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3/30/2016

Now, while it’s still cool, bake some delicious rustic breads and stock the freezer for special breakfasts and “high tea.” All the fruits in these breads give the loaves a craggy surface that’s wonderfully crunchy. These all keep for months wrapped well in the freezer. If you get them out the night before, they’ll be ready to slice for breakfast, toasted or not. I often cut the loaves in half before freezing, because six or eight slices will be plenty for a breakfast.

When you invest the time and costly ingredients for breads like this, use the best flour you can find — I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom of this post.

Cranberry-Pecan Breakfast Bread Recipe

Makes two 9-by-5 loaves

Ingredients:

• 1 cup rye flour
• 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
• 4 cups bread flour in all
• 2 tbsp yeast
• 1 tbsp salt
• 2 Tbsp vital gluten
• 1 tsp diastatic malt (optional, but helpful)
• 1 tbsp best quality cinnamon
• 2 ½ cups milk, heated*
• 2 tbsp butter
• 2 tbsp honey
• 1 cup broken pecans
• scant cup gold raisins
• scant cup dried cranberries

Optional: 2 Tbsp melted butter and some coarse turbinado sugar

Note: I use organic whole milk; if you use a low-fat milk, add some butter.

Directions:

1. Set up the mixer with the dough hook.

2. Put 2 cups of the bread flour and the rest of the flours and dry ingredients into the bowl, give it a stir to mix.

3. Heat the milk to 105 degrees F, drop in the butter and let it sit a minute until the butter is mostly melted. Add the honey, stir to mix, then pour the liquids into the bowl containing the dry ingredients. With a spoon or spatula, roughly stir to incorporate, then machine-knead 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Put the fruits and pecans into a small bowl or a bag, then add a little of the remaining 2 cups of bread flour into the mix. Stir or shake to give a light coating, which keeps the fruit separated and nicely suspended in the dough.

5. Now, add the fruits and nuts to bowl of dough. Stir with the mixer until they’re mixed in and then add some of the remaining flour, mix and add more of the flour until you have a soft, but firm, dough that will clear the sides of the bowl. (You may not use all of the flour.)

6. Put the dough into your greased rising bucket or bowl and let it rise until almost doubled. The dough won’t fully double, because 3 cups of it is fruits and nuts.

7. Turn the dough onto your floured kneading board, give it a few turns and divide in half. Form two fat loaves and put into your well seasoned bread pans.

8. Allow the bread to rise again, covered, until it’s nearly doubled and nicely rounded over the top of the pan. Allow it time — all that fruit slows it down.

9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

10. For a shiny, crunchy crust, brush the loaves lightly with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar. With a lame or very sharp knife, make a couple slashes on the top of the loaves.

Apple Breakfast Bread Recipe

Makes two 9-by-5 loaves

 Ingredients:

• 4 cups white whole-wheat flour
• 2 tbsp vital gluten
• heaping tsp diastatic malt (optional but helpful)
• 2 tbsp SAF Gold yeast**
• 1 tbsp salt
• 2 tbsp best quality cinnamon
• ½  tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
• 2 cups bread flour in reserve for later
• 2 cups milk*
• 1/4 cup honey
• 2 tbsp boiled cider***
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1 cup dried apple slices, snipped into ½ inch pieces
• 1 cup gold raisins
• 1 cup broken pecans

Optional: 2 tbsp melted butter and some coarse turbinado sugar

Notes:

* I use organic whole milk; if you use a low-fat milk, add some butter.

** SAF Gold yeast works better for doughs that include a lot of sugar or butter. It’s not absolutely necessary, but nice to have. You can find it online from King Arthur Flour.

*** Boiled cider: the secret ingredient. If you didn’t boil down some cider last fall, you can use frozen apple juice concentrate.

Directions:

1. Set up mixer with dough hook. Mix the whole-wheat flour and other dried ingredients together in mixer bowl.

2. Heat the milk to very warm then add the honey, cider and butter. The butter will partially melt. Add to the bowl of flour mixture, stir and then knead with mixer on #4 for 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

3. In a small bowl or bag, mix the fruits and nuts, then add a little of the bread flour and stir or toss to lightly coat (this helps to keep them well distributed in the dough). Add to the dough, stir in until well distributed, then gradually add the rest of the bread flour to the dough. Hold back some of the flour — you may not need all of it.

