Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Fermented Foods Bug

Yeah, I have it.  I found the Nourished Kitchen web site and that was it.  I'm hooked.  Now, for us, sauerkraut is just one of the fermented foods with all of their attendant probiotics that we will be eating in this house. 

In an earlier post you will recall I tried my hand at making fermented lemons.  Well, I wasn't sure quite what to do with them, so I experimented with one lemon by making a loaf of lemon bread.  Oh, yeah, that was good. (No pictures because it is already eaten!) I have the lemons in the refrigerator now to slow down the fermentation process.  They are supposed to keep a long time.  Tomorrow I will add a slice or two chopped finely to some quinoa for lunch, and I look forward to experimenting with them in other recipes. 

I then bought a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts) from Kombucha America and tried making my first batch of kombucha.  I was originally afraid that the cultures had died from being in the mail over the last really cold days we had, but I was not to fear.  I think if I had not had previous fermentation experience I would have freaked seeing the kombucha "mushroom" develop in the tea, but as it was, I was cool, and the tea turned out just fine.  My first batch was of fermented green tea and my second batch, now fermenting, is of Irish Breakfast black tea.  It will be interesting to compare the difference in taste between the green and black teas.  This is really fun!

For my birthday back in November, my sister, Mary, gave me a little fermentation kit -- a plastic lid with an airlock that fits a large mouth canning jar -- so now I will put it to use and pick a recipe from my Mastering Fermentation book and see what happens. It is going to be interesting to observe any health improvements we may obtain over time from eating an increased amount of these probiotic foods.  Fortunately for me, our in-house gourmand, Lara, is all for my experimenting.  She loves drinking the kombucha green tea.

Another fermented drink I had been making regularly for several years now is milk kefir.  I originally bought my authentic kefir grains from Marilyn the Kefir Lady.  I make a quart of kefir every other day, and a glass of kefir with a little orange juice stirred in is my alternate breakfast when I don't have eggs. Milk kefir is easy to make.

Kefir Grains
These are kefir grains.  You place them in a jar, cover them with milk (I have even used powdered milk successfully),

then cover the jar with a permeable cloth or paper towel, and set it somewhere fairly warm but out of direct light for at least 24 hours.  Kefir is similar to yogurt but doesn't firm up the way yogurt does.  It tastes much like buttermilk and can be used in recipes that call for buttermilk. I love drinking buttermilk, but I haven't had to buy it since I've been making kefir.

When the kefir is fermented to your taste, strain it into another clean jar and put it in the frig.  The kefir will continue to ferment, but refrigeration slows the process. Then put the kefir grains into another clean jar, cover with milk, and begin the process all over again. Just remember to keep your fermenting projects separated by a couple of feet so the cultures don't cross.

Try fermenting.  It's easier to do than you might think and opens up a whole new world of taste.

The Weather -- Really?

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted, but between my computer giving me fits after IE 11 automatically downloaded and persevering through the brutally cold weather we've been having, I have to admit my mood has been rather foul.  Still, I have learned a lot with the experience and am trying to see things on the bright side.

For instance, when the polar vortex descended last week and we had several near -50°F nights, I has very concerned for the chickens in their unheated coop so before the cold rolled in I turned the 12" deep bedding over inside the coop to get it "cooking" and release some heat.  Then I shoveled snow around the outside of the coop as high as I could.  Great insulation protection from the wind! I gave the chickens extra oats and corn, and lastly, in the mornings I made sure I gave them slightly warm fresh water and some fresh cooked hot rice to warm their insides up.  I stapled plastic sheeting over the air vents on the north side of the coop to stop the wind, but made sure the door is open during the day so fresh air can circulate and moisture can escape because I know that chickens are very susceptible to respiratory illness in damp conditions.  The vents on the south side of the coop I left open.  The chickens have all done amazingly well and there has been no bad frost bite.  I am even starting to get eggs! This weather has been a perfect example of why Dominique chickens are an excellent breed for northern climes.

Another good thing I was reminded of is that shoveling snow is good exercise . . . .

Inside time, of course, allows me to get other tasks done.  Besides cleaning the house from top to bottom, I now have only six more quilt blocks to sew before I can start putting my first log cabin quilt together.  I am also making a lot of knitted items to sell on the last day of the Phillips farmers market during the town Harvest Festival, and I am catching up on my reading (and re-reading in some cases).  If you are stuck inside, take a look at some of these books and DVDs -- you might like them as much as I do:  Earthbag Building, Little Heathens, Mastering Fermentation, Gaia's Garden and Three Bags Full

I sat down and planned out this year's garden.  I am sure going to be planting a lot of trees.  I have ordered through the annual County tree sale 25 each of red and sugar maples to plant along the hay road.  From Woodstock Nursery I ordered several more grape vines to plant along the forest garden fence and 15 butternut trees (planting location undecided yet).  From St. Lawrence Nursery I ordered three apple trees (one each of Chestnut Crab, Northwest Greening, and Original McIntosh) to plant in the clearing by Tom's hunting shack, two Homestead Hawthorns for the Forest Garden, one Northrup mulberry to plant in the chicken yard, two American Chestnuts to plant as markers for the path I'm making around the back of the (west side of our house) marsh that will connect our place to Dad's, and 8 blueberry plants (four each of Northcountry and Friendship) to put in the new garden box next to the greenhouse.

Out in the field I expect to plant Fisher's Earliest corn from Horizon Herbs, Red Cloud and Early Ohio potatoes from Potato Garden, and Blue Hubbard winter squash from my own saved seed.  Out in the field where the old high tunnel was, I'm going to fence that area and make that a dedicated market garden section.  Together with the herbs and veggies I'll plant in the garden boxes, greenhouse, and forest garden, there should be plenty for Lara and I to sell at the farmers markets in Phillips and Park Falls.  I'm counting on my sister's bees to find my gardens this year.

Boy, I am sure looking forward to Spring!