Strawberry Jun in June: Summer flavor mmm!

21 Jun

Happy Solstice!

 

I have been fermenting away but too busy to write about it very much lately. I have to confess:  with flavoring I can get rather boring because once I hit on a flavor winner, I tend to make that one over and over until I get sick of it.  This month is the month of strawberries, probably my favorite fruit.  So, naturally, Strawberry Jun is the way to go.  The recipe can’t get any simpler, either:

 

English: A home-grown Camarosa cultivar strawberry

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Jun

 

1.  Brew your jun.  (See my jun 101 post.)

2.  When the jun is ready for consumption, fill a serving bottle  1/4 full of fresh, quartered strawberries.  Cover the chopped strawberries with jun to the top of the bottle.  (You could bottle your jun in portable pint sized containers for on-the-go, or make a larger batch of flavored stuff in 1-2 quart sizes to keep in the fridge.)

3.  If you are feeling more adventurous, add about 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger per pint.

4.  Put it in the refrigerator.

5.  Wait at least one day for the flavors to merge, and then consume!  You can eat the strawberries straight out of the brew.  They make an attractive addition to the bottle.

I don’t have a real picture to show you, because I CONSUMED IT ALL!  This is my problem with strawberries.  They have a very short shelf life in this house.  In fact, when I’m chopping them for a prepared item, half of them are in my belly before they hit the bowl.

P.S. Two days later, I found a hideaway in the fridge. Here’s your pic!  

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Herbal Bouillon

18 May

In early March, I finally managed to catch a meeting with my local fermentation meetup group– yes, that is a thing that exists!  I usually miss them because of my work schedule.  The March theme of the month was booze and bitters, inspired by spring and the upcoming St. Patrick’s day.  The woman I was sitting next to was gushing about a relatively new book:  Foraging and Feasting by Dina Falconi.  She was so enthusiastic about it that I later looked it up online.  She was right!  It’s awesome.  I now own the book, and I have taken some time to page through it.  It’s full of gorgeous and helpful illustrations by Wendy Hollander, along with a host of recipes.

IMG_2468

Herbal bouillon is the first recipe I have sampled from the book.  Falconi includes suggestions for all sorts of wild herb combinations.  My own version is composed of what I had to use up in my fridge one week in March.  It’s a great recipe if you find yourself with more greens than you have time to eat before they go bad.  The high salt concentration makes this more of a preserve than a true fermentation:  these greens will keep almost indefinitely.  I look forward to this as a way of adding a splash of  vibrant summer green into my otherwise cabbage-laden winter cookery.  In the book, the recipe calls for sixteen ounces of fresh greens.  Sixteen ounces is a LOT of plants.  I pared the recipe down to four ounces of greens and once ounce of sea salt, because that’s the amount I had on hand.  You can use whatever amount you like, but the ratio of salt to greens is important to maintain for preservation purposes.  Four ounces of greens was was perfect for stuffing into a half-pint mason jar.

A few teaspoons of bouillion goes a long way in dressing up a soup.  So far I’ve used it in an otherwise bland leftover chicken soup from my mother-in-law figure and to dress up my own lentil soup.  The most specialized part of the recipe is that you really need a kitchen scale to get the proportions of salt to greens correct.

Herbal Bouillion

Clean and mince 4 ounces of greens.  I used:

2/3 oz basil

2 oz cilantro

1 and 1/3 oz scallions

Mix the herbs with 1 oz celtic sea salt.

Stuff them into a half-pint jar, and store in a cool, dark place.  The fridge works just fine.  I took this picture today.  Notice how it’s still vibrant green,  six weeks later.  The salt will corrode metal, so it’s best to use a plastic lid, or put a layer of wax paper or plastic wrap between your mason jar lid and the glass jar.

IMG_2469

 

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Cultured Butter

6 Apr

For ages, my boyfriend has been suggesting that we should try making our own butter.  I think he was imagining us in a pastoral setting, me with braids in my hair  and petticoats around my waist, and us taking turns at an old fashioned butter churn.  I finally took Mike up on his invitation last month, following the directions in Sandor Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation.  The process was exceedingly simple.  I’m sure it would be much more romantic with an old fashioned butter churn, but I used my modern Kitchen Aid mixer to the job for me instead.  It took just a few minutes to churn the butter this way.  The following recipe is for cultured butter.

