Friday, February 17, 2012

Fermentation and Overnight Yogurt



Yogurt has an uncertain but long and widespread history as a delicious and healthy food.

Possibly from central Asia, but more notably, and recently, recorded by the Turkish, somewhere between 10,000-5,000 years ago, it was probably discovered by accident. It has since been touted as adding years to your life and curing a variety of ills, digestive and otherwise.

Most women know yogurt as a Necessity if taking antibiotics, and some have even heard claims by Activa about "regularity." But how much do you know about yogurt? I bet if you knew more, you'd eat as much as I do!

For protein, calcium, iodine, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, etc., etc., yogurt is a powerhouse. It has all of the good qualities of milk Plus More because of the fermentation (my new favorite thing). It also lacks much of the problem causing lactose of regular milk as it was eaten during fermentation by the wonderful little happy bacteria (the good kind) Lactobacillus.

This fermenting process also adds to the Probiotic health benefits. It is basically the healthy opposite of antibiotics. By consuming fermented products containing healthy, good for you, active bacteria (it isn't a bad, dirty word, I promise) you are introducing these organisms into your body to combat the bad bacteria. They can overcome an infection, of the digestive or yeasty variety, kick up your whole immune system, repair previous damage and also assist in breaking down and metabolizing the other foods you eat. It heals and repairs from head to...bottom. Especially important if you have a disorder, disease, allergy or any issue that may have disrupted your natural balance and function. When your digestive tract is working well your whole body feels it.

These, among others, are the reasons that cultures across the world eat yogurt, and other fermented foods, with almost every meal. I have tried this and have to say I feel much better overall, and very specifically, after a big meal, now that I eat this way.

And it's Delicious!!!

Enough of that, onto making and, more importantly, eating it.

The yogurt you will make is plain, loose, regular yogurt. I prefer Greek-style straining (which I'll get into) with a bit of flavor, but those things are done later. You can only make plain yogurt and work from there.

Also, keep in mind the time this takes. 2 hours to heat, 2-3 to cool, 8-12 to incubate. I start at about 5-6pm and let sit overnight, strain in the morning. You could also do this through the day if you are an early riser or late nighter. 


Crock-Pot Overnight Yogurt

Gather

1 gallon (or 1/2 gallon if you're nervous) Whole Milk (I always use organic)

      I use whole often because it sets better, and I like the thick creamy texture. I recently started using low fat, with thinner results. You could ad gelatin, or possibly Agar if you prefer, to thicken it. 
     Raw milk is another option, with a different heating process, unfortunately for me, though, raw milk is ILLEGAL in the state of New Jersey. I'll get some this spring, I'm sure. Cross your fingers that i don't go to jail for crossing state lines with contraband.

A few tablespoons of your favorite yogurt - unflavored and organic

1 Crock Pot a temperature probe or candy thermometer are helpful)
Large Bath or Beach towel
Containers for the finished product
A strainer and cheese cloth - if straining

(seriously, that's it)

Heat

Start


Pour your milk into the crock pot, cover and cook on high for about 2 hours, or until 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 


My crock pot happens to have a temperature setting and probe. Helpful, but by no means necessary. A candy thermometer works just as well.
Finish



This heating will sterilize the milk and denature the fats so they form together nicely.






Cool

Cool the milk down to just about 110 degrees. Any higher will kill the yogurt cultures. Any cooler and they wont incubate (well), and you will have runny or no yogurt.

This will take another few hours. Stir occasionally to mix the skin that forms back in.

Combine

When the yogurt is just about cool, take out a cup and mix the 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt into it. Mix it well or even whisk it.

Combine that back into the large batch and combine well.





Incubate

Wrap the crock pot with the towel to keep it warm. You are attempting to maintain a temp of about 100 degrees for 8-12 hours. Put in in a warm and not drafty place, I like a warmed up oven (but turned off) on cold winter nights.



Strain


You should now have something that looks like this ----->

Whey

A fairly solid white mass with yellowish liquid surrounding it. That would be the yogurt and the whey. Whatever you do, save that whey.
<--- You will use it, I promise you!
(Stay tuned for uses.)


For regular yogurt, simply pour off the whey, carefully, and scoop the yogurt into containers.


For a thicker, Greek-style product, set a large strainer over a larger pot with a few layers of cheese cloth in it. Pour your yogurt in that and stir occasionally to strain more whey. It will take as long as you want to be as thick as you desire. It will thicken more when it cools. Work in batches if you need to.

Cheese Cloth Lined Strainer
Pour in Yogurt
Let Sit





Strained Whey
















If you want a bit of yogurt cheese, like cultured cream cheese, leave the last bit straining for a few hours. You may even want to tie up the cloth and tie to a spoon over a pitcher. You can refrigerate if you want while straining.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate when finished.


