Giveaway: The Art of Fermentation

Last week, I promised an exciting giveaway was in the hopper. And tell me — do I deliver, or what?

I would enter this giveaway, if I could.

The winner, who unfortunately cannot be me (did I say that already?), will receive a beautiful, brand-spanking-new copy of The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz.

This is the bible of fermentation, friends. This summer I borrowed a copy from Suzanne, just long enough to read up on my beloved half-sour pickles, but returned it before she could hold it against me in our friendship and also before I could read it cover-to-cover (and yes, I would totally do that, on a Friday night — because that’s how exciting or shockingly anti-social my life is, depending on your age and personal obsession level with fermentation).

If you have any interest in making/understanding fermented foods — everything from cultured veggies to kombucha to yogurt to tempeh — seriously, I think he covers EVERY. THING. — then you want this book.

The only caveat is that, if you win, you have to let me borrow it.

(ok, not really — just if you live in Indianapolis)

No, really, I’m totally lying. You don’t have to ever show it to me, you just have to let me call you with all of my fermenting questions.

Enough, seriously — you really don’t have to do anything. Except fill out the form below (for real this time).

I’m rooting for YOU.
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To enter this giveaway, simply fill out and submit the following form before Friday, September 21, at noon EST. The information goes directly to Chelsea Green Publishing, and you will automatically be added to their e-newsletter list (unsubscribe any time). One entry per person; the winner will be selected at random by the publisher, notified via email, and the book will be shipped directly from Chelsea Green.

[This giveaway is now closed : ( ]

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I am super-grateful to the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing for agreeing to and facilitating this giveaway. I’ve received nothing in exchange for hosting, just the burning jealousy joy I’ll feel for the lucky reader that wins! Also, Kaitlin — you rock!

The Indiana State Fair, 2012 Edition

I was standing in line for the ferris wheel with Emily and Shireen, looking out over a sea of fair-goers at dusk, and casually mentioned that the scene reminded me of middle school, at the (Mississippi) state fair on a Friday night, looking for cute boys. I kinda thought everybody had this memory, like learning to ride a bike or going on your first date. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that not everyone grew up in such close proximity to a midway.

So we climbed onto the wheel, the “Tallest Mobile Ferris Wheel in the Country,” and shared our pod with a tiny little high school couple in love. Emily and I giggled nervously, our hands gripping the edges a little too tightly, and my heart fluttered every time Shireen leaned her camera out of the pod in order to get a better shot of the crowd below — I kept seeing the camera slip from her hands and fall prey to the asphalt.

Earlier that day, I watched Tim sit with my 8-year old in one of those swings on long chains that spins around and centrifugally flies passengers through the air at a 45° angle — except this ride, called Vertigo, lifted the swings to a height of 60 or so feet. That was where the nervous giggle made its first appearance. Thirty-five or so years after my first fair, I am amazed and slightly dubious of the physics and mechanics involved in fair rides.

The day before, I’d taken the kids through the animal barns and pseudo-farming village, thanks to a fun morning for bloggers sponsored by the Indiana Family of Farmers. I saw many things that my 40-year old eyes had never seen.

(apparently, they must shave the udders, and…)

(…these sweet children, ones who have show animals, pretty much live at the fair for 2 weeks. They sleep with the cows — slept right through our group of 40 or so people traipsing past.)

We were provided with both breakfast and lunch — and while for obvious reasons I didn’t much partake, I snapped this shot to prove to the masses that I am totally laid-back when it comes to feeding my kids:

Though I couldn’t help but laugh at the (irony of the) messages on the tablecloth beneath:

And while my current state of dietary restriction kept me from my own edible temptations, I did take a bite of Shireen’s funnel cake. After much retrospection, I do not think it was an exaggeration at all when, after embarrassing noises passed from my mouth as I chewed, I said, “That was the best single bite of food I’ve had in a year.”

Dirty, noisy, smelly, heart-attack-warning. State Fair, how I love thee.