4. With the mixer set on 4, knead until the dough is smooth and cleans the bowl. If the dough still seems too soft, add flour a spoonful at a time until the dough cleans the bowl.

5. Put the dough into your greased rising bucket or bowl and let it rise until almost doubled. (The dough won’t fully double, because 3 cups of it is fruits and nuts.)

6. Turn the dough onto your floured kneading board, give it a few turns, and divide in half. Form two fat loaves and put into your well seasoned bread pans.

7. Allow the bread to rise again, covered, until it’s nearly doubled and nicely rounded over the top of the pan. Allow the loaves time to rise — all that fruit slows it down.

8. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

9. For a shiny, crunchy crust, brush the loaves lightly with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar. With a lame or very sharp knife make a couple slashes on the top of the loaves.

10. Bake the loaves for about 50 minutes. If they seem to be browning too fast, you can tent them with foil. The loaves are ready when an instant read thermometer reads 195 degrees F. Turn the loaves out of the pans onto a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

11. Wrap as air-tight as possible to freeze.

White Chocolate Apricot Bread

Makes 3 boules, approx 8 inches round

The dough for this bread is delightful. Because of the chocolate, it feels like modeling clay, smooth and elastic. You won’t want to toast this — the chocolate will make a mess of the toaster. Rather, spread the slices with cream cheese or labneh for an elegant treat.

Ingredients:

• 6 cups bread flour in all
• 2 tbsp SAF Gold yeast*
• 2 tsp diastatic malt  (opt but helpful)
• scant tbsp salt
• ¼ cup organic sugar
• 12 ounces white chocolate bar
• 2 cups hot water from the tap
• 8 ounces dried apricots
• a little milk to brush the top of the loaves
• (Optional: a bit of coarse turbinado sugar)

Note:
* SAF Gold yeast works better for doughs that include a lot of sugar or butter. It’s not absolutely necessary, but nice to have. You can find it online from King Arthur Flour.

Directions:

1. Prepare the chocolate: cut about ½ cup of little chunks, about ¼ inch. Then, grate the rest of the bar to make 1 cup of grated chocolate. Set aside the chunks.

2. Set up mixer with dough hook.

3. Put 4 cups of the flour and the remaining dry ingredients including the grated chocolate into the mixer bowl and stir to mix.

4. Add the hot water and mix together and then knead on #4 with the dough hook for 5 minutes.

5. Add the remaining 2 cups flour to make a medium-textured elastic dough. Knead until smooth and developed, another 10 minutes or so. The dough will clean the bowl.

6. Put the dough into your rising tub or bowl and allow to rise until doubled, about an hour.

7. Meantime, snip the dried apricots with scissors into quarters.

8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, knead a few times and pat the dough out to about 12-by-12 inches. The dough should be satiny with a lovely, smooth texture.

9. Embed the apricot pieces and the white chocolate chunks into the dough, pressing them in. Fold the dough and fold again a few times to distribute the chips and apricots. Divide the dough into halves or thirds and form smooth balls, making them rather tall so the loaves bake into a round shape.

10. Allow the loaves to rise, covered, until doubled. About halfway through the rise, use a lame or very sharp knife to cut a cross into the top of the loaf to allow for full rise.

11. Brush with milk to soften the crust. Sprinkle if you wish with a bit of turbinado sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F until the loaves are golden. Thermometer reading 190 degrees.

My Favorite Flour Brands

King Arthur: Bread flour, white whole-wheat and many specialty flours and special ingredients

Homestead Heritage Grist Mill: Freshly ground red whole-wheat, white whole-wheat and corn meals. Grown without chemical input. Note you can purchase wholesale in 10-pound bags. I get it “unsifted” so all the bran is in it.

Azure Farm: Organic. A huge selection of flours including kamut, teff, einkorn, whole rye, and just about any other flour you can imagine. Also, all kinds of beans and other staples.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



3/30/2016

Japanese knotweed 

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum syn. Fallopia japonica) is an invasive plant with juicy, sour, hollow stems. It is often compared to rhubarb both in taste and texture (crunchy when raw, breaking down into a soft paste when cooked).

I’ve written about how to find and identify this plant here before, or here’s a video that will introduce you to Japanese knotweed. Always be 100-percent certain of your identification before eating any wild plant.

Whatever you do, no not introduce this plant into your area. If it’s already there, make the best of the situation by enjoying its tangy taste raw or cooked, in savory recipes or sweet ones like the one below. But if it doesn’t grow near you be grateful, because it is one of the most invasive and difficult to eradicate plants I know. Sustainability is not an issue when harvesting knotweed!

