Hurricane Rena's

local ingredients, worldly flavour

Category: Rena’s Recipies

Make Sauerkraut in a mason jar easily

Here is an easy way to make sauerkraut in a jar

Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage. It is used in German foods and the cuisine of Eastern Europe. After centuries of dying from scurvy while they sailed the seas, the British began to eat it as well a couple of hundred years ago. I hated it when I was a kid, I never would have thought I would ever be making it, let alone loving it so much I want to write about how to make it, feeling like this is something I should admit and share with the world.

It features prominently in Ukrainian cuisine and my Great Grandparents made it in crocks in their basement. I think maybe my Grandparents did too. And my parents tried it once or twice, but they did not like living with a stinky crock of fermenting sauerkraut in the basement, and a crock made a lot more sauerkraut than we as a family would ever need. So a lot of it sat there getting stronger and stinkier and we decided not to do it anymore. Until years later, as an adult, I wanted some homemade sauerkraut and figured out a different way of making it.

I make sauerkraut in 1 quart jars, each jar being its own batch. No giant stinking crocks in the basement for me. No all day long of shredding cabbage by hand to fill such a crock making a three year supply at once either.


My enthusiasm for making sauerkraut came about when I grew this giant trophy sized cabbage in my plot at the local community garden. It was a spindly little thing in the fall just starting to form a ball on top and I decided to mulch it to see if it would survive the winter. It did, and then quickly grew into this monster cabbage when spring came. It surpassed the size of a basketball and was well on its way to being beach ball sized before I had to stop admiring it and harvest it because slugs were starting to eat it and ruin it.


What would I ever use a cabbage that size for? How many stir fries and coleslaw and cabbage rolls could I possibly make? Besides I wanted to savor and enjoy my trophy sized cabbage for longer than it would take me to get sick of eating cabbage everything day after day, and longer than it would take for that monster cabbage to go rotten in the fridge waiting for me to use it up.


So I consulted my Ukrainian cookbooks for their many contradicting recipes and called up my Dad for his expert advice. He remembered the stinky crocks in the basements of our elders and the ton of work that it was to shred dozens of pounds of cabbage by hand.


The advice from the cookbooks seemed kind of dangerous and contradicting. One advised to seal the jars tightly while it ferments. One recipe advised to close the jars and open once in a while to let the gasses escape. One advised to put paper or cloth over the mouth of the jar and screw it on with the band. Most of the recipes involved making sauerkraut in huge crocks the way I’d seen it done before. What was I to do?


I began by putting a tablespoon of pickling salt and of pickling spice in the bottom of each sterilized quart jar, as well as a teaspoon of caraway seeds. You can sterilize the jars with either boiling water, or the ozonator (read about ozonators here)


I shredded the cabbage the easy way, with a food processor and a giant mixing bowl, cutting it into chunks and running each chunk through the blades on maximum. I packed the shredded cabbage tightly into my sterilized jars, squishing it down with a sterilized spoon. 1/3 of the way up the jar, I added another tablespoon of pickling salt, pickling spice and caraway seeds. Then I packed the cabbage in again, until 2/3 of the way up the jar. At which point I added more salt and spices, then more cabbage, packed in and squashed down. At the top of the jar, I left some space and finished my layers with a tablespoon of pickling salt and spice.

To squash the cabbage down, I used a sterilized smallest size mason jar, which fit inside the wide mouth quart jar. I began to tighten the lid of the jar, causing the smaller jar to press down on the cabbage and squeeze some brine out of it.

I left it in my porch to ferment, with a little pressure from the band of the jar on the smaller jar, but the lid not tightly screwed down, just held in place with ¼ of a turn on the band. This is important, to allow gasses to escape while the cabbage ferments.

I kept a close eye on it for mold. If there is any, scoop it off the top with a clean spoon that is washed imminently after touching it. If there is mold, the lid and the smaller jar being used as a weight must be washed in boiling or ozonated water before being put back.

The sauerkraut ferments in about 3 weeks. In about the 2nd week of its existence, you want to start tasting it regularly to see if has reached its ideal point of fermentation. Unlike the sauerkraut of my childhood which was allowed to ferment endlessly and get stronger and stronger, there is an ideal point where you will want to either can it or slow the process down by refrigerating it.

