat instead. But this time I'm going to be brave. The thing is, if I don't like it as is, I reckon it'll make some nice oat sourdough bread. I could just lift it out of the fridge, bring up to room temperature, and add it to some rye sourdough starter and wholemeal flour, maybe a little more liquid and some salt.

While the oatgurt was doing its things in the hotpress, I got researching all thing fermenty and oaty. And lo- and behold, someone has written their PhD on oat yogurt!!
I had already heard about a Finnish company, Bioferme, who make an oat milk yogurt called Yosa. I think the PhD might be tied up in the whole creation of the product. I wish, oh I wish, that Yosa was available to buy in the UK. But it seems not to have spread beyond Finland. Interestingly, Finland produce more oats than any other country in Europe. Sounds like my kind of place (except in winter obviously).

I know I'll be waiting quite a while for Yosa to hit any shop shelves near me, so I read the PhD and reckon I can get my oat milk yogurt at home. I bought a yogurt maker from ebay and it turns out the oat milk I buy is one of the types used by Dr Martensson in his research. The oat milk making process was invented at his university, as far as I can tell. All I needed was some bacteria, so this morning I bought some live soy yogurt to start my yogurt off with. According to Plant Foods, oat milk makes a yogurt with a lot of waste liquid, but the yogurt itself is creamy and delicious, especially strained, so I bought some muslin squares to try this out too.
All in all, it's starting to look like I will have yogurt again. Yogurt is the only food E and I really miss since going vegan and we hated the soy yogurt. On top of this desire for yogurtiness, I want to include more live bacteria in our diet. So it's good these aims might be able to coincide. So Part 3b will be me trying out my oat milk yogurt. My electric yogurt maker I bought off ebay probably won't arrive until after Easter, but I have an old EasiYo maker at my parent's house which I'm going to dig out tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to try the oat milk yogurt as early as monday...and I'll probably be baking oat sourdough too...

Other things:
I loved Gena's coffee post. It really resonated with my own views on the health and pleasure aspects of eating and drinking.

"On the other hand, maybe there’s a food that isn’t nutritionally ideal, but it gives my client a great deal of pleasure, and helps him or her not to feel deprived, which in turn helps maintain balance. In those cases, I’ll always say that the food should stay in my client’s life. Living without pleasure does not fit into my definition of health...And since my own vision of health includes certain things that aren’t necessarily biologically ideal, but boost our pleasure and enhance our waking experience, a little bit of coffee in the morning is actually not so very out of keeping with my own talk"

I've always liked coffee, but I go through phases of drinking it everyday and then just occasionally. I know when I drink 2+ cups a day my digestion just isn't as good. So I'm going to try and limit myself to one cup of good coffee a day, at the most. I don't want to give it up, but I am a bit worried about my sudden increase in coffee consumption hence the desire to give myself a coffee rule. But as Gena points out, when you're good about so many other things, it's ok to have a few less-than-perfect habits. Not bad, just not perfect either, and a little but more vigilance is sometimes required.
My other naughty foods are chocolate and peanut butter, but for a different reason- I believe they are not inherently imperfect as coffee is, it's my inability to stop once I pop. I find it very hard to open a jar of peanut butter and leave it out without taking more. Chocolate is the same, I can't open a bar and leave it unfinished, although I have kept unopened bars for heroically long stretches of time before succumbing. Both these foods upset my stomach when I eat large quantities and they are also pretty energy dense, something I can't justify if I've already eaten a decent dinner and I haven't done much exercise. So the plan is to go chocolate free for seven days starting next tuesday, and also start my new coffee rule, and see do I see any benefits healthwise. That means no instant coffee, and it means no more than one cup a day, and that before 12pm, because it does make me a little jumpy.
Here I am earlier today enjoying a saturday Starbuck's visit, sipping on a soy flat white in my vegan tshirt:


Like Gena, it's not the caffeine I crave, it's the pleasure of the ritual, the smell and the feel of the beans as I scoop them into the grinder, the warm cup in my hands. It feels like a big treat and we all need pleasure in our lives, especially, I believe, those of us who sacrifice other pleasures for longer terms goals, i.e. good health throughout our lives and choosing not to consume other animals.
As for the Starbucks thing, yes, I go there. I have a Starbucks portable coffee mug and a loyalty card. Shoot me. It's the only place in Belfast I can get a soy coffee with my favourite ordinary dark chocolate (Divine), they sell my favourite newspaper, they're the closest coffee shop to my work, and the other branch in the town centre is conveniently between the health food and natural beauty products shops that I go to. With the card, my soy doesn't cost me any extra too. I'd love to support local independent coffee shops, but until they support me with a decent dairy free coffee, I'm spending my coffee allowance at the 'evil' multinational.

