Category Archives: Food Preserving

The Art of Fermentation in Crocks

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With Fall around the corner,  it is time to join the growing trend and start fermenting garden produce for the winter ahead.  IF you are reluctant to try fermentation, just know there are no documented case of dangerous botulism ever occurring in fermented foods.  Sally Fallon Morrel, author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of the Weston A Price foundation,   remarks, “Let your nose be your guide.”  and I have found this is trustworthy counsel.

Fermentation is the transformative action of microorganisms that are all around us.  Lacto-Fermentation (a more accurate term) is the time-tested process our ancestors used to produce lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits the bacteria which want to putrefy foods so lacto acid produced during the fermentation process naturally extends the useful, edible life of foods.  We will also discuss the nutritional benefits below.

veggies2Vegetables that can be fermented include cabbage, zucchini, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, beets, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower and much more just for a start!

By learning to encourage the proliferation of beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria you are on the road to preserving food inexpensively, healthfully, and for extended periods of time.  There will be no need for water bath or pressure canning with this method.

There are many nutritional benefits to fermenting vegetables

  • Fermented foods are powerful aids to digestion.
  • The microbes begin to break down the food before it enters our digestive tracts.
  • Fermentation breaks down compound nutrients that are known to be hard to digest such as lactose, and gluten.
  • Beneficial for gut troubles.
  • Fermentation produces additional nutrients and enhances the ones already in the foods.
  • Helps to build up higher levels of B vitamins during digestion.
  • Lactobacilli create Omega-3 fatty acids essential for cell membrane and immune system functions.
  • The naturally occuring microbes are often better than high quality commercial digestive enzymes.
  • Fermentation will increase cancer fighting compounds found in cabbage and other brassicas

To ferment foods you can use Ball type canning jars with rings and lids which are ideal for small batches, or  Crocks for larger batches.  A fermentation crock is a stoneware pot designed to hold cabbage and/or other vegetables as they ferment.

Open Crocks and Water-Sealed Crocks.

The two primary types of ceramic crocks for fermentation available are Open Crocks and Water-Sealed Crocks.  Both have advantages and disadvantages to consider.  Generally speaking fermenting crocks have thicker stoneware walls which creates a more stable fermentation temperature, resulting in sauerkraut and fermented veggies with a greater depth of flavor.

opencrocksAdvantages of an Open Crock

  • Generally, less expensive than a water-sealed crock and readily available.
  • Open top and straight walls make it easy to clean.
  • Easy to fit whole or large vegetables into.

 

 

Disadvantages of an Open Crock

  • Ferment prone to developing surface mold and/or Kahm yeast (a harmless yeast that appears when a ferment is exposed to air).  This surface mold can be removed and discarded.
  • Older crocks may contain glazes unsafe for food use, especially crocks from Mexico.
  • Weights and lids often need to be purchased separately and can dramatically raise the cost of the crock.
  • If a cloth is used to cover your ferment, it’s prone to wicking brine onto the floor.

    Water-Sealed Crock

Watersealedcrocks

Water-sealed crocks are a bit more difficult to find.  After a water-sealed crock is packed, two half-circle weights are placed into the crock to keep your ferment submerged. Then, the lid is placed into an open moat which is then filled with water. No outside air is able to enter the crock and carbon dioxide gases produced during fermentation can easily escape or bubble-out.

Advantages of a Water-Sealed Crock

  • Makes for a very easy, almost care-free fermentation experience (You have to keep the moat filled with water.).
  • Neither flies nor fruit flies can get into the crock and lay eggs.
  • Very little chance of mold or surface yeasts growing on your ferment.
  • Takes the guesswork out of making sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables.

Disadvantages of a Water-Sealed Crock

  • The water in the moat must be monitored and filled as necessary. If not, the seal will be broken and air will be allowed to flow into the crock.
  • Narrower opening makes it more difficult to pack your ferment.
  • Shape at the top of the crock, where the lid is, can make it difficult to clean.
  • Sealed environment makes it hard to monitor what is going on inside.
  • Generally, more expensive than an open crock.

In general, the use of metal and plastic containers is discouraged for obvious reasons.

More Information and reliable recipes about fermentation. 

Maria Hodkins, is a local Certified Nutritional Therapist and Fermentation Expert.  She will be teaching an upcoming class on Fermenting Vegetables.  To receive information about Maria’s upcoming classes, please email her at realbutterandlove@gmail.com.

Idiot#2The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermentation By Wardeh Harmon

Maria says this book is loaded with easy recipes many of which are her favorites.

