Wild Fermentation: Summer Experience

Although things have been busy this summer, and I have worked on giving canning a try, the Kombucha has still been on my active list of our kitchen duties.

There was a bit of a disappointment when, a few weeks back, a ton of gnats/fruit flies were taking over.  I had shared a SCOBY with our friend Paula so she could begin home-brewing Kombucha.  After months of doing so well, she discovered her SCOBY and Kombucha had been attacked (seemingly overnight) by those darn pests, and they had laid their eggs in side the jar.  She had to toss the whole lot away, and was in need for a new baby SCOBY to begin again.  I gave her 2 of my SCOBY babies, and she immediately began her new batch.

Turned out to be very fortuitous that I did because, about a week later, I found my Kombucha covered in fruit flies, most seemed dead/drowned in the liquid – and caught in the web of the cheesecloth covering.  No larva in mine, but it still meant I had to toss the whole thing down the drain.   So disappointing.  Since February I have been growing that batch without any troubles or bugs.

I called up Paula to see if there was anyway I could get one of those SCOBY Babies back to regrow my batch, and she said that in the week more had come and this was a very prosperous batch – so I was able to get a couple off of her, and keep the same family brewing.

Wonderfully, this batch took off quickly for me as well and I didn’t have to wait long for the Kombucha to be back to where it was…. this time quite effervescent and aromatic right from the start.

Coincidentally, our porch garden really took of in August.  We had a lot of Basil that needed to get used. Outside of garnish or pesto, I was looking for some ways to use it up.  We did make some marinara, but how else could I use all this Basil…..

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Just some of our Basil, with a little Mint and some spicy peppers from the porch.

I decided to try using some in the Kombucha, and it turned out to be so light, refreshing and a great summer drink!!

Wanna try it?  It’s easy!

Basil lemon kombucha 1 GS

Slice some lemon, and put some fresh, green basil into a container,
then pour in some of your Kombucha tea.

Basil lemon kombucha 2 GS

Leave at least an inch from the top of the container for air, then seal it up and put it in the refrigerator to set and cool for at least a day.  Then, drink up!

Basil lemon kombucha 3 GS

Jonathan and I take sips throughout the day, or a small glass with some ice.  Delicious! 

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Let Me Take You Down ’cause I’m Going to Strawberry Jam

After the turn at Canning Brandied Peaches…. I have now attempted my first batch of Strawberry Jam!!

I looked for days on the internet, and in any recipe books we have around the house, for good strawberry jam recipes.  Mainly, however, it all seemed rather plain and HUGE amounts of jam – which I didn’t want to do, especially on my first try….. I was looking for a small batch (or could easily adjusted for a small batch) and I wanted a creative and tasteful flavoring.

Finally, and by accident while looking up canning relish recipes, I came upon a wonderful blog!!  Food in Jars is a blog with recipes, tips, links, and other interesting reading!!   I already know more things from this blog will be coming up in our kitchen…. in fact I ordered her recipe book off of Amazon today!

So I found this wonderful recipe and it was even titled properly for my search criteria! The Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam looked to be just what I was looking for!

Below is the recipe, with my steps/adjustments to it.  I can tell you that the taste was wonderful, it was quite fragrant while it cooked, and although my first sampling came out a little on the runny/watery side – I just cooked it down some more to firm it up a bit.  But please note, that this is not meant to be a firm, packed Jam.  It will be softer since it is a non-pectin recipe.  I wrote to Marissa, the author of Food in Jars, and she confirmed the texture of this is not thick, firm jam.

So – Here you go!!

Strawberries 1
Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds, should be approximately 4 cups of chopped berries)
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (Couldn’t find any Vanilla Beans here in Charleston, I used 3 teaspoons of Vanilla extract as the replacement.)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (The lemon I had was a bit on the small side – so in addition to the zest and juice, I added 2 teaspoons of Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice)

Instructions:

  1. Wash, remove stems, and chop the strawberries.  Toss them with 1 cup of sugar and the
    vanilla beans/Vanilla Extract and place in a large jar or bowl.
  2. Allow the berries to macerate for at least 2-3 hours.  I left mine in the fridge from overnight and did not begin the jam process until the next early evening, after work. They probably sat for about 18 hours.  I stirred the mixture a couple times during the macerating.  You can allow the berries to macerate for up to 72 hours, if needed.
  3. When you’re ready to make the jam, prepare three half pint jars.
  4. Pour macerated strawberries into a large pot and add the remaining cup of sugar. Stir.
    Strawberries 2
  5. Bring to a boil and cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees, stirring very regularly.
  6. Add the lemon zest and juice in the final 5 minutes of cooking.
  7. Once the jam has reached 220 degrees, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Pour jam into your prepared jars.
    Strawberries 3
  9. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a water bath. (Let water reach 220 degrees)
  10. When time is up, turn off stove burner.   Let water bath cool. Remove jars from water bath when ready and place on counter to let cooling process complete.
  11. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check seals.
  12. If any jars are not sealed, store them in the fridge and use them first.
  13. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

YUM!

Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you….
OR if you have any trick or recipes for Jam to share!

Doing the Can-Can

We have a new experiment going on in the kitchen — Canning!

