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!

Chicken scratches

It’s been one of those weeks. Between the unbelievable heat wave and drought we’re having in Indiana (and I know we’re not alone), kids (ahem… and a Mom) who are at the end of their summertime rope, and the unexpected chaos that life throws at you sometimes, I’m ready to announce that the month of July can stick it.

Except there have been some bright spots of intense, broad-spectrum UVA sunshine. A couple of fun moments in the past days:

WE GOT CHICKENS!

I plan to write much more about this, and include all the back-story about Tim building our coop, and acquiring the chickens, and their appropriately bizarre names, and the fact that Tim thinks they’re dumb (as if he expected otherwise). But the best part by far is the fact that we’re already getting eggs — the pic above was our very first one, before we had even touched it. Isn’t it beautiful? I couldn’t believe how big and perfect it was. Not a spot on it. Like a pristine little gift from who knows which chicken.

I’m eating eggs everyday, from my backyard! This brings me much joy.

I’ve also gotten to spend a few hours at a new bakery in town, called Amelia’s. I’m working on my next story for NUVO, and am beside myself with excitement over this one. For our three years in Indianapolis, we’ve never had a good artisanal bakery — but Amelia’s is changing this. It’s a commercial bakery, so they’ll mainly be supplying local restaurants — but you’ll be able to buy their naturally-yeasted breads through their next-door restaurant, Bluebeard, as well as several other local markets in town. If you’re local, look for the story in next week’s issue (edited: whoops, looks like it won’t run until October).

Meantime, we’ll just be here waiting for a seemingly endless summer to break, dumping buckets full of ice into the chicken coop, continuing to be surprised by the fact that chickens really will eat anything, counting my lucky stars that we have air-conditioning. Less than a week, right?

 

Grain-free Blueberry Tart

Oh, how I miss pie.

I was looking back over some old blueberry recipes, and came across one for my first blueberry pie. Just looking at the (admittedly-average) photo made me salivate. I could hear the knife cut into the flaky crust, feel the crumbs stick to the corners of my mouth, smell the butter that lingered after the plate was licked clean.

Pie, the ways that I love it. If I mourn fruit now, my woes will shift to tomatoes come August.

‘Cause you know what? There’s no good way to make a grain-free pie crust. Nut flours just don’t behave for the likes of that.

My solution? Let us eat tart.

In researching this recipe, I combed through varieties involving cheeses, custards, pastry creams and jams. But since what I wanted was PIE, I went with a filling that is as close to that as possible. In fact, it closely resembles the filling for that delightful pie of yore, from Cook’s Illustrated. I wanted something that showcased the plump and sweet blueberries we picked last week (still happy in their bag in my fridge) — something fresh but also intense and jammy. Something in want of a dollop of whipped coconut cream (or whipped dairy cream, for the lucky among us).

After one miserable tart shell failure, I happily landed on a winner. The crust is mild and buttery with a good crumb, the filling simultaneously rich and fresh, scented with lemon, just-sweet-enough. So good, in fact, I’m filing this under recipes-I’ll-make-again-even-when-I’m-no-longer-grain-free.

Right after I make that pie.

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Recipe: Grain-free Blueberry Tart (refined-sweetener-free, optional dairy-free)

: makes (1) one 9-inch tart
Inspired by this recipe at Martha Stewart dot com and this recipe at Deliciously Organic.

This recipe is not GAPS-legal because of the starch thickener necessary for the filling. I have found that I tolerate small amounts of tapioca starch — an alternative would be using gelatin, but I’m not sure of the ratios. I do not recommend making the tart without a thickener, as the filling would be watery.

If you have sweet berries, you can likely use just 1/4 cup of honey — use up to 1/2 cup if berries are on the tart side.

Ingredients

For the shell:

  • 1 3/4 cups blanched almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter or cold coconut oil, cut into small pieces (plus more for pan)
  • 3 Tbsp honey

For the filling:

  • 5 cups fresh blueberries, divided
  • 1 Tbsp pearl or instant tapioca, ground to a fine powder in a coffee or spice mill (or use tapioca starch)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup mild honey (see note)
  • pinch salt