Eating Knotweed

"Use like rhubarb" is the usual culinary advice with this plant because it has a similar sourness and, like rhubarb, transforms from crunchy to fall-apart soft when cooked.

However, Japanese knotweed's flavor includes grassy notes that rhubarb lacks. That can be pleasant or not depending on how this ingredient is used. Those grassy overtones can be interesting in savory recipes, but weird in deserts. If you want to minimize that “green” aftertaste, be sure to peel the stalks (thanks for the tip, John Kallas).

This recipe is from my book The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles.

Sweet and Tangy Knotweed Bars

Yield 16 bars

100 percent of the tanginess in these yummy bars comes from the Japanese knotweed. Frozen knotweed works just as well as fresh in this recipe.

Ingredients

• 1 1/2 cups peeled and finely chopped Japanese knotweed stalks
• 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
• 4 tbsp water, divided
• 4 tsp cornstarch
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1/2 cup all purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 5 tbsp butter, melted, plus additional for greasing the pan

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease an eight-inch square baking pan with butter or coconut oil.

2. Combine the chopped knotweed stalks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, three tablespoons of the water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the knotweed softens and starts to fall apart.

3. Stir the cornstarch and remaining tablespoon of water together until you have a smooth paste. Stir the cornstarch into the knotweed mixture. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the butter and stir until you’ve got a crumbly but well-combined mixture.

5. Press half of the oat mixture into the baking pan. Spread all of the knotweed filling over the top. Top that with the rest of the oat mixture.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cool completely on a rack, then cut into bars.

Leda Meredith teaches foraging internationally and is the author of several books including The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles and Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can find more of her recipes and food adventures on her blog and videos.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



3/25/2016

 

While it was obvious from my last post that I have no issue with using a microwave, it was also obvious from the number of emails I received that there are a good number of you who do not like to use them and many who simply do not have one. Do not worry — no microwave is required to make mozzarella. I have not personally used this technique but I watched Cary Jennings from The Ploughshare Institute at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR last month do it, and she did so in just under 30 minutes.

After you have collected the curd in to one large curd, you can warm the whey to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and dip the curd into it for a few seconds to heat it up. Remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon and wearing rubber gloves, stretch the curd. Repeat until it stretches smoothly and does not break. It will have the consistency of taffy. This can be made easier by cutting the curd into smaller pieces so it heats through quicker.

Alternatively, you can heat a pot of water to 175 degrees Fahrenheit while making the mozzarella and use it for the heat and stretch step. However, if you use the whey, you are just a few minutes away from making ricotta so, why not?

 

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Belton, Texas

My wife and I attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas. Initially, this location seemed odd but as it turned out, this Central Texas venue was perfect for this event even with the larger-than-expected crowd. All walks of life were represented and the attendees were engaged, the speakers were excellent, and we spent way too much money on the exhibitor floor.

It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with authors, bloggers and experts in fields ranging from backyard chickens to organic gardening to food preservation. The highlight was lunch with Cindy Conner, Andrea Chesman and Kristi Quillen discussing writing, blogging and exchanging a few personal anecdotes.

We are thinking about attending one of the other FAIRs in Asheville or Topeka later this year and will definitely make it back to the next one in Texas.

On Our Suburban “Homestead”

We jokingly refer to our 8,500-square-foot suburban postage stamp property just outside of Houston as Hudson’s Farm on the Cement Pond, saying we are just too lazy to be real homesteaders. Our small-scale project never seemed smaller than last month at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. However, for the last three years, we have been in the process of converting our little backyard into a garden that will sustain two empty nesters like us. We have removed all non-edible and non-food-producing plants from our backyard except two wisterias (or, as I like to call them, hysteria vines) that we just can’t kill and an oak tree that we do not want to kill.

Our back lawn has evolved to be more of a path between approximately 500 square feet of garden beds of varying size filled with a wide range of vegetables, herbs and a few fruit trees. We are in year two of transitioning to “organic” garden practices. I use the quotes because we have not yet found an organic treatment for the Texas fire ants that plague our garden (any suggestions would be greatly appreciated).

Our goal is to raise all of our own vegetables and to eat more healthily while controlling what we put in our system. We will be discussing that (along with some of our homemade cooking recipes and methods) on a new website that will be online in the next month or so. For this month, I just wanted to share some highlights of what we are doing down on the “farm”.

