Posts tagged: food preservation

Chicken-Foot Bone Broth

By , August 23, 2011

 

Chicken feet! In this post, I mentioned that I’d found pastured chicken feet at the farmer’s market, and how excited I was about that! (I bought them from the good folks at Cottonwood Creek Farms — their pastured chickens are awesome…if you’re in Colorado, definitely support these local farmers!) I made chicken-foot bone broth from them, and WOW. It’s incredible stuff. I was amazed at the amount of gelatin that ended up in the stock…three or four times the gelatinousness of Jello! A delicious, rich broth…rich without being fatty.

Calcium-rich bone broth (stock) is a staple in my kitchen; I make sure it’s always in my freezer. It adds so much nutrition to a dish, and the taste is incredible. It’s the cook’s secret weapon! Lentils made with homemade bone broth instead of water is an entirely different experience (and one of my all-time favorites!). I like to simmer down my bone broth till it’s really concentrated and delicious; it’s both easier to store — taking up less space in the freezer — and adds a deeper flavor to whatever I use it in. I could dilute the concentrate once I thaw it out, but usually I just use it straight.

And so, Why bone broth? Well I will tell you. Well actually I’ll let Sally Fallon tell you. She’s the author of one of my favorite cookbooks that I sometimes mention here, Nourishing Traditions.

“Meat and fish stocks are used almost universally in traditional cuisines — French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Russian; but the use of homemade meat broths to produce nourishing and flavorful soups and sauces has almost completely disappeared from the American culinary tradition.

Properly prepared meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.

It was Dr. Pottenger who pointed out that stock is also of great value because it supplies hydrophilic colloids to the diet. Raw food compounds are colloidal and tend to be hydrophilic, meaning they attract liquids. Thus, when we eat a salad or some other raw food, the hydrophilic colloids attract digestive juices for rapid and effective digestion. Colloids that have been heated are generally hydrophobic — they repel liquids, making cooked foods harder to digest. However, the proteinaceous gelatin in meat broths has the unusual property of attracting liquids — it’s hydrophilic — even after it has been heated. The same property by which gelatin attracts water to form desserts, like Jello, allows it to attract digestive juices to the surface of cooked food particles.”

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Below is the Chicken Stock recipe straight from Nourishing Traditions. Nowadays I stray from the recipe — no longer bothering to weigh or measure — and often leave the veggies out to achieve a truer chicken flavor. Sometimes I’ll add the veggies too, but never the carrots since I dislike the sweetness they impart.

Anyway, I simply dump some bones (usually chicken backs, feet, or the carcass from a whole chicken) into my crock pot, fill with cold water according to how many bones I have (this is all very unscientific — you’ll get a feel for it quickly). I tend to add less water than is called for in the original recipe because I like a very concentrated stock with lots of flavor. To the water, add a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Turn on your crock pot and let it simmer away for about 24 hours. I’ve also done this on the stove many times, but I definitely prefer the crock pot.

When it’s done, I pour everything through a strainer, reserving the bones and picking off any meat for another use. I like to munch on the ends of the bones (which will be very soft by then) — a great calcium & mineral supplement. Pour into jars (leaving at least an inch of head space if you’ll be freezing them), and place in the fridge so the fat can harden on the surface; if there’s lots of fat I’ll skim some off, but I do like to leave at least some. Use, or transfer to the freezer. (As a side note, I’ve noticed a big difference with stock made from pastured chickens — much less fat, much more gelatin!)

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Nourishing Traditions Chicken Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 2-3 lbs of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones, and wings

gizzards from one chicken (optional)

feet from the chicken (optional)

4 quarts cold filtered water

2 Tbsp vinegar

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

1 bunch parsley

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. By all means, use chicken feet if you can find them — they are full of gelatin. (Jewish folklore considers the addition of chicken feet the secret to successful broth.) Even better, use a whole chicken, with the head on. These may be found in Oriental markets. Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

Cut chicken parts into several pieces. Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or chicken pieces with a slotted spoon. Remove meat and reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches, or curries. (The skin and smaller bones, which will be very soft, may be given to your dog or cat.) Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

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Crunchy Kale Chips – A New Favorite!

By , July 14, 2011

Kale chips fresh from the oven

I admit that I don’t love kale. It’s not a green that I crave the way I do others, but there are ways to prepare it that can really make it downright delicious. And it’s so full of nutrition! But best of all it self-seeds itself in my garden pathways, so it’s always there in abundance when we need it, all throughout the spring and summer.

Here’s my new favorite way to eat it. I LOVE these chips!! They have the salty, satisfying crunch of potato chips.

