Join the Canvolution!

August 16, 2009 in dessert, Gardening, Humble Garden

peach-jam-450-1

So by now, even MY garden (Humble Garden) is starting to produce, after months of rain of biblical proportions. My pickling cucumbers are growing, green beans and lemon cukes are whats for supper, and zucchinis are starting to really outpace our intake!

Anyone who gardens will eventually need to preserve or put up some of the bounty, thats where canning comes in!

There is a grassroots movement across the US to help people, especially all those new gardeners out there, how to preserve their food!

Its called Canning Across America.

Join the Canvolution!

The premise is that classes will be organized hopefully near you.

I will be teaching how to use a pressure canner to can low acid foods like meats, soups, sauces, and vegetables at the August 30th, 2009 Cantacular Canvolution event in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Here are the particulars as posted by Linsey Herman at her blog Cakes and Commerce!

The Canvolution Will Not Be Televised – August 30th, 2009

The Can-o-rama Cantacular is open to everyone with an interest in canning, preserving, pickling, and putting things by. Held in conjunction (canjunction?) with Cans Across America, our Somerville Can-o-rama is both a social event and a day of workshops, learning, and sharing.

Though the event is an all-day affair, please feel free to come and go as you please. If you do join us part way through the day, please be prepared to introduce yourself to the group. Don’t worry – we’re a friendly bunch! You’ll be able to bring home a can of something good at the end of the day – what it is will depend on what we do during the workshops.

We will be supplying a limited amount of jars and fruits and vegetables. Suggestion donation will be $10 to cover supplies, including jars and vegetables. If you have some fruits or vegetable you really want to can, please bring them in. Likewise, a donation of 12 new pint-sized ball jars can be made in lieu of a monetary donation. Please email me if you plan to do this instead.

While we will supply canning equipment and some jars, you will need to supply a few basic kitchen tools to participate. Please bring with you:

* a kitchen knife, preferably a chef’s knife
* a cutting board
* a dish towel

Because we will need to limit number to about 20, please make sure you sign up early if you are planning to come. We will cut off signups on August 27th – you have up to that date to sign up – we will be picking up provisions at the farmers market so we need to finalize numbers by then. To sign up, please send a suggested donation of $10 to: lin sey h e r m a n ( at ) y a h oo. c o m.

I will send you the address – a location in Union Square – as soon as I receive confirmation of your donation on PayPal.

We don’t have a set schedule of recipes, so if there is something you are really wanting to learn about, please let us know via email and we’ll try to incorporate it into the schedule.

We’re also hoping for some other demos throughout the day, from needle arts to knife skills…we’ll keep you posted!

Can-o-rama Cantacular Schedule, August 30th, 2009

10:15 am: Welcome & Introduction
Because this event is both about canning and fostering community, we’ll be starting things off with introductions. We’re pleased to meet you!

We’ll discuss the benefits and joys of canning and go over some of the techniques we’ll be using throughout the day.

11:00 am: Boiling Water Canning Linsey Herman
This is the most common form of canning for home cooks and requires the least specialized equipment. We’ll show you how to can tomato sauce, pickles, or jams and jellies.

12:00 noon: Lacto-Fermentation and other methods of putting by Alex Lewin
A tradtional method for putting food by, lacto-fermentation is at the root of sauerkraut, kimchi, some pickles, corned beef and many other well-known savory treats. Alex will show you how to get your own sauerkraut going and demonstrate how you can lactoferment your own vegetables at home. (note: we won’t can lacto-fermented vegetables because the processing kills off the beneficial bacteria).

1:00 Pressure Canning Nika Boyce
Exurban homesteader and scientist Nika Boyce will de-mystify pressure canning, which has long been seen by many home canners as dangerous. difficult or just too durn technical. Nika will present pressure canning and explain how to use the pressure canner to put by just about any low-acid food.

2:00 More Boiling Water Canning
Why not? This is the most common form of canning for home cooks and requires the least specialized equipment. We’ll show you how to can tomato sauce, pickles, or jams and jellies.

3:00 pm on…
We’ll spend the rest of the day using what we learned to can everything we have. Come join us for recipe making, canning, and chit-chat!

We can’t wait to meet you on August 30th!

Sandor Ellix Katz and the Wild among us

May 18, 2009 in cookbook, Gardening, review

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Sandor cutting cabbage)

It is always inspiring to meet people who are passionate about food. Sandor (Sandorkraut) Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, spoke at BU’s “The Future of Food: Transatlantic Perspectives” conference and I snagged a front row seat.

Sandor was there a bit early (along with us early attendees) and chatted with us as he methodically cut up a cabbage and carrots, salting them as he went.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Concentrating)

He then launched into an extremely well articulated and impassioned talk on his journey into wild fermentation, about why fermentation is such a powerful method of food preservation and transformation and how fermentation, especially lacto-fermentation, is really important for our health.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Talking about his love for fermentation)

Take home message 1: Fermentation is the OPPOSITE of canning.