I used to get fresh lids at the point where I liked my sauerkraut and can it, in a boiling water bath for 10-20 minutes to seal the jars and kill off the fermentation, but have since learned that it destroys valuable nutritional enzymes to do this. Sauerkraut is better if eaten with some of its fermentation bacteria alive. So now I just refrigerate it.

To my pleasant surprise I find it causes less gas than fresh cabbage, though you wouldn’t think so, being a still living fermented food. There are peppercorns, allspice, mustard, caraway and coriander seeds in it. I don’t mind the spices, but some people take them out. This has been consistently the best sauerkraut I have ever tasted, and my friends and family love it as well. Together with sourdough sprouted rye bread, it makes the best Rubens (read here for recipe).

At beach fires, where you roast sausages and hot dogs on sticks, it helps make the fun cookout food a lot healthier by supplying pro biotic gut bacteria instead of excess acidic vinager and sulfates as its store bought counterpart would. This is my sauerkraut shared with you in hopes that it helps make your life healthy and fun.


Growing micro Greens and sprouts indoors

The other day I shrank back in horror and shock as I paid 3.50$ for two little tiny tomatoes here in the lush forest of British Columbia. This inspired me to get serious about growing micro greens and sprouts indoors. The horror and shock I felt about my tomatos is nothing compared to what people in the north have to deal with every day to buy fruits and vegetables. I saw this first hand years ago when I traveled through the Northwest Passage on an ice breaker. Now the story is even more drastic. People are sending food to northern neighbors who lack basic food security due to the extremely short growing season and high cost of transport. Celebrity Singer Susan Aglukark sent 1000 pounds of food to her community for Christmas. With the drought in California making fruit and vegetables ever more expensive and having to be imported from ever further destinations, it makes a person seriously think about growing your own micro greens.

My sources of knowing about the high cost of food prices in the north, along with personal knowledge of family members who resided there and struggled to be able to afford a healthy diet can be seen here HP high price of food in Nunavut. The article is about Nunavut. My family members who have experienced this lived in the Northwest Territories. It cost me 70$ to order a cake last winter to contribute towards a family event that I was unable to attend because of the exorbitant price of getting to the Northwest Territories from where I live.

Think of the cost of transporting a small package of seeds as compared to hauling  rapidly aging produce in a refrigerated compartment from Mexico to Alaska, Nunavut or NWT. Think of the environmental impact as well, and you see where it may be more practical for people there to be growing sprouts and micro greens indoors for a steady supply of vegetables, at least in the north and in any circumstance where the food must be transported by air, such as the job I do at isolated locations along the west coast.

I learned how to do this in preparation for provisioning for ocean voyages I was going to take when I lived on my sailboat. Where it ended up being particularly useful is when I went for months on end with no money, and had no shortage of fresh salad greens thanks to old stores of beans, grains, spices and snack foods that were still intact enough to sprout given the right conditions.

Also when I have to pack a months worth of food supplies, and everything else I may need, into 300 pounds or less, it allows a person to have somewhat greater food security to pack foods that can be eaten either as is, or sprouted into fresh greens for a source of salad after all other salad choices have gone rotten.

I set up a shelf in my living room for growing foods I don’t want to buy imported at great expense anymore. I bought 3 full spectrum florescent grow lights to illuminate the shelves. I put them on a timer to provide artificial sunlight for so many hours a day. I use some seed starting soil and potting soil. Basically I have houseplants that feed me.

And so could you. I read about this first in the book Sailing the Farm. (here’s a link to my review of it.) I have benefited from this knowledge mostly in my isolated work environments and during months of poverty. Even when it is not necessary in those circumstances, I am continuing to do it anyway for the purpose of reducing the environmental impact of my own healthy diet. And also for taste, and for being able to have a variety of micro greens that are not readily available in the grocery stores where I live.

Some of my favorites are Fenugreek, mustard greens, arugula, parsley, cilantro, radish, peas, sunflower seeds, wheat, rye and all varieties of lentil and bean. Most dried beans sold as food supplies will sprout. Most grains will sprout as well. Sunflower seeds will sprout if they are raw, not if they are roasted.