Instructions

For the shell:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Brush a 9″ tart pan with melted butter or coconut oil.
  2. In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flours, gelatin, and salt, and pulse to combine.
  3. Scatter butter or oil over top of the flour. Pulse about 8 times (1 second each), or until mixture resembles meal.
  4. Pour honey over the top of the mixture, and pulse a few more times until dough comes together.
  5. Spread dough evenly into tart pan, making sure to evenly cover the sides.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown (watch carefully during last minutes, almond flour burns quickly). Allow to cool to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Reserve one cup of berries for the top.
  2. Place 2 cups of berries into a small saucepan with 2 Tbsp water. Cook over low heat, mashing the berries with a potato masher until only a few remain whole. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Add tapioca, lemon zest and juice, honey, and salt. Return to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened.
  4. Stir 2 cups of fresh berries into the cooked mixture, and immediately pour into the cooled tart shell.
  5. Scatter reserved cup of berries over the top of the filling, pressing gently so they adhere.
  6. Chill until set, about an hour.
  7. Serve topped with fresh whipped cream or whipped coconut cream.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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

 

Lemon honey pots de creme with mint-honeyed strawberries (dairy-free)

Cream, in all of its thick, decadent, buttery glory. It rises to the top of our milk jugs, this time of year a good 2″ layer of pale yellow richness (the color from the beta carotene, from the grass the cows munch to make the milk).

I miss cream. Heavy, whipped, frozen, or liquored.

There is no all-encompassing substitute for dairy cream — believe me, I’ve searched high and low to find it. The closest I’ve come is my beloved coconut cream — though it’s not entirely the same, especially in flavor. Rich, yes — but it lacks the depth of dairy cream. The buttery, almost salty, fragrant nose.

It just can’t be replaced.

But for some applications, you can come darned close. And one dessert I recently discovered held its own in the dairy-free department: pots de creme (pronounced po-day-crehm), or as we like to say in the low-brow, non-French-speaking world, baked custards.

Coconut milk (and/or cream) combines with egg yolks to create a thick, flan-like texture. Flavored with lemon and honey, the coconut almost disappears — especially when paired with tart-sweet, minted strawberries. A decadent, dairy-free summer dessert, with no refined sweeteners.

It’s enough to keep a dairy-lovin’, dairy-free girl placated for just a few more months, until my world includes cow’s milk again.

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Recipe: Lemon Pots de Creme (dairy-free, GAPS-ok*)

: makes 4-6 custards, depending on size of cups

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk (or 1 cup full-fat coconut milk and 1 cup unsweetened coconut cream)
  • 1/3 cup mild honey
  • heavy pinch salt
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325º, and have ready 4-6 ramekins, oven-proof mugs, or jars, along with a baking pan large enough to hold them without touching (and deep enough to hold water halfway up the sides of the cups). Put on a pot of water to heat almost to boiling for the water bath.
  2. In a medium saucepan, warm the coconut milk (and cream, if using), honey, and salt until the honey dissolves.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. While whisking the yolks vigorously, ladle in some of the warm milk to temper. Return the milk and yolks to the saucepan, whisking thoroughly.
  4. Strain the coconut milk & egg mixture into a bowl or 4-cup measuring cup with a pour spout (straining is optional, but helps the final texture). Add the lemon zest and vanilla, and stir well.
  5. Divide the custard evenly among the cups in the baking pan. Place the pan in the oven, and pour hot (not boiling) water into the pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the cups.
  6. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until custards are set in the middle. Remove cups to a rack, and let cool completely at room temperature.
  7. Cover cups with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled. Serve topped with mint-honeyed strawberries, recipe below.

* Canned coconut milk can contain guar gum or other starch-based agents, use only if tolerated.

 

Recipe: Mint Honeyed Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, and vanilla. Add the strawberries, and toss to coat.
  2. Let stand 5-10 minutes at room temperature, or until juices release.
  3. Add mint, and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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

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On regrets

I could have ridden a watusi today.

I don’t know what stopped me. Maybe it was the massive horns. Maybe the way the watusi looked at my shyly, almost sweetly, and I just couldn’t imagine putting her out that way.

Actually — no, I know exactly what it was. It was my mom-ness, my holding-things-together-ness. It was my needing-to-know-what’s-next-ness. My awkward-ness.

It was fearful-ness.

Fearful of what? you might rightly wonder.

I have no idea. is my unacceptable answer.

All of this bucket-list-mucking (confession: I don’t really have a bucket list to muck — perhaps this will spawn an all-out intervention?) happened at a place called Bison World, north of Indianapolis. You can read all the details of my visit in next week’s NUVO — but in short, it’s a farm that raises grass-fed bison (and other “pets,” such as the ride-worthy watusi — not the one pictured above), and sells the meat locally, or anywhere else in the world. The farm was beautiful, the bison majestic, in that dusty, fly-covered sort of way.

We grilled bison burgers tonight, and their praises were sung far and wide. Much more tender, much less gamey than I expected. There’s a future for ground bison in our deep freezer, even if my golden opportunity for watusi-riding is now firmly in the past.

