Fermenting

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Fermenting is another wonderful why of preserving food. It has been around for thousands of years. Fermented foods are good for your digestive system, they contain live probiotics. Lets look at Sauerkraut, it has two ingredients, cabbage and sea salt. No chemicals, no additives, not even vinegar…so simple. When it comes to fermenting food and being successful it is about the quality of water, quality of salt and, quality of produce. The water needs to be clean no chloride, chloramine or fluoride. If you have city water you probably have all three chemicals. The chemicals will interrupt the process, making the produce soft and slimy. You can use filtered water or bring your water to a boil and keep it at a rolling boil for one minute to purify. At altitudes above one mile ( 1.6 kilometers), you should increase the rolling boil time to three minutes and allow it to completely cool before using. Use high quality sea salt. DO NOT use processed table salt. They have anti-cake agents and iodine in them and they will discolor and make the produce slimy. They have been stripped of minerals too. Quality of produce should be the freshest and organic if possible. Ferment time can vary. It can be 3 to 5 days or even weeks. Check your sauerkraut every day or two. Open the jar and smell it, use a clean fork taste it. Make sure the produce is still under liquid. After a few days , it should get bubbly, after a few more days , it should start to smell and taste sour. You can eat it at any time , this depends on you and how you like our fermented foods. If you like it crunchier put it in the refrigerator to slow the process. Some people like to eat their Sauerkraut after about 8 days.
Many fermentation recipes rely only on vegetables, sea salt, a knife and jars. No special tools needed. But, I have found this great tool to make fermenting food a lot easier. I know the produce is under liquid with this device. It is called ” Kraut Source” Fermentation Made Simple. I bought three of them. Easy to use. They gave me a little “How To Use Book” and it has some recipes too. If you want to ferment food I highly recommend this tool. Go to http://www.krautsource.com.

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Summer and Pickling

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Summer time is here and so is the produce. Lets talk about pickling again. I wrote a blog about pickling in Sept. 2013, letting you know a few things about pickling. I wanted to remind you of a few things. Pickling is easy and fast. What is the hard is waiting for it to pickle. Please use water without chlorine. Chlorine will make the produce soft and I know you would prefer a crunchy pickle. Please use the salt that the recipe is asking for. Never use table salt when canning, it has anti caking agent and iodine that will give the pickles a bad taste and turn them a dark color.If you read the blog in 2013 you will remember that I like  setting up little bowls to place the spices in for each jar. This makes it go fast, efficient and makes sure that the spices are evenly distributed. Lets talk about spices. Buy spices from a supplier with a rapid turnover. Spices lose their flavor with age and stale spices can spoil the taste of any dish or pickles.Ground spices lose their flavor within just a few months: therefore, it is usually better to buy whole spices and grind them as you need them. You can use so many spices when pickling. If you like heat, use red pepper flakes, black or brown mustard seeds, pepper corns, cayenne powder, chili powder, hot Indian curry powder, or red dried chiles. Here are a few more spices you may want to use: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fenugreek.Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Powder, Celery  Seeds, Bay Leaves, Fennel Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Nigella, Nutmeg, Saffron, Dill seeds, Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger, and Star Anise.

Star Anise comes by its name honestly, with it star shape and a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. Star Anise is a dried fruit seed pod of an evergreen tree ( Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Like regular  anise, star anise gets it distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol. However the two are not related botanically – Star Anise is a member of the Magnolia family. To know more about pickling, please go back to the blog from Sept. 2013 . Happy Canning and Pickling.

 

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Pickling

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Making pickles is a lot of fun and quite easy. The hardest part is waiting just the right amount of time for them to pickle before you eat them. When pickling you need about a teaspoon of different spices for each jar. I like to line up little bowls and place the spices for each jar in the bowls. Then I place the produce (whatever I am pickling) in each jar, then the spices before I finally pour the hot brine in the jar. This kind of cooking organization makes things go fast. Choose good quality ingredients that are uniform in size, fresh and free of blemishes.
“Misfits” can be used for relishes. Fruit may be use for pickling too. Using fruit that is not quite ripe is best.

The ordinary cucumbers at stores are called “slicers” and are for table use, not for pickling. At some places you can find pickling cucumbers. The best ones have small black prickles on them. Chicago Pickling or National Pickling cucumbers are some common names for the type of cucumber that is best for pickling.

Remember to wash all ingredients carefully to remove bacteria which might spoil your product. When washing cucumbers, don’t scrub them so hard that you remove the black prickles. A good way to get the dirt and bacteria off is to place the cucumbers in a clean big bowl with tablespoon of pickling salt and one tablespoon of white vinegar for a few minutes. Then, rinse them well under running water as you gently rub them.

Never use brass, copper or aluminum pots, pans or utensils for pickling. Any of these materials will give your pickles a strange taste and an undesirable color because the metals will react with vinegar and salt solutions. Use enameled, glass or stainless steel cookware. Stir with a wooden spoon and use a stainless steel slotted spoon. Do not use table salt when pickling. The iodine in the table salt will darken the brine and soften the pickles. Use a good pickling salt. The vinegar should be no LESS than 5 % acidity; it will say right on the label. Vinegar of unknown strength should not be used.

When making a simple solution of vinegar, salt and water, do not boil for more than 5 to 6 minutes unless otherwise directed in the recipe. A long boil weakens the strength of the vinegar. Always use fresh spices and herbs. Old ones will discolor the product and produce and also give them musty, strange flavors. Have fun pickling!

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