appetizers, Desserts, Fermenting, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Fun

Update 12/6/16:  I baked the sourdough sugar cookies again yesterday, and when I got out my paper copy of the recipe I’d printed off from Cultures for Health, I realized I had made a number of rather important changes to get the good result I had from my first batch.  I thought I’d better post an update, so here’s the amended sugar cookie recipe.  The link to the original recipe on Cultures for Health appears in the original post below.

Sourdough Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar in the cone)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently mix in the sourdough starter. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a PARCHMENT PAPER–COVERED cookie sheet. (If you do not have parchment paper, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a bare pan in one trial, and the cookies stuck a bit.) Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if desired. (I did, it was good and made them taste like Snickerdoodles.)

Bake 12 minutes. (I baked 14-15 min. at my altitude, depending on the size of my spoonfuls.)

Notes:  Because of recent experiences with sourdough starter recipes being too wet, I reduced the amount of starter the original recipe called for and omitted the water.  My starter is 100% hydration, so it is wet and fairly thin.  I used whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. The original recipe called for types of unprocessed sugar I’d never even heard of before.  I did have some piloncillo in the house, which is an unrefined, Mexican brown sugar. It comes pressed into cones of varying size and weight.  It was a pain to break up (I had to pull out the food processor), but it made a delicious cookie.  I see no reason why subbing white sugar, organic or not, wouldn’t work.  Regular brown sugar will work. I have made one version with regular brown sugar, spices, and nuts, but I still need to tweak it a bit before I post the recipe.

~~~

In my last post, I said I would share links to other sourdough discard recipes if anyone wanted them, and my faithful reader and friend, Kelly, said yes!  So here are my favorite discard recipes so far.  I’m sure there will be others as I explore the sourdough websites, in particular, Cultures for Health.

First, the sourdough cookies.  I really liked these cookies, and my son and granddaughter did too.  I used piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) instead of the sucanat called for (raw sugar), which I will not use again because it is a pain to deal with that cone of hard sugar.  Next time, I’ll use organic white sugar and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup, and I think that will make them taste even more like Snickerdoodles, my son’s favorite cookie. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the cookies and called them Sourdough Snickerdoodles.  I have ideas about other incarnations of this recipe too, which I’ll be exploring shortly.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/soft-sourdough-cookies

Another favorite recipe for using sourdough discard (remember, this is just sourdough starter batter that you have to use up before your starter becomes too big to be manageable) is the pizza dough.  I really, really liked this dough, so much so that after I tried it the first time, I made two batches of fresh dough the next day and froze them for future fuss-free pizzas.  The dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge, and I would take it out several hours before rolling to let it come up to room temperature.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pizza-crust

The third recipe I liked for sourdough discard is an onion ring batter.  This recipe came from Cultures for Health also, but the recipe was for onion fritters.  I decided to add a little sugar and use the batter for apple fritters, which I love. I was very disappointed with the result.  The fritters would not hold together, and I finally figured out one reason was the lack of egg in the recipe.  A batter needs eggs, people!  Also, the batter wasn’t thick enough, and I ended up adding a lot of additional flour before I got something resembling a fritter.

However, I decided to try the batter, with the addition of an egg, for onion rings.  (Mostly, I wanted to use up my discard, and I had a lot of fat leftover from the apple fritter experiment that I wanted to use up.) I wasn’t terribly surprised when my altered batter created yummy onion rings.  So here’s that recipe, for those of you who aren’t afraid to fry.  (I really don’t like frying myself, but onion rings are about the easiest thing to fry, so don’t be timid.)

Fried Sourdough-battered Onion Rings

(serves 4-6)

  • 1½ cups sourdough starter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ cup brown rice flour (or any flour you prefer)
  • Preferred fat for frying (I used a mix of refined coconut oil–not unrefined because it will burn at the temp needed for frying—and avocado oil.  I don’t feel guilty about frying when I use “healthy” fats.  You can use vegetable oil or peanut oil, also.)

Turn your oven to warm, and set cooling racks over paper towel-lined cookie sheets inside the oven.  You will probably need two racks.

Start fat heating in a deep, 2-quart saucepan. You’ll need several cups of fat, and this is why I prefer using a deep saucepan with a small bottom rather than a cast iron skillet.  You can get a deep fryer effect with less fat.  The fat should be at least 4 inches deep in the pan when melted/heated.  If you happen to have a deep fryer, follow manufacturer’s instructions for using.

