Further Adventures in Fermentation

So, a couple of posts ago, I told you about my first forays into the art of fermentation. Let’s see, I’ve made sauerkraut (not bad), pickles (nobody likes them… I’ve disposed of them), picked beans (um… also not a major success), pickled cauliflower (won’t ANYBODY try them??), water kefir, and kombucha.

Notice that those last two have no comments? Well, that’s because the kombucha has been going strong. I had one batch that went very wrong (smelled suspiciously like a sewage tank.. not very palatable) and started fresh. I was able to purchase a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast… look it up but be prepared – it looks like slime… see below) as well as starting another one from a bottle of purchased unflavoured and raw kombucha. A few months in, my kombucha is pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself.

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The beginnings of a new scoby on the surface of a batch of kombucha. The larger blob is the original scoby, used to ferment this batch.

If you’re not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, and a scoby, a bacteria/yeast culture that feeds on the sugar and the caffeine in the tea. When the process is complete (or to one’s satisfaction), the resulting beverage is kind of tangy/sour/sweet and slightly fizzy. Flavourings like juice, berries, herbs, syrups, etc. can be added in a second ferment in a sealed bottle and the resulting drink can become quite fizzy. The batch I bottled earlier today (pictured below) is seasoned with blackberries and lavender and is one of my favourite combos.

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It’s a drink that has been around for a long time (possible thousands of years) and there are many reported, but largely unproven, health benefits. For myself, I can say that some developing hip pains have pretty much gone. Is is from the kombucha? I don’t know. Thing is, I like this stuff. It’s easy to make. It tastes good. I’m drinking something that’s filled with probiotics and that can’t be bad for my body.

The water kefir, on the other hand, seemed to be going very well. Unfortunately, it was so sickly sweet that I was concerned that it wasn’t fermenting properly. I threw it all out. I do, however, have a couple of bottles that turned out so well that I’m tempted to try again. Tempted. I haven’t broken down yet and purchased more water kefir grains. I have a bar fridge filled with kombucha that will need to be consumed before I seriously consider it.

As for other fermented foods? I like the idea of fermentation but, around here, if no one’s going to like or eat them, why make them?

Categories: Blogging, Fermentation, Health, Just stuff, kefir, kombucha, No Knitting, water kefir | 1 Comment

It’s Been HOW Long?

Yeah, you probably think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth or are out and about doing something so exciting and time-consuming that I have no time for anything, let alone blogging. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts although it has been busy, just not with anything terribly exciting. I guess it’s called life.

Truth be told, I’ve simply been too tired and uninspired. Every time the thought of blogging has entered my mind, so have thoughts of other things that really should be done first. Or, something’s come along to take up my time or distract me from the thought of writing anything.

So, now that I have time and I’ve actually sat down and started typing, where to I start? It’s been a fairly busy summer, one that has flown by. My mother and one of my grandsons came for a (short, very short) visit. It was good to see them both. John and I did manage to get away for a week, just after my birthday. We traveled around southern British Columbia, through the Kootenays. It was a much needed getaway from our daily routines and, even though it was a lot of driving, it was relaxing, a time of simply enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. Even our old car (1993 Mazda 626) behaved and gave us no real concern. Now, the days are beginning to shorten and cool; the kids are back in school and life is settling down into something resembling normalcy.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m still cooking, still knitting, still making the occasional batch of soap, and I’ve started making more fermented foods and beverages. If you follow me on Ravelry, you’ll know that I’ve started a small knitting project that I won’t be blogging about until it’s finished and in the hands of its recipient. (Ha! how’s that for a teaser, huh?)

So, now we’re at the end of summer. Life is settling back into a regular routine. Now that we’re “back to normal”, I’m hoping to spend more time doing the things I enjoy, which includes blogging… well… writing. It’s been too long a break.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few photos taken this summer…

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Fermented, not Demented

In regards to the title, there are those who might (just might) consider me slightly demented when it comes to playing with my food. My latest…. ok, let’s call it what it is… obsession is fermented foods. My first batch of kombucha is now in bottles for its second ferment (to encourage the fizzies). My first small batch of rhubarb honey soda (2 bottles… that’s all…. 2 bottles, ok?) is in bottles.

The rhubarb soda will be moving into the fridge a little later, after I’ve tidied and re-arranged the fridge. I think it’s something the kids will enjoy later today – after I’ve had a taste of it, of course.

In other ferments, I have a ginger bug on my kitchen counter; there’s some heavy cream that has been cultured with yogurt, ready to be turned into cultured butter. There’s a kefir starter in my fridge and there’s a jar of water kefir on my stove. There’s also a jar of sauerkraut in the closet under my stairs. I think that’s it…. for now.

