Sunday, December 28, 2014

Easy, homemade Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a food that I have grown to appreciate as an adult.  When I was younger, my parents would eat it and I thought it looked disgusting.  I was a kid and kids are weird that way....  

I've expanded my food preservation skills into making fermented pickles, pickled jalapeños, and pickled yellow peppers, so this year I decided I'd try sauerkraut as well.  After lots of googling, I opted for lacto-fermenting, because it took less time, less salt, and I happened to have plenty of whey in my homemade yogurt container.

You'll need:
I large, firm head of cabbage (or two smaller heads), finely chopped (a food processor with shredding capabilities would be really useful here)
2 Tablespoons of sea salt
1/2 cup of whey.  (If you don't have any sitting around, you can buy a large container of plain yogurt and strain it through cheesecloth and you should end up with enough whey)

You can also add one shredded carrot and/or one finely sliced onion if you want to, but for my first try I wanted to stick with the basic recipe.  

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl (this is my big popcorn bowl)

Add salt

Add whey

Use your hands to "massage" the cabbage several times over the space of a half an hour or so, until the texture changes from crisp to wilted.  You can use a potato masher for this if you don't want to use your hands, but hands work better. (Ignore the giant bags of cereal in the background)

Place cabbage and liquid in a large jar.  Press the cabbage down firmly so it's packed tightly, and is below the level of the liquid.  You can add a little water if you need to to make sure the cabbage is covered, but it shouldn't be necessary.  I used a half gallon mason jar. 

Place a plastic bag in the jar and fill it with water, making sure that the bag spreads out inside the jar.  This acts as a weight to hold the cabbage below the level of the liquid.  

Place a lid on the jar.  I just used the ring, and let the water bag be open at the top, but you could tie the bag off, and put a solid lid on the jar too.  It doesn't make that much difference.  I just wanted to leave plenty of room for the sauerkraut to expand- and my very full bag of water did end up spilling down the sides of my jar a little.

Place the jar in a corner of your counter, away from major heat and direct sunlight.  

Now wait.

And wait....

My kitchen was a little on the cool side, so what was supposed to take three days took two weeks to get to where I was satisfied with the taste.  After the time was up, I divided the kraut into three pint jars and put it in the fridge. 

Now I just need some bratwursts.  

Update:  Got some hotdogs... They were good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Roasted Chili Peppers

Check out my tutorial for roasted chili peppers (I used Anaheim Peppers from my garden) at Feminist Mormon Housewives. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Greek Quinoa Salad

Here's another food post (and I'm annoyed that I repeated myself- apparently it is so crucial that you make the quinoa ahead of time so it can cool, that I had to say it twice).  I've got to learn to proof-read better.

Anyway, this is a tasty one, so you should go buy the ingredients and make it THIS SECOND.

Greek Quinoa Salad at Butter with a Side of Bread

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 2014 Garden Update

This was my garden in May:

And here it is in July.  A lot happens in two months.

Peppers and melons.


Summer squash, cucumbers, ground cherry, kale and mini pumpkins.

Green beans.

This is the green bean bed that the birds got to and I didn't have enough seed to replant.  It has some beans, and I added two pumpkins plants and three sad clearance tomato plants.


Winter squash.

Jerusalem artichokes and pole beans.

Artichokes.  These died a few times and I replanted.  Hopefully the two remaining plants survive and produce next year since they're not doing much this year.

Green onions (I grew roots on the ones I bought at the store and planted them.  I just keep cutting the tops off and they keep growing back.  I read that if I let one flower and go to seed, those seeds will come up next year).

Chicken Waterer.  Eventually this system will be hooked up to our automatic watering system.

Baby watermelon!

Banana pepper (for pickling!).

Anaheim pepper.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Food Post

Clearly I need to post about gardening stuff more often, because now I have two food posts in a row.  I've been a bit sidetracked.  My beans and corn never came up.  At least not more than a handful of plants.  I'm not sure if birds ate the seeds as they sprouted, or if my hand watering just didn't go deep enough and the seeds were too dry to germinate.  I replanted beans in one bed, and got a couple of pumpkin plants to fill in the other bean bed.  I also replanted the corn bed.  Then I bought soaker hoses so hopefully they'll water more deeply than my spraying-with-hose method.

In good news, the winer squash plants are growing like crazy, and I have several more jerusalem artichoke plants up.

The thing that has kept me the most busy for the last few days has been the cherries.  So far I've been juicing and dehydrating them, but I'm still planning on freezing some for smoothies and pureeing some for cherry fruit leather.  Hopefully I'll get a post up soon on the cherry harvest.

Back to the food: I'll be contributing semi-regularly to the blog Butter, with a side of Bread.  My most recent post is Spinach Chicken Pasta Salad. It's a really good light summer dinner, or a great dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Guest post at Butter with a Side of Bread!

Check out my guest post at Butter with a Side of Bread today and learn how to make easy peach slurpees.

Peach Slurpees

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hardening off plants

Check out my Inner Pioneer post over at feminist Mormon housewives on how to harden off plants you grew from seed.  If you don't harden off seedlings, they'll die when you plant them outside.

Hardening off plants

Monday, May 12, 2014

Outside Stuff

I have been wanting to post about the new garden, but between the rain and other delays, there's not a lot going on yet.  We've gotten the yard mostly graded, and the raised bed pieces are being worked on (we're getting a unused storage tank from work sliced into rings, which we'll squash into ovals to use as raised beds).

Last weekend we did get the chicken coop moved which was a pretty big job.  Here's my Mister using the tractor to move the chicken cube (someday it's going to have a roof and siding).  It wasn't located quite legally- too close to the other shed, so we moved it to be safe and legal- and also to give the chickens a better set up in the winter- last winter their food and water area was shaded by the coop, and they didn't get much sun.  This will be much better.

While we were moving the coop the chickens were all off dust bathing.  We thought these looked dead.  Funny chickens.

We also moved mama hen and her chicks, and gave them a little free roam time.  They were pretty cute.

One sad job was to "off" the rooster.  We aren't allowed roosters, so when Buffy the Vampire Slaying Chicken, turned out to be a he, we were pretty sad, and put off the inevitable for as long as possible.  With warmer weather though we, and the neighbors, started sleeping with the windows open, and 5am rooster crows just don't work.  Goodbye big guy.  You were a majestic creature. 

One thing that made killing Buffy a little easier was that we have a broody hen, so we gave her some eggs to sit on (we also took a bunch over to the elementary school for a class to try to hatch- they have an incubator).  No idea if we'll get any chicks out, but can't hurt to try. 

Lemon Mother's Day Cake

While my husband took care of dinner, I decided to make a cake.  Inspired by the meyer lemon my friend gave me from her parents' lemon tree.  (Oh to live in a climate that could grow things like lemons.)

The cake recipe was pretty straight forward, and I didn't get any pictures.  It's a Lemon Cake from Martha Stewart.  I used lemon zest that I had in the freezer so I could save my one lemon for topping the cake.  While the cake was baking, I thinly sliced the lemons, picked out all the seeds, and combined them with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to move the lemon slices to a piece of wax paper.  The remaining syrup gets a little more lemon juice added to it, then poured over the cake while still warm.  Then put the cake in the fridge to cool so you can frost it.

The whipped frosting recipe also came from Martha Stewart.  I don't think I whipped mine quite long enough- it was more meringue-like that I think it should have been, but it was very good.  

All it is is egg whites and sugar and water.  Heat over double boiler to 150 F.

Transfer to mixing bowl and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Add 2TBSP of lemon juice and whip just until the lemon juice is mixed in.  

Spread on cake.  :)  I didn't frost the center layer of this cake.  It didn't need it, and the cakes themselves were a little on the fragile side and it was easier to stack them without worrying about a middle layer.  Next time I might try making a lemon curd for the middle- but with the lemon syrup poured onto the warm baked cakes (poke holes with a fork to help it not run off the sides) this cake is plenty sweet and lemony.

Top with candied lemon slices.  

It may be different if you whip the frosting longer, but the cake was very reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie.  

Monday, May 05, 2014

Mint Chocolate Cake

I made this as a pre-wedding wedding present for my friend, and actually made two since mint chocolate cake sounded like something I needed to eat as well.  It worked out nicely to have one cake to experiment with as far as frosting it.

I used two german chocolate cake mixes (for most basic cakes, cake mixes are as good as any made from scratch recipe I've found, my great grandmother agreed with me…) and baked them in four 9 inch round pans.  One set of cake pans have a removable bottom making it easy to get cakes out.  My other pans are tradition round cake pans, so I use coffee filters flattened in the bottom along with cooking spray, and the cakes came out perfectly.

Once the cakes were cooling on a rack, I started making the mint mousse.  I based it off the strawberry mousse recipe I love to use.  Instead of pureed fruit, I used whole milk, two or three drops of green food coloring, and 7 drops of peppermint oil to mix with the gelatin.  Once that began to thicken, I folded it into my whipped cream.  I think next time I will use cream, as this mousse was very light and airy, which went well with the heavy chocolate ganache, but I think cream would make it a little more finished.

I chilled the mousse in the fridge for half an hour and then spooned it onto my two bottom cake layers (I still only made one recipe of the mousse, because the original cake it was meant for had more layers, and there is plenty).

Carefully place the top layer on the mousse and chill cakes.  

While the cakes are chilling, you can start on the frosting.  I used my standard buttercream (which means I whip a stick of softened butter until it's light and fluffy, then start adding powdered sugar and a little milk until I get a consistency I'm happy with.  For this cake I only used a couple tablespoons of butter and instead added in a block of cream cheese.  I think for the amount I made, I could have used two blocks, but the frosting turned out minty and smooth without an overpowering cream cheese flavor.  I added five or six drops of green food coloring- I wanted a pale green color- and 7 drops of peppermint oil.  

After I frosted the cakes, I put them back in the fridge and started on the ganache.  I tried a new recipe, and will be using it in the future.  

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (preferably 70 percent cacao)
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened

I doubled the recipe. I actually ended up using a 4 oz bar, and then another 4 oz of imdividally wrapped ghirardeli mint dark chocolates.  The mint chocolates gave the ganache just a hint of mint, and it was amazing.  

I had a hard time piping mint frosting onto the top of the cake and had to take the bag apart, thin the frosting and start over with a new bag, and in the second attempt, the frosting was softer that I would have liked it, but I didn't want to stop and try again, so I just went with it.  

To top it all of I used my cheese slicer to shave Andes mints over the top of the cake.  

I wouldn't say it's my most beautiful cake (mostly because the soft frosting didn't stand up well enough on the top, and it's slightly off center), but the pale green is lovely against the chocolate ganache, and the whole thing was incredibly delicious.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Egg-volution

We didn't dye easter eggs at my house this year.  Our eggs are already multi-colored and my kids don't seem to mind not doing it.  I did decide to make hard boiled eggs though, to snack on, and for making egg salad sandwiches (I love those).

Enter the only negative thing about having your own chickens, and "farm fresh" eggs.  Fresh eggs DO NOT peel.  At all.  It's a huge mess and leaves you with a piece of egg that looks like someone took a very small machete to the outside of it.  Eggs from the grocery store are not nearly as difficult to peel because they are older than the eggs you gathered from your chickens that day.  It can take several weeks for eggs to reach your local grocery store.

I've tried adding oil, adding baking soda, and adding salt to the water, all of which are supposed to make it easier to peel fresh eggs.  None of those things worked.

Enter the pressure cooker.  My parents bought it for me for Christmas last year and I've been enjoying trying all sorts of things in it.  I hadn't done eggs in it before, because it doesn't save much time, but then I read that something about the pressure makes even fresh eggs easier to peel.

I'm converted.

Place the trivet in the bottom of your pressure cooker and add one cup of water.  I used my silicone muffin cups to keep the eggs separate (and I did two layers).  I did have a couple crack but the cracks didn't seem to affect the finished product at all.

Seal the lid, and set the pressure cooker to cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.  When timer goes off, allow it to release pressure naturally for 4 minutes (I didn't pay close enough attention and didn't get to them until 5 minutes had passed- but they turned out perfectly).  Release any remaining pressure, remove the eggs and dip them in ice water to cool them down.  

The shells will come off easily.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

I made this cake for a fundraising auction.  I think it's my best one yet.  2 layers of chocolate cake, Raspberry Mousse filling, raspberry buttercream frosting, chocolate ganache, topped with raspberries and a raspberry glaze.

I used a devils food cake mix, baked using the high altitude directions.  Like my great grandmother said, while homemade cakes aren't really that hard, a cake mix is faster, and there's not any noticeable difference (plus, I know the cake will turn out great every time).  
The mousse filling recipe came from a strawberry mousse cake recipe I found awhile back.  I swapped out the strawberries and used thawed frozen raspberries instead.  I also doubled the sugar.  In a cake with so much other sweet stuff going on, I actually prefer a slightly less sweet mousse, but some people like things sweeter than I do.  If you use the mousse in a pie or for standing alone, be sure to double the sugar.

The frosting was also from that recipe, although I added a bit more powdered sugar to make it stiffer.  Again, swapping thawed frozen raspberries for the strawberries.  I didn't chop them, just added them into my mixer and let it do the work.  

The chocolate ganache recipe is 4oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I use a ghirardeli chocolate bar), 1 TBSP chilled butter, and 3 TBSP karo syrup.  Chop the chocolate and butter, and add karo syrup.  Bring 1/2 cup cream to a boil and pour over chocolate mix.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Stir gently until the chocolate is smooth.  let sit for a few more minutes.  Pour over cake and use a spatula to direct it over the sides.  I poured mine onto a cold cake, so it sets up faster.  

After the ganache had cooled, I piped a circle of stars with a blob in the middle, and piled the raspberries up inside the circle.  

The cake still needed something else, and my husband suggested some sort of sauce, so I used 1/4 cup of raspberry juice (from my home canned raspberries- mostly water and sugar), but pureed raspberries, strained, with some sugar added would probably work fine too, and dumped a packet of gelatin into it.  I let it sit for a few minutes, and then stirred it up.  It was still a little lumpy, so I added a little karo syrup to encourage glossy smoothness, and microwaved it for 30 seconds.  Then I let it cool in the fridge and when it started to thicken up, I drizzled it over the raspberries.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014 Seed Starting

The weather here as alternated between snowstorm, and warm spring.  Warm enough that I want to start planting.  I'm holding off a bit longer, but I did get my seed starting trays out, washed them, and got them planted.  Somewhere in the moves of the last several years, I lost all but the top cover of my third seed starting tray.  Since I'm holding off starting perennial flowers and ground cover for the yard until next year (or maybe just later in the summer) when the sprinkler system is finished and the yard is leveled the way we want it with rocks in the right spots, I don't really need the third tray, but it was still a bummer to find it missing.  It's probably in a random box out in the garage.

Here are the two planted trays.

I have 48 Opalka tomatoes.  We've grown this variety for three or four years now and really like how solid they are.  They're perfect for making salsa and canning.  Thin skin that comes off easily and thick meaty flesh.  Shaped like a large hot pepper.

4 California Wonder, bell peppers that I picked up a couple of years ago at a local store.  I think they were Martha Stewart brand.

4 Sweet Banana Peppers.  These are a first-try seed for me.  The plan is to pickle them.

4 Isis Candy Cherry Tomatoes.

16 Scarlet Kale.  These are also a first-try. If we can't eat all of it, we'll share it with the chickens.

4 Jalapeño pepper plants.  Hopefully these seeds germinate, since they're several years old.  I use jalapeños in our salsa, and also for pickling.

4 Quadrato Asti Giallo Peppers.  This was the new variety of bell pepper seeds I decided to try out this year.

12 Mortgage Lifter.  This is my second year with this variety.  They are big juicy slicing tomatoes.  Great for eating with a little salt and pepper.

12 Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry.  These are an experiment for this year.  I remember a neighbor when I was a kid growing these, picking the fruit off the ground, covered in little paper husks.  My grandmother made choke cherry jam, so when I saw these, I was hit with nostalgia and decided to try them out.  The seeds are tiny!

Finally, I have 12 Emerald Globe Artichoke plants.  These have been in my freezer for two years now, since I forgot to take them out to plant last year, with the house building.  Hopefully the seeds think they're well over-wintered and produce this year.  Last time I did artichokes, I planted the whole packet of seeds (which was only 8 or something).  5 plants survived, and only one of those survived the next winter.  We'll see if I can find a more protected location this year to try to get more to survive.  These are perennials in areas that don't get so cold.  Here we have to baby them to make it through the winter.