It’s wise to have a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to monitor the heat of the fat.  The fat should come up to between 350 and 360 degrees.  (Hotter than that, and this delicate batter coating will burn immediately.  Cooler than that, and they will absorb too much fat and will not be crispy.)

Separate onion slices into individual rings.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, beaten egg, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne with a whisk. Combine baking soda and baking powder and sprinkle over batter; whisk until just combined.  Batter will foam and increase in volume.

Working in small batches, toss a few onion rings in flour to coat (a Ziploc bag works well for this).  Dip flour-coated rings in batter with a fork or tongs, and place immediately into hot fat. Don’t try to fry too many at a time; cook three or four at time, maximum.  If you crowd the pan, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, with the results noted above, and it’s also harder to flip a bunch at the right time than a few. Fry until bottom is golden brown, turn, and fry for about a minute longer.  These onion rings cook very quickly.  They are done in just about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from fat and place on racks in oven to drain.  You can salt them now if you wish, but they don’t really need additional salt.  These onion rings are light and crispy. Enjoy!

The last recipe for sourdough discard also comes from Cultures for Health.  I like the recipes on this site, obviously.  This one is for Sourdough Egg Noodles.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/rustic-sourdough-noodles

I made these for my Thanksgiving turkey carcass soup because, yeah, I needed to get rid of some discard, and I love homemade pastas!  This recipe calls for incubating the dough for 8 hours, so starting it early in the morning for dinner that night, or the night before for a lunch dish, is key.  However, when I was planning to test this recipe, I forgot that the dough was supposed to sit for 8 hours, and I didn’t get it started until 11 o’clock in the morning.  I figured I’d cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the dough by the heating stove and see what happened in the time I had.  I was very surprised that in just 4 hours, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I took half of it out of the bowl (and I had only made half a recipe anyway because I didn’t want to sacrifice 6 eggs on an experiment) and rolled it for noodles for the turkey soup. I covered the rest of the dough and left it sitting on the counter, thinking I’d roll the other half when I got home from my granddaughter’s basketball game, if I felt like it. I could tell I’d have plenty from the one half for my pot of turkey soup.

I rolled the dough out on a floured board and cut it with a pasta cutter (which is old and dull, so I think I’d have been better off with a sharp knife), then spread the noodles on racks to dry for a couple of hours before being added to the soup.  Then I went off to my granddaughter’s game.

  

An hour and a half later, I got home and decided I was too tired to finish the soup and roll the rest of the noodles.  I cooled the soup and put it in a bowl to chill in the fridge so I could skim the fat (that wasn’t done when the carcass and pan drippings were put in the bags by SOMEBODY at my daughter’s house and frozen—wasn’t me!). I wanted to skim the fat off the soup before I added starch in the form of noodles.  The leftover noodle dough had risen again, even in the cool kitchen, so I stashed it in the fridge to deal with the next day. The rest of the noodles were left on the drying rack overnight. (Sometimes my ambition is too big for my energy’s britches.)

When I got up the next morning, I decided to finish drying the noodles in a warm oven, so they’d last for a few days before I had to use them up.  I decided to roll out the rest of the noodle dough that afternoon, dry it for just a bit, and then add it to my soup.  I love fresh pasta, and I didn’t want to pass up that fresh, tender pasta texture.  I’ll use the dried noodles in venison or bear stroganoff later in the week.

The noodles were wonderful, tender as only homemade fresh pasta can be. That half-recipe of dough made enough noodles for a big pot of turkey soup and one other dish for two.  If you are an empty nester, like I am, I’d definitely cut the linked recipe in half, or even quarter it, so you don’t end up making more noodles than you can easily use.  If you have a large family, by all means, make the recipe as it is in the link.

That’s it for this round of sourdough fun.  I’ve found a bread recipe I’m testing, and I’ll report on it soon.  The recipe was posted on a Facebook group by a guy who’s a doer, not a writer, and as is usual in such things, it’s a bit confusing as written.  As soon as I get the kinks worked out, I’ll share that.  It looks promising. The grandkids ate half a loaf when they came over after school to make dog biscuits. My grandson wanted to take the rest of it home, and that’s quite an endorsement from the food critic in the family!

