Tuesday, February 20, 2007

yogurt success

the living community that it is, my yogurt keeps evolving. and it's gotten to a new level again this time!
i was pleased with the last batch, thinking i might not be able to get it any closer to that Straus heaven to which every yogurt secretly aspires (if you don't have the pleasure to taste it, you can read about it ~ and the dairy's methane digester ~ here: http://www.strausfamilycreamery.com/?title=Yogurt ). well, we got one step higher. this time i did a whole half-gallon container of Organic Pastures raw whole milk. i divided it into the Always Yogurt mason jar, and another one, with a tablespoon of my own yogurt in as the culture. in the cooler with a hot water bath surrounding them. and two days later = i thought they hadn't taken by looking at them, b/c there wasn't a blob of yogurt with watery whey as always before; it was all the same consistency. so i opened them up, and ! it's all thick! definitely a thicker blob in the center, but even the thinner stuff is thick and. . CREAMY!! doesn't pack the sour punch that the last batch did, and that's ok, too.
i realize this is not the most interesting post to read, but i'm excited!! this is good stuff.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

ferment, chapter two

well, the verdict is out for my latest eXtReMe(!) Fermentation Adventure Week ~ that week ~ a couple ago, when i fermented anything and everything (except meat) i could have my whey with (ha. sorry that's a horrible pun. but i kept it!! it's making the cut!).
my taste-testing panel (the very brave Mr. Sealion) and i sampled the ferments today.
the beet kvass ~
which i'd never had it before, is cubed raw beets with some whey, sea salt, and 2 quarts of water. . and you drink the liquid as a tonic. was mild and beety, with perhaps a slight hint of seasalt. i suppose i might have been expecting the intensity of beet *juice*, which i love (in a concoction the Sac Nat Foods Co-op's deli calls Madame Curie ~ beet, garlic and ginger=YUM!). it was fine. Sealion called it "potent beet zing", i think.
the citrus preserves ~
a layered concoction of lemon, orange, and grapefruit, with whey, sucanat (evaporated cane juice), and sea salt, came out WOW! grapefruit x 1000 !!!! ( i don't like grapefruit. . ) my total experience of it was touching one little triangle of an orange slice to my tongue, and saying "NYAAAA!!!" i did this several times, for effect. kind of like those sour candy balls kids eat ~ i couldn't actually keep it in my mouth, but would just touch it to my tongue for the sensationalism of it all! Sealion said, "WHOA!!" and, "well, at least it's pretty [in the jar]!" HA!
win some, lose some. process is a beautiful and fun thing.
mango chutney ~
OOOO!! i like! i don't know how you could go wrong with mango, but i wasn't gonna hold my breath. this ended up having a smooth texture like applesauce, with spices, raisins, chopped almonds, grated ginger, and a lot of lemon zest (and whey to aid fermentation). the first thing i notice when i put it in my mouth is the zing of the fermentation, then the sour of the lemon. the spices come later, and linger (esp. the minced ancho!). i ate spoonfuls of this happily, noting different flavor discoveries with each bite.
i could imagine it going nicely on a burger. yum.
tiffie-kraut :) ~
i don't even remember what all i put in this now. . it was comprised of what i found on the overflowingly-piled produce shelf of the fridge: saved-and-forgotten cauliflower leaves (not florets), some purple cabbage, forgotten green onion, sliced strawberry radish, apples. . celery. and garlic slices.
this is Sealion's favorite. the overarching flavor is garlic, and has a nice fermentedness about it. and a lovely purple color has permeated everything, the juice and the veggies (as you can see in the photo of the first "ferment" post). i was happy that it simply tastes like kraut to me, and is not something i have to get up the nerve to taste every time ~ i am passionate about fermentation, but still new, after all..

now: what's next?

