Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So, What's Cookin' or Brewing or Fermenting?

I am learning so much right now and happy that I can absorb information, albeit slowly and in bits after multiple exposures.  My short-term memory problems are alive and well.  I have found that I can, however, learn new information as long as I revisit, review, reread, and do it hands on style.

I created a log of what is going on in my kitchen.  It is a 3-ring binder containing notebook paper and some of my knitting patterns in sheet protectors that I want to, and need to, knit.  Totally not related but didn't have another binder so there it is.  I have some recipes I printed out or created in the front pocket and the manual for my dehydrator in the rear pocket.  I should transfer them to sheet protectors as they keep falling out every time I pick up the binder.  Note to self: put stuff in sheet protectors.

Whenever I start a new batch of something I create a page with the name of the brew/ferment/starter and what sized container it is in. I record the date, what ingredients I used to start the batch and maybe the date when it needs to be checked.  I then create a label on medical tape (because that is all I could find) and stick it to the cloth cover.  It might say "KT Honey" or "Vinegar Scoby KT" or "BG KT Sugar".  Not terribly scientific but it is working fairly well. 

When I add anything to the batch I record exactly what and the date.  I try to take notes on flavors, textures, what is used to cover (plastic wrap, cloth, jar lid), and any changes I see.  If the batch gets anything I don't want in it like mold or fruit flies it gets thrown away and the pages is marked "Done" with final notes. It isn't all about successes.  It is about learning at this stage and I am having a blast.  Now for some updates on some of my current projects.

Ginger Bug

My ginger bug came to life when I dumped 1/4 cup of sugar instead of the usual 2 teaspoons along with the daily 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger.  But the biggest change was replacing the plastic lid with a cloth cover so the mixture could breathe and be exposed to yeast and bacteria (the good kind). I also switched to grating the ginger from chopping.  Huge difference.  Crazy activity, and finally, YES, finally I have ginger bug.

Ginger bug started (not much life)
The sediment on the bottom of the jar is the Ginger Bug

I am studying the making of Ginger Beer, different recipes, trying to wrap my head around the process.  It is fairly complicated and it could be dangerous (exploding jars), so I want to be very careful and probably place my brew in a plastic bucket with a lid and possibly keep it wrapped in towels.  Just possibly and most probably that is what I will do.

First Times

Sauerkraut (left) and encurtido (right)
After discovering that fermented vegetables contain wonderful, healthful probiotics I wanted to give it a try.  And since my boys are adventurous I knew it wouldn't go to waste.  All I have to do is tell them that it is really healthy for them and they are game to give it a try.

Sauerkraut is simply sliced organic green cabbage sprinkled with salt, pounded for as long as I could handle it (using the wooden part of my ricer I might add), place in hermetic jar, add more brine to cover cabbage and leave for a minimum of 4 weeks.

The encurtido was going to be fermented but I have a missionary friend who lives in Honduras who shared with me their encurtido recipe so I couldn't resist.  When I read vinegar and sugar I was hooked.  I love sweet pickle relish, anything with vinegar and sugar in it, really.  So I chopped up red onions, carrots, peeled a bunch of my home grown garlic (which are very small but perfect for this recipe because you put them in whole), a huge hot and sweet pepper, fresh oregano and some red pepper flakes (because I didn't have any jalapenos.  I tasted it the next day and Yum!  I tasted it on Day 2 and it has some fire and even more flavor.  I am going to love this stuff.

Fermenting garlic
My fermenting garlic after a week.  I actually used one of the cloves from the smaller jar last night in our stir fry veggies.  FYI: those are really big cloves of garlic.  I bought 10 heads of garlic from one of the organic farm vendors at the Chester Sunday Market in Chester, Connecticut.  Last Sunday I bought 2 more just to have some fresh around.  They were hardneck garlic; the variety name eludes me.

Kombucha with baby scoby
My first batch of Kombucha was ready on Tuesday.  I took the scoby mother and baby and started a new batch of Kombucha.  I then let my children taste Kombucha for the very first time.  This stuff was not sweet at all.  The two that tried it absolutely loved it and wanted more (which they didn't get because you start out drinking Kombucha very slowly and carefully as it can cause some problems as the body starts to detox).

At the same time I started a new batch with my Blue-Green algae Kombucha (store-bought KT which formed a scoby here at home).  We'll see how well is works.  I will not be adding blue-green algae to the subsequent batches.

I am hoping that next week I will be able to brew a 5 liter batch.  Just hoping!

Seed Preservation and Sharing

Fermenting cucumber and tomato seeds for preservation

I have been collecting seeds from my heirloom vegetables, mostly lettuce right now.  Lots and lots of lettuce.  However, I decided to start fermenting some Suyo Long cucumber and Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato seeds since they are part of a swap.  Just take the seeds out of the vegetable, place in a glass or jar, cover with a little water, cover container with plastic wrap and let nature do her thing.  The top gets moldy and the fermenting process removes that gel substance on those seeds which prevent germination.  When they are finish fermenting I will rinse them in a strainer and allow to dry on a dinner plate.  Placed in a paper envelope and marked with variety and date they are ready to save for next year or share as I am doing.  I have two people waiting for seeds.

The littlest pumpkin

The pumpkin vine died before this little guy (above) could ripen.  It was still partially green when I picked it and brought it in.  A few days ago I noticed a little black mildew on the outside so I decided to process it.  Wash outside with water, rubbing away any dirt and/or mildew.  Cut in half.  Scoop out seeds and stringy part.  Place each half face down in a baking dish with about 1/2" of water and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour or until pumpkin is tender.  Scoop flesh out, puree and either freeze or use in the recipe of your choice.  This little baby sugar pumpkin produced exactly 1 cup of puree.  I intended to freeze it and use it with other pumpkin I process in the future but I got it in my head that I wanted to try pumpkin pancakes and I just happened to find an amazingly delicious whole wheat pumpkin pancake recipe.  In the place of the applesauce I just added another egg.  I also added a few more pumpkin pie type spices such as ginger and cloves, just a teensy bit.  As I always do with pancake recipes, I started with beating the eggs until foamy.  This makes for a very light and fluffy pancake.  The rest was as directed in the recipe.  I should have taken some pictures but the boys literally stood by the stove and ate each huge pancake as it came out of the pan.  Served with organic butter and maple syrup, these were heavenly.

That's all for today.  Hope you have something awesome cooking, brewing or fermenting in your kitchen!

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