Crunchy Kale Chips

1/2 lb kale, ribs removed and leaves cut into 2″ pieces

Generous 1/4 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp olive oil, on the generous side

Preheat your oven to 250°F  (120°C). Wash the kale if needed, and dry it well. Toss in a large bowl with salt and oil. Spread on cookie sheets in a single layer (you can crowd them together and overlap a bit). Bake 20-25 minutes until crunchy. The kale should remain a bright, deep green. If it begins to brown, it’ll taste slightly bitter.

Store in an airtight container if you don’t eat the whole batch right then and there!

De-rib the big leaves by folding in half and cutting the rib away.

Cut into 2" pieces.

Arrange in a single layer on cookie sheets.

Make Your Own “Green Smoothie Frozen Concentrate”

By , July 5, 2011

Green smoothie frozen concentrate made with lettuce, spinach, and lambsquarters.

So I peeked into my remaining three bags of lettuce from the garden this year, and discovered that they were starting to go south and needed to be used right away. I separated out the slimy leaves, washed the rest, and had an idea! I’ll make green smoothie frozen concentrate cubes!

To make the concentrate:

1. Pour some kefir, water, juice, or watered-down yogurt into a blender. You won’t need too much — just enough to get everything to blend together smoothly.

2. Add lots of greens. Ideas are: lettuce, spinach, beet greens, chard, lambsquarters, purslane, mint, parsley, cilantro, edible flowers, etc. (Kale is the only one I don’t like in a shake, but if you do, go for it!)

3. Start the blender and let it run until you have a uniform slurry.

4. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

To use:

When you’re ready to make a green smoothie, thaw out some cubes; I usually use 2 cubes when I make a shake for myself. Add the green liquid to your blender containing the rest of your smoothie ingredients — I like to use fruit and kefir with some ground flax seed and vanilla extract. Blend & enjoy. Yum!!

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If you’re curious about green smoothies, you might check out the book Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko, or the related website. My friend Sasha recommended this book to me, and I loved it! While I don’t agree with absolutely everything in the book, I’m glad I read it.

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How to Make Sauerruben

By , May 26, 2011

Sauerruben is made just like sauerkraut, only with rutabagas (or turnips, or a combo). It’s lovely stuff, and a nice change from kraut. It has a sweet, radish-like bite — although that will mellow out after a few weeks in the fridge. I like sauerruben a lot more than I thought I would, especially after it mellowed. Give it a try!

Ingredients:

Rutabagas (or turnips, or a combo), washed/scrubbed. I don’t bother to peel mine.

Sea salt (see my salting chart below, plus you may need more to mix up extra brine. (Any non-iodized salt will do, but unrefined sea salt is better for your body.)

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Here’s my salting chart. I usually just stick to this, but you can add a little more salt in the summer and a little less in the winter if you like.

10 tsp salt per 5 lbs vegetables

5 tsp salt per 2 ½ lbs vegetables

2 tsp salt per 1 lb vegetables

1 tsp salt per ½ lb vegetables

½ tsp salt per ¼ lb vegetables

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Shred, grate, or finely chop your rutabagas. Add the salt, and mix well.

I let this sit on the counter for several hours or overnight (this step is in place of pounding) so that the salt can begin to draw water out of the rutabagas. The water contains nutrients, and these nutrients then become the substrate for the growth of the lactic acid bacteria which is what turns your rutabagas into sauerruben. (Steinkraus, Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods, p.120.)

After some water has been drawn out, pack the rutabaga WITH its water into a glass jar. You really want to pack it in there (use your fist or any kitchen tool), because this will help squeeze more water out. You can also use a specially-made ceramic sauerkraut crock, or a glass or ceramic bowl (anything except metal, since salt and acid can react with metal).

Keep the rutabaga submerged under the brine by placing a smaller plate on top and weighing it down with something heavy (a jug of water, a boiled rock, etc.). Or, nest a smaller jar of water inside your larger glass jar.

This is kale, not sauerruben, but same idea. I particularly like this nesting-jars method for keeping everthing submerged under the brine.

Whatever method you devise, just be sure that all traces of rutabaga are completely submerged in the brine. Little bits sticking up above the water line will quickly lead to a moldy situation (and if you do end up with mold, scrape off the entire top layer, but the rest underneath should be fine!). So if you need to mix up some more brine (which is just a fancy name for salt water), use the ratio of 1 tsp salt to 1 cup of water.

Cover the jar with a towel to keep bugs out. Leave it to ferment at room temperature until you like the taste of your sauerruben. Let your tongue be your guide to done-ness. Taste it every few days, and transfer into the fridge when it tastes the way you like it. I like mine pretty sour, so I usually leave it out for 1-2 weeks or more, depending on how warm it is in the kitchen. If the taste is right but the ‘ruben is still too bitey, shove it to the back of the fridge for several weeks for it to mellow out.