New Beds with Tomatoes at Hudson's Farm

Down by the Cement Pond

In January and February, I expanded (hopefully for the last time) our growing areas to add four new raised beds and in the process hauled in about 1½ tons of soil. In total, we have 42 beds ranging in size from 2 feet by 2 feet to 4 feet by 8 feet — with most of the beds being 4 feet by 2 feet. Most are arranged in a modified keyhole configuration, allowing us easy access to all sides of the beds and providing nice footpaths.

Tomatoes that I started inside under lights went into the ground February 15th and 28th. I have also been adding lettuce as we harvest and open up spots in the lettuce beds. We have finished harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radish greens, turnips, beets, spinach, carrots, and parsnips, and are currently working on sugar snap peas, lettuce and asparagus, as well as some holdover kale, bok choi, tomatoes and peppers.

We have harvested over 55 pounds of vegetables so far this year — not a bad start to the new year. This month, we will finish harvesting the fall crops and get the rest of the spring and some summer crops in the ground.

Until Next Time

Next month, I’ll be converting our cabbage into a nice batch of sauerkraut as we take that and some homemade corned beef for our first “yard-to-table” Reuben sandwiches.

Photos by Jennifer Hudson 

Ed Hudson is a biochemist for NASA in Houston. His free time is filled with gardening and an ongoing list of Food Preservation Projects with his lovely wife, Jennifer. You can read more MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts from Ed here, and contact him via email at hudsonfarmtx@gmail.comHe is always looking for comments, new ideas and suggestions.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



3/22/2016

citrus peels

We all know that effectively using food waste is key to keeping our food system and us healthy. And it's a huge money-saver. Here are 10 ways to go beyond just cooking fruit and vegetable scraps to preserving them.

Pineapple Peel Vinegar (One tomato, two tomato): Use the spiny, fibrous peels of a pineapple to make this naturally fermented vinegar.

Pickled Swiss Chard Stems (HeartBeet Kitchen):This recipe can be applied to any sturdy vegetable stem like kale, collards, beet greens or broccoli leaf stems.

Candied Citrus Peel (Mrs. Wheelbarrow): Next time you juice a bunch of citrus or make salads, cook up a batch of this old fashioned candy.

Veggie Stems

Fruit Scrap Shrubs (One tomato, two tomato): Use the basic shrub recipe of honey and vinegar, just replace the fruit with fruit scraps. Great as a tonic or cocktail base.

Fermented Peach Scrap Vinegar Tonic (Hip Girls Guide): Probiotic laden fermented peach vinegar makes an excellent beverage. Try it with different fruit scraps.

Radish Leaf Pesto (Chocolate and Zucchini): Don’t throw out the radish leaves! Use this pesto fresh or freeze it for later in half or quarter pint glass jars.

apple peels

Dried Fruit or Vegetable Peel Dust (One tomato, two tomato): Dehydrate your fruit and vegetable peels then blitz them to dust in a coffee grinder. Sprinkle in smoothies, yogurt, soups and dishes to add extra nutrients and flavor. No recipe really needed, but here is one for Apple Dust.

Vegetable Scrap Pickles (Food in Jars): Prepping a bunch of vegetables and have pile of short ends, stems and bits? This great pickling template can change with every batch of scrap veggies.

Citrus Sugar (Good Life Eats): Just slip your fresh peels into sugar and us the sugar as normal. No recipe is really required here, but here’s one anyway.

Cherry Pit Vodka (One tomato, two tomato): Cherry pits have a wonderful almond-like flavor (same family). When steeped in vodka the alcohol takes on a cherry almond flavor. This vodka makes a fantastic cocktail.

pineapple peels

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One tomato, two tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/22/2016

Have you jumped on the "Salad in a Jar" bandwagon yet? I don't know who started this craze, but it's pure genius. Once you try it, I guarantee it will become a welcome addition to your lunch-packing repertoire.

Why is it so cool? You can fill five jars on Sunday night, refrigerate, and then enjoy healthy lunches all week long no matter how busy your schedule gets; just grab and go.  The veggies stay fresh and happy stored this way in tightly capped, glass jars. No worries about BPA or other plastic chemicals. And there's no fretting about how to pack the dressing because it's cleverly layered at the bottom of the jar away from the greens.