I also grow sweet potatoes indoors in pots. The sweet potato does not need as much light and the greens from it are edible, not poisonous. Bail also grows in pots indoors at my house, and a chili pepper has survived the winter, flowered a second time and produced enough little chilies to make a bottle of fermented hot sauce.

One small ice cream bucket can contain enough seeds to keep a family in fresh salad greens for several months. Also, the nutritional value of grains, nuts and beans increases astronomically when they are sprouted, as well as the volume of food that they produce.

I am not saying this is the answer to the food security issues in the north that people are facing because of high food prices, but suggesting this technique of growing food in jars and old pie plates might be able to help a little bit in that situation.

When I worked on the icebreaker going through the Northwest Passage, part of my job was helping out in the galley. Our provisions for a crew ranging from 20-40 people were stored in coolers and store rooms. Part of my job in the middle of the trip was to separate leaves of fresh lettuce and spinach that was months old, going rotten and slimy from the inner centers of each bunch that was still OK. I couldn’t help but think of how much better it would be if we just brought seeds and dirt and grew baby greens on board the ship in containers to eat fresh. All those store rooms had florecent lights. We were running 110 power constantly for refrigeration. Why not for grow lights?

We were searching for the remains of the Franklin expedition who starved and died in the Arctic because of relying too heavily on imported food which became tainted. During my work of sorting out the increasingly rotten produce from our refrigerated store rooms, I could see a similarity that made me feel kind of uneasy. Seeds and a mesh bag became part of my traveling provision supplies from that point on, for any trip longer than 1 week, and part of my diet at home in any season when the garden is not feeding me a steady supply of its produce. This winter I took it a step further and set up the plant shelf in my living room, to grow both mirco greens and sprouts indoors.


Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter


Last week I wrote about making sourdough bread using cooked whole grain dish leftovers. Today I will write about how to make and care for the Sourdough Starter.


My first sourdough starter was given to me by a friend, she said it came from the original batch of San Francisco sourdough. I carefully fed it every couple of days until finally, I forgot. It went rotten and moldy. I had heard that I could scrape the moldy surface off and keep using it, but I didn’t want to take that chance. Maybe in the pioneer days when the nearest package of yeast was hundreds of miles away, and if I wasn’t going to see anyone else I could get some sourdough starter from, maybe then I would consider scraping off the moldy surface of my rotten starter and keeping on using it. But such is not the case in my life.


I found several recopies on the internet and one in the Lighthouse Cookbook, by Anita Stewart. Its a cookbook that celebrates the unique cuisine that has evolved among the BC coast light keepers, where self sufficiency is more than a niche or an interest, its absolutely necessary for quality of life when one only gets food supplies once a month and everything must be pre ordered. No going to the store if you forget something around there.


I actually prefer to use both yeast and sourdough starter if I make bread. This is based on the recipe in the Lighthouse Cookbook, but is my own interpretation, of how I made it when I needed to.



1 tbsp yeast

2 cups boiled water, cooled to lukewarm

1tsp salt

3tsp sugar

2 cups all purpose flour


It can be made with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water as well.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water, add sugar and salt, then mix in flour. Leave out on the counter, loosely covered for 3 days. I store mine in a glass canning jar, with the lid on top but not tightened during this stage.

If you have wine or beer brewing in your house, keep the sourdough starter in a different room to avoid crossing yeasts.



Stir it each day, add a little bit of flour and water each day.

After 3 days, you need to feed it equal amounts of flour and water, and also give it “air” by mixing it up in an open bowl. Leave in the bowl for an hour or two before using to make sure it is activated.


This is a good time to use some or give some away to friends.


Return some to the canning jar after, and once every 4 or 5 days, feed it a similar volume to itself of flour and water. This is the basic sourdough starter that gets kept alive between using it, and improves with age. My current one is about a year old and tastes just like the “ hundreds of years old” one I was given that was part of the original batch of San Francisco sourdough. Strange how that happens, Eh?

But that’s because the same wild yeasts live here on the west coast as lived in San Francisco centuries ago according to experts.