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Fermenting, Uncategorized

Kombucha for Chickens

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Some of you will think I’m crazy.  But I’ve tested my theory several times, and each time I’ve found it to be true.  When I give my chickens a little kombucha several times a week, their eggs are almost completely clean. When the kombucha is withheld for several days, the eggs get poopy.

First off, some folks might not know what kombucha is.  Kombucha is fermented tea.  It’s fermented with some particular strains of bacteria.  You can make kombucha at home using raw, unflavored kombucha purchased in a health food store or obtained from someone who makes her own kombucha.  If you are interested in doing that, here’s the link I used to start my kombucha and SCOBY.  (The SCOBY is what grows in the kombucha.  The kombucha is the fermented tea that you drink.)  Kombucha is probiotic, very good for your gut.  And presumably, for a chicken’s gut.  Did you know they actually make probiotics for chickens? Yeah, that’s a thing. Some people buy probiotics for their chickens.  Some people feed them yogurt regularly.  I feed mine a little kombucha several times a week. And they love it.

I make my kombucha with green or white tea, mostly.  I have not ever given my chickens any kombucha made with black tea, because I want to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible.  Kombucha generally contains about a third of the caffeine in the tea it’s made from. Green or white tea contains less caffeine than black tea, thus the kombucha made from green or white tea contains less caffeine too.

Now, I’ve done a little research, and caffeine is apparently toxic to chickens (as it is to dogs). You’re not supposed to give them chocolate, tea bags, or coffee beans (I don’t know why anybody would, but nevertheless, you shouldn’t.)  However, many people do allow their chickens access to freshly brewed coffee grounds dumped in the compost pile, and these folks report no ill effects from the chickens eating the coffee grounds.  From what I understand from my reading, minute amounts of caffeine in things like spent coffee grounds doesn’t seem to hurt them.  I think small amounts of kombucha is probably the same. (You’re also not supposed to let chickens eat apple seeds, but mine ate windfall apples in the orchard all last fall. And when they eat an apple, they don’t leave anything but the stem.) So I think we can use an ounce of common sense here along with the kombucha.

I don’t give my four chickens a lot of kombucha at any one time, and I give it to them mixed with some scratch grains.  I put the scratch, about 1/3 cup or so, in an old pan, and pour on about a tablespoon of kombucha, or enough to just moisten the scratch.  I swirl and toss that around to coat all the scratch in the kombucha, and I let it sit for a minute to absorb the kombucha while I’m getting out their laying pellets.  I feed those separately.  They get the scratch/kombucha supplement about every other day.

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How was it that I began giving kombucha to my chickens in the first place?  In the summer of 2015, I was trying fermented feed for the chickens, for the probiotic effect, and I was using kombucha as a starter, mixing it in with their pellets and scratch and letting it ferment for 3 or 4 days before I gave it to them.  But with colder fall temps, fermenting the feed in the unheated pumphouse wasn’t working.  And it was another task when I really didn’t need another task. Then I thought, why bother with all that?  I have lots of kombucha, and it is easy to make more if I need it.  I could just keep a jar of it with their feed to mix with their scratch.

I did a little reading, noticing that many people reported giving their excess kombucha SCOBYs to their chickens, and I’ve done that too.  The chickens eat them like worms. No one reported any problems, and the SCOBYs retain quite a bit of kombucha in their layers. So I figured, why not?

I started noticing, a week or so after I began the kombucha regimen, that the eggs were clean.  Not just cleaner, but clean.  Rarely did I even get a little streak or smear of poop on an egg.  The majority of my eggs were pristine, like they’d been washed.  The change was noticeable, because they were pretty poopy before.  So I had nice, clean eggs all fall and into the winter.

In late winter, I came down with a bad case of influenza.  The old-fashioned stuff.  I was sick, really sick, for over a month.  During that time, Dennis took over feeding the chickens, and I hadn’t told him about the kombucha.  Didn’t even think about it until I was well enough to scramble myself an egg.  And then I noticed that the eggs were poopy again.

I told Dennis about the kombucha/scratch combo, and he started doing it.  Within a couple of days, the eggs were clean again.  No fooling.

Since then, we’ve had chicken minders for a week or so, at least three times, while we were gone on vacation.  I never tell them about the kombucha or ask them to do it because I don’t want the chickens getting too much kombucha. You never know how well people are actually listening when you tell them how to do something. Each time when we’ve returned, the eggs are poopy.  And each time, after a few days back on the booch, the eggs are clean again when I gather them.

