A Paleo Conversation : From CST to PST, a bi-regional take on living paleo.
  • The Spice of Life

    J- I’m excited for Baby SCOBY to arrive to Redlands, so thanks for the Resurrection post. I’ve been rereading Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation for all kinds of ideas about foods to ferment and ways to incorporate probiotics into my daily diet. I think I recall telling you how I once sent him fan mail and then a few months later I had a dream where he considered me one of his best friends…I’m hoping in some way that I might be slightly clairvoyant.

    Anyway, buried deep in the chapter entitled “Fermenting Vegetables (and Some Fruits Too),” he talks about how he discovered cultured cabbage juice in the 1990s. He had been developing an interest in fermentation in hopes of reversing the immune dysfunction that the HIV virus had been causing both in him and other friends. A short paragraph follows about kaanji, what he calls “a delicious spicy Punjabi beverage made by fermenting carrots and mustard seeds in water and salt.” The traditional recipe calls for burgundy/red/black carrots and gives this glorious hue to the mustardy concoction.  I felt slightly obsessed by the recipe and felt determined to figure out more about the history of this beverage.

    This led me to this lovely blog by an Indian gal living in Las Vegas (my home town) called sinfullyspicy.com. The author is named Tanvi and calls herself a “writer, cook, photographer, and spice lover.” I just adore her. She has a post about kaanji that is both delightful and informative. As a spice lover, her recipe includes a whole host of exotic spices that I had never heard of.

    So, here’s what I did. First, I dredged up some of the spices that I bought during a mission trip I took to Bangladesh back in 2009. Then, I found a local store (incidentally owned by a Bangladeshi) and picked up a few of the other previously unknown spices. I couldn’t find the burgundy carrots, so I substituted beets for color and flavor.


    We peeled and chopped up the carrots and beets. I’m not sure you need to peel them because that is where a lot of the aerobic bacteria live.


    For every carrot I cut up, Henry ate at least half of each one.  I ended up with 6 carrots and two beets.

             IMG_2374    IMG_2376


    We tossed everything into an open air glass container, added in the spices, and then poured in water that we had dissolved sea salt in.  I used sinfullyspicy’s basic recipe and spice list, except for the fenugreek (because I forgot to buy it).


    Kaanji ferment, aka Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole)- strikingly similar in appearance

    I left it covered with the headdress to prevent flies from getting in and we waited about 7 days. It started to bubble and emit a spicy aroma.  It wasn’t funky like the sauerkraut that’s percolating on my counter, but a pleasant and curious scent. I made sure to stir it up every day just to rotate some of the floating spices.

    While waiting for the final product, I thumbed through some of my pictures from when I was in Bangladesh. Although India (where kaanji hails from) and Bangladesh are really two strikingly different countries, I still thought a lot about my trip. Many of the spices used are ubiquitous in both nations. Here are a few pictures that I thought you’d enjoy.


    Morning sun over one of the many rice paddies



    Me and many children from Madaripur


    My colleagues and me in front of the hospital in Dumki, Bangladesh. Over 90% of the country is Muslim, but there are these little foci throughout the country where you would find Christians.  Dumki was one such place. The locals in town used to laugh at me because they thought that I looked like Jesus. I guess the height and long curly hair threw them for a loop.


    Here I am with the only OB/Gyn for the hospital (and probably for a 100-mile radius) performing a C-section

    Okay, I digress. Back to kaanji.


    After a good week, I think the ferment was just right. I had a glass last night. The flavor is like an aromatic beet kvass. I would say a 4-ounce glass is probably just right for drinking every night. I had a good 8-ounces as I reminisced over my time in Bangladesh and how great Peter O’Toole was in Lawrence of Arabia, all while listening to Bob Marley…

    Lots of love from Redlands. Say hi to all your boys!


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