Whole Wheat sourdough bread using up leftover Kutia

whole wheat bread made from leftover kutia

whole wheat bread made from leftover kutia


Eariler this week, while getting ready to celebrate Ukrainian Christams, I wrote a post about how to make healthier Kutia using sprouted wheat, and eleminate 6 hours of labour intensive preperation for a traditional Ukrainian Christmas food. Today, I will tell you about a method to use your leftover kutia from Christmas to make a beautiful loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread.

This method of bread making can use up any leftover whole grain dish. Kutia is especially good because it gives the flavour of honey, poppyseeds, nuts and fruit to the bread as well. I learned how to make bread this way when I was light keeping on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Bread does not travel very well by helicopter in boxes of other groceries, it ends up stale and squished and not that good within days of getting there. Better to learn how to make your own, a bag or bucket of flour travells well and keeps well.

So you get out your sourdough starter if you have one, and feed it. It gets fed flour and water, an equal amount to what you have of starter. Half of it gets returned to its jar. “Feeding the Pet” we say in our house, because sourdough starter is a living thing that needs to be cared for weekly if you keep it refrigerated and every couple of days if it kept in a warm place. I had a jar of sourdough starter given to me by a friend, who said it was over 100 years old, part of the original batch of San Fransisco sourdough. In my early days of sourdough baking, I forgot about it, it died and went moldy. I had to throw it out. Then I made my own from a recipie in the Lighthouse Cookbook. Funny thing, it tasted just like the 100 year old original batch of San Fransisco sourdough. I heard thats because sourdough starter captures wild yeast spors and the same wild yeasts live on the west coast now as lived in San Fransisco 100 years ago. If you don’t have sourdough starter, don’t worry about it. Just let your bread rise in the refrigerator overnight. It will become slightly sourdough within 24 hours.

In the bowl with your sourdough starter, if you have one, after you have taken some out to keep it going, refilling its home container with the same amount you took out, you mix in the leftover kutia.

You add 2 teaspoons of yeast pellets,and let the mixture sit for 4 minutes. Then you add an equal amount of flour as the mixture of liquids you are stirring together in your mixing bowl. Drizzle a little oil onto it if its getting sticky. Adjust the flour or add water to get a dough that won’t stick to your hands, or the bowl. Then knead it for 5 minutes.

Brush the dough with oil and let rise in a warm place 4 to 6 hours, or 8-12 hours in a cool place.

Once it has risen, the dough will be soft and sticky again. Flour and oil may need to be added as you punch it down and knead it again a little. Form into loafs, or put in parchment paper lined bread pans.

Let it rise again, 1 hour in its shape. Brush the top with a mixture of oil and water

heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the bread in the preheated oven. Bake at 400 10 minutes, then turn it down to 375 and bake for 30 minutes. By this time you can check on the bread. Tap on it to determine if it is done.  A cooked loaf of bread will sound hollow, a doughy loaf will not.

This bread will be a rich reddish brown color, with a nutty flavour. The slices are hearty and rustic, with a crisp crust, and slightly sweet. Best when still warm out of the oven served with butter.



wholewheat sourdough bread made from leftover kutia

wholewheat sourdough bread made from leftover kutia




Ukrainian Christmas

Tommorrow is the last day of Christmas around here, the final feast, the last hurrah of the holidays for another year. In my family, Ukrainian Christmas eve is celebrated with a vegitarian feast of traditional Ukrainian food. Somewhat traditional. I am going to discribe for you a dish that I make in a whole new way from the way my ancestors made it. Kutia, wheat, the staff of life, according to tradition. The process for making it in my childhood included pounding it for hours with a baseball bat in a pillowcase, boiling for hours in pot on the stove and finally mixing chopped fruit, poppyseeds, nuts and honey in it for a whole grain pudding dish which was eaten first on Christmas Eve.

I do something a little differently. I sprout the wheat first. Symbolicly, wheat represents the staff of life. However, wheat sprouts tend to occupy this place in my menatily. Organic wheat sprouts. It cuts about 6 hours off of the preperation time, adds vast amounts of nutrition, and changes a source of starchand carbohydrates to a source of vitamins. The staff of life indeed.

To honour the symbolism of the dish, one needs to make sure that the wheat being used is not geneticly modified, or sprayed with Roundup just before harvest, as a lot of conventional wheat has been known to have happen. This is actually being studied as the possible reason why so many people have developed allergies and sensitivites to the golden staff of life, so to speak. So honour our ancestor’s symbolism by using organic wheat. Anything else can hardly be considered the staff of life. Besides, it probably won’t sprout.