The last time we left, the neighbor boy who was minding the chickens put a half-pan of dry scratch in the run for the hens so they had 24/7 access to it, something I never do, but it proved one thing to me.  It’s definitely the kombucha, not the scratch, that’s keeping those eggs clean.  I’d had a slight, niggling doubt about that, but this time was the clincher. I had poopy eggs for two days after we got back, until those chickens got some kombucha back in their systems.

In the first picture below, you can see that the eggs are very clean.  I don’t wash my eggs until I use them, if I need to wash them.  (If you have backyard chickens, you know why, but for those who don’t:  the reason you don’t wash eggs until you want to use them is that when the chicken lays the egg, it comes out with a protective coating that seals the shell and prolongs the life of the egg inside.  Store-bought eggs are washed, and they have shorter shelf lives than unwashed backyard eggs.) In the second photo, I’ve tried to take a close-up of the only egg in this carton (gathered over about a week’s time) that has any sign of poop on it.  It’s just a faint dark smear (not the reddish speckles–that is just pigment in the shell), and might not even be poop.  It could just be a smear of dirt from a chicken foot.  This is typical for my eggs when the chickens are getting kombucha at least three times a week.

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Kombucha for chickens makes cleaner eggs.  I don’t know why.  I could speculate, but I don’t know enough about the anatomy or digestive system of a chicken.  I just know it works.

 

 

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condiment, Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing for Spring Greens

I love those fresh greens from my garden and greenhouse:  spinach, lettuce, kale.  I’m picking them now, a little late because I didn’t have my usual volunteers (I’m blaming the drought for that) and because my surgeries kept me from getting into the garden and greenhouse as early as I usually am in spring.

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But now it’s time for fresh salad, and to go with those lovely, fresh spring greens, you need a special salad dressing.  I have one.

Some years ago (2013 to be exact), I made some raspberry- and blackberry-infused vinegars from my own homemade apple scrap vinegar and the pulp from my jam making.  I must say, those vinegars turned out beautifully, but I have not used them as much as I thought I would, so I still have some in the fridge, two years old but as delicious now as when I made them.  So to honor my fresh spring greens, I dug up my recipe for berry vinaigrette salad dressing.  Last time I wrote about this, I used my raspberry-infused vinegar, but this time, I used the blackberry-infused vinegar.  And all I can say is:  WOW!  Here is the recipe, with links to instructions for making your own infused vinegars.  I hope you will try this recipe, because I know you’ll enjoy it.

Raspberry or Blackberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds

(makes about ¾ cup)

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of minced onion (I like red onion in this)

¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar or blackberry-infused vinegar

2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup

½ teaspoon dry, powdered mustard or prepared Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey or agave one teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.

Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey or agave, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.

Update:  When I started looking for recipes for raspberry vinaigrette salad dressings, I noticed that they all contained poppy seeds.  I have nothing against poppy seeds, but I don’t keep them in my kitchen.  However, I do have chia seeds on hand and am working on ways to incorporate them into more dishes (oatmeal and puddings, for example).  So I thought, why not?  At the time I decided to put chia seeds into this vinaigrette recipe, I didn’t know that chia seeds release a substance that thickens liquids.  This actually makes them perfect for a salad dressing, because they keep the dressing thick and emulsified.  In other words, they give the mustard, the traditional emulsifier for dressing (emulsification, put simply, is the smooth mixture of fats and liquids) a helping hand. This salad dressing won’t separate on you the way most vinaigrettes do.  And the chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, good for your heart and other body parts, so it’s all to the good to incorporate them into as many dishes as you can.

Eat your spring greens with some delicious berry vinaigrette dressing with chia seeds.  It’s all good for you!