Take home message 2: Fermentation is safe BECAUSE of the beneficial bacterial populations (lactobacillus) that create an acidified environment which suppresses the toxin producing bacteria.

Take home message 3: When canning fails it is dangerous BECAUSE it kills all of those beneficial bacteria and allows toxin producing ones like Clostridium botulinum (botulism) to thrive in the oxygen-free environment.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Pressing kraut into pint jars, showing how to get the juice going)

Here is some kraut I am making (red from red cabbage).

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Week old sauerkraut)

And here I am pressing down on the covering plate to get the juices up – to suppress molds on surface of the kraut.

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Pressing down on the plate to push up juice)

Sandor also spoke of other popular ferments such as kefir. In the image below he is showing us some kefir grains, necessary for making a sparkling kefir drink!

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kefir grains)

The wikipedia describes kefir as:

Kefir (alternately kefÄ«rs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep’s milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

kefir grains

(Kefir grains – wiki source)

Someone asked him about kombucha and he talked about its history and culture. Someone in the audience “just happened” to have some on hand so he got to show us the “mother” culture (called a mushroom by some but it is DEFINITELY not fungal in composition).

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother)

Wiki describes kombucha as:

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother culture)

Sandor was of the opinion that you would be better served with whole food ferments like kraut versus a tea and sugar water one like kombucha.

There is SO much more to learn from Sandor about this lacto-fermented world! Pick up his books Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved – and also visit his site – Wild Fermentation.

If you get a chance to see him speak in person, you will not be disappointed!

I showed you my new sauerkraut above. I have also been starting a wild sourdough culture too.

Wild Sourdough starter

My first one got too stressed out and was harboring mostly an acetone producing bacteria, dumped it. I am now onto the second try.

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Am crossing my fingers this one will take off!

Culinary thermotherapy

March 2, 2009 in chicken, Gardening, Humble Garden, ingredient, recipe

Butternut Squash Soup

On a Nor’easter day like today, as I listen to the plow guy clear our driveway, I am rather fixated on warmth. It doesn’t help that our wood boiler has been slow to start this morning (making for cold water and no heat from the baseboards).

The boilermaster (namely the DH) is very distracted by a blown motherboard from a power outage last Friday, way too distracted to be attuned to the lack of heat coming from the boiler (I guess even the expensive backup batteries didn’t help, don’t ask me). All of which results in frozen toes and my cooking breakfast in a chilly kitchen while wearing a heavy jacket and scarf.

The advantage to this is that you do not need potholders, you just use your jacket sleeve.

This advantage is not making any friends in my book though.

Days like this (ok, all winter here), making a pot of warming soup is a coping mechanism, not a cute foodie affectation.

Today’s soup is one that I seem to make again and again, its that effective at countering the cold chillies. The base is butternut squash and chicken stock.

Its clearly NOT a raw food. (Administrative note, I am now going to post raw recipes and thoughts over at my new food blog Raw+Simple, its better to keep these things separate)

This soup is extra good because I am using really local food, namely, Dandy the really bad rooster (as seen below). He could NOT play nice in the chicken yard, being brutal to the girls and also to us if we strayed too close.

Humble Garden: Dandy

Dandy and a couple of other past-prime broilers were dispatched last summer. We made a huge amount of stock from these chickens and then canned some of it along with the meat.

Peaknix: food storage follies

I have been going through this stock slowly this winter, savoring each quart. After this soup, I have one quart left! Its no easy thing for me to make this because I find it exhausting to kill and then butcher the chickens. If Dandy had been an agreeable animal, he would not be on my shelf.

A pissy testosterone attitude has it’s consequences.

I long ago ran out of homegrown butternut or any other sort of squash so these are storebought. I did use homegrown sage that I dried last fall.

Butternut Squash Soup

Thermotherapeutic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 butternut squashes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 peeled carrots, diced
  • 1/4 C fresh fennel, sliced
  • 3-4 sprigs dried sage
  • 1 quart chicken stock (with some meat)
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 C heavy cream PER SERVING
  • sea salt and crushed pepper, to taste

Directions:

Over medium heat in a large heavy pot, saute the onion in the butter and oil. Once the onion is sweated somewhat, add garlic and allow to cook a minute or two, without getting any color on the onion or garlic. Add crushed dried sage, nutmeg, carrots, cubed butternut squash, diced fennel, and then add enough warm water to cover all. Cover pot.

Simmer until vegetables are somewhat tender. Add the quart of chicken stock (but reserve the meat in the refrigerator until later) and either more stock if you have it or warm water to bring the soup up to an almost full pot. Allow to come to a simmer but do not boil, the stock just doesn’t need to be boiled anymore, its been through enough already, don’t you think?