I get the wheat from a health food store that is sold there to be used for people growing wheatgrass sprouts at home for juicing and a superfood packed with enzymes and vitamins.

2 days previous, you fill a quart mason jar 1/3 full of organic wheat kernels and fill the rest up with water

drain the water in 24 hours, and rinse the wheat.

Rinse it twice a day for the next 2 days. There should be some splitting and tiny little wheat srouts poking out from the seeds.

The maximum nutrition from this dish would be if you were able to eat it raw, but the grains may still be too tough. Simmer gently in a pot with water or apple juice  until soft. Usually less than 1 hour.

add chopped almonds or walnuts, poppyseeds, dried cherries and honey. Blend in a food processor.

This is Kutia, a dish traditionally eaten first on Ukrainian Christmas eve representing the staff of life, which is an ironic food that a great many people have become allergic to in recent years. There are conflicting veiwpoints in society at the moment as to whether grains and wheat in particular is good for you. From wheat sprouts to white flour, from wheatgrass juice to the Atkins diet which reccomends eleminating it totally from our consumption. From being blamed for the obesity epidemic to being honoured on Christmas Eve, this is wheat, and its value, or its harm, is all in how it is prepared, and how it is grown.





The Search for Radiation Free Nori Sheets

Hi. I have been searching for radiation free nori sheets to make home made sushi ever since I heard about radation leaking from the disabled melted down nuclear power plant at Fukashima Japan into the Pacific ocean.

The first thing I did after this disaster happened was buy a huge package of both nori and wasabi, which would have been made and exported before it happened. It is now 2014 and I have run out. I have been searching for a Canadian made source of nori sheets, but have not found any. I used to buy nori that was made in Richmond, years ago at the Chinese grocery store in Courteny BC, but since the historic Chinese grocery store closed down, I have not been able to find it. For a while, we made rice balls with sushi rice and fish inside them and rolled them in some locally harvested nori flakes, but it was never quite as good as sushi made with nori wraps.

So I asked at grocery stores and health food stores, at specialty stores and big box stores, if any one knew if the nori they sold contained radiation from the Fukashima nuclear disaster, and if anyone was trying to find a source of nori that was not radio active. Most could not answer.

As a commercial fisher, I realized that our fish and seafood was not being tested for radiation to my knowledge, by buyers or the goverment or anyone. This made me very uneasy. Nori is a seaweed grown off the coast of Japan and China, directly in close proximity to the worst ongoing nuclear disaster the world has ever known. And nowhere is there evidence of the main commercial crops of nori being tested for radiation. No storekeeper that I have encountered, even those who sell “organic” nori sheets can tell me if its been tested for radiation. So I finally found a source that tests thier product daily. Its not a source in BC like I am still hoping to find for some genuine homegrown nori sheets, but at least its tested, both on site and in north America. Here’s a link to the site that sells it.

and here is some information about the product, from their site. I searched for a Canadian, or North American supplier, but did not find one that shipped to Canada. Wonder if the Nori Sheets made in Richmond are still available anywhere? I have searched for them for years, but can not remember the brand name. At least these people are having theirs tested.

Product information

“About our Nori – Organic, Kosher, Radiation FREE Welcome to! Our Raw Organic Nori is:

Certified Organic USDA & EcoCert
Certified Kosher By Orthodox Union
RAW – UN-Toasted UnCooked, our nori is dried at under 85 degrees F.
Sealed in packages of 50 sheets for Freshness
Package has a Zipper Lock Seal to reseal and retain Freshness
100% Radiation and contaminant Free – tested in the USA every batch!

Our product is USDA / Ecocert Certified Organic, as well as Kosher Certified. In addition we also test at a independent Laboratory here in the U.S. for more then 450 potential contaminants including pesticide residues and heavy metals, as well as many different Isotopes of Radiation. Out Nori has come out 100 percent “Non Detectable” in every single category.