 

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condiment, Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

My husband is addicted to ranch salad dressing. I like it too, but I don’t like all the extra junk they put in the stuff sold in stores: soybean oil, for instance. I stay away from soybeans because they are treated with glyphosate herbicides. So I’ve been working on a buttermilk ranch-style salad dressing that is made with the freshest, healthiest possible ingredients. These include homemade buttermilk, cultured at home and full of good probiotic organisims (make it from organic milk for best health), homemade mayonnaise (also made with healthier, higher grade oils than the commercially-produced mayos), and home-grown and dried herbs. Now, you can make this dressing with store-bought buttermilk, store-bought mayo, and store-bought herbs, and it’s still going to taste better and be better for you than any ranch dressing you buy in a store. I hope you’ll give this a try.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

3/4 cup homemade mayo *

¾ cup homemade buttermilk **

1 tablespoon homemade apple scrap vinegar ***

1 tablespoon dried tomato skin powder ****(optional—I’m always looking for new ways to use this)

¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (regular paprika may be used)

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1-2 tablespoons dehydrated onion bits (ground in clean coffee grinder or spice grinder) or onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon dried hyssop (I like this herb, it adds a sharper greenness than parsley, but it isn’t common, and can be omitted)

Pinch (or more) of dried thyme

¼-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

¼-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I like freshly ground)

Start with the lesser amount of seasonings. Mix well in jar with tight lid. (You can see I used an old ranch salad dressing jar to make it easier for my husband to find it in the fridge. He’s a bit challenged when it comes to seeing what he’s looking for!)

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Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You may substitute other herbs, or use fresh herbs, but fresh herbs will lessen the storage life of your dressing. I use dried in the winter when we eat fewer salads, and fresh in the spring and summer when my herbs have greened up and my own lettuces are producing, and we go through the dressing in a week or two.  Fresh chives are delicious in this dressing when you have them.

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Store in fridge. Keeps about 2 weeks in fridge, or longer, depending on the freshness of your buttermilk and mayonnaise. I’ve had it last over a month. It might separate, but you just shake it back together. Discard if the dressing becomes moldy.  That’s when you know the dressing has exceeded its shelf life!

Notes: *If you have not yet tried the easiest homemade mayo ever, please click here for the recipe. It is so good, and it also contains some probiotics if you use active culture yogurt and raw vinegar in it. If you use store-bought mayo, the dressing will still taste great.

**Making your own buttermilk is so easy. I love making it at home because I can make it the amounts I am likely to use. I used to buy it a quart at a time, and half of it would always go bad before I used it up. I hate wasting anything and discovered that I could freeze leftover buttermilk to use as a chicken marinade or in baking, but if it’s been frozen very long, the active cultures in it die, and then it can’t be used to make sour cream or more buttermilk, although I believe it’s still good for baking. (When you use buttermilk in baking, you need to add baking soda, which reacts with the acids in the buttermilk to make light, fluffy, baked goods).

So now I make my own buttermilk, about a cup at a time, which is perfect for making a batch of gluten-free buttermilk pancakes (recipe coming soon—so good!) or a jar of buttermilk ranch salad dressing, or cakes, biscuits, and other baked goods. To see how to make your own cultured, probiotic buttermilk as you need it, please click here.

***Those of you who follow this blog know that I make my own apple scrap vinegar. It is probiotic and tasty. If you’d like to try it yourself, click here.  You can make it on a small scale, in a half-gallon jar, which is how I started out. Now I have enough organic apple scraps from my apples to make it in 5 gallon buckets! But you can buy Bragg’s vinegar raw, or you can use any apple cider vinegar in this recipe.

****Also if you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write about saving my tomato skins when I make charred salsa, tomato-apple chutney, and Italian Red Sauce. I’ve found various ways to use them; please click on the links if you’re interested in new ways to use your dried tomato skins: pulled pork rub, braised and barbecued pork ribs. The tomato skins can be omitted from the ranch dressing recipe if you choose, but I like it.

I hope you enjoy this ranch dressing recipe enough to ditch the store-bought dressings with all the added ingredients that nobody needs to be ingesting. The bonus with this recipe is that you get some probiotics to boot! You really can’t beat that deal.

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Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Ginger Ale Update

I’ve got a new batch of homemade ginger ale fermenting.  In the past year, I have been learning more about ferments in general and about making homemade ginger ale in particular.  I still use the Sweeter Ginger Ale recipe below, but in contrast to the recipe and method I started with, I have learned that an open ferment produces better, bigger bubbles more quickly.

Therefore, the ginger ale mixture should be placed in a large bottle or jar and the top covered with a breathable fabric cover or coffee filter, and secured with a rubber band.  If conditions are warm, the ale will ferment within 48 hours.  When large bubbles appear, the ginger ale can be strained and bottled tightly for a second fermentation.  This is what produces a truly bubbly ginger ale, the second fermentation in an airtight bottle. The Sweeter Ginger Ale recipe below provides enough sugar for a viable second fermentation where others do not.