Eat

Once your yogurt is the proper thickness and chilled, dig in! My absolute favorite is to add fresh raspberries to it and devour. Sometimes I'll swirl in a bit of raw honey or maple syrup. My boyfriend loves it with lemon curd, and my mother enjoys apple butter.

It is also great for cooking. There are many sauces, condiments and dressings that use yogurt, as well as smoothies, in baked goods, in place of sour cream and so on. Just this evening I added a few table spoons to my celeriac and potato mash and it was smashing.


How ever you eat it, love it. Savor how delicious eating well can be!


Read

Wiki
Worlds Healthiest Foods
History
More History

If you must buy, I adore personally Stonyfield Organics

They are a great company with heartfelt values. They seem do everything they can to make this a better planet for us all. I use their Oikos Greek when I run out and as a starter.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuna Tartare

 Or Open Faced Maki

 
Hungry for lunch and daydreaming of traveling, I whisked myself away to Japan for the afternoon.

I had picked up a fun little pack of cubed sushi fish at the local H-Mart. It's a fabulous store and just full of fun new things and samples of foreign looking fruit. My initial goal was some ingredients for Kimchi (yes, again) and a pounding device, which I finally found, Yay! As is usually the case, I filled a basket with goodies before I headed home.

This quick and simple (to me at least) meal hit the spot like no other. A $20 entree at my favorite Sushi joint wouldn't have even beat this $3 meal. Interestingly enough, I had most of these ingredients on hand. Some of you would definitely expect that!



<--How to turn this........ into This-->







I made this just for myself, feel free to double the recipe, or quadruple for expensive looking hors d'oeuvres . The ingredients are certainly interchangeable, even optional, though tuna works the best here and I absolutely love the whole combination. For the rice, I used brown jasmine, though traditionally, short grain white or sushi rice is used. It turned into something like open faced maki rolls, but however you want to serve it is just fine. Eat with your hands, play with your food and smile.


Tuna Tartar

Gather

Sushi Grade Tuna  (learn about that here)
Equal amount of avocado
Teaspoon (or more) of fish roe aka Tobiko aka fish eggs
Seasame seeds
Salt

1/2 cup rice
Rice vinegar
Sugar

Package of roasted laver or nori (seaweed sheets)

Rice

Start the rice cooking on the stove or in your rice cooker. Follow the directions. It's pretty simple.

Rice needn't be a necessity to eat tuna tartar, but for my concoction today it was.

Tartare

Be sure you have SUSHI GRADE tuna. That generally means it has been frozen for period of time at a particular temperature to kill bacterial and parasites so that it can be consumed raw. Be aware that there are always risks associated with eating any raw or undercooked foods.Also know that you can certainly find studies correlating good health with consumption of raw meat in most societies and animals. There are raw meat and/or fish dishes in nearly every cultural heritage we know of. Check links below and make your own informed decision.

You want the tuna chopped coarsely. I also did that with an avocado that I stumbled upon in my fruit bowl. I just mixed them in equal parts. 

I wandered to the freezer vaguely remembering a sushi making date of past and reached in to find my beautiful bright red, paprika seasoned, flying fish roe (fish eggs). These lovely little guys not only add a pop of color and flavor, but are packed full of vitamins and omega 3's. Alone they are a bit fishy, but added sparingly to recipes are a beautiful treat. Just look at this Maki roll topped with creamy wasabi and red roe--->

Throw in as much as you like, I went with about a teaspoon today.


I was also lucky enough to have on hand my awesome gift of flavored gourmet salts from my sister. One package contained 6 containers of Asian Fusion salts. The one that actually inspired me to grab this tuna today was the Ebony and Ivory salt. Black Hawaiian salts mixed with white sesame seeds. It was even suggested in the description to use it in a tartare dish and/or sushi. Just fabulous! I mixed in a few pinches of this, but you could just as easily substiture good quality sea salt and optional sesame seeds (maybe black ones for color contrast). I enjoy pretty food, whether it's for myself or a party.

  

Mix those well and let rest for a bit. The flavors will combine nicely.





While waiting, I sliced a beautifully sweet yellow mango to nibble on. I couldn't resist when I saw how perfectly ripe it was.




Rice again


To make that fun, sticky sushi rice you may or may not be accustomed to is a very simple procedure. Mix 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/8 cup sugar and a dash of salt. Heat and mix to disolve. Pour over cooked rice a little at a time while quickly mixing. You may not need all of it.

The rice will become more sticky as it cools. You need to be able to still work with it if you are shaping or rolliong things with out it being too mushy.

It is said to be a science, though I seem to like it no matter how it comes out.