Once in the fridge, your sauerruben will keep for many months. And when it’s all gone, don’t throw out the juice; it’s full of beneficial Lactobacillus (lactic acid bacteria) and is said to be a very good digestive tonic. And if you like, add a little of the juice to your next batch of sauerruben as a starter.

Troubleshooting:

If you see a white film (“kahm yeast”) develop on the surface of the brine, scrape off what you can each day until the ‘ruben is done fermenting. Sometimes I don’t get any film. Sometimes I get a fair amount. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. The kahm yeast won’t harm anything, but if you keep getting a lot of it day after day, it can sometimes (not always) impart an off taste to the brine. Just try to scrape it off on a regular basis (daily is nice).

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How to Make Beet Kvass

By , May 21, 2011

Beet kvass is a favorite at our house! It’s so easy to make and so good for your body, and we love the taste — salty, sour, very refreshing.

Beets are extremely nutrient rich and have long been valued as a blood tonic (and their doctrine of signatures would suggest this — they make everything look bloody after you’ve cut into them!). They are rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, carotene, B complex, copper, and vitamin C. Beets and their greens contain special substances that protect the liver and stimulate the flow of bile (Nourishing Traditions, p. 373). And drinking beet kvass is especially beneficial to digestion because it’s lacto-fermented and therefore contains beneficial enzymes and bacteria for your digestive tract. It’s an all-around health tonic, and according to p. 610 of Nourishing Traditions, beet kvass promotes regular elimination, aids digestion, alkalinizes the blood, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.

Well, all I know is that it tastes good!

The recipe in Nourishing Traditions describes letting your beet kvass ferment for 2 days on the counter and then refrigerating it. However, I find it usually needs to ferment a lot longer than that. I let mine go a week or two on the counter, until the kvass is completely opaque — a deep, thick red that you can’t see through. I give it a taste, and if it’s sour with no hint of sweetness left, I know it’s done (though some may like to have that hint of sweetness). As with all fermentations, let it go until it tastes good to you, regardless of what the directions say.

Here’s my recipe:

Beet Kvass

8 – 10 ounces organic beets, scrubbed & coarsely chopped (I don’t bother to peel them)

1/4 cup whey* (optional)

1 Tbsp sea salt (I like unrefined sea salt because the minerals haven’t been taken out)

water

Place the salt into a 2-quart glass jar. Pour in a little warm water to dissolve the salt, and then add the beets and whey (if using). Fill the jar to the top with water. Stir and cover. Let sit at room temperature until the kvass tastes good to you — several days to a couple weeks, depending on your kitchen temperature and your tastes. Transfer to the fridge. If the kvass isn’t delicious, it may need a few weeks to “do its thing” in the fridge. I always find that my ferments taste even better when they’ve been shoved to the back of the fridge for a few weeks (or…er…months!).

And I have found that the whey is an optional ingredient, even though it isn’t listed as such in Nourishing Traditions. Feel free to leave it out; your kvass will take a little longer to ferment, but will be just as delicious!

When the liquid is nearly gone from your jar, you can fill it halfway again with water (no extra salt) and let it re-ferment if you want. Or you can save some kvass to add to your new batch as an innoculant, or you can juice your spent beet chunks! Or all of the above.

Starting a new batch of beet kvass

Beet kvass, finished and ready to drink

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*Whey: a clear yellowish liquid that can be drained off a fermented milk product like yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir. Whey will actually last for a couple months in your fridge. There are several ways to collect it:

– Easiest way: make kefir and let it over-ferment until curds and whey have separated. Spoon off the curds, and strain the whey through a fine mesh seive.

– Another way: Place a colander or seive over a bowl. Line the colander with a clean, damp tea towel, and pour yogurt into that. Leave for a day or two in your fridge to drain. You’ll then be left with whey in the bowl and “Greek yogurt” (or “yogurt cheese” if it’s really thick) in the colander. Both are great for making dips.

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Troubleshooting:

My ferments, including my kvass, sometimes get a white film (kahm yeast) on top during fermentation. It looks like this:

Kahm yeast is harmless, but you’ll want to try to keep it scraped off so it doesn’t affect the flavor of the kvass too much. I do find that my kvass gains a depth of flavor when it’s had this film on it, but if you let it go uncontrolled, it can make your kvass taste weird. Try to scrape as much of it off each day as you can.