Generally, a 24-48 hour second fermentation in warm conditions is sufficient to produce good carbonation.  After small bubbles appear in the capped bottles during the second fermentation, the bottles should be chilled and stored in the refrigerator.  Care should be taken in opening the bottles.  They may foam over, so they should always be opened over the sink, or over a bowl if you wish to catch the overflow.

Sweeter Ginger Ale

(makes about 2 1/2 quarts finished ginger ale)

Simmer together for 5 minutes:

2 cups water

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 cup raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cool mixture.  Add:

5 cups cool water

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

1/2 cup ginger bug (follow link for directions for making and maintaining your ginger bug)

Mix well and pour off into large jug or jar, cover with breathable fabric or coffee filter, and secure with rubber band.  Let sit in warm place for 2-3 days or until large, yeasty-looking bubbles form.  Strain and bottle in bale-top type bottles or other bottles with air-tight caps.  Ferment again in warm place for 24-48 hours, or until carbonated.  Chill before drinking.

My previous post about ginger ale, called Science Experiment, details the progression and development of this recipe and technique, and also tells how to make, feed, and store a ginger bug, which is the base ferment for ginger ale.  However, I recommend following the above procedure for making ginger ale.  It’s a wonderful holiday drink, and a great digestive after a large meal.  If you wish, you can allow your ginger ale to ferment longer for an alcoholic content and champagne-like bubbles, but beware opening the bottles!

 

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Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Coleslaw Dressing with Yogurt

As some of you know, I’m away from my garden for a few weeks because of a family emergency. I have had to entrust the garden and greenhouse to the care of family members and neighbors at a critical time, but I appreciate their efforts to keep everything alive for me. I have no idea what I’ll find when I get back home at the end of the month, but I’ll be grateful for whatever survives. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a recipe with you.

In a recent post about making homemade yogurt, I alluded to a recipe for coleslaw dressing that has become a family favorite. I made coleslaw for a picnic in the park yesterday here in Denver and received many compliments, even though I wasn’t able to make the dressing with my homemade yogurt, which I think makes it even better.

The ingredients for the dressing can be mixed up days in advance, but I like to mix the dressing into the shredded cabbage shortly before serving, so it doesn’t get too watery.  I will say, however, that this dressing won’t make your cabbage go limp if you mix it up the day before. I had to do that for this picnic, and while the dressing did pull some water out of the cabbage, it was still crisp and the coleslaw was tasty.

Very few people shred their own cabbage these days when packaged coleslaw mix is so readily available at the store. I rarely shred a whole cabbage any more, either (although I did for the picnic on Saturday), unless I have one fresh from the garden. The food processor makes this less of a chore, but slicing can also be done with a sharp knife. The key is to get the cabbage into thin shreds. You always want to slice (both with the knife and the processor), not chop. Chopping bruises the cabbage and will cause it to release more water, thus making your coleslaw more at risk for decreased flavor and limp texture.

This recipe makes enough to dress about half a medium-sized, shredded cabbage and about 3 medium carrots, also shredded, or one large bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix from the store. I always add 2-4 tablespoons of minced white or red onion to the cabbage and carrot mix before dressing. Too much onion will overpower the slaw, so be careful with it, but it’s a necessary addition to colelsaw in my opinion.

Coleslaw Dressing

(makes about 1 cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup plain yogurt*

2-3 tablespoons of sugar**

2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use my homemade apple vinegar for more probiotics)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Mix thoroughly, until dressing is creamy and smooth. It should taste a little sweet but tangy. Toss with shredded cabbage, carrots, and minced onion until well mixed. Serve immediately or within 24 hrs. (It will get watery the longer it sits, but leftovers are good!)

Notes:

*I think homemade yogurt really is best, and my son agrees with me, but any good quality plain yogurt will do. Greek yogurt will make a thicker dressing because the whey has been strained out of it. Why is homemade yogurt better? It’s tangier, and it contains more probiotics, which incidentally, aid in the digestion of the cabbage.

**You can substitute a different sweetener if you like. Honey or agave syrup would be fine. I have used both powdered and liquid Stevia and Splenda. Start with small amounts and taste as you go. For liquid Stevia, I recommend starting with about ¼ teaspoon and adding drop by drop to reach desired sweetness.