Monday, February 05, 2007


more on the subject of Wasting Nothing ~ we've been making a lot of broths lately.

as we are preparing the evening meal, we collect all the useful scraps in a bowl ~ onion and garlic peels and nubs (there's a whole lot of those), leek parts, carrot nubs, green tops ~ such as carrots and leeks, ginger, peppers, celery and its leaves, herbs, and bones. we keep a few gallon-size freezer bags in the freezer, and just deposit the scraps in the bags.
when one of the bags is full, it's time to make broth.

we have a cast iron Dutch Oven (a soup pot with a tight-fitting lid) that i fill with scraps.
i usually include an extra onion, or any loose garlic cloves lying around,
and a few sticks of kombu seaweed~ extra dense with minerals.
depending on the flavor i'm after, i might add a sweet potato or carrots for sweetness, or extra ginger, or hot pepper, or even more garlic. you can tailor your recipe, with herbs and spices, too, or enjoy the pot-luck.
i fill the pot with filtered water so that it covers the scraps.
slowly bring it up to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer.
with an all-veggie broth, you can let it simmer for just a few hours till the veggies are soft, or you can let it long-simmer to get a dense, mineral-rich broth.
the kind of bones you include dictates how long they simmer. fish bones ~ heads and all if you have it ~ take just an hour or so, not longer.
chicken and beef bones are very nourishing. to get all the goodness out of these, keep the pot on a very low heat for up to two days.

add a couple tablespoons of vinegar to pull the nutrients out.
check the pot occasionally and add more water so that the ingredients are always covered with water.

when the broth is done to your liking, strain it. then: use it, or
let it cool ~ you can set the pot in a larger container with ice, or pour the strained broth into a shallow dish like a casserole and set it on ice (veggie broth needn't cool with as great haste).
transfer the broth to smaller containers. i like to pour it into glass jars, and set them (tightly sealed) on their side in the freezer for quicker thawing. lots of people like to use ziploc bags, and freeze them flat; this works well too.
label them so you remember what they are.

(things not to be included in the broth-pot: high-fat fish bones, such as salmon [the oil breaks down too quickly, and then is not good for you], and members of the cabbage family [these tend to add too strong a flavor]).

anytime i make a soup or sauce, i pull out some broth and use it for the liquid.
this adds so (!) much flavor (!), and so (!) much nourishment (!) to the meal.
if you eat meat, the gelatin in the broth helps your body assimilate the nutrients.
~ and any "real" cook (says _The_Joy_of_Cooking_) swares by broths and stocks in her soups and sauces!
you can also use the broth by itself ~ for a nourishing meal on its own. . with a little salt, you're good to go! . . and ~ a great supplement for furry companions.

in Nature, there is no waste. broth-making is gleaning more valuables before they end up in the landfill.
plus ~ why throw away all that nutrient-rich goodness? responsible for you, your loved-ones, and the Earth.

broth making is so easy. it's takes a little forethought until you're used to it, but the rewards will train your brain very quickly! :-D

Sunday, February 04, 2007

yogurt and sourdough

while i'm on a roll ~
i've finally made yogurt i like a lot!!
i've been making it pretty regularly, using Organic Pastures raw whole milk, and Strauss whole milk yogurt as the culture.
i had been heating it only to the minimum temperature so as to keep the beneficial rawness in action, and wondering whether i was just not going to produce satisfactory yogurt that way.it was turning out . . passable..
but ~ the last time i was determined. i let that baby sit in its little cooler beside the radiator for days. i added more starter, warmed up the container again, and let it sit some more. what i got was *so* fermented, it was sparkling. i'd say ~ alcoholic to the nose. i tasted it. it had a bite, alright. but had a good texture, and i grew to like it.
well ~ this most recent batch i used *that* as my starter culture, and voila: i had a good textured, tasty yogurt in two days! the "curd" had filled up the whole of the jar, with whey just floating around it (others had been 1/3-1/2 full of curd ~ runny at that ~ and the rest whey). some pretty cream on top, the custardy-curd held up on my spoon, and was ... tasty!!
i am encouraging a yogurt culture that is tailored to our own specific yog-ing situation. :-D
at first i attempted to mask that flamboyant tartness with something sweet, but i've since embraced it.