I was reading an article earlier about self discipline. I tend to think I'm quite lazy, but in reality I suppose I'm not really, I am, however, a perfectionist. I still think I could use some of the article's suggestions, and not to curb my imagined laziness, but to convince myself I'm not as lazy as I seem to think. Hopefully proving this to myself will make me a little bit more positive about my productivity. I've decided to try the Pomodoro technique out- but only at work to begin with. It would be mad to bring too much control and guilty into my non-work activities Shout out if you have any experience of/opinions on time management tools.

Oh, I nearly forgot! I won Meghan's 5 Days Low GI Challenge. I got lots of lovely free e-tutorials. Thanks Meghan!!! I'm especially enjoying her own story, The Healthy Cookie: Unbaked. I really must do a low GI post soon...

Right, I'm off now to enjoy the rest of my saturday- a quick work out, some steamed cauliflower (craving this aaaall day) and quinoa and then out to the pub with E, his brother and brother's fiancée. I haven't had alcohol in ages, and as I have an early start I'm in two minds about having one drink or sticking to ginger beer. I think having an alcoholic drink might be a good way of proving to myself I can break rules and not feel bad:) Milk thistle tablets at the ready then!


  1. Wow! I don't know where to begin! Congrats with all of your fermenting experiments! While they may not be completely working out just yet, you're making headway.

    Did you check out HEABS' recipe for oatgurt? I haven't tried it yet, but it asks for groats, not pinheads... that might affect the result... I don't know... I've been waiting for the weather to get really warm so I can ferment it in my car. Weird, I know, but I share a kitchen with a bunch of people and there's really no room. :)

    OATLY!!!! I forgot about this stuff until you mentioned it! I drank it when I was in the UK two years ago. It's so good!

    Gena's post was awesome. Coffee is one of my crutches... along with chocolate... both sometimes make me sick, but I can't let either one go. Don't feel bad about going to Starbucks. They are a multi-million dollar corp for a reason - they offer great services. Like soy milk to vegans and gluten free cookies for celiacs. They also offer free public bathrooms - which is something we IBSsers are eternally grateful for.

    Now - I'm off to check out these links. Sorry I wrote so much! Happy eating and have a good week. :)

  2. t was HEAB's oatgurt recipe I used, kinda. I went back to where she got her recipe; and it seemed to suggest pinhead would be ok, after all, pinhead is just a groat that's been cut in 2 or 3 pieces. I've never seen oat groats in a shop here, although I've seen them online. The texture looked the same as HEAB's, except I kept mine covered so it didn't dry out on top. The thing is, grains have yeasts as well as bacteria on their surface, so oatgurt is quite likely to give a sourdough rather than yogurt taste. Still, I think it'll make some nice sour oaty bread.

    You're right about Starbucks of course, they're so big because they've done a great job of covering everyone's wants. When I lived in Switzerland, my Portland housemate and I used to make Starbucks pilgrimages to the nearest big city, it was her homesickness cure!

    Oatly is lovely. It was such a find for me as both E and I love anything oaty, we were so delighted. I don't remember there being any Oatly when I was vegan in 2004-2005. Did you know they also do an oat cream? It's so nice, both for savoury and sweet things. A million times nicer than soy cream.

    As I said above, if chocolate and coffee are the only "bad" things I really indulge in, I can't fault myself. You need a bit of pleasure to balance out the crappiness (bad pun, sorry) of IBS- even if the nice thing doesn't do wonders for the digestive symptoms, the mental health benefits outweigh all that sometimes!