I don’t have my camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the coleslaw I made on Friday night, but hey, you know what coleslaw looks like. You also know how a good, traditional coleslaw should taste: tangy, a little sweet, a little bite from the onion, and some good crunch from the cabbage and carrots. It’s a favorite salad with our family (my son says he’d be in heaven if he had a lifetime supply of the stuff always in his fridge). I especially like it as a side dish with oven-fried chicken, barbecued spareribs, or pulled pork. Follow the links for my recipes for those dishes in the archives.

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Dairy, Fermenting

Homemade Yogurt

This is another installment in the “Fun with Dairy” series.  I’ve made yogurt at home for years.   Homemade yogurt is so much better than its store-bought counterpart, it’s astonishing. You can find any number of directions on the internet for making yogurt at home, and because of that, I’ve resisted blogging about making yogurt. But because so many people ask me how I do it, and because not all methods of making homemade yogurt are good ones, and because I’ve found a method that works without fail for me, I’ve decided to share it.

First, here’s what you need to make homemade yogurt:

Two pots, one large enough to hold the other, and the top one, the one you’ll cook the milk in, should be non-reactive (stainless steel, glass, enamel or porcelain-coated)

A candy thermometer (not strictly necessary but helpful)

A stainless steel spoon (don’t use wooden or silver spoons)

1-2 quarts of milk

1-2 tablespoons of plain, active-culture yogurt

Making yogurt isn’t difficult, but there are some important things to know. I’ve only had one failure in years of making it at home, and that one time was because my stove hood was dirty; the steam from the water jacket condensed on it, and a drop of dirty water fell into the milk.  That batch never thickened, and that little lesson taught me just how fragile lacto bacilli actually are. They do not like competition from other bacteria! (It also taught me to clean my stove hood before a yogurt-making session.) I’ve read about making yogurt in a crock pot.  I cook meat in my crock pot—and remember, lacto bacilli do not like competition from other bacteria.  It would be difficult and much more time consuming to sterilize the crock pot vessel than to use two separate pots.   I once tried making it on the stove without the water jacket, and the milk had a tendency to scorch before it got hot enough unless it was stirred constantly. So here’s the water jacket method I use, and it’s actually pretty easy. You can walk away from it and do other things while the milk is heating, and it will never scorch.

I fill my 13 quart stockpot 3/4 full with hot water, and start it heating on high. I invert my 6 quart stainless steel soup pot over that, stick my stainless steel spoon and candy thermometer into the boiling water, and let it boil for 10 minutes to sterilize the inverted pan and utensils.

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Then I turn the top pan, draining the condensed steam out of it, and put it into the bottom pan, so I have a big double boiler. The thermometer and spoon go in the top pan along with 1 or 2 quarts of milk, depending on how big a batch of yogurt you want to make.  Milk of any fat content can be used, although more fat produces a thicker, creamier yogurt. I usually use 1% milk.

Then, with the large pot underneath boiling, the milk heats in the top pan. Stir and skim off the milk skin occasionally, until the milk reaches a temperature of 170-185 degrees. I live at altitude, so the best I can ever do is 180 in a water jacket set-up. This heating kills off any bacteria left in the milk that would interfere with the lactobacillus reproduction. I think this is less important with store-bought pasteurized milk, but I always do it anyway. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, and have no plans to buy one, you want to heat the milk until it is very frothy.)

Then, the milk has to cool down to 110 degrees. It’s very important that the milk be cool enough when the yogurt culture is added, or the l. bacilli will die. It is also important that the milk be warm enough to wake up the yogurt culture. It’s kind of like Baby Bear’s porridge: it has to be just right. You can place the pan containing the milk into a bowl of cold water to hasten the cooling process if you’re in a hurry, but keep monitoring it, or it will cool too much and have to be reheated. I put mine on the cold marble slab in my kitchen and keep scooting the pan around on the slab to find another cool spot after 5 minutes or so. (Usually, I’m loading or unloading the dishwasher while I’m waiting for the milk to cool, so no time wasted there.) I’ve made yogurt without a thermometer, and I learned that the right temperature is just a little warmer than blood heat. If you’ve ever seen or heard of testing a baby’s bottled milk on your wrist to see if it’s the right temperature, this is the same thing. Just dribble a little of the milk on your wrist. For babies, the milk should feel neither cold or hot—that’s blood heat, about 98 degrees. For yogurt, the milk should feel warm, but not hot on your wrist. That should be about 110 degrees.