Don’t worry – we are still maintaining and playing with our Kombucha – but we have also decided to give this preserving a try along with our fermenting.

Canning/Preserving is just another little kitchen project for us to tackle – which perhaps will lead to some good treats to save and use in the fall and winter.  Or, just saving some money on buying little side item condiment types from the grocery store – PLUS it will be less chemical based, and something we did ourselves.  Nothing wrong with any of those options, I should say!

082912FoodLede1Although I am a bit of a fan of the 1940s era, and I confess I did have Doris Day & Ella Fitzgerald songs playing on the iPod while I worked on this first canning venture; I have no delusions NOR interest in canning shelves full of food for rationing.  I would, however, just, like to have some items at the ready for desserts, condiments, and little treats.

Of all the things my family matriarchs handed down, canning was not one of them.  Luckily there are many resources in helping to learn such an activity; one of which is Jonathan’s mother, whom I have asked a few questions of and I suspect more will be asked as I continue this attempt.

peach-info0Charleston, South Carolina, has peaches a -plenty right now! It is coming on the end of the peach season and local farmers have them for sale at farmers markets, local markets, Piggly Wiggly, and even Harris Teeter are stocked with local farm peaches.

So, what’s better than beginning your home canning experience than utilizing local, fresh, sweet, delicious peaches?!

First up on our canning attempt:  Brandied Peaches

Yields: About 2 pints

Ingredients:
3 pounds ripe peaches
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup brandy

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a shallow “X” in the bottom of each peach. Add the peaches, one at a time, to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove the peach from the water and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Peel off the skins, then pit the fruit and quarter the flesh.

2. In another large pot, combine 3 cups water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the peaches and simmer until just soft.

3. Have the jars, bands and new lids scalded and ready. (To scald, dip the jars and rims in boiling water. You don’t need to sterilize the jars, as you will be processing them for more than 10 minutes.) Simmer the lids in hot water to soften the rubberized flange. Gently pack the peaches into the jars.

4. Boil the leftover syrup until it thickens slightly, then spoon it over the fruit, filling the jars ¾ full. Use a butter knife to release any air bubbles caught in the jars. Pour in enough brandy to fill the jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Wipe the rims, cover with the lids and screw on the bands fingertip-tight. Place the jars on a rack in a big pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and gently boil for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and then, after about 5 minutes, remove the jars. Allow them to cool, untouched, for 4 to 6 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.

 Recipe courtesy of bunkycooks.com via The New York Times

AND here is the finished product!
peachesI have strawberries to try a jam, Jon would like to try a hot pepper relish with the peppers he has grown on our porch, and I would like to try a tomato sauce and/or salsa.

With fall a little over a month away, baking will also begin again and then hunting season, and the holidays so the time is upon us for our most favorite fooding part of the year!

More to come, hopefully!

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor Saver

The Kombucha is doing very well!

I have attempted to take a baby from the mother SCOBY and grow it on its own…. or give it to someone to try to do themselves.

Kombucha Mom & Baby1 - Apr72013 - GratefulStills

The last Kombucha post covered our first attempts at flavors… but we have had a second and more successful round of flavorings!

This time we did a Ginger again, and added 2 new flavors. Limeade & Mixed Berry!

First, I created the Ginger Kombucha following the same method as before: chop up ginger in matchstick-like chunks, drop several in the bottom of the bottle, pour in the kombucha, and seal. We enjoy a strong ginger flavor so we add more than others might.  I read just a few days ago that keeping some air space in your bottle helps to increase the fizziness & lets the flavor come out more in the mixture – so I did that with all three flavors this time around.

Next, I took about 1.5 tablespoons of Key Lime Juice and poured that into the bottom of an empty bottle.  I poured the kombucha in on top of the Key Lime Juice, stirred it up a bit, and then I sealed the bottle.   Again, I filled the bottle leaving about an inch from the top.

Finally, I took some mixed berries (from our frozen bag: couple strawberries, few blueberries, raspberries & blackberries) and with 2 slivers of ginger, a couple drops of Key Lime Juice and a splash of water – I pureed them all.  This made enough to full a bottle a wee more than 1/4th full, and then I added the kombucha into the bottle.  I left about an inch from the top of the bottle before mixing it together and sealing the bottle for the fridge.

After it was all sealed and everything was cleaned up, I put them all in the fridge to set and flavor!

After a few days of letting them sit, flavor and chill…. we tried them out!

All three were delicious. The Ginger we already knew was tasty.  The Limeade was very good, and we commented with the warm weather approaching how refreshing of a drink that will be.  The Mixed Berry was also very light and refreshing – but I think next time I will not include the black or blueberries.  The Raspberries and Strawberries were really the best flavors of that mix with the green tea taste of the kombucha.

At any rate, they were all delectable! 

Yesterday morning, I mixed up some more flavors – I did another version of Ginger, Limeade, and Mixed Berry…. but this time we added a new flavor attempt ………

Spearmint Kombucha - GratefulStills

SPEARMINT!

I am excited to see how that will turn out!  I am also excited to see if the new baby SCOBY does well on its own!

Toodle-Loo for now!