So where did this kick come from? I’m not really sure, to be honest. It may have been started by a thread on the Soap Making Forum, one about sauerkraut made the old way, with nothing but salt. It may have been something I saw on Pinterest. In any case, whatever it was sparked my curiosity enough to start doing some research. The sauerkraut came first.

It won’t be ready for another week or two. It’s beginning to sour but, at the moment, is still on the salty and crunchy side. I’ll have to get Trinity to taste it later; she’s our resident sauerkraut fanatic. She could eat it by the jar full!

Kombucha is something I haven’t had before, that I can remember. Kristen reminded me that her Oma used to make it but no one wanted to try it. It was…. icky! There was this giant blob of stuff in a bucket and she would drink some of the liquid daily. It really was rather disgusting-looking. Now, here I am, years later, making it and drinking it myself.

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Center – 3 bottles blackberry/blueberry  kombucha. The other 4.5 are rhubarb honey kombucha. Second ferment to promote carbonation

Kefir is another word I’ve heard before but wasn’t really familiar with. Honestly, it reminds me of buttermilk, one of my favourite things.  Water kefir, though, is a whole new thing for me. I was able to score some kefir grains for both kinds (thanks to Kristen for the milk kefir grains). I haven’t yet made a batch with the grains from Kristen but they’re activated and ready to go. My (very) local health food store carries water kefir grains so I decided to try those as well. Right now, there’s a batch brewing in a mason jar on my stove, made with water, sugar, a hint of molasses, and about 1/4 lemon. It’s been there overnight and I’ll be trying it shortly.

Well, this is turning out to be a very rambling post. I’ll end here. If you have any tips or hints for me, please don’t hesitate to leave them. I’m still doing a lot of research via the google machine (and Pinterest) and I’m absolutely fascinated by the whole fermented food movement. I do find that I feel better since starting with kombucha (which is why I’ve started making it). I feel… I’m not sure how to describe it… a little more balanced? I’m sleeping better, I don’t feel as bloated as I often do… just better.

I’d like to keep it that way.

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

But Does It Cut The Mustard?

I know, it’s been a while. I’m still around, honest! Life’s just been far too busy and some of the things I enjoy doing, like blogging, have suffered. However, I’m here.

This weekend is a long weekend in Canada. Monday is Victoria Day, the day we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. I do love me a long weekend and, to help make it even better, I took Friday off as well. And what, you might ask, did I do with my extra day off? Good question.

For some reason, I ended up looking up mustard recipes on Pinterest. I love looking up recipes at any time but how I ended up looking for mustard recipes, I have no idea. However, I was inspired enough to go out and pick up some simple ingredients, including wine (which is almost a staple around here) and Jack Daniels.

I am now in the process of making two kinds of mustard. The first is a wine based mustard, seasoned with allspice and the second is a Jack Daniels based with caramelized onions and I’m not sure what else. We shall see. Both are experiments.

I’ve also made a basic mustard using an Alton Brown recipe. Right now, it’s extremely potent, with a wicked kick. Obviously, the flavours need to meld and soften for a few days.


Well, it’s now two days later and the mustard is made, in jars, sampled and critiqued. The general consensus is that my first foray into mustard making is a success for two out of three recipes.

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From l to r: Jack Daniels Mustard (2 jars and a bit), White Wine Mustard (2 jars). At the front, AB’s Best Mustard. Three samples for my sister.

The Alton Brown recipe is definitely a success. I did modify the recipe slightly as it calls for sweet pickle juice; sweet pickles have no place in this household. No one here likes them. Instead, I used garlic dill pickle juice and cut it back quite a bit as quite a few of the comments on the recipe were about the runny consistency. According to John, from now on this will be the only mustard he uses on his hot dogs and hamburgers. Right now, it’s VERY potent; my sister (who happened to be in the area) noted that it almost has a wasabi-like kick to it. She’s right. A little goes a very long way!

AB Best Mustard

The Jack Daniels mustard is also a definite success. Even though the mustard was freshly made, there was flavour there that was missing in the wine mustard. It was the only dish that needed to be replenished. I will need to write out what I did to make that one as it was mostly made by instinct… you know, a bit of this, a pinch of that, and maybe it needs a dash of that.

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The white wine mustard was the least favourite of the three mustards. Compared to the other two, it was almost bland. It definitely needs to be kicked up a notch and I’m not really sure just what will do that. Again, I did modify the recipe slightly as we don’t generally like sweet mustards so I nixxed the honey. Kristen pointed out that it could be that the wine I used could have affected the outcome as well. She’s right. Hochtaler isn’t a terribly high quality wine. Something with a bit more of a pedigree would definitely have made a better final product. Having said that, sometimes a strong potent mustard isn’t called for, right?