it might help that i am growing accustomed to other sour flavors, as with the taste of homemade sourdough bread b/c
i have finally figured out how to keep a sourdough culture!!!
this process had been elusive to me. i followed the suggestions i'd read and heard, and either i a) didn't have faith, b) didn't know what i was supposed to be looking for, c) wasn't using fresh enough flour, or d) wasn't feeding it often enough or ~ e) any combination of the above.

i consulted Sourdough Home, at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.html , and found that the starting "recipe" i was using was alright:
1/4 cup filtered water
a little less than 1/4 cup fresh flour, rye works well to get it started, preferably freshly ground
mix it up, store it in a jar with a cloth over the top to protect from flies,
keep it in a warm place (in winter, i've been keeping it snuggled up near the radiator.. with the cats.).
every twelve hours, pour some of it out, and feed it some more flour and water. it should show little bubbles within a few days. you might not notice it as "active" but give it time, have faith, and be patient.

it worked. maybe i just believed, or maybe other factors were involved, but i have a lively starter that is fun to watch, sometimes like a lava lamp. it smells pleasant ~ not "rotten" or "off",
and it makes good bread!!

photo: successful yogurt. :)

the r(E)volution will not be microwaved

"If Evolution Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve"
-Jello Biafra

might i strongly recommend:

_The_Revolution_Will_Not_Be_Microwaved_, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
i was a fan of his as soon as i opened the cover of his first book, _wild_fermentation_.
i got to hear him speak at a small meeting in Nevada City. he was as personable and inclusive in person as his voice is in his writing. i had brought him some homemade ginger ale, and ginger-carrot-hiziki pickle in homage, but i got all red-faced and sheepish.. leaving the place i immediately felt GOOFY. but that's ok. he didn't know any different, and i was even more inspired!
this man's life is the inspirational light that shines through his writing. his book is at once handbook for eating and manifesto for living. by choosing to take an active roll in feeding yourself, you take a stand against the Powers That Be who would have you mindlessly agree to whatever they're shoving your way ~ whether it be multi-national corporate consumerism, genetically-modified mono-cropped anti-nutrition, or global political smokescreen and blatant lies.

here's the review i wrote on Amazon:

in a time when spinach could be deadly, and cloned animals might be ground into that next Big Sandwich,
there is an underground revolution happening, and it's happening all over the world. folks are making possibly-unnoticed-but-radical choices about food. they choose not to let corporations and government dictate what and how they must eat, because when food choices are taken out of the hands of the people, the people lose.
in this textbook for the revolution, Sandor Ellix Katz examines the intricately interwoven web that is our food supply. from water and land rights to bake sales, "free trade," and free food, he shows the damage done when big government (big brother) and big business make our food choices for us. the book uncovers a whole lot of the story that they would prefer we not know, and shows how tied together it all is ~ history, ecology, economy, ethics, civil rights, big vs. small, corporate vs. community, seed laws and plant prohibitions, down to even the most basic right of putting in your mouth something you feel like eating, and maybe sharing it with a friend. the picture seems mighty bleak. but that's where the revolution comes in; people everywhere continue to join around the table ~ the very basis of culture itself ~ not to let the powers-that-be separate them from their food supply. for survival, for nutrition, for connection, for charity, for protest ~ for pleasure (!), folks are keeping food traditions alive, or exploring them for the first time. they're holding onto age-old agricultural practices (like seed saving), and creating new solutions to food waste (like dumpster diving and road-kill salvage!). but Katz doesn't stop there; each section (as well as including extensive resources for further study and connection) extends a personable and encouraging, do-it-yourself helping hand to guide the reader to take steps to becoming a revolutionary herself. because choosing to be aware about food at all has become an act of rebellion.
The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved is concentrated, intelligent research as well as compelling, passionate storytelling. it is manifesto, cultural catalyst and cookbook, promising a place for each of us at the revolutionary table.
a fan of Katz as soon as i opened Wild Fermentation, i highly recommend this book. if you are interested in food politics at all, or even just love to eat good food, this is a must-read textbook and reference tool for our time.

photo: Sandor Katz with some cheesy red-faced chick as he toured CA to promote his new book.


