Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Garlic - in a Very Wet Summer

This year when I harvested the garlic, the papery coverings were not very good.  There had been such a lot of rain... Lately I've been worried that the garlic won't "keep" as well as it has in the past, so a set aside a few bulbs to plant in October, and I've preserved the rest in two ways.  You can see the problem here.  The papery wrapper is all but gone.
So, I washed a lot of it, carefully peeled the cloves and rinsed them thoroughly under running water.

The first ferment is a remedy for colds and influenza. I took my small Fido jar and filled it about 2/3 full with the peeled cloves.  Next, I poured in enough raw honey to cover them, and sealed the jar.  What I read is that you should "burp" the jar every day until it doesn't burp anymore.  I think I will just let it go for a few weeks, as the extra pressure will slowly leak out of a Fido jar.  Then, I'll keep it in the cupboard.  If a cold or influenza is coming on, we'll eat 4 or more fermented cloves right away, and then as needed.

The second ferment is just to preserve the garlic for cooking.  I filled a quart canning jar about 2/3 full with the rinsed cloves.  I added 2 Tablespoons of live whey that I got from making kefir cheese. (You can also use the whey from plain yogurt.) and then poured in about 1/2 quart of simple brine, which is a mixture of 2 cups of water and 2 Tablespoons of plain sea salt.  This will set on the counter for several days and then I will store it in the refrigerator and just take out what I need for cooking.  This garlic keeps indefinitely and it is very convenient to have on hand, all ready to go! 

I think my kitchen might have the aroma of an Italian restaurant today.  It's very garlicky in here.  Fortunately, I love garlic!

Here are the two jars.  I'm certain you can tell them apart.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bread, again...

I see that as of this moment, I have 54 different posts under the "Bread" category.  I have had a love affair with making homemade breads since 1972.  Yes.  43 years!  A dear friend showed me how to make whole wheat bread back then, and with very few exceptions, we've been eating exclusively homemade bread ever since.  We really depended on it (and still do) when the children came along and were growing up.  If someone quipped "We ain't go no bread!" it meant - there's nothing to eat!  At one time, we would bake 15 loaves a week and all on one day.  One of our daughters, when she was 12 years old, was able to do that all by her little self.  Pretty amazing.  By the way, she grew up to become my "garden fairy."

A while back, I purchased a copy of The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast  by Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson.  My garden fairy actually helped me understand how to make the bread in that book.  I got a sourdough starter from Caleb.  You can get some of his starter, for free, by going to this link: . It is wonderful stuff.  Vigorous, easy to care for, and it really doesn't make your bread sour if you feed the starter often enough. Their book is an education, but you don't have to buy one to get the starter.  Get one!  You won't regret it!

This will not be an exhaustive presentation on how to make bread, but I want to show you my "everyday bread" that I make now.  I usually only make 2 loaves at a time, let them cool, slice them and freeze one.  The other, we enjoy, and after a few days I keep it in the fridge so it won't get moldy, and we use it for toast.  It is so good.  I can't even tell you!

Here is the basic recipe and a few pictures.

My Everyday Bread - 9/26/2015 - 2 loaves

In the morning, get your starter out of the refrigerator, feed it, and let it sit all day on the counter.
7:30 p.m. - time to mix up the bread.

In a bowl, combine the following:
1/2 cup starter (then put your starter back in the fridge.)
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
4 cups whole wheat flour (I keep mine in the freezer, so I have to get it out ahead of time to let it warm up.)
"enough" unbleached white bread flour (this is where you need to know, basically, how to make bread.)

Mix it all up well, adding the bread flour as needed until it seems right.  Then pour it onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, adding bits of bread flour to keep it from sticking.  When it is ready, and you slap it, it's kind of like a baby's bottom.  :)  Not that I go around slapping babies.  But you know what I mean, surely.

Wash out your bowl and dry.  Pour a little more EVOO in there and coat the bowl.  Then put the dough in, and turn it over so the top will be oiled.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit on the counter overnight.  I get up about 6 a.m. and by then, it looks like this:

 I pour a little bit of olive oil on my bread board (or the counter, if that is what you have) so the dough won't stick.  Pour the dough onto your work surface and divide it in half.  Form into two loaves and place them in 2 well-buttered bread pans. Cover them with the plastic wrap that was on your bowl so it will have a little oil on it and not stick to the loaves.  If it doesn't have enough, add a little oil.
Let the loaves sit on the counter until they have raised to "double", whatever that is.  Here is what it looks like in my pans:
Bake in a pre-heated 350 F oven for 40 minutes.  Here is what it looks like in the oven after the first 10 minutes:
Remove from oven and turn your loaves onto a cooling rack.
You can see they are not exactly the same size.  That is ok.  It won't affect the taste.  Being sourdough, it has better keeping qualities than bread made with commercial yeast.  I hope this is helpful and that you will try it.