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I had to keep reminding everyone (John, my sister, her husband, Kristen, and the kids) that all three of these mustards are still very raw. They need some time to develop their flavours and mature. In a week’s time, they may taste completely different. We may have to do another taste test next weekend.

 

Categories: Cooking, Mustard | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Sick Day

Ethan has been sick this week. With his mom working, and me working, babysitting duties have fallen to Grandpa John. That lasted one day. Then, I got sick, too. Yesterday (Thursday), both Ethan and I had a sick day. (I’m having another one today; this cough is painful and I’m exhausted!)

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous spring days. It’s chilly in the shade but the sunshine is oh, so lovely. Ethan was definitely feeling better than he did on Wednesday and, after a lunch of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and a hot dog, he decided to play outside… with my camera.

There’s been a lot of renovation going on in the suite next door and each of the guys working there, or watching there, has a dog. In all, there were four dogs around the property yesterday and Ethan adores all of them. That was one of the reasons he asked if he could use my camera. Here are a few of the shots we took…

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Categories: Blogging, Just stuff, No Knitting, Nonsense | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Pizza Day

This week, the kids had pizza day at school. Mom decided they didn’t need to participate in every single pizza day; it comes around once a month and the slices are $3.00 each. For a single mom, two kids and two slices each, $12.00 is no chump change. They seemed a little disappointed but not overly so. I decided to step in.

No, I didn’t pay for pizza day. I suggested that we have our own pizza day… at my house. They could pitch in and make their own pizza with whatever toppings they might want. That’s what we did and it was fun!

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I made the pizza dough while the kids were upstairs meeting Samson, the pup that’s being boarded with S for the next couple of months (he’s a mastiff akbash cross). Once it had had time to rise, I sent Kristen upstairs to get them while I prepped the toppings. Then we got to work.

Both of the kids helped to roll out their own pizza crust and then got to embellish them with whatever toppings they wanted. It was a lot of fun and the pizzas were pretty darned good. I draw the line at pickled asparagus pizza, though.


 

The pizza dough recipe we used can be found at Giada DeLaurentis’ website. We heartily recommend it. The pizza sauce was made with one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato soup, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and a tablespoon or so of Italian seasoning and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Simmer until the flavours meld, then allow to cool before using.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Just stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Slow Cookers & Stuff

Well, I’ve had my slow cooker for almost a month now and I can honestly say, I like it! It’s so easy to throw all the ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and walk away knowing that, by the time we want it, dinner will be waiting for us. The challenge, at least for me, is finding recipes that appeal to us. We like simple, good food but there needs to be a depth of flavour that so many recipes seem to be missing. We don’t use a lot of processed foods so anything that uses canned soups, and ready made “ingredients” is out.

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So far, we’ve tried a lentil soup (which was delicious), Chicken Tikka Masala (which was good but the recipe needs something… it lacked depth), and today I have Provencal Daube of Beef (from a library book). It’s basically a beef stew with Mediterranean flavours, marinated in wine with herbs and orange peel, and loaded with onions, carrots, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes. I’m already looking forward to dinner and it’s only 8:00 a.m.!

Kristen has been sounding very interested in getting a slow cooker after sampling what we’ve been making. Her birthday was this week and that got me thinking. Last weekend, I called her and asked if she would like a slow cooker for her birthday. I wanted to head over to Canadian Tire, where I got mine, and I told her that, if they were still on sale, I’d buy one for her.

The were, sort of. I paid $29.99 (+ taxes) for mine in a post-Christmas sale; the regular price was $49.99. They were on sale for $45.99, not much of a savings but still, $4.00 is $4.00. I put it in my cart. Then, I started wandering the aisles. I didn’t realize they had a sale table with items that had been returned. There was a crock pot on that table, exactly like the one I had in my cart. I looked for a price tag, not seeing it right away. When I did finally find the price, I immediately put it in my cart and put the other one back on the shelf.

The note on the tag read “opened, not suitable” and the price? $15.00. Yes, you read that right… $15.00! She is now the proud owner of a brand new crock pot and I have someone to swap recipes with.

So, what’s in YOUR crock pot/slow cooker?

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Welcome to 2016

Ah, a new year and all the promises of a fresh start. Yeah, who am I kidding? There are, however, one or two things I would like to start doing. The first sounds rather disgusting but it won’t hurt and, if it helps, that would be awesome.

