In My Kitchen 7-29-2011

Soaking some nuts in the jars, and baked oatmeal (for my boys) in the bowl.

Jars and tomato paste ready to make ketchup. . . but not today. Tomorrow looks hopeful :-). I found a super-easy lacto-fermented ketchup recipe using store-bought (cheater) tomato paste that we all love. I think it was on The Nourished Kitchen blog, as a promo for her fermentation class.

Mmmmm. Crustless quiche based loosely off of this recipe.

I promise I have no idea where the rest of the cake went. This recipe was surprisingly good and not at all bean-y.

*squeal of delight* I have a new egg pan! My old “non-stick” pan was more like a mega-stick pan after a few year’s use, so it was time. I’m leery of the safety of standard non-stick pans (not to mention their durability), but my cast iron pans refuse to cooperate for scrambled eggs. I opted for a Cuisinart pan with a ceramic-based coating. I got this pan.

And my tomato plants are producing tomatoes! I was gone for 2 weeks and my neighbor graciously agreed to water them. Not only did I come back to them still alive, but there were red ones ready to pick and she’d somehow managed to revive my 3rd tomato plant (not pictured) that I’d given up for dead and stopped watering. I need to find out her secret. . .

Salmon Egg Salad

We’ve been eating more fish around here lately, and one of my favorite fish options is canned salmon. I can get canned wild salmon at my local store for $2/can (14.75 oz.), which is a great price! One of my favorite uses for canned salmon is salmon patties, but there are plenty of other good options! One option is to make a salmon egg salad, in a similar vein to a chicken salad, a tuna salad, or egg salad. Salmon Egg Salad is yummy to serve over a bed of lettuce, between slices of bread for a sandwich (if you are able), or rolled up in a crepe. Like any salad of this kind, exact measurements are not necessary, and I didn’t do any measuring when I did this one. Follow along with my very basic directions, and tweak to your own taste and available ingredients:

I started with a 14.75 oz. can of wild Alaskan salmon. The kind I buy has skin and bones included. All is supposed to be edible, but I admit to removing the skin. The bones crush up easily and are quite edible.

Next I pulled out my salad spinner from the fridge and fished around in leftover salad for miscellaneous chopped vegetables.

I found some chopped celery and carrots, and added that to my salmon.

I hardboiled a pot of eggs to use, making extras for snacking.

I ended up using 5 of the eggs in the salad. Here they are chopped up:

Then I added a sprinkling of salt and pepper and some raisins. I love the way raisins go with salmon.

And finally, I added just enough kefir to coat everything. Yogurt also works well. Neither has an untoward flavor in this combination, in my opinion, as there are plenty of other strong flavors to overcome the non-mayo effect :-).A dab of mustard would also work well, but I didn’t bother this time around.


Breakfast for Dinner (A New Tradition)

Adrian is pretty much the easiest guy to cook for. He’s appreciative and genuinely enjoys all sorts of foods, both standard American fare, and weird GAPS foods like coconut flour bread and squash soup. He’ll try anything once. He’s awesome. Except for one thing: he doesn’t like breakfast for dinner. I LOVE breakfast foods any time of day. So I’ve declared a new tradition that when Daddy is gone for dinner (which very rarely happens), we’ll have breakfast for dinner! Adrian wasn’t here for dinner tonight, so we had:

scrambled eggs
homemade sausage patties
fried apples (sauteed apples in butter, with honey and cinnamon)
french toast (for Hans and my parents, who are visiting – no grains for me)
sloppy lentils and herbed kefir (I had to supplement my non-grain meal somehow!)

Yogurt (tutorial)

Every two weeks I drive 40 minutes south to pick up a couple of gallons of fresh raw cow’s milk. It lasts around a week fresh, but that’s fine because the boys around here aren’t huge straight-milk drinkers, and I can only eat cultured dairy right now (which has a longer shelf life). So very little of the milk I get is for straight drinking. Instead I turn it into yogurt and kefir! It’s a great way to preserve the milk to last longer (so I don’t have to make that long drive every week!), and it’s a healthful way to get our dairy intake. We love straight yogurt (and I like straight kefir too!), and kefir and yogurt smoothies are a huge hit here and a staple breakfast or lunch during the summer.

Here is how I make yogurt with raw milk, but even if you use pasteurized, you can follow along, and I’ll explain the one difference you will want to make in the directions:

First start with delicious creamy milk:

You can’t really see the creamline very well in this picture, but if you squint and strain really hard, you’ll see it around the level of the word “Raw” on the label. Yep, summer pasture milk is deliciously rich and creamy :-).