For the starter, use only plain, active-culture yogurt. It can’t have sugar or pectin or anything in it except milk or cream, and active l.bacillus cultures, but again, any level or percentage of fat in the starter yogurt is fine. I often use non-fat yogurt as my starter when I need a new culture.   Use 1 tablespoon yogurt as starter to each quart of milk.

Gently stir the yogurt into the heated and cooled milk, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and put the pan in a warm, cozy place to culture for 8-24 hours. Don’t move it or stir it while it is culturing. 8 hours will create a yogurt that firms up when cooled in the fridge, but a 24 hr. culturing period eliminates virtually all of the lactose in the milk because those beneficial critters eat it all up.

Some attention to the various ways to keep yogurt warm enough while it is culturing is in order here. A temperature of about 80 degrees is ideal. Some people put their yogurt in a warmed oven which is then turned off, but the light is left on.  Some folks with gas ovens say the pilot keeps the oven warm enough.  Others use heating pads (you have to have an old-fashioned one that doesn’t have an auto shut-off for this to work, and let’s face it, they’re a fire hazard), and still others are able to use the top of the fridge, which is usually warm. If the house is warm enough, the yogurt may be fine on the countertop.

My house tends to be cool, so I’ve worked out a couple of different methods that work for me at different times of the year. In the winter, when the heating stove is on, I park the pan, covered with its tight-fitting lid, on the slate hearth. In the summer, when the cooler is running, I put the pan in my laundry room (which doesn’t get any cool air from the swamp cooler) and stash it on top of or next to the big freezer, which pumps out a lot of heat. In the spring and fall when the laundry room is too cold or the heating stove is not yet in use, I use a drinks cooler. This is an easy method that can be used all year round. A portable cooler will keep heat or cold in, as required. In this case, we want to keep in heat. I fill the empty milk carton with the hot water from the big pan (the water jacket), stash it in the cooler next to the covered pan of yogurt and close the lid.  24 hours later: yogurt. No muss, no fuss.

When the yogurt has finished culturing  (it should be fairly solid, other than a bit of whey on top, when you tilt the pan), whisk the finished yogurt to smooth it out, then pour or dip it into clean containers, and chill in the fridge. Don’t worry if the yogurt seems thin after whisking. It thickens again as it cools. For Greek-style yogurt, you can drain it right away through a cheesecloth-lined colander if you wish, or cool it and drain it later. If you drain it long enough, you’ll end up with a yogurt cheese, a soft, spreadable cheese reminiscent of goat cheese, which can be served on crackers plain or flavored with herbs and other additions.

As the yogurt sits in the containers, whey rises to the top. This should just be stirred back into the yogurt unless the whey is desired for a different fermenting project. Always save a couple of tablespoons of yogurt for the next batch. The yogurt shouldn’t be more than a month old before it’s used for a new batch, or the lacto bacilli might die. If a batch of yogurt is too thin after chilling, it’s time to buy a new container of plain, active-culture yogurt at the store for a new starter. I do this about every 3-6 months. I guess the critters just get tired.

I am never without homemade yogurt in my fridge. We’re hearing a lot about probiotics these days and the health benefits of a strong immune system that’s boosted by probiotics. Homemade yogurt is probiotic, but more than that, it’s delicious.

I eat a small bowl of homemade yogurt every night. I usually mix a spoonful of one of my low-sugar jams (raspberry, peach, apricot, strawberry, nectarine, and various other combinations) into my yogurt, but my favorite thing to mix into it is homemade lemon curd. Tart, slightly sweet, creamy, lemony goodness. It’s dessert that’s good for you.

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But I also do a lot of other things with my homemade yogurt. I use it in my coleslaw dressing, in my sourdough starter, as a replacement for sour cream if I’m out, in clafoutis (a wonderful French country dessert), in dips or as a spreadable cheese, and in many other dishes. At some point, I’ll pass along those recipes, but for now, I hope this post has given you the impetus to try making something really good for you at home. And just so you know, if the yogurt fails to culture for some reason, you can still make ricotta out of the milk, so nothing is wasted.

 

 

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