There’s a life lesson in here somewhere.

Oh, right: grab the bull by the horns.

 

 

Relaxing

I had a nightmare last night — you likely know the flavor: I was back in undergraduate school, standing in the office of the art department. Trying to explain to the department head my predicament: I had forgotten about two of my classes for an entire semester, and finals were starting the next day.

This classic anxiety dream has nothing to do with anything but the fact that today I started life again, after a lovely 5-day respite. We went with friends to their house at Lake Michigan, joining mutual friends from North Carolina whom we’ve not seen together in years. In short, it was so lovely, in that delightfully relaxing way you can be with old friends, that my subconscious then equated re-entry into normal life with a blind-taking of college finals.

We did a lot of this:

All of those meals, so low-key, no-stress, without pretense, and remarkably, even shockingly, tasty. I had my very first bite of deep-fried asparagus, I’m told a local specialty, and completely addictive (in case you’re wondering, yes, I cheated).

And also my first beer-can chicken.

(Sorry for the blur there, my hands were shaking at the prospect of having a Bud Light can on my blog. Here’s a better one:)

Cheap beer or not, this was hands-down the best chicken I’ve ever had. No joke. It rocked my poultry world (though I refuse to admit that the Bud Light had anything to do with that, other than provide moisture).

To balance out the alcohol universe, we drank some really. Good. Wine.

In case the parents were too close to having all the fun, my kids got to have their own version of vacation treats: canned whipped cream, hosed in copious amounts (with my maternal hands tied behind my back) on top of a warm strawberry-rhubarb pie.

(No, the wine was not hers — she chose the canned whipped cream instead. Silly, silly girl.)

Not to mention s’more-making:

We nibbled on smoked meats and cheeses, imported from our beloved local shop.

And speaking of smoked, we did that to a pork butt and some lamb.

Some of us smoked other things too.

And when dinner was over, we caught the sunset from the top of a dune. A few of us caught air as well.

Final verdict? Totally worth a panicky discussion in the art department office during the wee hours of this morning.

 

Chickens -n- cherries. Not together.

Big news at the Carter house: we’re getting chickens.

Isn’t that just so femivore of me?

All we need is the coop. Which usually runs a few hundred bucks, even if you’re building it yourself.

But thankfully, my husband is a cheap and resourceful man (really sexy traits — and I’m not even joking — when we started dating a dozen years ago). He found out that BigCar, a local arts collective, is unloading quantities of industrial shelving from an old auto-parts store that’s now the Service Center for Contemporary Culture to people who have a specific project in mind for up-cycling. He figured it would make great framing for our chicken coop, and hey, it’s free.

So here’s a shot of the beginning stages of our coop (via an Instagram from last week):

The top part will end up with plywood and siding, and the whole thing will be wrapped in chicken wire (bottom too, as predators like to dig under coops to get to the chickens), and they’ll have an enclosed run that’ll extend about 15 feet. My favorite part is the ladder they’ll walk to get into their house, which is ready-made from a steel auto-parts shelf.

His prediction is that the whole project will cost him about $70. That man, I tell you. Be still my beating heart. More pics of the progress will come.

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In other news, it’s cherry season! Only about 3 weeks early!

I had my first-ever experience of cherry-picking a couple years ago, when my friend Shannon discovered a sour cherry tree in her new yard. We picked like mad, probably after the cherries were a little over-ripe, fighting against birds and worms and gravity to get the largest harvest we could. Last year the tree was dormant and produced no fruit — so we were eager last month when fruit began to appear. Because of the crazy-mild spring in Indiana, the cherries are very early, and I was shocked to get the call last week that they’d likely be ready within days. I picked this afternoon, with Shannon, her girls, and Emily:

Don’t we look gloriously happy to be picking cherries? I think it looks like an ad for some sort of pharmaceutical that has nothing to do with cherries. In reality, one of us had undoubtedly said something unbearably funny, since we are just those kind of girls who say unbearably funny things with every exhale.

And if I’m smiling, then what you can’t see is the fear in my eyes: that rung was as high as I was willing to go on the ladder. And every so often I’d look down and wonder what it would feel like to not just fall, but fall through the limbs of a cherry tree, scraping  exposed skin along the way, to the hard ground below. The smile was all a nervous facade.

There is a reason someone invented a cherry picker. A person-sized bucket with sides & hydraulics sounds like the way to go.

But all that living-dangerously did paid off with a quart & a half of cherries. And don’t think I won’t be out there again in coming days — dropping necessary activities for more opportunities to take my chances on a ladder in a (relatively short) tree.