This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Build a Better Burger

Well, it's July 4th so it is hard not to think about burgers and that got me remembering that I never followed up on my ketchup capers!  This is a photo of a burger I made topped with my fermented ketchup that I wrote about a few months ago.  So I thought I'd catch you up on the ketchup (couldn't resist that pun!) and then also talk about how even a few simple changes can take the all American burger and move it from unhealthy to healthy with just a few small changes.

First, the ketchup!  So as you can see, this ketchup blob looks just like Heinz or Hunt's or any other brand of ketchup.... but it is most definitely not.  Instead of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, this ketchup has only tomato paste, maple syrup, whey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, cloves and cinnamon.  The real kicker is that it is fermented which means that there is an increase in beneficial bacteria which helps improve our immune system and will aid in the digestive process.

I had experimented with making the ketchup starting with fish sauce but for the moment I've abandoned that route as I think my fish sauce needs more work.  I may try it again using some commercial fish sauce.  But for this round of ketchup, it could not have been easier.  Here's what I did:

Homemade Ketchup:

2 cups tomato paste (preferably homemade) * see note at bottom
1/8 - 1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup whey*
2 TSB apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves

(if you want to make the tomato paste, start with fresh tomatoes, remove the skin by scalding quickly in boiling water and removing skin, then cut in half and squeeze out the seeds and then roast in the oven and then puree.)  If you buy the paste, try to find glass jars as the canned tomato pastes and sauces will have a lot of BPA in them and that would be something to try to avoid.

In explaining how to make whey, the simplest explanation is that it is the clear liquid that you see on top of yogurt.  You can make it by taking yogurt and pouring it into a strainer lined with cheese cloth and let the clear liquid drip into a bowl.  It will take a few hours to do this and if you do it long enough the yogurt remaining will be cream cheese which you can use separately and maybe add some honey.  For supermarket brands, my favorite yogurt is Seven Stars Biodynamic WHOLE milk yogurt.

Put the tomato paste in a bowl and add the maple syrup.  Then put the whey in along with the apple cider vinegar, salt and spices.  You can experiment with more or less spices and also try new ones.  If you want a ketchup with some kick, you could add a dash of cayenne pepper.  Mix together until all blended.  Then put all this in a mason jar and add one more TBS or so of whey over the top of the mix and just put the cap on the jar and let it sit on the counter for 3 -5 days.  That's it!  It really could not be simpler and then you have gourmet ketchup that is health building rather than health decaying.

Now as for the rest of the burger... you can make a HUGE difference in the quality of your burger in splurging on grass fed beef from a local farmer.  If you plan ahead you can save a lot of money by buying a 1/2 or 1/4 cow from a farmer you trust and grind your own meat.  If that sounds like too much trouble, then just go to a farmer's market and buy some grass fed beef.  I know it is pricey... but the quality of what is IN the beef is just so superior and is so much better for you than the CAFO beef that it is worth it to eat less burgers that are high quality and just spend your money on the good stuff.

You can also add a lot to the burger's quality by using real cheddar cheese instead of processed American cheese.  Adding some romaine lettuce or some avacado wedges or any other REAL food would also be a plus.  And for the bun, read those bun labels carefully.  It is very hard to find hamburger buns that don't have lots of preservatives in them.  Of course the best bet is to make your own sourdough buns but again, if that just sounds like more than you want to do, at least look for buns made only from ingredients you can pronounce.  Looking for things like flour, salt, culture and not much else in the ingredients will give you the best health outcomes.

A burger could really be so many different things-- it is a shame that they all have the same name as a fast food burger versus and a grass-fed, homemade ketchup, homemade rolls, quality cheese burger are not recognized by your body as the same thing at all.  The first one will slow you down, clog your system and make you feel bloated while the second one can energize, revitalize and nourish you.  The choice is up to you... What's IN YOUR Burger?

Also posted in Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real food Wednesday

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