When I was a young teenager, I wanted to learn to make bread.  I didn't have anyone to show me, as my mom was hospitalized with Tuberculosis for a year at the time.  I was 16 years old.  I don't know what cookbook I looked in, but I tried.  It was a dismal failure.  It would have made splendid door stops.  Sigh... I never tried again until I was 23 years old and my friend showed me what to do.  It may sound a bit silly, but that experience when I was 16 was very disappointing and learning to make it successfully later meant a lot to me.  Back then, of course, it was just me and my husband, and I would make bread for us once a week.  It was 100% whole wheat bread - from scratch.  Good stuff.

Just in case you don't know this - sourdough bread - REAL sourdough bread is easier to digest and people that are gluten sensitive can often eat it without any ill effects.  Caleb believes that if we always soaked and soured our grains that we would not have "metabolic syndrome."  Whether or not that is true, I have no idea, but I do have a couple of friends who struggle terribly with their weight, and both of them have a history of being sensitive to eating very much wheat.  There could be a connection.  For such individuals, according to Caleb, the problem develops over time and eventually overwhelms their body's defenses.  Just something to think about.

I wish you were here and I could give you a slice of this wonderful bread with some butter and honey on it.  You would be so happy!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Maybe I am a Quilter after all...

Three years ago I wrote THIS post, saying that I am not a Quilter....  I've changed my mind.  I think I might be, after all.  A few months ago, I bought this quilt pattern.  I was looking for a Dresden plate pattern because I had purchased a template for making Dresden plate blocks here after watching THIS YouTube video.  She made it look so easy and fun, I had to try it! I didn't want to make a full-sized quilt, really, and so found the one for the baby quilt and then was thinking... who could I make this for?  It just so happens that a young friend is expecting a baby girl at the end of November.  Perfect!  A quilt victim!

Here are some pictures of the little quilt.  It is far from perfect, but I like it anyway.  I hope you, my Gentle Readers, do too.

Today's Breakfast...

This is one of our favorite breakfast meals.  Fresh, raw, cold goat milk, scrambled eggs from our chickens, a bit of Jasmine rice, and some stir-fried vegetables... in this case, fresh kale from the garden, chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh basil and mushrooms.  Salt and pepper.  Also, we use a little Tamari.  Oh, it's so good.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hickory Syrup

This is the trunk of a Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) tree.  About a week ago, a friend, who owns this alpaca farm mentioned to me that you can make "hickory syrup."  I had never heard of it, and was intrigued, so of course I looked online and found the instructions to make some on Dave's Cupboard blog.

My husband and I went out to Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area , found a nice Shagbark Hickory tree, and gathered a small box of loose bark.
This morning I weighed out 1/2 pound of the bark and scrubbed it with a stiff brush under cold running water and then laid it on my perforated pizza pan, placed it in the oven, pre-heated to 350 F, and toasted it for 12 minutes.  Dave says to do it for 10 or 15 minutes, but to be careful it doesn't start to burn.  You don't want your syrup to be bitter. Here it is in the oven toasting.
Next, I put it in a soup pot, covered it with water, brought it to a boil and then simmered it for 25 minutes.  It turns the water a beautiful amber color.
Next I removed the bark and then continued to simmer the tea until it was reduced by about 25%.  Then I strained it into a Pyrex measuring container (there were 3.5 cups of tea) and put it in a large sauce pan and added twice the amount of tea, in cane sugar, so that means I added 7 cups of sugar. DO NOT STIR IN THE SUGAR.  Just pour it in there and bring it all to a boil.  NEVER stir it.  This can cause it to crystalize much sooner.  When you pour the sugar into the tea, do not get it on the sides of the pan.  Pour it carefully into the bottom. Ok? Next bring it all to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer it until it is as thick as you like.
I used a candy thermometer, and mine was just over 220 F when I decided it was done enough.  I kept checking it with a spoon.  It's kind of a judgement call, actually.

I skimmed off the foamy stuff and tasted it.  That part was very bitter, but the syrup is not bitter.  Interesting.  When it was ready, I carefully ladled it into jars and put on clean lids.  It is cooling now.
The aroma of the bark toasting was wonderful... like a spicy hickory smell.  I do like the taste of the syrup.  I would like to think it has some beneficial minerals in it or something, however, it is still sugar, just as maple syrup and honey are sugar.  It should be used sparingly, to top pancakes, etc. and as flavoring in other dishes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Report on my 2015 garden...