The internet is, of course, home to all the medical cures known to man. And we know that everything we read on the internet is absolutely true. Right? Well, some things do make some sense. I read an article about gelatin, plain gelatin not the sugar-laden flavoured stuff that comes in a box. The article explains where gelatin comes from and the health benefits thereof, which include reduction of joint pain in aging bodies… like the one I happen to inhabit.

Both John and I are experiencing more than our fair share of aches and pains these days so I thought we’d give it a try. Or I’ll give it a try. The article suggests using 2 tsp. of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, every day for one month, to be repeated every six months. It’s gelatin. I like Jello; I don’t want all the sugar and artificial flavours. What have I got to lose? I’ll try it; if it works, I’ll get John to try it. If it doesn’t, I’ve lost nothing but some unflavoured gelatin (which I buy in bulk at my local bulk food store).

The second thing we need to start doing is eating better. Too often, we get home from work with nothing planned for dinner. Often, neither of us feels like cooking so we end up eating bacon and eggs for dinner. Again. Both of us are feeling the effects of not eating properly, even though we both usually enjoy cooking… and eating.

With all of the post-Christmas sales happening, I decided it was time to break down and purchase a crock pot, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I drove out to Canadian Tire yesterday and picked up a 4 quart Crockpot for $29.99. All morning, I’ve been scouring Pinterest for interesting, appealing, crock pot/slow cooker recipes and have found a few that look promising. I’ve also posted on Facebook, asking friends and family for their favourite crock pot recipes; that’s given me a few more suggestions.

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What about you? Any suggestions for good crock pot meals? Any favourites?

Last night, before going to bed, I set some steel cut oats so we can have ready made oatmeal in the mornings. I’m not normally an oatmeal kind of gal but if it’s made right, I’ll eat it. I’m one of those weird people who likes their oatmeal with some crunch and textural interest so I add grains (a mix of chia seeds, cracked buckwheat, and hemp hearts) and raisins or cranberries to mine. I must admit that it was nice to wake up this morning to a hot bowl of oatmeal just waiting for me. I had some even before I poured my first cup of coffee.

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Right now, I have a pot of Green Lentil Soup in the crock pot (here’s the link if you’re interested). It should be ready for a warming, comforting kind of meal by dinner time. Served with some warm crusty bread, it should be a great alternative to a heavy meat and potatoes kind of meal which I don’t mind but not night after night after night. Besides, how many nights in a row can one eat leftover prime rib and Yorkshire puddings?

Don’t answer that!

Categories: Cooking, Health, Just stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Day of 2015

I suppose the last day of the year is a time for reflection on what has passed and looking forward to a new start but I’m not going to do that. It’s been a year I’m happy to put behind us. Yes, there’s been plenty of good but there has also been heartache. I would rather concentrate on the now.

It will likely be a quiet New Year’s Eve for us. Kristen and the kids will probably not be here as she’s come down with some kind of bug. I’ll try to stay up until midnight to help ring in the new year but, realistically, I rarely stay up that late. Part of today will be spent making olie bollen (fritters) and I may make some soap but I’m not even sure about that yet.

I do know I will be doing some knitting… have already, in fact. John’s cardigan is coming along, if slowly. The back is finished and I’m working on the fronts simultaneously, sort of. I started with the right side and have it almost to the armhole shaping. Then I decided it would be a good idea to work on the left side as well, and get it to the same point, then work the shaping at the same time. That way, the shaping will be the same, at the same time.

Incidentally, the soap making thing? It’s really coming along. I’ve been making, and selling, quite a bit of soap. Christmas, it seems, is a good time for soap sales. This week, I even made shaving soap… real, use a brush, soft, creamy, shaving soap. It’s awesome!

Anyway, I need to get this day going. To all of you, from all of us, we wish you a very happy 2016. I’ll borrow an image, posted by an online friend, that perfectly describes what I wish for all of you.

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Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Review | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

White Christmas Indeed!

We did, indeed, have our forecasted white Christmas. And it hasn’t stopped snowing yet. Here are a few images we took yesterday (by “we”, I mean Ethan and I; he stayed the night).

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Our back yard. It doesn’t look quite the same this morning as the kids played back there later in the day. And there’s more snow there now.

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My car, before Ethan and I cleaned it off. There’s about 8″ of snow on there. We used a broom to clear it off and, even so, it took nearly half an hour to clear off the car and the snow immediately around the car!

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My helper. The two things they forgot to bring were his snow pants and his boots. He definitely had fun, though. He did have mittens but when you’re playing with a remote control car (all weather vehicle), mittens just don’t work!

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The guys who belong to the trucks cleared the driveway for us, thankfully. John was under the weather and barely got out of bed all day. Charlie was having a blast, looking for her (imaginary) ball.

Categories: Blogging, The Weather | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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