 

Butter churn Français : Baratte

An old fashioned French butter churn. Photo credit to wikipedia.

Cultured Butter

(makes one cup of butter, and one cup of buttermilk)

Step One:  Culture your cream, making crème fraîche.  

Take a pint of raw heavy cream, and leave it at room temperature for a day or two. My kitchen is still pretty chilly, so I put mine in my oven with a pilot light, which kept it a little warmer than if it was on the counter. The cream will start to ferment itself, and will thicken.  Raw cream sours in the presence of it’s own enzymes.

Pasteurized cream will not sour on its own, as the pasteurization process denatures some of the necessary enzymes for that process: it will go rancid instead.  If you do not have raw cream: heat your cream to 185 degrees to kill bacteria in the milk. Once the milk has cooled down to 110 degrees, aka “blood warm,” add a couple tablespoons of buttermilk to your cream.  This will inoculate the cream with the organisms you need to ferment it properly.  Now leave this cream at room temperature for a couple days until it thickens.

You now have crème fraîche

Step Two: agitate the crème fraîche

20140321-225607.jpg

The whipped cream is solidifying and the butter solids are separating from the buttermilk.

Put your cultured cream into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and put it on a relatively high setting, keeping an eye on it.  It will turn into sort of a whipped cream first, and then it will solidify into butter.  The liquid left over is buttermilk.  If you don’t have a mixer, you could do this by hand.  One way is to put it in a jar, and shake the jar until the cream solidifies.  You can then feel less guilty about eating butter if you are one to worry about calories, because you just did a big arm workout!

Now you have butter and buttermilk.  Separate your two new elements, squeezing as much of the buttermilk as possible out of your butter.

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The butter and buttermilk, side-by-each, as the French might say.

 

Step Three:  Make pancakes! 

Or, whatever else your heart desires.  

 

 

 

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Congee

21 Mar

The last post I published had to do with me getting a cold.  Luckily, I am over that hurdle now, but in the meantime I came up with a great healing breakfast that utilizes a recent fermentation that I posted:  Mak Kimchi.    Almost every day last week, I ate congee for breakfast, mixed with kimchi, some tamari sauce, and a fried duck egg on top.  It looked about like this:

20140321-225815.jpgCongee is a Chinese food that is commonly eaten during illness.  Part of the premise of congee as a healing food is that the rice porridge, cooked for an extended time, is  nourishing and easily digested so that vital chi is not wasted on the effort of digestion, but instead the body’s energy is reserved for the effort of healing.  I believe congee can be found in other Asian cuisines as well, but I was introduced to it at a New York downtown Chinese restaurant, appropriately named Congee Village.   Kimchi is decidedly Korean, so my preparation of congee could perhaps be called Asian fusion, although Doctor Google has told me that actually Koreans have a similar porridge called juk.

My dancer friend Rebecca often comes into rehearsals with a glow in her eye, saying “I made congee last night.”  The choreographer we work for has attested to her amazing congee making skills.  When I  asked her how she makes this awesome congee, she replied.  “It’s very easy, you just add a shitload of ginger.”

So, I followed Rebecca’s advice.  Here is my version of congee:

Adele’s Sick-Week Breakfast Congee:

Rinse 1 cup of rice.  I mixed half white and half brown rices together.  Traditionally, you would use a short grained sushi rice.

Put the rice in a 4 quart slow cooker.  Mix it with 1 tsp sesame oil.

Add 10 cups of water (that’s what I did this time) or chicken stock (more traditional), and a dash of salt.

On top, grate a shitload of ginger.  (whatever that means to you.  Sorry, I didn’t measure.)  I grated about two inches worth of ginger, basically, what I had on hand.

Cook on low in your slow cooker overnight.  I like to start my slow cooker on high for the first hour to heat things up, and after that, I turned it on low and set it for an 8 hour cook time.

To serve, add mak kimchi, tamari, and a fried egg that’s still a little runny on top.  Scallions would be nice too.

Enjoy!

Alewife gets a cold, engages with Osha root: Monica’s tincture.

13 Mar

Brooklyn Alewife has a cold.  I thought I got through this winter without getting  sick at all.  Till now.  I do recall some time in mid-January, I almost got sick and warded it off with plenty of sleep, elderberry brandy, herb teas, and an amazing Osha root-based tincture from my friend Monica.   She discovered the root via her now ex-boyfriend, who left a bunch of it behind, and she began chewing it straight-up to help her overcome a lingering illness.  Liking it a lot, she found that she particularly liked it in combination with both red root and cherry bark.  Periodically when I got a threatening tickle in my throat this year, instead of taking cough drops I took a half-dropper of Monica’s tincture.  It soothed my throat as well as warding off whatever germs were attacking me.

hallsgood.preview

These halls ads were all over the subway a coupla years ago. I feel like this lady right now.

Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)  is an herb that Monica introduced me to last year.  It’s native to the Southwestern US and Mexico, and my herbal books seem to have a blind spot for it.  My wellness wall chart in my kitchen sites it for sinusitus, because of it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.  A quick google search led me straight to Wikipedia, and the picture of Osha looks much like poison hemlock, which is not too surprising because both plants are in the parsley family.  The plants are easily distinguished by smell, however.  Hemlock has a mousy smell when the leaves are crushed, whereas Osha has a celery smell to it.  This celery smell and taste is noticeable to me in consumption of the dried root.   Osha is sometimes called bear root, because brown bears are attracted to it, both eating the roots and rubbing it on their fur.

Researching Osha today, I find via both Susun Weed’s website  and on the Mountain Rose herbs website an advisory that Osha is an at-risk species, to use sparingly.  Guilt rises in me, as I just bought two ounces of the root yesterday (okay, that’s not that much).  Because of the scarcity of the root, you should be mindful of your herbal sources:  Do you get your supplies from someone who harvests sustainably?

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (o...

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (osha, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licoriceroot, loveroot, etc.), showing flowers and part of seedhead, Winsor Trail, Santa Fe National Forest, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weed sites Osha as a very powerful herb that helps to prevent against anaphylactic shock and other extreme reactions to both allergens and venoms.   She also refers to it as “singer’s root,” because of its soothing effect on the throat.  I have noticed it listed as an ingredient in prepared herbal remedies such as “Singer’s Saving Grace,” and “Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark,”  two remedies that I have used over the years when I am sick.  The good news is, a little goes a long way.  I was not sparing in my use this winter, and an ounce of diluted tincture lasted me the entire season.

Here’s what Monica did.  Keep in mind, neither Monica nor I are trained herbalists, but amateurs dabbling in herbal crafts, experimenting researching, and having conversations.  Do your own research.  Check out the resource linked, for instance in this article.  Take your herbs with respect and caution.   Via Weed, 2 oz. of dried roots should be combined with 10 oz. of high-proof alcohol.

Monica’s Osha tincture:

In a glass jar, combine

2 oz coursley chopped osha root

2/3 oz cherry bark (read more about it here)

1 and 1/3 oz red root. (read more about it here)

Cover the roots with 20 oz. 100-proof vodka.  Cap the jar tightly, and let it sit for a year.  If some of the alcohol evaporates, you can top it off.

Tinctures are generally consumed  a few drops at a time in a glass of water.  Monica chose to dilute her master tincture with distilled water to a still strong but more directly ingestable level (Dilute yours to taste if you go this route:  she just said, “I put a lot of water in there.” I’m going to guess my bottle is half distilled water).  If you dilute the whole tincture, you will shorten the shelf life, but is a nice way to carry it around and apply at will on the bus, on the road, whatever, even if you don’t have a bottle of water with you.

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Healthy Jun Mother

4 Mar

I’m sending a fresh Jun mother out to Kathleen in Missouri. Here is the SCOBY in her batch of Jun just before I packed her up. Notice the old SCOBY is still floating low in the brew. Jun tends to make more sediment than Kombucha, which you can also see at the bottom of the jar. The brown stuff hanging down from the SCOBY is strands of yeast, to my knowledge. This can be consumed in the beverage or filtered out. The new Jun Mother is floating at the very top of the brew.

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A note of Carmelite and Chaga

25 Feb
A black polypore fungus on a white birch...

Chaga:  A black polypore fungus on a white birch… (Photo credit: Charles de Mille-Isles)

Two nights ago, a friend and fellow fermenter came over to visit. When Monica called, I was in the midst of making some chaga tea for a trial tasting. Chaga is a new acquisition of mine.   I sent Mark, a fellow blogger, a Jun SCOBY a week or so ago, and he sent me the chaga he hand-harvested in exchange. What a fun gift! I had never heard of it, but Monica had, and was super enthusiastic about having some.  Chaga is supposed to have many  health benefits, as in it’s anti- anti- everything.  Cancer, Candida, HIV, Malaria, Inflammation.  You name it, Chaga kills it!  Believe the claims as much as you want to.  Anyway, it’s pretty yummy, and I don’t think it’s even something you have to acquire a taste for, like kombucha can be. My boyfriend’s testament to chaga is that it smells like cooked bananas.  (Smelling is as close as he’s gotten to it:  he is not as adventurous with me when it comes to wildcrafted and fermented things.   He does, however, eat my kimchi with a vengeance).  Chaga is sweet and earthy. The first couple nights I drank it plain and liked it a lot. Tonight I’m sipping it as I write, with a little milk and honey mixed in. Like this, it seems to be a great coffee replacement. It satisfies the same flavor craving, even though it doesn’t really taste like coffee.

Monica samples the Chaga. The bricks of mushroom are there in the baggie by her on the table.

While the chaga was simmering in my Chinatown herb pot, I was also straining out my Carmelite water, an alcohol infusion that I’d been letting sit for the last month.  I discovered this recipe from a book that I randomly picked up at Integral Yoga one time when I was working at their bookstore:  Wild and Weedy Apothecary, by Doreen Shababy.  It’s a fun book written in an almost journalistic way, with herbal inspired recipes from A to Z.

A "bare foot" Carmelite nun

Carmelite water is so called because it was allegedly first created by the Carmelite nuns in Paris in 1611.

A web search on the stuff will offer you a few variations on the recipe, but the ingredient they all agree on is lemon balm, also known as Melissa.  Lemon Balm is known as a nervine tonic.  It’s good to calm the nerves, and also good for digestion, headaches and menstrual cramps.  Monica and I found the combination of  lemon balm and the high alcohol content to be very effective in calming our nerves.  Nuns in the carmelite order are known to have a proportionally large amount of holy visions.  If they were drinking this stuff all the time, I know why!

Monica double fisting the chaga and the Carmelite water. Notice the “calming” effect that Carmelite water has had on her after one sip! Later I read on Mark’s blog that Chaga and alcohol don’t mix well. Oops!

Shababy adds sugar to her Carmelite water.  I omitted the sugar to keep the brew more versatile:  aside from being a beverage it can double as a perfume (haven’t tried that part yet), and I didn’t want to be spraying  sugar on my body.  The other change I made was replacing her angelica leaves with angelica root, because that’s what I found at my local herb store.  The resulting recipe is spicy and bitter.  I can see how it would make a great digestif.

Carmelite Water

4 Tbsp dried lemon balm leaves

3Tbsp dried angelica root

2 Tbsp whole cloves

1 Tbsp whole coriander seed

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

2 c good quality vodka.  I used Stolichnaya, 80 proof.   A high proof liquor is safer for tincture infusions because it kills off any bacteria that might spoil the infusion.  Shababy says the infusion should have a shelf life of 6 months.  I’m guessing that the high proof vodka would help it last longer.  Another recipe I saw online is a wine version of the beverage, if you want to go for something lighter to drink.

Combine all the ingredients in a jar, cover and let infuse for a month.  Shake it every day, whenever you think of it.  The infusion will turn a dark brown.  The proportions I used make it very spice heavy.  You could certainly play with different proportions of herbs and spices for a lemon-balmier blend as well.   After a month, strain out the herbs, and consume.  We drank it neat, in little sips the other night.  It is basically a bitters, however, so I think it would be great in small amounts to spruce up a cocktail.  I can also easily imagine drinking it with ice and a little simple syrup or honey mixed in.

English: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), her...

English: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), herb garden, St. Andrew’s-Sewanee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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