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* I received entrance tickets to the fair & meal tickets for breakfast & lunch in exchange for having a great time with my kids.
Nighttime shot, from Ferris Wheel, courtesy Emily.

 

No way. Whey.

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of mention here, in these parts, about whey.

No, it’s not the protein powder. It’s the stuff of Little Miss Muffet.

You remember her — she sat on her tuffet (questionable action), eating her curds and whey.

Now, I’ll stop here, and admit that the first time I made mozzarella cheese (no eye-rolling — it’s remarkably easy, I’ll tell you all about it sometime), and realized that I was actually stirring a pot of of two ingredients that completely flummoxed me during my formative Mother Goose years, I was delighted. But that delight quickly fell way to further confusion, because the whole point of cheese-making is that you remove the curds from the whey — you don’t eat a bowl of them together.

Now that I’m thinking about this again, I’ll probably lose sleep tonight.

Anywhey.

See? There’s no end to this.

So what is this mysterious liquid of Miss Muffet and her curious arachnid? Whey is the liquid that separates from milk solids when making yogurt or cheese or other cultured dairy products. When making cheese, this separation occurs in dramatic fashion when acid is added to the milk. With yogurt, it requires a little more time, and often requires straining (though sometimes yogurt separates on its own in the container — that liquid in your yogurt cup? yep — it’s whey). It’s full of enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and lactic acid — and is good for digestion and nutrient absorption.

Whey is used in all sorts of lacto-fermentation. Many folks put it in their cultured vegetables — I use mine in bread-making, overnight-soaking of grains and legumes, fermentation of fruits and homemade mayonnaise, and lately in making beet kvass (a fermented beet beverage, my new favorite). I always have whey in my refrigerator — which is pretty easy to do, since it lasts in a jar for about 6 weeks.

One of the greatest things about whey-making day is the byproduct of this method: yogurt cheese. It’s the consistency of cream cheese, though more tart — and with a little honey, vanilla, and cinnamon added, it makes a fantastic probiotic dip for fruits and crackers. I have at least two children who gobble this stuff up — and the third gets mocked by the whole family when she doesn’t. It’s fun times.

Oh, and greek yogurt? It’s nothing more than strained yogurt — just like what we do here in this process (you’d just stop after the first straining step, when the yogurt is very thick but still creamy).

So get off your tuffet and give this a try. Helpful hints: my favorite cheesecloth is this brand — and I’ve been using and washing the same cut-off 18″ square now for about 6 months, so it’s worth the tiny extra investment. Also, if you’re not into sweet dips, then by all means just use some chopped garlic, fresh herbs, and sea salt for a lovely savory dip. I’m sure Miss Muffet and her voyeuristic spider would approve.

 

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Kids’ power smoothie

Sometimes, it feels as though 90% of my energy on any given day is spent figuring out how to get as many nourishing foods into my kids’ bodies as possible, given their standard-fare pickiness, a limited budget, and their battle-weary mom.

Another 5% is spent doing the laundry.

I don’t know if you’re keeping up with the math, but that leaves 5% of my energy for doing things like brushing my teeth, showering on occasion, keeping up with social media, and watching my library-loaned copies of Lark Rise to Candleford (a BBC period-dramedy chosen specifically for its solid escapism capabilities).

I’m not (always) bitter, just constantly surprised by how much energy it takes to feed kids well. And looking for better solutions.

Thankfully, last spring I landed on an easy, sure-fire way to get loads of good probiotics into the bellies of my kids: the smoothie. We’ve been enjoying them all summer, but school starts Monday (!) — and my goal is to pack them full of friendly gut-flora, daily, year-round, to give their immune systems that much-needed school-year boost.

The great thing about smoothies? You can sneak things into them. Things like greens, kombucha (a how-to-make-your-own post is coming soon!) beet kvass (a lacto-fermented beverage made from beets — great for the liver, not-so-tasty for the kids), or brain-boosting fish oil (tastes like lemon!). I like using probiotics from multiple sources — yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and a powdered kids’ probiotic supplement — to get as much variety as possible in beneficial bacteria.