We use only 1 species (Porphyra Yezoensis) in ALL of our Nori production. This species is in the Red/Purple Algae family and considered the Highest in Nutrition. ALL of our Nori Sheets, Flakes, and Powder are all made from Porphyra Yezoensis and only the top 15 to 20 percent of Harvest makes are grade for item production. The sheets, powder, and flakes are all USDA Certified Organic, Ecocert Certified Organic and Kosher Certified

Our Nori is available in Flakes, Powder and Full size sushi Nori sheets. The sheets come sealed in a package of 50 sheets.


The Tsunami disaster occurred off the northern coast of Japan on the Pacific Ocean side. Our Nori growing site is in a 4000 acre Certified Organic growing area located below the southern tip of Japan in the Sea of Japan near the China coast. To be classified as Internationally Certified Organic growing waters, the area is weekly tested and must have an minimum of 3 year continuous “Clean” results to make this classification. The “Ecocert” program based in France, is much stricter then the USDA Organic program.

The prevailing winds and currents near Japan, travel from south to north, eventually circling around and head from north to south down the western coast of the United States. Even though there was virtually no threat to our geographic location, our factory conducted Daily Radiation Testing early on with continued testing still on going. All tests have shown 100 % non detectable results.

In addition, we send samples to an independent Lab located here in the U.S. (New Jersey) We test for all known isotopes of Radiation from earthquake disaster and have been found 100 % non detectable in all categories.

Please be assured that our Raw Organic Nori is safe and unaffected. We will continue to constantly monitor our supply to ensure the safety of our customers.”


So although it is grown in Japan, it is tested both in Japan and the USA. Most of the commercially available nori is not even tested. I know, I looked into this because I love sushi and I want to do my best to avoid radiation from the fallout of Fukashima. How can we continue to enjoy the seafood we love?

Not reckless abandon, but not needless paranoia either. The answer is to find a trusted and tested source.


Solar baked red velvet cake

Who would ever think that chocolate and beets would go together? Its such a surprise to find that they do, quite well, in red velvet cake. A cake featured in the movie Steel Magnolias, in the shape of an armadillo. Of course, many modern day Red velvet cake recipies call for copious quantities of Red food coloring, but  this is not something I would voluntarily include in any cake I make.

I learned how to make red velvet cake on one of my work trips to the west coast, where I had to buy groceries as I was on my way to the helicopter, and accidently got charged 13$ for 4 beets through a mistake at Thrifties. Always remember to check your reciepts folks, even if your on your way to a flight. So there I was with my horribly expensive beets, trying to think of something real special I could make with them that would make it all worth it. Which is how I came to learn how to make red velvet cake.

At this time, the sun was just begining to shine regularly, and it was time to get out the solar cooker. Or make a new one, since I didn’t pack my own with me. So I made solar baked red velvet cake. A cake baked in a solar cooker will take twice as long as a conventional oven, and may not rise as much. It will also be moist, more like a steamed cake, because solar baking requires glass ontop of the cake, a sealed in environment. You may have to turn the cooker so that it is getting maximum sunlight on all surfaces.

I used to not have an oven when I lived on my sailboat.  So I made cakes and bread either in the solar cooker if it was sunny or on the Cobb BBQ. As an alternitive, I could also bake cake in my pressure canner. But nothing pleased me like baking it in the sunshine.

Here is the recipie

  Solar baked Red velvet Cake


¾ cup pureed beets

1/3 cup oil

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla powder

1 ½ tbls cocoa powder

1 ¼ flour

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp flax meal (optional)

3/4 cup liquids, either milk or yougart with a beaten egg in it

puree beets and oil together, adding sugar and vanilla. Seperatly combine dry ingredients, add to batter alternating between flour mixture and yougart mixture.

Pour into a flat, round cake pan or pie plate. To cook properly in the solar cooker, the dish must be black and have a clear glass pyrex plate overtop of it. Or the cake pan is set inside a larger black cast iron pan that will absorb and store the heat. Place this in the reflector once the thermometer indicated 100 o C or close to it. Solar cooking is not so much of an exact science. It will likely take 1 ½ hours, possibly more, depending on the intensity of the velvet solar baked

and if you would like, here’s a link to plans of how to build the solar cooker I am using to bake this cake. I made it  on the scene from Tuk Tape, a mylar emergancy blanket and coroplast.

solar cooker plans

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