And a yogurt starter. Essential part of yogurt making:

This is reserved yogurt from my previous batch. You can buy any old plain yogurt from the store for your starter, but just make sure it is PLAIN yogurt (not flavored, sweetened, etc.) and most importantly, that it states it has “live active cultures.” Once you make a batch of your own, you can reserve some of it to use as your starter next time. General recommendation is to occasionally replenish your starter by starting over with a store culture, to keep those bacteria strong and vigorous. I do this periodically. I’d like to say it’s because it’s intentional and I have a set schedule of how frequently I do this, but honestly, it’s whenever I eat up all the yogurt without remembering to save a starter ;-). So every 2 months, maybe?

When making yogurt, the basic idea is:
(1) Heat milk to about 105 degrees or 110 degrees so that the good bacteria (the starter) will grow happily.
(2) Add starter to heated milk.
(3) Keep at this temp for a set period of time (4 – 24 hours), while bacteria proliferate – this is called “incubation.”

Now, this is the basic outline for making yogurt with raw milk. And you’ll find different suggestions for ideal incubation temperature, but I find 105 degrees to be great. With raw milk you do NOT want to heat higher than about 110 degrees or you risk destroying enzymes and good bacteria, and therefore might as well have used pasteurized milk anyway (yes, I’ve accidentally done it once!). Now, if you don’t want to go the raw milk route, I respect that choice, and by all means get pasteurized! But if you already paid the premium price for raw milk, keep it raw!

If you use pasteurized milk you’ll need an extra step in here. When you heat the milk, you first need to heat it to 185 degrees to kill bacteria (Yes, even pasteurized milk has bacteria! Pasteurization slows bacterial growth and discourages pathogens, but only UHT-pasteurization actually kills the bacteria fully. But UHT-pasteurized milk – aka “ultra-pasteurized” milk also doesn’t support growth of *any* bacteria, so it can not be used successfully for making yogurt. Don’t bother trying.) This allows the yogurt starter to culture on a “clean slate,” rather than compete with other organisms. Because raw milk contains beneficial enzymes and good bacteria to help balance the bad, this step is not needed for raw milk yogurt (strange but true).

After heating the pasteurized milk to 185 degrees, you then have to cool it to somewhere betwee 90 and 120 degrees, which is the range at which lactobacilli proliferate. If you add the starter culture to the milk before it cools, you’ll kill the culture and the milk won’t turn into yogurt. These are live organisms we’re dealing with here; be nice to them! 120 degrees is too high for raw milk yogurt, as enzymes and some bacteria start to die at that temp, so keep that in mind. That is why 105-110 degrees is recommended above. Cooling the milk takes a while, but when you figure that you got your pasteurized milk from the local store instead of driving to the ends of the earth to obtain licensed raw milk, just consider that you got the better end of the deal, time-wise ;-).

Anywho, off the pasteurized yogurt tangent. . . back to our regularly scheduled programming. So that’s the basic outline, and now some pictures to show you more precisely what I do:

Making Yogurt

You want to carefully heat the milk to about 105 degrees (or 180 degrees for pasteurized, see above) so it heats evenly and doesn’t scald, burn, etc. The best option, in my opinion, is a double boiler. Here is my set-up:

A few inches of water in the lower pan, with the other pan set above (water not touching upper pan, as per usual double-boiler practices). Candy thermometer inserted to measure temp, and a metal spoon to stir periodically, so the milk heats evenly. I don’t add the spoon and thermometer until the water in the boiler comes to a boil with the lid on. At that point I remove the lid and add the thermometer and spoon. The first time or two you make yogurt it will take more time and effort. You won’t know how long your particular amount of milk in your particular pot will take to come to a boil (and how long it will take to cool, if you use pasteurized milk). Yogurt was a process the first couple times I made it. Now I know much better what happens when, and it is very much a brainless thing to make, while I’m puttering around the kitchen doing dishes. Give it three times or so, and you won’t feel stressed.

I tried this brilliant method of heating the yogurt in jars, and I love it in theory. Hated it in practice. I must have the Curse of the Broken Yogurt Jars or something. I would estimate that 2 out of 3 times I made yogurt that way, one of my jars would break. I carefully padded them, spaced them apart, etc., etc. I have no idea what my issue was. But it’s a great method for those who don’t have the Curse of the Broken Yogurt Jars. But I gave up and went with the double boiler method, once I broke my fourth or fifth jar. And it really works well this way.

