Monthly Archives: April 2018

It’s Finally Spring

Spring has definitely arrived here in the Okanagan. Yesterday, there was snow in the forecast for higher elevations and we can still see snow on the hills around us but, here at the valley bottom, the forecasted temperatures call for 17ºC today and up to 25ºC in the next week. Once again, we’ll be going from winter to summer!

We’re throwing doors and windows open when we can to bring in some of that fresh air. Outside, things are growing and will be flowering soon. In the front garden, the lovage is already about 10″ tall, the poppies are even taller and the irises are following right along. The lilacs along the driveway are about to burst into leaf and flower and the garden needs tending. This year, we will be putting in a few things; the garden won’t be as large as it has been in previous years, that’s for sure, but we do want to put in a few things… peas, beans, a few tomatoes, some potatoes… things like that. I’d also like to set up a bit of a “tea garden” with a few plants I can use to make my own tea blends (i.e. chamomile, mint, and whatever else I can think of).

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In the interim, more fermentation has been happening inside. My kombucha and water kefir are both humming along now. I’ve changed my process slightly with the last couple of batches. Instead of a first and second ferment, I’ve added a step; after the first fermentation, I’m adding a flavouring ferment. The first fermentation is put into a mason jar large enough to accommodate the entire batch (a half gallon jar) and flavoured with whatever I want to flavour it with (i.e. blueberries and mango or blueberries and lavender, which I’ve done so far). I cover it and allow it to sit for a day or two before straining out the fruit and bottling the drink for its final fermentation. As much as I like the fruit, I really don’t like having pieces of fruit floating in my drink. I find I get better carbonation and the flavours mellow out better.

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Left: Mellowbuzz, made with bee pollen, chamomile flowers, and lavender flowers; Right: Black Cherry and Lemon Balm

This week, I also started a couple more ferments. I have another jar of sauerkraut fermenting on my sideboard and a jar of Beet, Cabbage, and Onion kvass in the spare room. Both were started yesterday and are already burbling away, doing what they do. On my kitchen counter, the jar of Cranberry Relish is ready to sample; I’ll be picking up some nice crackers and goat cheese to go along with it.

 

My sourdough starter continues to thrive and the bread I’m making is certainly appreciated around here. Yesterday, I made a loaf of Sourdough Raisin and Cinnamon Swirl bread; between the two of us, we’re down to half a loaf already. It has been declared a “Keeper”. It won’t be long before I make another loaf; I’ll have to pick up some Gouda cheese. One of my favourite snacks is raisin toast with Gouda cheese; they go together so well!

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I’ll probably be making another couple of loaves of Sourdough Sandwich bread this weekend; we both like it for our lunches.

Now, I’m going to get outside and enjoy the sunshine; it feels like it’s been a long time coming.

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Things Are Rotting Around Here… In A Good Way

I haven’t been blogging much lately, at least not here. That’s about the only thing, besides knitting, that I haven’t been doing. I’ve been keeping myself very busy; between soap making and things that are fermenting around here, I have little time for much else. This week, however, I’m on vacation. I’m not going anywhere; it’s my ME time, one week off while John is back at work.

Last September, I started a sourdough starter. I managed to keep it going long enough to bake some lovely breads and then I hid it away in my fridge and forgot all about it. Until a few weeks ago. I wanted to see if I could revive it and revive it I did! Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve been making sourdough waffles and bread, marvelous bread!

My favourite sourdough sandwich bread uses both yeast and starter. It’s a recipe I’ve been using for many years, since around 1975, and it has never failed me. This time, I adjusted the added sugar and salt and came up with a nearly perfect batch! According to John, I could increase the salt slightly more than I did and lower the sugar just a touch. However, it was deemed a rousing success. Thankfully, the batch makes two loaves because one loaf has already been consumed.

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Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Then, this past weekend, I made a batch of two loaves of true sourdough, leavened only with the sourdough starter. I only have a 12 ounce starter and the recipe I used, from the King Arthur Flour website, requires 12 ounces of starter. Obviously, I didn’t want to use all my starter so, over the course of a couple of days, I increased my starter until I had more than enough.

To say the bread turned out would be a definite understatement. It was, and still is, amazing. The bread has a nice tang to it, which is one of the things I love about sourdough bread, the crumb is moist and the crust is crisp. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that I should have slashed the loaves before putting them in the oven. They came out a bit misshapen but that’s minor.

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I now have one loaf from each batch in the freezer with plans to make more in the coming weeks. I think I can honestly say that these loaves equal what we can get at the grocery store and knowing that I made them feels really good!

In addition to the sourdough, I’ve also revived my water kefir and kombucha. The water kefir grains had been stored in the fridge since the beginning of winter; cold days are not the time for drinking cold, fizzy drinks. I wasn’t sure if they would come back because, honestly, I ignored them completely for nearly two months. However, a bit of sugar water and some warmth and water kefir production is back! I’ve even managed to get John to drink it on a somewhat regular basis. His favourite so far has been the cranberry kefir. Even 9-year old Ethan asks for it whenever he’s here.

I’ve just revived my kombucha and the first batch is nearly ready to bottle. I just haven’t decided how to flavour this first batch. All my frozen fruit, it seems, has been consumed by someone who likes it with his ice cream. No names will be mentioned.

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In addition to the fermented drinks, I’m also fermenting a small jar of carrot sticks. I tried a batch a couple of weeks ago but it grew mold after opening the jar. I think it was because I used dried dill and it all floated to the top; from what I could see, it was the dill that was moldy, not the carrots. I wasn’t going to take a chance, though, and tossed the whole jar. This time, I’m using fresh dill and it’s at the bottom of the jar, where the carrots are keeping it down. In another day or two, I’ll try one of the sticks to see how they’re progressing.

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I also fermented a jar of sauerkraut a few weeks ago and, this time, it turned out really well. I’m really happy with it and Trinity, our sour lover, has given her stamp of approval to the batch. Now, I need to find ways of getting John to eat it.

Today, just because I can, I’m starting a small batch of something called “Sima”, a Finnish fermented beverage made with lemons, sugar, and a pinch of yeast. It just sounded really tasty and I have all the ingredients at hand so…. why not? One recipe called it a type of mead and used honey in the recipe; the recipe I’m following uses white and brown sugar instead of honey. I thought about trying my hand at mead but the fermentation and aging times kind of put me off; it can take up to a year, according to some of the recipes I read. Around here? Not a chance! The Sima, on the other hand, could be ready within a week or two, depending on how long I allow it to age.

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I have to say, I’m really enjoying my experiments in fermentation. The fact that it produces a product rich in healthy probiotics is a bonus. Really, they just taste good!

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