Plate and Eat


This could be the meal all by itself. You could eat the tuna alone, on top of the rice or inside the seaweed wraps. I used the individual packs of roasted laver. It is so yummy and much easier than trying to roll the nori (big sheets used for sushi rolls)  into a tube then slicing it! 











This was my final product --->

YUM! and Fun!

And so healthy.





Read

Nori
Full of vitamins, calcium, iron, protein and flavor, sea vegetables should become a staple, at meals or for a snack.

Raw Fish
Possibly controversial to some, but always tasty, light and delicious to me.

Avocado
Who doesn't love these!?

Tobiko
Flying fish roe or caviar. Crunchy and delicious, flavored and fairly inexpensive, it is full of protein and selenium, not to mention a slew of other good for you things.

Mango
Some suggest eating the fruit before or much after the raw fish, though I have never had a problem.



Monday, January 9, 2012

Whew...

Wow, the holidays took me by storm!

The last month has been a busy one for me. A new job two weeks before Christmas, plus two additional days a week at my original job equaled over 130 hours working in those weeks! Not much time for cooking (or writing). At least all is going well, and calming down a bit, for now.


Christmas was fabulous! Three great cookbooks from my boyfriend, delectable, fancy flavored salts from my sister, a new stock pot and ceramic bread pan (to and from myself) and a few other little goodies here and there made for smiles for days. I hope they were all as happy as I was with their gifts. I know my sister was with her book, Kate Payne's Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking.

  On the food front, I was subsisting on canned lentil and black bean soups (my own) and the lucky fact that I'm virtually surrounded by Southeast Asian restaurants and Gluten free bakeries at the new location!


This past week, though, I finally found the time to really dig into one of my new books, Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. The first chapter of recipes was all cultured dairy. I'm In Love! The next was fermented vegetables. Catch me, I'm swooning. Then stocks, sprouts, condiments, sauces, salads, soups and main courses. And all this was after the pages and pages of nutrition redefined, as your grandmother would have told it, but backed up with facts and studies, "challenging politically correct nutrition." My kind of book!

And on to the recipes...

So, yogurt has been done by me, over and over, but I'm always learning more. One little tidbit was that some extra straining yields amazingly delicious cultured cream cheese! My next challenge...source local, raw milk for all of my dairy projects! Difficult, since I live in one of those fun states where raw is outlawed, but not impossible to aquire.

Kefir cultures need to be sought out, and pima as well. Yay. I'm dairy crazy right now! As well as dairy-wary after all I've learned, or been reminded of, about standard milk. I've replaced all of my butter with pastured & organic, my milk is now entirely organic, until I can find raw, and raw cheeses (those that I've not made) are in regular rotation.

Only Half of the Cabbage!



On from dairy to Lacto-Fermenting. I've known the advantages of whey for a while (that amazing byproduct of making yogurt and cheese), kimchi and breads and soaking and so on, and I've found even more. I made fermented ketchup, mayonnaise (with farm fresh eggs) and sauerkraut in one day. Success and pride followed, as well as a sore arm from pounding three quarts worth of cabbage. 





Organic, Local Chicken Stock
Granola in Homemade Yogurt
Soaked some amaranth for a different breakfast porridge, soaked delicious raw, gf granola in homemade yogurt, sprouting seeds as we speak, put up nine quarts of stock, baked a few loafs of bread, and all in addition to the aforementioned fermenting. I've had a busy weekend.

Sprouting Lentils

So here I am, back in the swing of things, mixing up my flours and starches for my bread for the week and wouldn't you know it, I'm completely out of yeast. No more little packets anywhere to be found. The first place I run is the first place I always run, because I trust them and they are so close, the local health food store/vegetarian restaurant. It's a cute little place run by an older asian couple with delicious food and a willingness to accommodate unheard of nowadays. A quick stop in and Farbia was going to simply give me a bit of yeast, for the one item he assumed I was cooking. Little did he know I was trying to perfect my recipe for Teff bread that I have been working on and making two loafs at a time now for a bit. I even bought a new, ceramic bread pan to see if my results would improve (which they did, dramatically, I may even get another). After eyeing up his five pound bag, I requested more as I do a lot of gluten free baking.

Actually not the perfect loaf here, I forgot to snap a photo, silly me.
This is different loaf of the same delicious bread
Much to my surprise, he lit up, asking me questions like how often I bake, how long have I been gluten free and if I have many recipes, for cookies and cakes. It turns out that try as he might, he cannot get the knack of gluten free baking and his customers are regularly requesting it. He prefers to make his own products, or source them locally, so I seem to be his new favorite person. I went straight home, quite excited at my promise to meet him monday with my bread, to see what he thinks of the recipe. Tonight I baked the most physically perfect loaf! Fluffy and square and just perfectly browned. I love the taste, especially compared to store bought gluten free, but I'll have to wait until morning to hear his opinion. Maybe I will supply him with his sandwich bread, possibly even sell it directly to his customers. Who knows where that will lead?!

