Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kimchi Soup

I wrote about making kimchi a few posts ago and the kimchi has now fermented into its hot, tangy, spicy, lovely self. Sauerkraut it isn't--but I love the mix of the hot, the garlic, the ginger with the cabbage, onion, and scallion. It is now part of our "flu protocol" which we'll start today (more on the flu protocol later) because of its reported action against SARS and respiratory illnesses.

It has gotten cold here, at least, chilly in the mornings. And there is nothing nicer on a cold day than hot soup. So I made kimchi soup--not an authentic Korean recipe, although you can find those with google. I knew what I wanted: something hot and tangy, spicy, a touch sour and brothy. I figured the kimchi I made last week would work great as a base.

I used four or five BIG tablespoons of kimchi and sauteed that with some more garlic and onions. Then I added some chicken broth and tossed in some other veggies, celery and carrots and a tiny potato. Got all that to a boil, then backed off to simmer. Added some hot pepper flakes and sea salt. Ummmmm, now we're talking. Then--and this may sound as awful to you as it did to me when I first thought of it: sardines. Yes, a can of sardines. It was a total surprise--and very, very good. I recall thinking I could always toss the soup on the compost if it was awful because of the sardines, but man, I wish I'd been doing this for years. The sardines work great in a soup. They stay firm, add a lot of flavor, and are mild in the midst of hot garlicky pepper broth. I added some noodles to it and voila, a wonderful kimchi soup!

For me, this soup is a winner, and a very pleasant way to eat the kimchi. See, food IS medicine. Your body requires nutrients--and doesn't require synthetic chemicals, which is what all drugs and most processed foods are. Give your body the nutrients it needs and you'll feel good and healthy. Deprive your body of nutrients (by taking drugs and eating processed foods) and you'll get sicker and sicker. Simple. More simple than it is, of course, but that is how I think about foods and medicine.

Canning Butter

We canned butter yesterday. Well, it isn't really canning, but it does get the butter in the jars and the jars seal and so you can keep your butter on the shelf with your other stored foods with no refrigeration for a few years. That's the theory. Lots of other folks have done this and presented all the info, so I'll skip typing out the actual steps but give you the links so you can go and read what they did, and what we did. It is nice to have 12 pints of butter stored (that's about 10 pounds worth). If you do this, you can buy butter when it's on sale and get a good price.

Michael's been after me for months to do this, so finally we did it. And it isn't hard or difficult, just messy. You can find clear instructions at Our Plain and Simple Life, or at the Just in Case blog. Both are similar with clear steps to take. Basically, the idea is to get both the jars hot in the oven, and the butter melted to boiling, then simmered, so all ingredients are hot. The jars are hot and must be handled carefully. The butter is greasy, and will spill out of the jars before they seal, but the jars must be shaken many times to get the butter to congeal, mixing the separated milk solids from the butter oil. If that's not clear, please go and read the instructions at those blogs and then what I've said here will make more sense.

We put the jars in a roasting pan in the oven, heated to 250 degrees. They have to be in there for 20 minutes before you start to fill them. During that 20 minutes you'll be melting your butter on the stove. Use the big pot you use for chili or stews, because 10 pounds of butter is a LOT of butter. The lids and rings go in a pot of simmering water on the stove. Once the butter has come to a boil and then simmered for 7-10 minutes, you fill the jars. Use a canning funnel and try not to spill the butter all over the place. Wipe the tops of the jars, then put on the lid and tighten the ring. Move the jar to the central shaking area (kitchen table) and ask the husband to shake them for you while you keep filling the jars. If you don't have an assistant, then you'll have to keep shaking the jars whilst filling the others. I imagine that could be a bit complicated.

Anyway, keep shaking the jars every few minutes. If/when butter spills out of the not-yet-sealed jars, wipe it off with a clean cloth (I used white vinegar on my cloth to help cut the grease of the butter). When jars are almost room-temperature, move them to the fridge, but keep shaking. Gradually the butter congeals in the jars and the jars seal. Leave the jars in the fridge for a while--hour or so. And that's it. You've "canned" butter.

Is it safe? I'm not entirely sure. According to the USDA, there are potential problems. Read about it over at an LDS forum here--scroll down a bit and you'll see the warnings. We went ahead and did it anyway, but I'll have those warnings in my mind and I'll be careful with that butter. The choice and the risk are yours too, if you choose to can butter.

I go and visit with Amish friends and farmers every week. They can food a lot, and don't always use mason jars and lids. And none of them seem to have problems with stored food spoilage. So I'm a little more relaxed about it having witnessed many friends canning and having done it myself. So keep in mind that there may be food spoilage issues. On the other hand, the same government agency that warns us about canning food problems can't seem to do anything about e coli on spinach on agribusiness farms, so what the hell. There are plenty of problems with foods you buy at the store--and thus any food has the potential to make you sick. You have to use your own judgment and discernment in this, as in all things.

Onwards, the only direction there is,


Sunday, September 27, 2009

From the book, Joy of Pickling

Here's an interesting pull quote for you. This is from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, the book I've been enjoying (from the library). I haven't gotten around to buying it yet, but I probably will. I've used a lot of the recipes and though I have some nits to pick with some of them, it's over all been fun. It has some fun quotes about pickling sprinkled throughout the text. Here's a curious one:

"I've once asked my grandmother, then seventy-two years old, how she kept her skin so wrinkle-free. The secret, she explained, was a daily dose of the fermented brine from the pickle barrel, rubbed into her skin. This treatment explained the unusual smell I'd always associated with my grandmother, but the astringent quality of the brine did seem to work wonders."
--Darra Goldstein, A Taste of Russia

Well, who knows? Has anyone else heard of this? If I were still wrinkle-free, I might give it a try, but as it is, I like my wrinkles. They fit my face, tell the story of my life and all of that. At any rate, just another tidbit.


Short Foraging Walk

I forage constantly, and I always try to be ready to harvest whatever might present itself to me. Thus, even for just a short stroll with my brother, I have a plastic grocery bag or two folded up in my pocket and a small useful many-blade knife in my pocket as well. Our first stop was at the black walnut tree at the bottom of the small hill we live on top of. Only found 1 walnut to have fallen so far. I snag it--I want to make an extract of the hulls this year. Black walnut hull extract is good for ridding oneself of parasites and for skin diseases, funguses (fungi?) and such. I need to do some further research before I make the stuff, but I know where to look.

Our next stop was the persimmon tree, now laden with lucious fruit. You simply HAVE to wait for persimmons. If you bite into an unripe 'simmon, you'll get the puckiest dry mouth in the world. When ripe, the persimmon is a sweet delicious treat, just bursting with flavor. But unripe? Yuck--horrible! The 'simmons still on the tree were not ripe and we left 'em there. We fought off the yellowjackets for the ones on the ground. And believe me, those bees love ripe persimmons as much as we do. This year I bought a new tool--sort of a french food mill thing--that makes it really easy to extract the pulp from the seeds and skin of the persimmon. I used that and got about a cup's worth of sweet pulp. I'll freeze it and add to it when more persimmons come ripe, until I have enough for a persimmon bread or pudding recipe.

If you want, you can store unripe persimmons in a container in the fridge with some unwaxed apple--the gas from the apple will help ripen the persimmon. I'll try that this year too.

Steve "Wildman" Brill says that persimmons "are one of the most caloric, filling fruits. They're a great source of potassium and Vitamin C, and provide lots of calcium and phosphorus. Persimmon leaf infusion is very high in Vitamin C and tasty too." That bit about the leaves is good to know. I'll gather some leaves before they all fall off to use in flu season.

I picked some small white flowers that I don't recognize--it is sort of a tiny daisy flower with lots of petals, maybe 18-20. I'll have to start looking through the plant books to find out what it is. This is time consuming, but it is a fun project in the winter.

I didn't pick the plantain or dandelions or other things I saw--I have both plantain extract and salve already, and dandelion extract. Don't pick what you don't have a use for. Of course, plantains and dandelions are ubiquitious, but still. Leave 'em be if you aren't going to use them.

On to the crabapple tree of my neighbors. I had pickled a small batch of these earlier and I thought the taste would go wonderful with a venison roast. In the hopes that my stepson comes home to visit (and gets me a deer :), my brother and I gathered a bunch more. These I'll pickle as I did before and look for other recipes. Maybe a crabapple chutney? Or crabapple wine. I'll dry some to use for winter tea. This is really just an ornamental crabapple tree, and the fruits are gorgeous on the tree, but they're not the tastiest thing in the world. But pickle them in sugar, water, vinegar with a spice bag of cinnamon, allspice berries and cloves, and you'll get a fairly nice tasting fruit--good for cooking with, if not for eating outright.

Then, as we returned, we saw a bunch of walnuts down by the pone. We went down and got a bunch of those which I'll use for the extract. I also saw some little berries that look like small grapes, and yep, they grew on a vine. But I recall some warning from Brill's book on a poisonous lookalike, so I'll just take a few and look that up before proceeding to nibble on them. Caution is a good thing in this business.

Some foraging walks are more productive than others of course. But it helps to be prepared and to look around you. I'm planning a longer hike soon--I want to get some sumac berries and sundry other goodies before fall starts getting truly wintry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Odd's Condiments: Butternut Squash Marmalade

Lately I've been making little jars of tasty condiments, something to liven up a diet of beans and rice or beans and mush. We're not eating that way right now, the menfolk are on the Atkin's diet so we eat a lot of meat and cheese, eggs and low carb veggies. But the garden put forth a goodly quantity of butternut squash and we have to use that too. I can't do strict Atkins--I love my vegetables too much to give up the higher carb ones, but I'll cook the Atkins for the guys.

So my problem was what do I do with all this butternut squash? Michael and Terry don't want to eat it right now (which is insane, since butternuts are so delicious, even if a bit high carb). I started looking for recipes for using the squash in interesting, if odd, ways. Butternut squash is a terrific food, very tasty and nutritious. If you check the link, you'll find it is very high in vitamin A. And ever since I read about it over at Stealth Survival, I've gotten into eating "rainbow veggies, that is, veggies of all different colors. Nothing looks prettier on a plate than say, pureed butternut squash and a serving of nettles or spinach. Anyway... back to the topic at hand.

I found a recipe for butternut squash marmalade of all things. It's simple and delicious, and if you have the same plethora of butternuts in your garden that I do, you might want to give it a try. Since I found this on the web, it's only fair I direct you over to it and you can watch the video and read the recipe for yourself. This is really good: sweet and yet the flavor of the butternut comes though loud and clear. Yum!

Then, in the Joy of Pickling that I mentioned the other day, I found a recipe for a crisp pickled pumpkin or winter squash. Perfect, I thought. I'll pickle a bunch of it. At least we'll try it and see if we like it. My husband and brother tend to prefer the ordinary foods we've eaten all our lives, but I confess to liking the weird and out of the way. So here's a nifty recipe for the butternut squash pickle. I've got to wait a few weeks before eating it to let the pickle flavor develop, so I'll let you all know later if I like it.

Crisp Pickled Pumpkin or Squash
(makes 4 pints)
3 1/2 pound pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (about 9 cups)
2 tablespoons pickling salt
4 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf crumbled
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
4 thin slices fresh ginger, slivered
3 garlic cloves, chopped

1. In a bowl, toss the pumpkin or squash with the pickling salt. Let the cubes rest for 2-3 hours.

2. Drain the cubes, rinse them, and drain them again. Pack them into pint mason jars.

3. Tie the cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf in a spice bag or scrap of cheesecloth. In a saucepan, combine the spice bag with the vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the liquid 10 minutes.

4. Remove the spice bag from the pan and pour the hot liquid over the pumpkin or squash, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars with two piece caps. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the pickle. After opening the jars, store in the fridge.

And there you go. The pickle sounds like it would taste good, and it certainly would be a break from a steady rice and beans diet. You might want to try making some different condiments to supplement your stored foods as well.

Why Odd's Condiments in the title? Well, simple. If I get to making a bunch of weird condiments and foods (weird at least for Indiana), then Odd's Condiments would be a great name for the lable. :)

Oh, one last note--I canned the butternut squash marmalade. The recipe didn't say to do that--you could probably just store your jar of it in the fridge--but I had a load going in the canner anyway, and if you want to give these as gifts to friends, can it. Boiling water bath, 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It's only been a million years or so since I last blogged. My friend Charli Gribble down in 'Bama has been quietly yelling at me to get with it and get blogging again, so Charli, here you go! I've been busy as hell all summer growing, foraging, fermenting, drying, canning, wine-making and otherwise preserving food for our family. In fact, I've felt an almost primitive need to preserve food. Wild foods, garden goodies, produce from the organic Amish farm, you name it. I snagged as much of it as I could and preserved it in some manner. It will ALL come in handy and probably be necessary. I'm sure many of you have felt the same way--this is not only sort of a hobby, but an absolutely necessary project.

So I've been primarily gardening, foraging and drying in the dehydrator. What a wonderful tool! I had misplaced mine last year so I sun-dried, but it is much easier in the dehydrator. And fun. My brother makes fun of me: "She can't see a veggie without wanting to suck all the water out of it!" Me, I love seeing how the apples, peaches, berries, tomatoes, onions, rutabegas etc. all shrink down into little bits, only to plump back up again with the addition of hot water. It's all MUCH easier to store for us as we live in a small space. The vacuumed bags of dehydrated veggies, fruit and meat (jerky) now all live in some big popcorn tins I got cheap at the local thrift store.

Anyway, on to our topic of today: Kimchi. A national dish/icon of Korea. I was reading in The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich about fermenting veggies, especially cabbages and came across this bit:

Kimchi as Medicine
While more and more Westerners are turning up their noses at sauerkraut, Koreans and other Asians are eating more kimchi. This is at least in part out of fear of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the deadly pneumonia that left Korea virtually untouched while sickening people throughout most of Asia in 2003. Many inside and outside of the country believe that kimchi kept Koreans safe from the disease.

(As an aside, this is my current interest in food as medicine: keeping us safe from any damn flu virus the government/vaccine industry can throw at us. Thus the quarts of elderberry tincture, the goldenseal/echinacea tincture, etc. And Kimchi!)

As Korean scientists have proven, beneficial microbes in kimchi can overpower bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Shigella sonnei, and Listeria monocytogenes. Scientists are now cultivating kimchi microbes in hopes of using them for mass production of a new kind of antibiotic.

Besides killing bacteria, kimchi may fight viruses. A team at Seoul National University reported in 2005 that an extract of kimchi helped in treatment of chickens infected with avian flu. After further studies, the team hoped to distribute the remedy to poultry farms across Korea.

In guarding human health, kimchi battles more than microbes. Scientific studies show that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables reduces the risk of breast cancer. Korea has one of the world's lowest incidences of this disease.

Here's another interesting bit about kimchi (and why we should make and eat it):

Korean scientists have studied kimchi at least as thoroughly as their Western counterparts have studied sauerkraut. The scientists have found that fresh cabbage kimchi is actually more nutritious than unfermented Chinese cabbage. When kimchi tastes best--before it becomes overly sour--its levels of B1, B2, B12 and niacin are twice what they were initially, and its vitamin C levels equals that of fresh cabbage. Scientists have also found that undesirable bacteria and parasites are destroyed during fermentation.

So I made some, using sort of a combination methods/ingredients from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook and The Joy of Pickling. First I went off to the store because there were some items I was going to be needing for various pickling/fermenting projects. On this day I couldn't find napa cabbage OR daikon raidsh, so I grabbed some savoy cabbage and some regular red radishes. It won't be the real thing, but then, I'm not a real Korean so it won't hurt. Here's the basic recipe:

Cabbage and Radish Kimchi

3 tablespoons pickling salt
5 cups water
1 pound Chinese cabbage (1/2 large head), cored and cut into two inch squares
1 pound daikon cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 scallions cut into thin rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons Korean ground dried hot pepper (or other mildly hot ground red pepper)
1 teaspoon sugar

(I used the whole head of cabbage, a bunch of scallions, more ginger and garlic than called for; also, I used hot cayenne pepper flakes rather than the ground hot pepper--my kimchi doesn't look red for that reason.)

1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of the salt in the water. Combine the cabbage and daikon in a large bowl or nonreactive pot and cover them with the brine. Weight the vegetables with a plate and let them stand at room temperature for 12 hours.

2. Drain the vegetables, reserving the brine. Combine them with the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Pack the mixture into a 2 quart jar. Pour enough of the brine over the vegetables to cover them. Push a food grade plastic bag into the jar and pour some or all of the remaining brine into the bag. Seal the bag. Let the kimchi ferment in a cool place at a temperature no higher than 68 degrees F for 3 to 6 days, until the kimchi is as sour as you like.

3. Remove the brine bag, Cap the jar tightly and store the kimchi in the refrigerator, where it will keep for months.

Nourishing Traditions calls for pretty much the same ingredients, but no brine, just sea salt and whey added to the veggies. In this version, you'd pound the cabbage/radish mix with a meat hammer to free up their juices, then put them in a jar with their own juices covering them. Again, let it ferment.

(I didn't use the brine bag, just covered the veggies with the brine and left them to ferment. Both Michael and I tasted it and it was salty, spicy and good. I think it is going to be addicting!)

Kimchi is only one of the fermenting projects I've got going. There are lots of gallon jugs of wine, pickled beets, brined green beans, fermented tomatoes (then dried, rolled into balls, and stored in olive oil) fermented zucchini, fermented dill pickles, etc. The nice thing about fermenting is that the lactic acid formed by the fermentation process means that you don't have to water-bath can the jars. The veggies will keep, stored in a cool place, for months. I've used the Joy of Pickling, Nourishing Traditions, and Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning books for basic recipes.

Some good, basic info on kimchi can be found here, and here. The first link is a fun but bawdy romp about kimchi goodness. Enjoy!