The weather has been very unusual here this year.  I had a really nice garden going, and then it started to rain... and it rained and rained and rained.  When I would go out to harvest vegetables, I would remove my shoes and walk in mud up to my ankles.  Actually, that was rather fun, but one of the down sides was that I couldn't hoe in mud and the weeds took over early in the year.  I am not even going to show you a picture of how terrible it is right now.  In spite of all of that, I was able to do sufficient canning for us.  I have also made a decision.  I've decided to go with a permanent mulch system, a la Ruth Stout/Back to Eden.  I worked so  so hard this year, and it completely got away from me!  I'm getting too old for this.  If I can't make the permanent mulch work after a couple of years, then I'll just keep a very small garden, but I hope it doesn't come to that. 

So, my husband and I are clearing things out in the garden and he's going to cut down the weeds and remove what he can, and then we have a friend that has promised to deliver wood chips to us.  The picture above shows the small amount of things I found out there.  Here is some more, about 3 gallons of Yukon Gold potatoes.  I don't usually dig them this early, but I have to, and noticed the mice had just begun getting to them, so I'm glad I did.

Here are the sweet potatoes!  Not a stellar harvest, but it will be enough.  It is early to dig them also.  I was pleasantly surprised to get this much, because sweet potatoes don't like to get their feet wet, but I always grow them on a ridge of soil, so I guess it really worked this year.
There are some more Kennebec potatoes out there that I need to dig up, but then that will be all.  This year I canned green beans, tomato juice, sweet corn and salsa from the garden, as well as stewed rhubarb.  I am very grateful for what we have.  I just need to go in a different direction.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fermented Apple Chutney - easy and delicious!

noun: chutney; plural noun: chutneys
  1. a spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar, originating in India.
My sweet sister-in-law introduced me to "chutney" many years ago.  It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a meal... freshens up the palate and I love chutneys!
Recently, I've started making fermented fresh chutney and it's spectacular!  No need to cook or process in a canner.  Just chop it up, mix with the other ingredients, pack it into a FIDO JAR, close the lid, let it sit on the counter for 3 days, turning over once in a while to distribute the liquid, and then refrigerate it!  It will stay nice for many weeks in the fridge.  Being fermented, it is rich in healthy probiotics, and also your body will love the easily assimilated vitamins and minerals.  
Meet the magical FIDO JAR !!!

I bought mine yesterday at TJ Maxx in a nearby city for only $4.99 !  They are available on, but cost twice as much (and would be worth it).  You don't have to use a Fido.  You can use a regular canning jar with a lid, but then you need to open it sightly from time to time so it will let out the pressure of the gasses produced.  With the Fido, you fill it, close it, and forget it.  The rubber seal is very tight, but it will sort of burp slightly on its own.

Fermented Apple Chutney

1. In a large measuring vessel or a bowl, combine:
    1 handful walnut meats, broken in pieces
    1 handful raisins
    Enough apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces to make the contents of your bowl measure 1.5 liter. Do 
    not peel the apples, just remove the cores and the little blossom ends and where the stem was.
    1/3 cup honey
    1/3 cup whey (explained below)
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2. Stir all of that thoroughly and then pack it into a Fido Jar.  
3. Close the lid.  Leave it on the kitchen counter for 3 days, turning it over to let the liquid flow through the 
    contents once in a while
4. Store in the refrigerator - it will keep for many weeks.
Here are some pictures of the process:

A note about apples... My mother grew up during the Great Depression.  She never wasted anything if she could possibly avoid it. When she ate an apple, she would wash it, pull off the stem and then just eat the apple.  She did not throw away the core.  I do the same thing.  If you want to try that, don't eat around it and make a core first.  Just eat the apple.  Apple seeds contain laetrile, which many believe has anti-cancer properties.  As I was making this, I ate all of the little core pieces I cut out!  I do like them.  Bite into the seeds.  They taste good (at least to me.)
It is a good idea to eat a small amount of something live and fermented with each meal.  I drink about 2 ounces of milk kefir with breakfast, and have a couple of Tablespoons of live sauerkraut or this chutney with lunch and supper.  The probiotics in the ferments really help your digestion be healthier. Also, they contain live digestive enzymes.
The recipe calls for "whey".  I use whey that I strain from my milk kefir when I make kefir cheese.  You may also use whey you can gather the same way from plain yogurt that has live cultures. 

This chutney is sweet and crunchy and a little zingy!  You will like it.  I promise.  :)

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