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How To Make Candied Violets

By , April 11, 2011

Here’s an old fashioned spring project to do! Preserve those ephemeral little violet flowers for use as a garnish (on a coconut cake for Easter would be nice…) or for a lovely treat at any time of year — violets have a wonderful taste and will keep for months once they’ve been candied!

The process is simple, and not too time consuming. You can make this a more delicate project by painting eggwhite onto each flower with a paintbrush, and then dusting with fine sugar, but I think I’d only want to dedicate that kind of time if I were making these for a really special occasion!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Freshly picked violet flowers & leaves (having them very fresh will make the project go faster and prevent frustration!*)

Egg white (not beaten or frothed) (use eggs you trust since it’s raw)

Ordinary white granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Here’s what you do:

The flowers should be dry. No need to wash/dry them first — just pick them on a dry day and go for it. Dip each flower into the eggwhite. Give the flower a firm shake to get rid of any excess eggwhite. Hold it over a dish filled with sugar, and spoon the sugar over the flower until all surfaces are coated. Let the flowers dry on wax paper, parchment paper, or on a bed of sugar. (A plain baking sheet works too, but the eggwhite sticks, so you’ll have to carefully loosen the flowers with a metal spatula after they’re mostly dry.)

*The most important thing is to have fresh flowers (and leaves if you’re using them). Don’t pick the flowers, put them in a zip-top bag in the fridge for a few days, and then do the project; the flowers will have lost too much moisture and when you dip them in eggwhite, they’ll collapse. See photo below! Very fresh flowers will hold their shape even after being dipped in eggwhite.

Both have been dipped in eggwhite -- the flower on the left was in plastic in the fridge for a couple days, while the one on the right is fresh from the yard. Fresh is best!

That’s it! When they’re thoroughly dry (give them about 24 hours), store them in an airtight container. Room temperature is OK.

It’s Been Busy at the Homestead!

By , March 10, 2011

So busy!! Since quitting my job, I am so busy!! Busy doing the life I had been putting off for all that time. My, how good that feels.

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Here are some random pictures from yesterday & today:

Inside the grain & legume cupboard in late afternoon. (I love the old fashioned jars — they’ve been in the family a long time, and they give me a homey feeling!)

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I just finished reading this inspiring book about how “the rest of the world” deals with diapers (hint: they don’t use ’em!) and how we westerners can have diaper-free babies, too. This is a must-read for new parents — or even better, before they become parents! Click here for a short synopsis of Natural Infant Hygiene (being diaper-free), written by the author of the book.

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The parsley in the kitchen window looks so pretty in the sun!

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Homemade organic applesauce ready for the freezer. I gobble this stuff up, especially when I warm it up on the stove and add cinnamon & cream!

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2 jars of freshly made chicken bone broth, cooked way down and concentrated…now ready to pop into the freezer. Also, brown rice that’s been soaked overnight and is ready to cook, and raw pumpkin seeds that were soaked overnight in salt water, and are drying. (I love to snack on them and add them to soaked oatmeal!)

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Went to the health food store yesterday (our favorite — Natural Grocers, aka Vitamin Cottage) and got some good stuff at reasonable prices. Everything’s organic except the chocolate and peanuts. Lettuce ($1.99), cilantro ($1.39), seedless tangerines ($1.79/lb on sale), Cara Cara oranges ($1.59/lb on sale), Food for Life sprouted grain tortillas ($2.65 for 6 large), raw cheddar ($3.49 on sale), peanuts ($2.33 for 1 lb), brown rice ($1.99 for 2 lbs, on sale), Kalona Supernatural whole milk ($3.69 for 1/2 gallon – to make kefir), Kalona Supernatural whipping cream ($5.79/quart), Chocolove 70% cocoa chocolate bar (the best-tasting brand and incidentally the cheapest…$1.49 on sale), and two “$1 grab-bags” — one with carrots and celery for juicing, and the other with 3 lbs of bananas at the perfect stage of ripeness to cut up and freeze for smoothies!

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Frozen banana slices for smoothies…ready to be transferred to a freezer bag:

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Then I made a delicious dessert of a sliced banana sauteed in coconut oil with a bit of maple syrup. A favorite!!

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Also made a yummy snack (called a “cheese circle” in my family when I was little!) of cheese melted over a sprouted grain tortilla, topped with Penzey’s Zatar seasoning and Smoked Spanish Paprika. Dynamite! (I make these circles in a cast iron skillet, over medium-low heat, covering the skillet with a cookie sheet until the cheese is melted, then adding seasoning. And normally, I use only 1/4 or 1/2 of a big tortilla at a time!)

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What’s been keeping you busy lately?