Once the milk is heated to 105 I pull it off the burner (don’t forget extra step of heating and cooling if the milk is pasteurized). Then I ladle it into my jars. I make a gallon of yogurt at a time, and do it in two half-gallon jars. I used to do quart jars, which I think most people would prefer, but I was trying to use fridge space more efficiently, and I have loved switching to this jar size. Some people say to sterilize the jars, others (including me) just wash them out really well with hot water and soap and let air dry. But for the sake of any lawyers you might hire, I DEFINITELY told you to sterilize! Do what I say, NOT what I do! (I would definitely sterilize for something like pressure canning, but that’s a whole other ballgame, folks.)

Then I add my starter. Ideally you want the starter at room temperature before adding to the milk. This helps keep the milk warm, rather than cooling it with a fridge-temp starter. Honestly I’ve used cold starter and it survived, but since leaving it out to warm, I’ve gotten more consistent smooth consistency from the yogurt. I’m not sure if that’s related, but it might be. I use 4 tablespoons of starter per 1/2 gallon of milk. More starter is not necessarily a good thing. You want to give your bacteria space to proliferate, so don’t dump in a ton of starter and think you’re helping matters.

Then you want to stir the yogurt gently to distribute the starter. Don’t go too vigorously. I’ve read several places that you could harm the bacteria. I have no idea if this is true. But go gentle anyway, because why not? I use a butter knife which is DEFINITELY STERILIZED (*cough* (That was a sterilized cough into a face mask.)) to stir the starter into the milk.

Now is the fun part. You get to decide first of all, how long you want to incubate. Basically, you can do anywhere between 4 and 24 hours. The longer you culture, the firmer the yogurt will be, which is a good thing, as homemade yogurt – especially raw yogurt tends to be runnier than storebought yogurt. The longer you culture, the tarter the yogurt will be too. (Incubation temperature also has an influence on these variables.) I culture the full 24 hours because I can’t have lactose right now, and the lactobacilli in the yogurt (fancy name for “yogurt bacteria”) eat up all the lactose if they are cultured the full 24 hours. It’s really not that much more effort to do a long incubation, but it’s up to you. I think even when/if I can have lactose, I will probably still choose the 24 hour culture, because it’s just a matter of 2 switches of hot water, and the yogurt is much firmer this way.

Everyone has a different method of keeping yogurt at the right temperature for incubating. Frankly, use what appeals to you and make sure to test temps the first time or two, to make sure the yogurt is still above 90 degrees (but not over 110 degrees for raw milk – or over 120 for pasteurized) by the end. You can use the pilot light on an oven, a dehydrator, and a few more obscure options, but my favorite is a cooler with a vessel of hot water. It works great and is low tech.

I line the cooler with a towel for padding, extra insulation, and so we don’t have plastic melting from direct contact with the hot water vessel in the center. I place boiling water in a stainless steel canister in the middle, and the yogurt jars on either side. This same set-up works with two quart sized jars on either side of the stainless steel vessel (4 quart jars total). After placing everything in and making sure items are spaced and not bumping, then I fold the towel over the jars, to insulate all that heat, and then close the lid. You don’t want the folded-over towel dipping into the hot water, or you end up with a soggy towel mess.

If you’re only culturing for 4-8 hours, you’re probably good to go and don’t need to switch out the water. But for a 24 hour culture I try to switch out the hot water for fresh boiling water every 6-8 hours, to keep things warm enough. Keep the lid open as little as possible while switching out water, to preserve heat! The first time you do this, test the temp at the end of the incubation period, to make sure it stayed warm enough; after that, you can assume it’s fine for future cultures. At the end of the culturing time, transfer your jars of yogurt to the fridge, chill, and enjoy! I like flavoring yogurt with a little vanilla and raw honey.

And that’s how you make yogurt!

Sound Bites from Independence Day Lunch

Hans: “Ooh, is that a biscuit? This is a biscuit, Mommy, right?”
Me: “No, it’s a hamburger bun. You put a hamburger in it.”
Adrian: “And cheese, you put cheese in it too!”

Hans gave us these skeptical looks to decide if we were pulling his leg or not. “No. You don’t put cheese in it!”

Haha. Oh my poor deprived child ;-). . . it had been last summer (I am pretty sure) since he had a real assembled hamburger. . . (It was a fast food one last summer. Shhhh!) *laughs* He kept saying “This is good!” with his first several bites. Ah, the amusements of going grain-free. . . the kid can identify kombucha and kefir, but doesn’t have a clue how a hamburger is supposed to be consumed. . . He thoroughly enjoyed his hamburger complete with ketchup and cheese product.