If you want a protein boost, you can add a spoonful of nut butter (almond and cashew butters are more neutral in flavor than peanut butter). For constipated kids, grind some flaxseed and throw it in (1 tsp should do). And my personal favorite for getting some extra brain-boosting fats? A quarter of an avocado makes the smoothie thick and creamy, and you can’t taste it at all.

The best part of all? No complaining. At afternoon snack time, when my kids hear the blender running, it’s like a Pavlovian reaction — they come to the table, ready to drink. It keeps them satiated until dinner, and gets those good bugs into their adorable little bellies.

Leaving me just enough time to switch out the laundry, check twitter, and change out of my pjs before dinner.*

* Of course I’m kidding. I’m totally done with laundry by dinner.

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Chickens in da house

Chickens are funny. Funny ha ha.

Don’t they look regal, with their combs and honey-colored eyes? But in reality they are just silly little birds, quietly chatty, with odd household habits and a seeming willingness to dig a hole clear to China if it means getting a fresh bug or worm.

We’ve enjoyed getting to know our little chickies. We “adopted” them, from a woman in our neighborhood who had fifteen (!!!) in her backyard, needing to unload them before an imminent move. We connected via phone, and on a weekend she was out of town, Tim took the kids over and grabbed four. The kids named them that day:

1. Z-Horn
One of our two Plymouth Bard Rock chickens. Named Z-Horn because its feathers look like a zebra, and its comb is more horn-like than its twin. Or so my kids say — I still can’t tell the two chickens apart.

2. Z-Za-Zebra
Suffice it to say that this one was named by our 3-year old. She originally named her “Z-Zebra,” following the lead of her brother’s naming of Z-Horn. We tried to get her to reconsider, considering the fact that stuttering out the name “Z-Zebra” is awkward and confusing. But she stood her ground, and almost to punish our suggestion that her choice was anything but ideal, she retro-actively added an additional syllable — so “Z-Zebra” became “Z-Za-Zebra.” And you might as well add an extra syllable of laughter in there, because none of us can say it without chuckling.

Oh, and in case you think that Z-Horn and Z-Za-Zebra look suspiciously like the same chicken, they could be. I took countless photos of those birds, and when I got them downloaded couldn’t tell them apart. So, who knows. I’m calling them both Z-Horn anyway, here’s hoping they don’t suffer from identity crisis.

3. Fire
Fire is, in my opinion, the prettiest. But we have no idea what breed she is. Any ideas, those of you familiar with chickens?

4. Bullseye
Again, no idea on breed. Bullseye got her name because she was the first one the kids found scratching in the coop, and they thought she looked like a bull. Again, I plead confusion, because every time my kids refer to “Fire” this is the bird I picture. Because, you know, she’s bright gold. Like fire. Duh.

Taking care of these little creatures has been surprisingly, pleasantly easy. Most of the time they stay in their coop/run (details on these to follow in a future post) — but on slow mornings and weekends we close our backyard gate and let them out into the yard to eat grass and bugs. They dig up everything — which matters not to us, since the drought has left our grass brown, our yard full of leaves already fallen from two river birch trees in distress, our garden a bust. Call me cruel, but one of my favorite things is to sit outside and drink my coffee, watching them run in terror when a squirrel scuttles down a tree. Turns out, uselessly-terrified chickens are hilarious, especially first thing in the morning.

And, of course, the eggs. We’re getting an average of 3 a day, which according to many chicken folks is amazing in this heat. Their main diet is feed, but we’re generous with kitchen scraps — and between those and the grass/bugs, their yolks are the biggest, yellowest yolks I’ve ever seen.

Many of you have asked about the investment required for chickens — whether or not they save money on eggs. I’ll try to cover that in the next post, all about the house that Tim built.

 

Old-fashioned Blueberry-Basil Preserves

I love using descriptors like “old-fashioned.” They are completely undefinable (from the time of yore?), and conjure images of everything on the shelves at your local Cracker Barrel.

