Welcome to the sign and time of Capricorn. This year Saturn personally handed over the change of signs and seasons, bringing us a harsh and bitter cold with his ingress from Sagittarius into Capricorn. In the body, Capricorn rules structures – bones, skin, nails, teeth and the parathyroid gland which governs calcium regulation. So as we slow down in the cold winter, we have an opportunity to fortify and strengthen these structures with a little medicine from Saturn. A Capricorn meal should be warming, practical, traditional and full of calcium building ingredients. Calcium is hard and inflexible. In order to get calcium absorbed it needs supportive nutrients – a calcium pill doesn’t cut it. Whole foods that have a variety of minerals like magnesium, potassium, silica and good fats will aid the utilization of the calcium. Raw sources of calcium do not get absorbed effectively. Wise Woman and herbalist Susun Weed says “because minerals are rocklike, we need to break open cell walls to get at them. Raw, fresh foods do not deliver minerals to our bodies”. Long slow cooked meals draw out the calcium from its sources. Bone broth and cooking with bones is one of the best ways to extract minerals for absorption. If you are a vegetarian, then the addition of seaweeds and herbal infusions of nettle, horsetail, comfrey and oat straw will fortify you with calcium, mineral rich sources. For Capricorn’s meal I visited my French Canadian ancestors. This 17th century meal has only a couple of adaptations from Chef Marc Miron’s recipe to make it a truly calcium rich, warming delight for the cold winter. I have given my adaptations at the end of his recipe. Marc Miron's Habitant Pea Soup Makes: 6 to 8 servings Preparation time: about 40 minutes (if ham stock is already prepared) 1 lb (450 g) dried yellow split peas Half a medium white onion, finely chopped 2 stalks celery, finely chopped 1 small carrot, finely chopped 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil 9½ cups (2.25 L) ham stock (see recipe below) 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 cup (250 mL) ham hock meat (from recipe below) Salt and pepper to taste 1. Check peas for small stones and discard discoloured ones. 2. In a heavy soup pot, sweat the diced onion, celery and carrots in the canola oil. 3. Add ham stock and dried peas, bring to a boil, then simmer, skimming foam from the top to remove impurities, until vegetables and split peas are tender. Add the thyme. 4. In a blender, purée half of the soup, then return mixture to the pot. Add the ham hock meat and adjust the seasoning. (When cooking split peas and lentils, Miron waits until the dish is almost done before adding salt and pepper to taste.) Garnish soup with croutons and a sprig of fresh thyme if desired. Ham Stock Makes: about 10 cups (2½ L) Preparation time: about 2 hours 2 small smoked ham hocks 1 cup (250 mL) diced carrots 1 cup (250 mL) diced celery 1 cup (250 mL) diced onion About 12 cups (3 L) cold water 10 sprigs fresh thyme 4 bay leaves 10 sprigs Italian flat parsley 15 whole black peppercorns 1. In a large stock pot, place ham hocks, carrots, celery, onion and cold water (adding more cold water if needed to cover.) 2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Skim foam off the top to remove any impurities. 3. Add the thyme, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns. Simmer for 1½ hours, skimming from time to time. 4. Drain stock through a colander, discarding vegetables but setting the ham hocks aside to cool. Cool and refrigerate the stock. Once the ham hocks are cool enough to handle but still warm, clean the meat from the bones, discarding the fatty and skin parts. Chop the meat into bite-size pieces and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.
Adaptations: For the stock: I put the ham hocks in a crock pot and filled with water and 1 ½ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar and let sit for 2 hours. This will start to pull the minerals from the bone. Then I added celery, carrots and onion, thyme and bay leaves and simmered in the crock pot for 8 hours (the long cooking will pull out minerals, collagen and gelatin from the bone). I am not usually a pork eater, but if you are – take out the ham hocks after an hour of simmering and remove the meat. You can add the meat back in at the last half hour of cooking the soup. To the soup I added one bunch of kale coarsely chopped. This is for extra calcium and I also have a need for something green in my meal . I let the soup simmer for 2 hours instead of the 40 minutes in the recipe. The kale will release more calcium the longer it is cooked. Although they say you do not have to soak split peas, I did soak the split peas for about 3 hours and rinsed the peas several times. This helps eliminate the phytic acids in the legume that will inhibit calcium release from the peas and inhibit absorption from the calcium in the rest of the soup.