All in all, it's been a great couple of weeks. Life is good. I'm happy with where I'm at and hopeful of the future. What a great way to start the year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

With the holidays quickly approaching and me starting a brand new and time consuming job, while still at the old one, I may not have time to post this week. 


But I find it absolutely necessary to share with you a great little place in Rutherford, NJ.




It's Sweet Avenue and it is a vegan bakery, with a daily selection of gluten and soy free cakes and cookies.


How they make such a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake and melt-in-your-mouth-like-butter-without-the-butter cookies I cannot say, but I'd love to learn their tricks. 


Go there, get cupcakes, love life!


*There is also a restaurant nearby that has a gluten free menu, Park and Orchard, East Rutherford, which I have heard great things about. Date night?

I promise I'll be back soon :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Great Pickle Challenge



I have a penchant for pickling pints of peppers…and beets...and eggs...and garlic...and beans...and carrots...and…ad infinitum. But apparently, the one thing I haven’t made is plain old pickles. The cucumber variety, dill, kosher, bread and butter, none of it. I guess it’s my need to hit the ground running with everything I do; quite possibly the desire to avoid the mundane like the plague. But there is something to be said for old standbys. The classics became just that for a reason. People like them! 
 

So upon the request of those nearest and dearest, I decided to try my hand at plain old simple pickles.

Now, of course, I couldn’t just grab a pack of pickling mix from the store, mix it with vinegar and be done…Not me! I made 4 variations on a typical pickle and hope to hone my skill to make the best pickle around.  

I mixed my own pickling spices, including some foraged bay leaf, hit some with the simple dill and another with a chili pepper because some like it hot (namely, me!). And since I was on such a pickling kick, and I happened to have had some cranberries left over from infusing a lovely (though not my best effort at adapting) cranberry Vodka, I pickled those too! Check out Food in Jars blog and the recipe on Serious Eats.


Quick note to those that are completely gluten free, White vinegar is generally made from “grains” which is likely to be wheat. To be on the safe side, maybe try a different one, rice, or wine, or i don’t know what, be creative. I like cider vinegar best anyway, so it’s not really an issue for me.


This isn’t standard format because I wouldn’t know where to start, but this is my best description:

My four pickles

Gather

4 pint jars and lids, cleaned/sterilized if canning
½ onion
8 garlic cloves
12 kirby, or other pickling, cucumbers, cleaned
2 teaspoons pickling spice (purchased or see below)
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons pickling (or fine sea) salt
2 cups vinegar (1 cup of each if trying what i did)
2 cups of water

I used 2 recipes in 4 jars with 2 vinegars = 4 different pints of pickles
(plus the ½ pint of leftovers with chili)

For 4 jars I sliced ½ an onion and 8 garlic cloves. This was split evenly between the jars.

 
For 2 of the jars I put about a teaspoon of dill atop the garlic and onion in each.


In the other two I put the same amount of home made pickling spice. 


I made this a few months ago in an unlabeled jar but I believe that was made of equal parts –
  •   whole cloves
  •   black pepper corns
  •   whole allspice
  •   whole cardamom
  •   whole black pepper
  •   crushed cinnamon sticks
  •   coriander seeds
  •   a few bay leaves
*to this mix you could add dill and or dried hot pepper. I opted to save that option for the day of pickling, depending on what was being pickled and who would be eating it.

To each of these jars I added a pinch of dill as well, and to the small jar, also a pepper. 


I figured on 2.5-3 Kirby cukes per pint. I sliced them into wedges, some quartered, some more, depending on the size. I squeezed them into the pints, tightly, but not crushing them.
If canning, bring a canner or pot of water to boil now, high enough to cover the jars.

In a small pot I brought to a boil 1 cup of water and one cup of cider vinegar, with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. If you choose to can these, you cannot mess with the vinegar to water ratio. That is why I added the sugar, as to not have incredibly bitter pickles.

Remove from heat and pour over 1 jar of dill and one jar of spiced cucumbers. cover and process for 10 minutes. Look into water bath canning here or ask me before you try it.

Repeat this process with the other vinegar, salt and sugar. Pour over the other two jars and process if desired.

I simply covered, cooled and refrigerated mine as I knew they would be gone too quickly to go to the trouble of canning them.

This extra I was speaking of, I sliced the leftover cuke, a clove of garlic and a bit of onion and put it in a ½ pint. I used the pickling spice with dill And chili and covered with the cider vinegar and water mixture.


However you make these, it’s simple and tasty. I know which one I like the best, but I’ll wait the recommended day or two to get a consensus.

Happy pickling!