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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall into Fermentation

Fall is a good time to try some fermentation, gardening chores are harder because of rain and cold, and  fewer vegetables are being harvested.  I've been making sauerkraut for a few years, I use quart wide-mouth canning jars.   I process 2 cabbages at once, slicing them into my food processor in batches.   I sprinkle them with several shakes of sea salt, then I was adding Acidophilus powder sprinkled out of capsules, 1/2 capsule per batch, with cabbage up to the tops of the processor blades.   But recently I started making kefir with raw goat's milk, so I drizzle on part of a teaspoon of kefir before processing instead of the powder.   I then pack the chopped cabbage into the jar in layers.  Two cabbages make around 3 quarts of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut starts getting that sour aroma sooner with the kefir and I have not had trouble with the top getting dry and molding (this used to happen occasionally and I simply removed the bad part at the top and added more salt water to cover, pushing the cabbage down with a spoon below the water).  I usually heat 2/3 of a cup of water with salt added in the microwave for a minute, cool in the freezer, and top off all the jars.   Be sure to leave perhaps an inch of header room since the 'kraut will start making air bubbles as it ferments and push the liquids in the jar up until they overflow.  Checking and pushing the 'kraut down with a spoon to get rid of bubbles and allowing enough head room can help.  If the top seems dry add more water as above.

Making kefir with raw milk is easy, you must avoid contact with metals, so glass containers, here I use pint wide-mouth canning jars, and plastic strainers and spoons are good.  Milk kefir grains can be found on ebay, craigslist, yahoo groups, Weston Price groups, Cultures For Health-  my source for dry starter from a local store, etc.  A lid could be used, or I usually cover with a paper towel held on with a rubber band.   Around a tablespoon of grains is used per cup of milk.  As they start multiplying after a few weeks you may need to remove some from time to time.  It takes about 24 hours for the kefir to ferment, it may separate a little into curds and whey.  I stir and then push it through a small nylon strainer. Some people use their fingers or a slotted spoon,   I add a teaspoon of frozen juice with no added sugar plus 1/4 tsp of Stevia.  I like it better chilled and I especially like it with ice crystals in the outer layers, which makes it taste like a slushy.  Kefir can also be aged for more fizz and vitamins by straining and keeping it in the refrigerator for another 1-2 days with a lid, which can make it more fizzy.

Here is one of my fall vegetables, a Black Spanish Radish.  I cooked the sliced but not peeled bulb and the greens, and served them on brown rice with a duck egg and some kefir or goat's cheese, and seasoned it with lemon pepper and my Turmeric spice blend with added dill, fennel, anise, caraway, ajowan, cumin, fenugreek, cardamom and coriander seeds ground in a coffee grinder, and threw in a few things I'm trying to use up, like lemon grass powder, thyme, and galangal powder.  Whatever you have on hand is good.  I also am cooking turnips daily and using them in the same way, in a pressure cooker or large pot.  Turnips and radishes are low in carbohydrates and can be used in place of potatoes and in many of the same recipes.

Here is the radish, sauerkraut, and kefir.

Bon Apetit!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Celebrating Autumn

Even though Summer is my favorite season at present because I am primarily a vegetable and edibles gardener, and I therefore hate to see it end, there is something exciting yet restful about fall, most of the hard gardening work is over and still the fruits of the work linger.  This year I worked up a new cabbage family and greens bed that is very large and which I managed to completely overplant in turnips yet again-  not just any turnips but monster oval Italian turnips, this is the largest so far-
They will keep us in greens and hopefully turnips all winter and even next spring when they start blooming and go to seed.   I did have problems last year with the tops, which stick out of the ground where colored, freezing and turning brown, but the bottom root was still edible, and I may try mulching heavily and covering some rows with plastic to see if I can prevent frost damage.  I also have some wild red and lacinato kale planted there, and Brussels sprouts, San Michele cabbage, and Cicory , which I hope will perform this time though I haven't succeeded well with them in the past.

One point of celebration is the blooming of my "Christmas" cactus-

Another is picking out some pumpkins to cook from a farmer's field, Connecticut Field on the left and Howden on the right.
My favorite way to cook them is to cut then in half, clean them out with my handy dandy tool, cut then in strips, peel them, then pressure cook chunks so they are easy to puree for soups.  Twenty some-odd years ago I envisioned the perfect tool to clean pumpkin seeds and pulp out, then I was in a store and found one on sale.
The serrated edge really works great to do the scooping.  It doesn't help with the messy job of separating the seeds from the pulp.  I ended up feeding the seeds to my chickens, who went for them more than for the pulp.

My soup recipe includes coconut milk, which gives it a lovely taste and creaminess, and Turmeric with various ground seeds like Dill, Caraway, Fennel, Anise, Cumin, Fenugreek, and Coriander, as well as lemon pepper, ginger, and maybe some pumpkin pie spices..  I like the hand-held stick blenders for pureeing the soup, no messy transferring of hot liquids and handling hot blender containers.   I also keep some unblended but mashed pumpkin to eat on rice or buckwheat with goat cheese, and poached egg, as we eat vegetarian and gluten-free food most of the time, and I avoid dishes with sugar and baked starches.  Fortunately there is Stevia.

The last area of celebration is colorful fall foliage, like the wonderful colors of blueberry leaves and an orange-toned cutleaf Japanese maple-

My two small Japanese maples, have become brilliant red again after being rather drab over the summer, Amber Ghost-

And not as vigorous Purple Ghost, but more intense red-
So, I hope everyone else finds it easier to sleep now like I do and is enjoying the festivity and excitement that the season seems to generate, perhaps as a result of the invigorating cold air.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day October 2012

After a record dry summer, we are starting to get some rain, at last.  A few roses are blooming on, like the very fragrant OGR Clothilde Soupert, with its many petals-

A dainty mini striped rose, Pinstripe, is blooming in a pot, where minis that were being eaten to the ground by rabbits have ended up-

Star of the garden at this point would have to be Rozanne geranium, which is still covered with blooms.  What a sensational hardy geranium.

And the last of the Anemones to keep blooming, still covered with flowers, is what I think is A. tomentosa 'Robustissima', a passalong plant.   It finally dawned on me this year that this is a great fall bloomer and worthy of being transplanted to a lot of new places in my garden for memorable fall blooming, as well as some other Anemone japonicas.  I will try to do some root cuttings next spring.   I also will be starting some from seed this winter-
An astonishing surprise was to see a mysterious large bloom on the ground, and find that a Clematis 'Sugar Candy', that had apparently died 3 years ago, had grown out to 7' and was blooming unseasonably, a magnificent bloom.  Clematis resurrection.

But what could be more luscious than some Liberty apples, which make the most divine fragrant applesauce, and are bred to be no-spray, resistant to disease and insect damage.
Thanks for joining me for GBBD, for more posts on what's blooming now, go to May Dreams Gardens, hosted by Carol, whose garden is also recovering from drought.