Monday, June 29, 2015

Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles (GAPS : primal : gluten- and grain-free : paleo)

This recipe for bread and butter pickles is the best fermented veggie I've had. Grown-ups love them, my kids love them, even people who don't typically eat fermented veggies love them.  These pickles are crispy and delicious. Even if you've disliked every fermented veggie you've tried, give these a shot!

This recipe is my favorite way to use up the abundant squash and zucchinis at this time of year. And, you can even reuse the brine and spices for another batch once the pickles are gone.

Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes 1 quart
  • 3-4 medium cucumbers (OR zucchinis or summer squash*)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ~20 celery leaves, a stalk of celery, OR a 1/4 tsp of dried celery seed
  • 1/2 cup raw mild honey
  • 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 Tb celtic sea salt
  • 2 Tb whey
  • 1 Tb mild pickling spice**
  • Equipment needed: quart mason jar or Fido jar, rock for weighing down the cucumbers (boil the rock in water for several minutes to make sure it is very clean), cloth tea bag (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine mustard powder, honey, vinegar, salt, and whey.  Stir well to dissolve the honey and salt.  You may need to leave this sitting for an hour or two to get everything to dissolve and combine well.
  2. Wash the cucumbers and celery well.
  3. Remove and discard the ends from the cucumbers.  Slice the cucumbers evenly; I've used my favorite knife, a mandoline, or the food processor and they all worked wonderfully. 
  4. Add the celery leaves/stalk (if using) to the bottom of the jar.
  5. Put the pickling spice and celery seed into a cloth tea bag.  This makes it so that you won't have spices stuck to the pickles when it is time to eat them.  If you don't have a cloth tea bag, you could just put the spices in the bottom of your jar.  
  6. Add the cucumber slices to the jar, packing them down tightly.  Put in the cloth bag of spices around the middle of the jar and then keep packing in the cukes.
  7. Pour the honey/vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices.  
  8. Pack down the cucumbers so that they are covered by the liquid. If your cucumbers keep floating up to the top, try weighing them down.  I use a rock from my yard to hold the cukes down (I originally boiled the rock in water for a few minutes to make sure it was nice and clean, and then cooled it down before putting it on top of the cucumbers.)  There should be at least 1-inch of head space at the top of the jar.
  9. Scrape any spices or cucumber bits that are stuck to the jar back down into the liquid.  Then use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the inside of the jar above the liquid.  (This will help in making sure that the ferment works well and no funky stuff grows at the top of the jar.)
  10. Put a lid on the jar and leave at room temperature for 2 days; then transfer to the refrigerator. You can taste-test a pickle slice to make sure they are ready before moving them to the fridge. If you'd like them a little more pickled, leave them out for another day.
  11. Enjoy!  Once your pickles are all gone, don't throw out that brine and the remaining spices.  Rather, chop some more cucumbers, pack 'em into a clean jar, pour the brine/spices over them, and ferment again! The flavor of the second batch will be a little muted, but still totally tasty!
*Zucchinis and summer squash make great pickles too, BUT they will be soft instead of crispy.
**I buy Frontier brand mild pickling spice from the bulk section at the natural foods store.  If you can't find pickling spice, blog reader Brian has shared his recipe for pickling spice as follows:
Makes enough for 6 quarts of pickles
4 TBS yellow ground mustard
3 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS allspice
1 TBS dill weed
1 TBS celery seed
1 TBS red pepper flakes
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp caraway seed
1 tsp ground ginger

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Triple Berry Kombucha

We've been brewing our own kombucha for over 4 years now. It is such a fantastic, healthy, probiotic drink, and it is one of our staple drinks. Once every two weeks, we bottle up 3 gallons of our finished kombucha and make a new batch to ferment. Our kids love to participate in the process of adding flavors and bottling the kombucha.

Over the last year, we have been loving Triple Berry Kombucha, made with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. We have tried individual berry flavors in the past but were dissatisfied with the flavor. With a little experimentation, I learned that a little lemon juice greatly enhances the flavor of berry kombucha. This combination of three types of berries gives the best flavor.

Required Ingredients and Equipment

To make flavored kombucha, you need to start with some plain kombucha. You can see my recipe for making kombucha here.  Once the fruit is added, the kombucha is allowed to ferment for one day on the counter to develop the flavors and create a bit of fizz.

Mason jars work well for making flavored kombucha. If you want your kombucha to be extra fizzy, Fido jars work well.  

Recipe: Triple Berry Kombucha

Makes 1 quart
  • 1/2 cup combined of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries*
  • 1&1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3&1/2 cups kombucha tea
  1. Combine all ingredients in a quart mason jar
  2. Cover tightly and allow to ferment for 1 day at room temperature. 
  3. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  4. Since the berries are fairly flavorless after the fermentation process, strain them out before serving the kombucha. 

Do you brew your own kombucha? What are your favorite kombucha flavors?

*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen berries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.
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Monday, June 8, 2015

Quick and Easy Way to Prepare Salad Greens

I stumbled upon this fantastic method for cleaning and preparing lettuce for salads many years ago.This method is quick, it has minimal dirty dishes, and it works very well. I use this method anytime I need to prepare salad greens, and it also works well for preparing herbs (such as basil or parsley).

Quick and Easy Way to Prepare Salad Greens
  • Lettuce, arugula, or other greens (this works well for herbs, too)
  • Equipment needed: salad spinner (I love my OXO Little Salad Spinner, which has worked flawlessly for many years and is small enough to fit easily in the fridge)
  1. Begin by ripping the lettuce (or other greens) into bite-sized pieces and placing them directly into the basket of the salad spinner. Do not use a knife to cut the greens unless they will be completely consumed immediately after preparation, as using a knife will cause the cut edges of the greens to brown quickly.  I like to prepare as many greens as will fit into the salad spinner which usually means there are leftover greens, so I always hand-rip instead of using a knife.
  2. Fill the salad spinner with water and gently slosh the lettuce/greens around to wash it.  
  3. Pull the basket out and let the water drain. Instead of pouring the used wash-water down the drain, I like to use it for watering plants.
  4. Repeat the washing twice more with fresh water.  Triple-washing the lettuce/greens ensures that all debris and dirt is fully removed.
  5. Drain the basket and use the salad spinner to dry the lettuce/greens.
  6. Any leftover lettuce/greens can be stored directly in the salad spinner in the fridge.

 Do you have any tips to share for easy salad preparation?


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