 

 

 

_artoffermentationThe Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellis Katz Foreward by Michael Pollan

His book is widely considered the Bible of Fermentation.  For the serious fermenter, this last book is an in depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world with practical information on fermenting vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, beans, meats, and much more.  Or you may watch a short Youtube video to familiarize yourself.

Fermented Veggies in a Jar or a Crock

Fermented VeggiesAs the gardening season winds down, you might want to try fermenting some veggies instead of canning them. It is so much easier and less time consuming than all the steps,  like boiling water baths required for traditional canning.  You can do as little as one jar or as many as you like.

I consider the process of making a jar of fermented veggies as simple as making a salad in a jar.

Basically a “dill crock” is a variation on fermented veggies. If you don’t have dill or a grape leaf you can still make the fermented veggies.  The sea salt is a preserving agent that prevents putrefying bacteria from getting a foothold.

Fermented vegetables taste like pickles but offers the advantage of being loaded with large amounts of beneficial bacteria also known as probiotics, hence they are good for digestion, good for health.

The Weston A Price foundation recommends a tablespoon of a fermented food at every meal to promote health.

This is an easy project, adapted from The Living Farm newsletter several years back  – so be brave and give it a try..

Here are the simple instructions:

  1. Use a quart, half gallon jar or crock.

  2. Make a brine of 2 Tbsp salt, 6 cups water, and ½ cup cider vinegar. The brine is used to cover all the vegetables in the crock.

  3. Grape Leaf – Place a small layer of grape leaves in the bottom of the jar to help keep veggies crisp, if desired. This is not essential.

  4. Dill: Place a layer of dill on top of the grape leaves.  Also optional – other herbs such as garlic or ginger can be used.

  5. The Vegetables: Almost any crisp vegetable can go into a “dill crock” such as carrots, onions, garlic, cauliflower, peppers, green tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, etc. Green Beans need 3 minutes of blanching because otherwise they turn out too tough or hard to chew.

  6. Time: Once you fill the jar or crock with the vegetables, pour in the brine, screw on a cap tightly to the jar or weigh the vegetables down with a plate and rock to hold the vegetables under the brine.

  7. Store the vegetables in a closet or cupboard for 5-6 days up to 2 weeks. If a white foam appears at the top do not panic, this is normal, just remove the foam and the vegetables are ready to eat.

  8. Refrigerate and enjoy!

  9. Let your nose be your guide. This is not an official USDA method, but a time-tested method used for centuries to preserve vegetables.

Simple Steps to Home Canned Fruit

nectarines

Peaches, nectarines and other fruits are loaded on local fruit trees.  Nothing compares to preserving our delicious, tree-ripened, locally grown North Fork fruit that we preserve ourselves.

It’s time to start gathering the canning supplies as you wait for the peaches, nectarines, plums, and even pears to ripen!  (Yes, this year the supply will be a little more challenging to find but you will find fruit, even if you have to pick it yourself!)

If you get all your supplies gathered together that are listed below (all the supplies needed are available at Paonia Farm and Home), re-familiarize yourself to the 12 Simple Steps to Canning you will soon be making your shelves sparkle with colorful, delicious North Fork Fruit.

 How to Make Homemade Canned Peaches, Plums, Pears, Plums, Nectarines and Cherries Detailed Steps Tutorial

(Click here for downloadable pdf)

The 12 Simple Steps for Canning our delicious North Fork Fruit are summarized below.  Click on the above link for detailed pdf instructions.

Gather Supplies – All the supplies listed below are available at Paonia Farm and Home Supply

  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)canningsupplies
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water
  • Jar funnel
  • Large spoons (stainless steel is nice) and ladles
  • lids and rings
  • Ball jars – pints, quarts, jelly size
  • Sugar (or fruit juice) and pectin
  • Water Bath Canner

12 Simple Steps

1.   Select sufficient Fruit – Peaches, Nectarines, or Plums from local orchards including Stahls, Orchard Valley Farms, First Fruits, JJ’s, and others).

2.  Prepare the Sugar Solution.  Using light or medium syrup helps avoid floating fruit issues.

Sugar Syrup Chart for Light, Medium, and Heavy Syrups

Sugar Syrup Chart for Light, Medium, and Heavy Syrups

3.  Wash the jars and Lids.

4.  Wash the Fruit

Home Canned Peaches Sparkle

Home Canned Peaches Sparkle

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5.  Peeling the Peaches or Nectarines by a quick blanching method.