Once the soup has simmered for a good 45 minutes, take an immersion blender to the soup and blend until most of the texture is gone, leaving a few good bits. Cut up the meat and add to the soup. Simmer until the meat is heated through. Add salt and crushed pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and add heavy cream right before serving.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

I hope that you stay warm and dry today and likely best to stay off the roads. Stay inside and make up a big pot of something warm and thermotherapeutic!

Rededicated Food – a quest for mastery over an uncertain food world

February 10, 2009 in cooking, Gardening

Raw food: getting started

Ever since I have not been spending every moment either driving to or from work or at work, I have been able to spend some time at home reconnecting with the family in ways I have not been able to do in the whole of this past year. There is some qualitative difference for us between 2 and 3 kids that made me feel wildly out of balance with respect to making work and life mesh. Now that I have been able to decompress a bit and even tho the stress doesn’t end due to continued unemployment, I have been able to concentrate on something that was simply beyond my capacity before – our day to day food.

Sure, we have our own dairy goats but we have only one in milk and that was mostly for the toddler (with pasteurized cow milk intolerance). We have still be supplementing with conventional 1% cows milk.

We have bred the girls and there is some chance that soon we will have a visit from the caprine stork who will leave us baby goats (kids) and mommas in milk, thus increasing our milk output. I will be pushing hard then for a total ban on milk from the store.

Sure we have our own chickens and we buy no store eggs but we still have been eating conventional meat (organic store bought meats are WAY beyond our budget). I have been having to buy mostly chicken because that is whats inexpensive (99c/lb often) even though I KNOW that this meat is filled with unknown additives and are veritable nutrient-depleted bags of estrogen and estrogen mimics that are hell on our bodies (many cancers are estrogen-activated).

I have been putting together the seed starting schedule and I have already started indoor mesclun spring mixes for nibbling in the mean time. I have lots of tiny little seedlings which one day will give us fantastic organic nutrient rich eggplants and squash and cucumbers and lots more!

Mesclun sprouts

Yummy green sprouting lettuces

Peaknix: food storage follies

So, as you can see, we teeter between fantastic home-crafted food and cheap store-bought staples – considerable cognitive dissonance for me.

Peaknix: food storage follies

It has been an ambient undercurrent that had been festering for me for quite a while and then just recently the boil burst (to put it crudely) and I was left with an epiphany of sorts.

On the one had our diet didn’t suck all THAT badly. Its not like we drink sodas or eat frozen pizzas day in and out or any manner of things but on the other hand why do I feel so utterly unhealthy and have so much weight to lose? What part of this equation is not working. I think part of this is timing. Its been MANY months since the fresh bounty of our garden – we have not been eating fresh green things, fresh fruity things because those things in ADDITION to meats are expensive.

My epiphany boiled down to the fact that we do not experience natural health because of the things we buy from the store and our bodies are depleted of vital goodness (vitamins, cofactors, fruity juicy goodness).

For this reason I am exploring a diet that brings more living fruits and vegetables into our world, even in the dead of winter (I am looking out at several feet of snow as I type).

Carrot Chip Snowman & KD: coy

I am learning about the raw food diets out there and think I have decided that what makes sense to our family is not your traditional raw food diet. We already drink raw milk and I intend on keeping it that way. Our raw diet will mean that we will not drink any more “cooked” milk from the store. We wont start eating raw eggs but we will look for ways to use them that are easier on the proteins. We will eat MANY more fruits and uncooked vegetables.

Raw Food: meager blender

We here includes our family of young kids and 2 adults. My personal diet is going to be even more raw and less egg intense than the rest. I am enjoying learning how the vegan raw foodists have crafted all manner of recipes that bring texture and variety to the raw table. One way to do this is by using a dehydrator. You can take sprouted seed and grains, add other ingredients (fruits, coconut for sweet; spices, peppers, shoyu for savory) to make crackers and flat sheets that make great wraps or other dish elements.

This doesn’t have to be about salads all the time! (If it were, I could not do it, I need more depth to my cuisine than that).

We already had a juicer and a butch blender so getting the dehydrator was the final step in preparing for this new way. I am also teaching myself the simple craft of sprouting beans. Tested the family on store bought sprouts and they seemed to like it so its a yes-go!

Raw Food: juicer

As with any diet, there seems to be no end to the fantastic health claims that you see associated with raw foodism (take a peek at the abundance of YouTube testimonials). I am not interested in all of that. I just know that my body is not thriving on the standard american diet (SAD). Neither are the other bodies in my family. If the SAD is what we have tried, not sure how bad it can be (and I am thinking there has to be an enormous upside) to adopting a more raw approach to our food.

Tell me if you have any experience with raw food and if you have any favorite recipes, sites, books, mentors.
I will be writing again about recipes that I like or that I come up with that fit in this category.

I am not big on making faux burgers and such so I will be exploring how raw food recipes can move beyond that inherently disappointing goal on to a more holistic celebration or exploration of food in it’s raw state.

PostModBowlCheezCrack

Resources: