Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

More Fermentation!! Like more cowbell only tastier

More cowbell! This just needs more cowbell! I mean FERMENTATION, this just needs more FERMENTATION. I have to admit that I think I’m completely hooked on fermenting things. We already knew I was thrilled with cheese making and all other things cooking related. This just adds another skill to my list of things I like to do. 😀  The really lovely thing is that it’s not nearly as work intensive as cheese making, which is an all day process (12+ hours sometimes) that has to be carefully monitored. Fermentation is MUCH easier, hooray!

Today’s batch of fermentation is a blend of gold beets, celery root, rainbow carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and garlic. I asked for ideas in a Facebook group on food preservation and they suggested curry. I wasn’t sure about it at first but as I put everything together, the smell of the vegetables spoke to me of curry. I happened to have a good amount of Maharajah curry powder from Penzeys spices. It’s a mild curry with good depth of flavor which I thought would go wonderfully with this.

currypickledrootveggiesOct82014

You can see the beautiful color from the saffron threads in the curry powder. By the time it’s done everything should have a gorgeous golden color. These are half gallon mason jars with air locks on top. You can’t see them but there are clear glass weights on top of the veggies.

Everything will sit in the jars overnight and tomorrow evening I’ll check to make sure enough liquid has been released or if I need to add some brine. The smell is FANTASTIC! Even after washing my hands several times I still smell like curry lol.

I had originally thought about making my own curry blend with whole spices. Finally, the fact that the curry powder needed to be used up combined with the fact that I was getting super tired won the day. I think I’m going to be very glad that I did it this way.

The jar on the left didn’t have enough of the original blend to be full so I added a cabbage on top. I’ve still got a couple of cabbages left so I’ll add them to the sauerkraut pot tomorrow when I’m not so tired. 😉

To the right of the jars you can see a plum and some apples.. I’ve got apples, plums and pears which are going into a jar with a nice pour of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Because you can never go wrong with fruit and booze. That will be tomorrow’s project though. I’m pretty much done for today. 🙂

 

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Sauteed Mixed Greens with Lemon-Parmesan Cream Sauce (and some bacon)

Every week Jene and I get a box of organic produce from Full Circle. They’re a company that delivers locally sourced, in season produce each week. You can go on their website and pick from a selection of things you want in your box each week and shop for extras as well. The best part is that it’s delivered to your front door early in the morning and you wake up to a box full of yummyness. I say “produce” but they also offer dairy products and meats. The offerings vary based on the season and what’s available. I love it and highly recommend trying it if it’s available in your location.

So.. anyway… Last week I got a couple of nice bunches of rainbow chard. I decided I’d just saute them with some bacon and onions, then toss in some heavy cream and parmesan cheese to finish it off. It came out quite good. This week I took the recipe a bit farther.

Recipe

1/2 lb bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3 bunches of chard

1 bunch of kale

1 small bag of baby spinach

2 lemons, juiced

1/3 cup heavy cream

3/4-1 cup grated parmesan (if you’re using pre-grated you will want to use a bit less because fresh grated is fluffy)

1 TB dried dill

1/2 tsp white pepper (you can use black)

salt to taste

In a large pot, over medium heat, saute the bacon until crispy-ish. Add the onions and continue to cook until translucent.

Meanwhile, rinse the greens thoroughly but don’t dry them completely. The water will help cook them. Roughly chop the card and kale, removing the tough center stem from the kale.

When the onions are tender, add the kale to the pot first, then the chard. Add the lemon juice, pepper and dill. Don’t add the spinach yet. Let the greens cook, stirring them frequently until they appear to be softening. NOW you can add the spinach. Cook just long enough to wilt the spinach a bit.

Pour the cream into the post and stir well. Finally stir in the parmesan a bit at a time. If you add it all at once it can make a big clump that is slow to melt. Taste and season with salt if desired. The bacon and parmesan make it fairly salty on its own.

There you have it… the fancy version. If you want it even simpler, use bacon, onion, any of the three types of greens, salt and pepper and cream with parmesan. The steps are the same, just fewer ingredients. 🙂

 

 

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What kind of recipes would you like to see me post?

I started this blog with the intention of sharing my cooking experiences and recipes. I’m not sure I’m sharing much that’s worth sharing.

I do have recipes but I wonder if too many of them are too complicated for most people to want to bother with. So I thought I’d ask and see if any of my readers have comments on what they’d like to see. I know there are a few of you out there watching me plod along lol.

Do you guys think I should invest in a good camera and take more pictures?

Do you want more very basic stuff and less advanced stuff?

Do you want more or less insight into how an idea pops into my head?

Do I need to include more steps as to how I make a creation go from brain to table?

Do you want to hear more or less of the scientific side of things like lacto-fermentation or cheese making?

I find myself not posting things I make because they seem too simple for people to be interested in them or they’re not quite perfect. Do you want the super simple and not quite perfect stuff?

Please PLEASE let me know what you think. I need some direction to go with this.

Thank you! 🙂

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Fermented pickles – First attempt

I know I’ve been talking about making lacto-fermented pickles for over a year now. Well, I’ve finally got myself together enough to give it a try today. I went to three farmer’s markets yesterday AND bought a second pickling crock just to make sure I could get a batch done before the end of the cucumber season. The second crock was because I needed to get a new batch of sauerkraut going.

Now, that I think of it.. A note on eating fresh sauerkraut: This stuff is beyond awesome for keeping your inside ticking along regularly. Due to the medications I take, this is important lol. So since I’m down to just one quart left of the last batch, it’s time to make more. This is the same dill/onion combo but with daikon radish added.

Ok, back to my pickle preparations… The first part of the prep work was doing some reading up on the process. One of the things I found out was that a key ingredient in making crisp pickles is tannin. Main sources are fresh grape leaves, oak leaves and black tea. An interesting note is that spices like cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves also contain tannins, which explains why you find them in pickling spice blends. I don’t have a handy grape vine or oak tree but I DO have some black tea so I’m going to put a couple of tea bags in the bottom of the crock.

The next step is prepping the cucumbers. Since I bought them yesterday and it had probably been a few days since they were picked, I have had them sitting in water all afternoon to perk back up. Next step, I finished washing them and then trimmed off the blossom end. It turns out there are enzymes in the blossom that can eat out the center of the pickle leaving it hollow. Huh, never knew THAT either.

Once the cucumbers were prepped, the tea bags go in the bottom of the crock along with some garlic, pickling spice and fresh dill. I didn’t have fresh dill seed heads but I did have some dried seed heads I used in combination with fresh dill sprigs.

Once everything was in the crock I added a brine of about 5.4% salinity. This works out to about 1.8 ounces of salt to quart of water. I use weight here because salts come in so many different grain sizes. It’s important not to use regular table salt or salts with iodine or anti-caking agents added. The only ingredient on the box should be “salt.” The additives can create off colors, flavors and cloudy brine. Icky.

In my reading I found that some people recommend adding a bit of a “starter” to get the ferment going. Either sauerkraut juice or boiled wine or boiled vinegar. The wine or vinegar get boiled to kill off any yeast that might still be active. Personally, living in the rich environment of the San Francisco Bay area, I don’t feel a need to use as starter. My previous batches of sauerkraut have done just fine so I’m confident the pickles will too.

While I was filling the crock I decided a tiny bit of heat would be ok so I tossed in a few dried hot peppers. I’m not sure what type of peppers I used but they’re pretty hot as far as I’m concerned. Jene will disagree but too bad lol. Here’s a picture of what it looked like when I started filling up the crock.

picklecrockOct52014

I layered in more fresh dill as I filled the crock with the cucumbers. I like my pickles really dilly. I’m not sure there’s enough garlic. I might have to add more in the future after I taste my first pickle. These pickles will sit on the counter for several weeks before they’re ready. Just as with sauerkraut, I’ll check them every day or two and skim off any bloom that forms. Here’s what it looks like with the plate and weight on top.

picklecrockfinished

 

I will really have to keep a close eye on this because it’s just a bit overfull. I’ll give it a day or two two see if there’s any settling and if not, I’ll pull the top layer of cucumbers off. The pickles should be covered with at least an inch of  brine, which they are, but it’s a very close thing lol. I know I’m excited about seeing how these come out in the next few weeks. 🙂

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Pickled Eggs

Up until a few months ago, I thought pickled eggs where probably something the devil invented. I’d only seen them in big jars at room temperature at bars. The liquid was cloudy and the whole idea of a room temp egg just plain frightened me. I was SO not going there.

However, my NRA Instructor Counselor, Dave Matthews, made a batch of pickled eggs. Since I knew the province of them, I decided I probably wouldn’t die. Not only didn’t I die, but they were completely awesome! So I’ve been meaning to make a batch of my own for the last few weeks. I finally go around to it tonight.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a website that lists six different recipes for pickled eggs. I picked the Dilled Eggs recipe to try. And of course made a few changes lol.

Recipe

12 eggs, hard boiled and peeled.

1 1/2 cups of white vinegar

1 cup of water (from other projects, I advise not using tap water)

3/4 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1/4  teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon onion juice or minced onion

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 peeled garlic clove

 

Bring all the ingredients except the eggs to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack no more than one dozen peeled, hard-cooked eggs loosely into a warm, pre-sterilized quart jar. There needs to be plenty of pickling solution,  enough to completely cover the eggs. Pour the hot pickling solution over the eggs in the jar, cover, and refrigerate immediately.

After making the eggs, the eggs require some time to season (i.e., pick up the flavors from the pickling brine). Keep them refrigerated at all times. If small eggs are used, 1 to 2 weeks are usually allowed for seasoning to occur.  Medium or large eggs may require 2 to 4 weeks to become well seasoned.  Use the eggs within 3 to 4 months for best quality.

My changes… instead of using onion juice or minced onion, I used very thinly sliced shallot, about 1 small shallot. Then I added three shishito peppers that I had cleaned. They’re a VERY milk pepper so you could use a spicier pepper if you wanted some heat. I also doubled the amount of garlic.
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Here’s what they look like in the jar. My apologies for the blurriness but my hands have been really shaky lately. At some point I suppose I should invest in a standard camera and tripod lol.

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Sauerkraut Take 2 – Update and a recipe, sort of

I’ve had a couple of friends on Facebook ask me what recipe I used to make my second batch of kraut. I figured I’d better share it here too so I don’t forget what I did in the future.

I basically read several recipes online and combined them. The current batch is 9 lbs of thinly sliced cabbage, 5 oz of kosher salt (DO NOT USE TABLE SALT. The iodine and anti clumping agents can kill the ferment), 2 red onions, 1 lb of grated carrots and a big bunch of fresh dill.

I have a 5 gallon ceramic pickling crock that I got from my mom. I had a piece of food grade plastic custom cut to fit inside so that I could use that to press down on the kraut rather than a plate which didn’t fit quite right. You can buy crocks online or find them at hardware stores with the canning supplies. According to what I’ve read online you can also use a plastic container or a mason jar.

This is the primary website I used. http://www.wildfermentation.com/making-sauerkraut-2/

So I sliced up the cabbage and put it in a large bowl and then tossed it with the salt. I also sliced up the onions and grated the carrots but kept them separate from the cabbage. I sprinkled some salt on the onions and carrots too.

Then I started layering it all into the crock. I put some sprigs of dill in the bottom, then a third of the cabbage. I tamped it down firmly using a potato masher. Then I put in half the onion, half the carrot and more dill. Cabbage, onion, carrot, dill, cabbage, dill. I tamped down each layer firmly. The reason for this is to help break down the cell walls to release the juice faster.

After I had everything in the crock I let it sit for 24 hours to let it release the juices. Then I put the piece of plastic in the crock and a heavy weight on top. In my case, I’m using a half gallon mason jar full of honey lol. You want the juice/brine to cover the plate/plastic disc by at least 1 inch. If not, you can dissolved 1.5 TB of salt in water and add that brine to the crock. DO NOT USE TAP WATER!! It has chlorine that can kill the fermentation process.

Cover it and let it sit at room temperature. After a few days you will start to see a white scum form on top of the brine. THIS IS OKAY! You just skim it off. A yeasty smell is OKAY. That just means it’s fermenting. In fact, right now, my kraut smells like the onion/dill bread I like to make lol.

This is a quote from the webpage I linked above talking about the scum that forms…

“Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes.”

Some of the reading I’ve done says that Kraut should ferment for 6-8 weeks because that’s how long it takes to form the really good probiotics. I stopped my first batch at 3 weeks because that’s when I thought it tasted good. I might let this second batch go longer.

Once you decide it’s gone long enough, you can scoop it into clean quart mason jars and put it in the fridge. It will last many months in the fridge and will also keep fermenting at a slow pace.

So that’s what I’ve done. I used a bit more salt than the recipe at wildfermentation suggests but that’s because it’s summer and it needs extra salinity to protect against bad molds.

 

 

 

This picture shows the bloom on top of the brine.                                                          This picture shows it after I’ve skimmed the bloom.
sauerkrautpostskim sauerkrautpreskim

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Sauerkraut – Take 2

Well, after roughly three weeks of fermenting, I pulled the sauerkraut out of the crock. I got about 3 quarts out of the two heads of cabbage I used. Tane stopped by last night and I asked her if she wanted some. I had her taste it first to make sure it was ok. After sealing the jar back up to send home with her, I turned my back and when I looked at her again she was eating another big bit of it. I took this to mean that it was good lol.

So I had acquired another three heads of cabbage and decided to make another batch last night. I also decided to jazz it up a bit. The cabbage is layered with red onion, carrots and dill. I put a layer of dill on the bottom, cabbage, onion, carrot, dill, cabbage, onion, carrot, dill and a last layer of cabbage. Slightly less than 24 hours later it already smells good.

Now, I have an OLD fermenting crock. Unlike some of the newer crocks, it doesn’t have a lid or weights. The last batch, I used a plate with a half gallon jar of honey on top for the weight. The problem was that the plate wasn’t quite big enough. Fortunately, we have a business called TAP plastics nearby. I had Jene get me a 9″ diameter circle of food grade plastic cut. It fits in the crock perfectly and then I can use my jar of honey for the weight. Now I just get to wait for 2-3 weeks before it’s done.

My next project will most likely be fermented pickles. I’m excited to be trying all this new stuff with fermentation. 🙂

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Sauerkraut – Take 1

Last year, my mom gave me a beautiful fermentation crock that she used when I was growing up. Since then I’ve been meaning to use it for all sorts of things. I’ve actually managed to use it once to make some short fermentation pickles. BUT! I started a bunch of sauerkraut a couple of weeks. I tasted it last night and it’s coming along beautifully.

The recipe for sauerkraut is pretty easy. Shred the cabbage, toss it with roughly 3TB of salt per 5lbs of cabbage. Then tap it down into the crock. You want to tamp it pretty hard so that it releases more moisture. Cover the crock with a towel and let it sit for a day. Then check it to see how much liquid has been released by the cabbage. Place a weighted ceramic plate on top to press the cabbage down. If the liquid covers the plate by at least an inch, cover the crock with a towel and set it aside. If the water doesn’t cover the plate, add a brine made of 1 tsp salt to 1 cup of water until it covers the plate by one inch.

After you have the cabbage in the brine, you get to be patient and wait. Check it every couple of days and skim off any scum that forms on the top. I’ve done that a couple of times now. Then last night I tasted it. It’s very mellow at this point. According to the reading I’ve been doing, the flavor gets sharper as it continues to ferment. So we’ll let it sit for another couple of weeks.

I have to say… I was actually really nervous about tasting the sauerkraut last night. I’ve never been 100% comfortable with lacto-fermentation. However, I’ve also resolved that I’m not going to NOT do something just because there’s a bit of an ick factor. So far, I’m quite pleased 🙂

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Stuffed Red Bell Peppers

Edited October 6, 2014: I realized that something was missing… In an effort to kick up the flavor a bit I added a tablespoon or so of dried mustard powder. Definitely getting closer.. I think it needs some parmesan cheese next time.

The store had some really nice red bell peppers on sale so I bought a bunch. Then I had to figure out what to do with them. After mulling it over, I decided on stuffed peppers.

Recipe

6 large red bell peppers

1.5 lbs ground beef

1 cup finely minced fresh mushrooms

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup finely diced onion

2 TB bacon fat or butter

2 TB fresh basil, minced and divided

1 cup diced tomatoes w/juice (I used canned)

1/2 cup ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, onions, celery and one TB of basil. Cook until the veggies are tender.

Put the ground beef in a bowl, add the veggies once they are cooked. Add the rest of the basil, the tomatoes, ketchup, and salt/pepper to taste. Mix everything thoroughly.

Cut the top of the peppers off and remove the cores. If the bottoms are uneven, cut off just enough that the peppers will sit evenly in a baking dish. Rinse the peppers.

Stuff the peppers mounding up the filling just a bit at the top. Place in baking dish. Bake about 45-60 minutes.

 

StuffedBellPeppers

 

 

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Chile-Lime Roasted Corn on the Cob

I made this for a party tonight and it was so popular I promised to post the recipe. So here it is!

Recipe

9 ears corn on the cob, husked

1 stick unsalted butter

1 large lime, juiced

1 TB chile power

2 tsp ground cumin

2-3 tsp kosher salt

aluminum foil cut into 12-15 inch lengths

If you have time, soften the butter to room temperature. If you don’t have time, you can soften/melt it in the microwave. You don’t want it hot, just soft enough you can easily mix in the lime juice and seasonings.

So, juice the lime, add the lime juice, chile powder, cumin and salt to the butter. Mix thoroughly. Slather on the ears of corn. Roll the corn up in the foil. You can then grill it or roast it in the oven depending on whether or not you have the grill in use for something else. I’ve been known to roast it in the oven when I just want the corn without firing up the grill.

The seasonings can be adjusted for preference. If you want it spicy, put in a bit of cayenne pepper.

I’m glad everyone enjoyed this so much tonight!

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