Also from lunch. . .

Hans, pointing: “What’s this?”
Me: “That’s American ‘cheese.’ People think it’s food. We’re eating fake food today so we can feel all American. Americans like fake food, and today we’re celebrating America by eating fake food.”
Hans: “Yeah!” (with voice tone of agreement)
I started laughing.
Hans: “You’re funny, Mommy!”
Adrian: “You don’t have to listen to everything your mother says. This is called ‘propoganda’.”

Menu for Independence Day lunch:
Hamburger topping options: American “cheese,” lettuce, lacto-fermented ketchup, store-bought buns
Sloppy Lentils (similar to baked beans)
Homemade applesauce
Potato chips
Lacto-fermented dilly carrot sticks

We were at home, by ourselves, folks. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been mocking American “food” ;-). I only do that in public when it’s my own food offering I’m mocking (which is why I feel free to blog about it here). And of course I couldn’t eat all of the above. I ate the GAPS-legal stuff and let the hubby and boy indulge in the other items ;-). And now Hans knows how he’s really supposed to eat a hamburger ;-).

Dessert for Dinner

Cookies and Ice Cream. Sunday supper :-). Sounds terribly imbalanced, but really not all that bad, nutritionally. The ice cream was 3 cups of kefir mixed with 1/2 cup honey and a bit of vanilla, with chopped up strawberries. Sounds more like health food to me! And I’ve already posted the cookie recipe. Hardly bad for you ;-). If I’d had farm fresh eggs on hand, I would have added a few yolks to the ice cream for added nutrition and texture, but alas, I was out and only had store eggs, which I don’t trust raw.

In My Kitchen 7-1-2011 (Jar Edition)

I love glass jars. Really love them. I use them for a lot of things. Soups, water, various ferments, leftover vegetables, soaking nuts, you name it. I get too much of a thrill out of finding a new jar (not that I buy them that often). Today I was balancing quite a few things in the kitchen: kombucha, kefir, yogurt, soaking nuts for dehydration, as well as supper, and I was struck by how many jars I was using! (And I was also struck by the fact that I was in short supply of 1/2 gallon sized jars, even though I have a dozen of them!) So here are just a few jar pictures, for anyone else who has the same obsession.

Here we have a 1/2 gallon jar and a gallon jar, both with kombucha cooling to room temperature so I can add the culture. I found the gallon size jar at a thrift store and it made my day :-). It is difficult to find gallon jars locally! This was a sun tea jar, but it didn’t have the spout on the side, unlike most sun tea jars – just the lid on top, which is what I wanted!

Here is more kefir ready to switch out. I’ll scoop the grains off the top of this jar and plop it into a new jar of fresh milk (picked up this morning at the farm!). After I find a clean large-enough jar, that is. . . Hmmm. Yeah, that took some doing :-). I should do a kefir tutorial sometime soon. It is SUPER easy to make. The easiest ferment to do, in my opinion, and very flexible.

And here are a few jars I’m drying, in my attempts to rearrange things to free up some jars! The smaller jars are 1 -1/2 cup jars that I picked up free at a garage sale last summer :-). The back two are a unique shape, just a bit out of the ordinary :-). I love different jars!

Next are a few jars in the cupboard that, alas, were not half-gallon jars ;-). Alas merely because of how much I needed that size today! But I love all my sizes :-). The two taller ones with the white top off to the right are saved from the local raw honey I buy. I love these jars! They are 16 oz. and great for liquids like beverages in smaller quantities (not great for leftover vegetables, though, unlike most jars).

Here is a pound of almonds and a pound of walnuts soaking, waiting for me to dehydrate them. Note the almonds are in a bowl. I had to steal the almond jar for kombucha :-). Hehe. The almonds didn’t seem to mind.

I don’t think I’ve shown my water set-up yet. I call this “El-cheapo Dechlorination Method.” I should patent it. This is the top of my fridge, which always has two half-gallon jars filled with water. Rather than a regular lid, they have screen sprout inserts (purchased here) on top, to allow evaporation. Chlorine takes about 24 hours to evaporate, and we go through about a gallon of water a day for drinking, so we always have one jar on the dining room table for general purpose drinking, and two other jars in rotation on top of the fridge, waiting to be used. I can definitely tell a taste difference!

Finally, here’s the second shelf of my fridge. “Ferment Central.” Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, dilly carrots, sauerkraut, saueruben. Mmmm. I love me some good bacteria :-). I devote this shelf to ferments, and try to cram leftovers and other things into the top shelf to leave plenty of room for bacterial growth :-).

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