(In case you’re wondering, other adjectives falling into this category include old-timey, prairie-style, country — oftentimes spelled with a “k” — and grandma’s.)

But I’m coming up empty on finding another name for these preserves. Honey-sweetened, commercial-pectin-free, and lacto-fermented. Seems like the way our great-great-grandmothers likely had to make jam, yes? On the prairie or in the country, no doubt.

My motivations for making them this way should come as no surprise: I’m still not eating sugar, which leaves most jam recipes out of reach — and I’m totally into fermenting things these days. Give me a jar of just about anything, and I’ll stir a little whey into it, let it sit on the counter for a day, and let those good lactic acid bugs multiply (granted, the honey in this recipe probably halts that growth a bit, but they do still grow, according to what I’ve read in Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation — ahem, many thanks to Suzanne for the weekend book loaner! It’s now on my to-acquire list!).

Oh how I heart this jam. The high salt content helps with fermentation but also lends a delightful surprise flavor component to what we’ve come to expect from jam (read: candy-sweet). Simmering the berries with honey helps bring out their natural pectin — so once chilled, the jam really does jelly up (though some liquid does remain). I’ve recently been allowed one slice of Ezekial bread each day on my diet, and don’t think every one of those precious slices hasn’t included this jam, since the day it was ready.

Old-fashioned, somewhat near a prairie. I think I’ve found my kountry urban calling.

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Blueberry-Basil Preserves (lacto-fermented) on Punk Domestics

Honey-rosemary ice cream (dairy-free)

Remember my grain-free strawberry-rhubarb crisp from a couple weeks ago? The one that fooled people, in its grain-free-ness? Well, this is the ice cream that went on top. The ice cream that fooled people in its dairy-free-ness.

There was a lot of fooling going on that night.

I’m not just into culinary trickery for grits and shins — though it is all selfishly-motivated. I want to eat yummy desserts. And so I try my hardest to make them, using ingredients I can eat while on my wacky diet. Sometimes, it works out, and I actually make something amazingly delicious. Which of course I then want to hoard in a dark corner of my basement share.

I have no idea why this ice cream works so well — I’ve made other coconut-milk-based frozen concoctions that are good, but something about this one was simply near-perfect. Maybe it’s because the honey and rosemary don’t fight with the coconut, don’t try to overshadow it — they just dance with it. The texture is as creamy as you can get without including the milk from a cow.

It would go well over just about any fruit dessert — say, an Independence Day pie or fresh blueberry tart. Or, on its own, drizzled with a dark-chocolate sauce. How you eat it matters not — it only matters that you eat it.

Eat it, and tell me you are not fooled.

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Recipe: Honey-Rosemary Ice Cream (dairy-free, refined-sweetener-free))

: makes about 1 quart

If you don’t have coconut cream, you can use (1) 14-oz can plus one additional cup canned coconut milk. Use a full can in step 1, and the additional cup in step 4. If you use local, pastured eggs from a trusted source and prefer to use raw yolks, you can forgo heating the mixture to 165º in step 3 (simply heat the honey and milk until the honey dissolves, then whisk in your yolks).

Ingredients

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup (1 8-oz box) unsweetened coconut cream (see note for substitution)
  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • pinch salt
  • 6″ sprig fresh rosemary
  • 5 egg yolks (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the can of coconut milk with the honey and salt. Bring just to a simmer (do not allow to come to a full boil). Turn off heat, submerge the rosemary sprig into the milk, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove rosemary sprig (discard). Return saucepan to medium heat, and warm the milk until hot to the touch.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly ladle the hot milk into the egg yolks while continuously whisking (a towel placed underneath the bowl helps keep it from moving). Pour egg yolks and milk back into the saucepan, whisking, until combined. If using grocery-store eggs, heat the mixture until it reaches 165º on an instant-read thermometer.
  4. In a large bowl, pour the cup of coconut cream (or more coconut milk). Set a strainer on top of the bowl, and pour the hot milk & egg mixture through the strainer into the cream.
  5. Stir the mixture over an ice bath to cool. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely before freezing according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.