well, i must say ~ i've been quite the fermentation fanatic lately. ~not a fermentation "fetishist", as Sandor Katz calls himself, but quite crazy. watch out Plant Kingdom: if you don't seem as if you've a Career Goal prior to the compost pile... you might just get FER-mented.

this week i made: some version of sauerkraut/fermented veggies (Gyrlene says, "TiffieKraut".), beet kvass (a tonic from which you use the liquid and discard the solid), mango chutney, and lemon-orange-grapefruit marmalade. OH YEAH!!
this is not even counting the raw milk yogurt and sourdough breads i made (ok ~ now it is!!)...

after reading (and loving) _The_Revolution_Will_Not_Be_Microwaved_, and reading just the first chunk of _Food_Not_Lawns_ [how to turn your yard into a garden and your neighborhood into a community], by Sandor Katz, and H.C. Flores, respectively, i am even more enthused to WASTE NOTHING!!
and fermentation is another layer of utility you can tastily easily enjoyably employ.

one of the many ways i appreciate Sandor's writing is that he finds a way to encourage me not to be afraid to experiment and try something new ~ with style and confidence. another is that he insists that, at least with fermentation (different from, say, cake-baking), "recipes" are just ideas and guidelines; mix and match, use what you have, do what you like and what works for you. i hope to try every single recipe/idea in his _wild_fermentation_ book. it inspires me.

with what falls under his term for "sauerkraut," almost anything in the kitchen can go, it seems.
this time around i used: red cabbage, the outer *leaves* of cauliflower heads, green onions, garlic, celery, strawberry daikon radish, and apple ( i think that's it. . ), a bunch of stuff in our kitchen that didn't seem to have a plan.
i varied the cuts and shapes for interest.
i collected it all in a bowl and pounded it with a coffee cup to get the juices flowing ( i think i left the apple out of this.. for integrity of shape. .).
then i packed it tight into jars, layering it with light sprinklings of sea salt as i crammed with my fist.
i fit jar lids from slightly smaller-sized jars in on top, and weighted them with full beer bottles. this is because the stuffs tend to float in the salt water brine, and you need them to be covered by the liquid in order to ferment correctly.
after a day or so the juice was not flowing amply enough to cover the lot of it, so i added some filtered water and a sprinkling of salt. in another day, they were bubbling ~ one was frothing, and looking and smelling goo-ood!!
i'll wait about a week, then put it in the fridge.

the beet kvass recipe i used from _Nourishing_Traditions_, by Sally Fallon.
i used a few clean beets,
chopped them up, and put them in a 2-quart jar.
then mixed about 1/4 cup whey (from my yogurt and cheese-making endeavors) with
a ..tablespoon sea salt, and added it in with the beets.
i filled the jar with filtered water, and closed it tight.
it'll be ready in a few days.

i cleaned out the fridge one day, and found a half-full (not half-empty!!) jar of mango quarters that someone had left in there since.. summer.
i opened the jar and ! whew! that's alcohol! then i thought: what a perfect candidate for fermentation!!
so i used the _Nourishing_Traditions_ recipe for "fruit chutney" as a guide. it has raisins, chopped almonds, lots of lemon rind, and spices, plus whey and sea salt.
we'll see . ..

and today: i used a grapefruit that seemed sad and neglected, a rind-less lemon, and an orange i borrowed from a neighbor's sidewalk (yup ~ i live in california!) to make marmalade. :)
i scrubbed and sliced those babies real thin.
then i attractively layered them in a quart jar.
i mixed: whey, sucanat (evaporated cane juice), and sea salt with some filtered water, and poured it in.
(this, from _Nourishing_Traditions_, once again)
it is so lovely to behold!

things already have the necessary fermentative bacteria and yeasties to go on their own. however, whey gives them a boost. sea salt helps control the action (and gives flavor and minerals)..

what can we ferment next??

the kraut makin's,
tampin' it down,
beet kvass (with my lovely new set of measuring cups and spoons in the background [thanks, Mom!!]),
mango chutney,
citrus marmalahd,
the family portrait