6.  Cut up the fruit to fit the jars in halves or slices.

7.  Take steps to prevent browning of the fruit.  Use fruit fresh or powdered vitamin C according to directions.

8.  Determine Hot pack versus Cold Pack alternative.

9. Fill the Jars with Fruit.  It takes about 5 regular peaches to fill one quart jar.

10. Process the Jars in a water bath for our altitude.

Peaches
11. Remove the Jars from the Canner to cool on top of tea towels to absorb water.

12. Cool jars for 24 hours, check lids for any sealing failures.  Store in a dark, cool place

How to Make Homemade Canned Peaches, Plums, Pears, Plums, Nectarines and Cherries Detailed Steps Tutorial

(Click here for downloadable pdf)

Your Done!

Edible Lavender

lavender1

Do you have some dried lavender sitting around from the summer you would like to use in a culinary recipe?  Or possibly you are planning to harvest the  lavender you planted in your garden.  The following information is adapted from the Botanical Interests Blog

Although I think of  lavender being used only  in lotion, oils or candles with its relaxing aroma, apparently you can easily substitute lavender for other herbs, especially rosemary, when flavoring sweet or savory dishes.

The following recipes use  common kitchen staples—sugar, butter, and syrup—that shows how versatile lavender is in the kitchen.  For example: lavender sugar is delicious in  shortbread cookies for a floral surprise.

Lavender butter could be used with roasted chicken for a pleasant, earthy flavor.

Lastly, lavender syrup can be used in lemonade during hot summer days or possibly even cocktails for a flowery taste of summer.

What delicious lavender recipes have you adapted to culinary uses?

Lavender Sugar

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix the two ingredients together and seal in an airtight container for two days before using to ensure the flavors meld. Recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how much sugar you need.

Lavender and Herb Butter

¼ pound of butter (1 stick), softened
1 tablespoon of dried lavender
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Mix all ingredients and chill in the fridge for a few hours. If you prefer, you can use almost any other dried herb, such as basil or chives.

Lavender Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool for a few hours, strain, and pour into an airtight container. Syrup can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

 

Presto Pesto

basilplantTraditional pesto is made with basil, cheese, garlic, and olive oil.  We all know it is delicious on pasta, but there are lots of other savory, delicious, flavor packed ideas for using this classic condiment.

Here are my top 10 ideas for using pesto:

1.  Use pesto like “mayo” Spread it on a BLT , turkey and cheese or other favorite sandwich.

2. Mix It Into Dips Try a little pesto  with sour cream, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or even guacamole.  Yum.

3. Top Your Breakfast  Drizzle pesto over your favorite breakfast eggs to add a touch of herbs and cheese.

Traditional pizza toppings with a pesto sauce base.

Traditional pizza toppings with a pesto sauce base.

4. Replace Pizza Sauce  Using pesto instead of traditional tomato sauce adds an entirely different layer of flavor to homemade pizza.  Just use a little, as pesto is flavor packed.

5. Bake It Into Bread  Instead of garlic bread, spread pesto onto crusty bread and toast, or stir pesto into bread dough for wonderfully fragrant dinner rolls. If you don’t want to turn on the oven, just mix the pesto with some softened butter and slather on some rolls or fresh bread.

Mix pesto with vinaigrette about 50/50 or to taste.

Mix pesto with vinaigrette about 50/50 or to taste.

6. Mix It Into Salad Dressing  Thinned with a little more oil or vinegar, you have a quick vinaigrette for summer salads. Whisk into buttermilk for an Italian version of ranch dressing.

7.  Top Veggies  Instead of butter, use a dab of pesto to garnish your vegetables. Or skip the butter and sour cream, mix pesto on your baked potato.

8. Quick Appetizer – A smear of pesto topped with a slice of mozzarella on a slice of toasted baguette is a very  quick appetizer.

9. Enhance the Meat  Pesto goes amazingly well with grilled steak, pork chops, chicken, and especially fish.  You can also season meatloaf or meatballs with pesto.

Garnish soup with pesto

Garnish soup with pesto

10. Garnish a Soup A traditional French bean and vegetable stew, is meant to be served with a drizzle of pesto over top. Try it with Minestrone other favorites and let us know how you like it.

What is your favorite way to use pesto?

 

 

 

 

Classic Pesto

Pesto has so many uses!

Pesto has so many uses!

1 Cup packed basil
1/2 Cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan
1/4 Cup toasted pine nuts (toast in skillet till browned – about 3 minutes and cool) or walnuts
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin light olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil (or use 6 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Light for mild flavor

In a food processor combine the herbs, cheese, nuts, garlic, and salt Process with on/off pulses.Process with the machine running, and SLOWLY add the oil, process to the consistency of soft butter. (This recipe can be done in a blender, but you will need to stop it frequently and push the mixture down to the blades.)

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