After Halloween: Cooking Your Pumpkin and Roasting Its Seeds

By , November 9, 2010

I hope you had a happy Halloween! Mine was uneventful, but I did go on a wonderful bike ride through the neighborhoods on Halloween night to see the decorated houses, carved pumpkins, and kids trick-or-treating. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. To boot, it was an unusually mild night with a few diehard crickets still going (usually it’s snowing here on Halloween!), and people were sitting out on their front porches, candy bowls beside them.

Anyway, last year I cooked our Halloween pumpkin and I wanted to share the process if you’re interested in doing the same thing. One thing to note about the generic jack-o-lantern pumpkins is that they’re very lacking in flavor. Bland! And watery! But after draining out the excess water (which we’ll address below), the blandness can be a good thing because you can then sneak the pumpkin puree into your cooking (or baking) without affecting the dish’s flavor very much.

Here’s what to do:

With a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin in half, then cut off the stem.

Cut off the stem

Scoop out the seeds and SAVE THEM! We’ll be roasting them while the pumpkin cooks.

Scoop out the seeds and save them for roasting.

With a spoon and some elbow grease, scrape out the long stringy fibers. You have to really get in there with your spoon; attack that pumpkin!

Scoop out the stringy fibers

Set pumpkin cut-side down into a large baking pan with sides to contain the juice. If you don’t have a pan with sides large enough, then just bake them on cookie sheets, cut-side up. Or be creative and set them on something else, like a muffin tray to catch the juice!

Bake at 350* (or 375* — the temperature isn’t too important). You’ll bake it until the flesh is very soft, which usually takes about an hour, maybe more.

After you put your pumpkin in the oven, put the seeds into a colander. Rinse them and remove as much of the stringy orange stuff as you can.

Wash seeds & remove orange fibers

Spread them onto an un-greased cookie sheet and sprinkle them fairly liberally with salt. Bake them until they’re a very light golden color; you don’t want to over-bake them, but you do want them dry to the touch, and crunchy. This seems to take about 15 minutes for me, but the times may be different for you.

Spread on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt; cook till dry and crunchy

Eat!

Now, back to the pumpkin.

When the flesh is very soft, remove from the oven and let the pumpkin cool until it’s handle-able.

Bake till very soft

Scrape out the flesh, and discard (or compost) the skin-shell. Run the pumpkin flesh through a food processor or blender to improve the texture and break up stringiness. If it’s too dry to run through the blender, add a little water and blend; you can drain the water out (or cook it off) later.

Blend till smooth, adding a little water if needed

Since these pumpkins generally have quite a bit of water in their flesh, you’ll want to drain the puree after blending it. I like to dump the pumpkin puree into a colander and let that sit over a bowl overnight. You’ll be amazed at how much water drains out! Alternatively, you can just cook the water off instead of letting it drain away; just simmer the pumpkin puree, uncovered, in a pot over low heat until you’re satisfied with its consistency.

That’s it! Measure your puree into ½- or 1-cup portions and freeze into ziploc bags; I like to stack my bags neatly on a plate and freeze them so that they freeze into stackable shapes, like this:

Measure, stack, and freeze!

Wilted Cucumbers? Bake Them!

By , October 3, 2010

Ever wonder what to do with cucumbers that have begun to wilt and lose their crunch? Obviously the first thing you’d think of is to make a Loch Ness monster like the one below, right?

The Loch Ness Cucumber

I thought so.

And although that’s fun — yes — the thing that really uses up those cukes is to bake them. This was originally a Julia Child recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I’ve tweaked it somewhat to be simpler, with bolder flavors. I never thought to bake a cucumber until my mom made them last year; delicious! And a real bonus is that they freeze pretty well after baking. Thawed, they’re a little softer than the original out-of-the-oven ones, but that doesn’t bother you, right?

Try them out…I think they’re absolutely delicious! They have kind of a pickle-y flavor, yet gentle and buttery. This recipe makes a fair amount, but they do cook down to about half their original volume; and of course, feel free to cut the recipe in half.

Baked Cucumbers

3 lbs cucumbers

1/2 cup finely minced onion

1/4 – 1/3 cup wine vinegar (to your liking)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp dry basil

1 Tbsp dry dill weed

4 Tbsp butter, melted

1/4 cup minced parsley (optional, for serving)

Preheat oven to 375*. Peel cucumbers if the skin is bitter. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into lengthwise strips 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide. Cut the strips into pieces that are 2″ long.

Mix all ingredients together, stirring well to evenly coat the cucumber pieces. Divide into two baking pans (I use two 9″x13″ glass pans) and bake, uncovered, for about an hour, tossing every 20-30 minutes. They should be tender, but still have a little crunch. Sprinkle with minced parsley (if desired), and serve. Mmmm!

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