Salad-In-A-Jar

STEP ONE:

Start by adding your favorite dressing to the bottom of the jar. My "go to" dressing is simple and healthy: 

• 2 tsp olive oil
• 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
• Scant 1/8 tsp of each: pink Himalayan sea salt, garlic powder, dried basil and oregano (you can also wait on the salt and add later, so it doesn't draw moisture out of the veggies)

Place the dressing ingredients in jar and move on to Step Two.

STEP TWO:

Next add your favorite salad veggies, such as red cabbage, red pepper, cucumbers, olives — include whatever veggies you love and have on hand.

STEP THREE:

Fill with greens, sprouts, chopped fresh herbs. Sprinkle with hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. if desired.

Veggies and Greens

This salad featured our garden arugula and parsley. Both were tucked under row covers this winter and are making an early Spring come back. I also added dandelion greens, cilantro and spinach.

STEP FOUR:

When you're ready for lunch, simply turn the jar over and let the dressing seep downwards.  Shake and either eat right from the jar, or pour into a bowl. Enjoy!

Upside Down Jar

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She completed a 3-year course in Transformational Energy Healing, studied homeopathy, earned a certificate from eCornell in Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition, and is currently studying herbalism through Sage Mountain. Her approach as a holistic health practitioner is to carefully look at the complete picture and suggest solutions that promote the person’s innate ability to self-heal and maintain vibrant health. You can learn more about Judy DeLorenzo and her healing practice at Biofield Healing and find Judy's blog at A Life Well Planted. Her child care center is called Room To Grow in Litchfield, CT. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



3/21/2016

 

Will you bake a ham for your Easter dinner? Don’t throw out the bone or the fat scraps! One of the best ham “leftovers” is the stock you’ll make with the bone and scraps.

After the big dinner, delicious sandwiches and maybe some eggs benedict for breakfast, you’re down to the scraps on the ham bone. I cut away any that might season a future casserole of scalloped potatoes and/or turnips and pack them into a zipper freezer bag to stash away in the freezer. Those tasty big bones go into the crock pot and simmer for hours.

Ingredients:

Put the following into a crock pot:

• ham bones, plus all the little scraps of fat you cut off slices
• 1 medium onion stuck with a couple cloves
• a few stalks of celery, limp is fine
• a few whole peppercorns
• water to cover the bones

Directions:

1. Put the bones and vegetables into the crock pot with water to cover, turn it to high and let it simmer all day or overnight. If it’s boiling too hard, turn the heat down some. As the stock cooks, the bones will separate at the joint — be sure to push them down and keep them covered.

2. When many hours have passed, taste just a spoonful of stock — if it’s flavorful, your stock is ready. Let the stock cool just a bit. Drain the stock through a colander into a big bowl or pot, pressing down a little on the vegetables and little meat scraps. Discard the bones and scraps.

3. Stir the stock to distribute the fat, then pour the stock into wide-mouth canning jars. You must use the wide-mouth jars; regular-mouth jars can crack in the freezer. You could also use plastic containers, but the glass protects the flavor better. You’ll see the fat slowly come to the top. The fat protects the stock from freezer burn or icing.

4. Let the jars cool to room temperature and then freeze. Just to be very safe, I leave the lids off until the stock freezes, then put the lids on. The bones from a large shank half will make about 2 quarts of stock.

Ham-Vegetable Soup Recipe

Makes about 2 quarts of soup

Ingredients:

• A little extra-virgin olive oil for the pot
• 1 medium onion, diced small
• 3–4 stalks of celery, sliced thin
• freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 20 grinds
• 1 quart homemade ham stock
• 1 can cannellini beans, organic if possible*
• 4 cups of assorted solid vegetables in small bite-sized cuts: a mix of carrots, green beans, corn, sweet potato or whatever veggies your family likes best
• Optional garnish: a light grating of parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions:

1. In your soup pot, pour a little extra-virgin olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pot. Add in your cut onion and celery, cover, and cook gently over low heat until the vegetables are tender.

2. Season now with generous grinds of the pepper mill, but hold off the salt until the soup is ready to serve. Ham can be quite salty and you may not want to add more.

3. Now add the quart of stock, and stir well. Add the cannellini beans and then the cut-up vegetables. Slowly bring to a simmer over low heat and let cook until all the veggies are tender, but don’t cook them into mush.

4. I like to serve this soup with mini baguettes.

* Cannellini beans are white kidney beans. Remember MOTHER’s recent caution about slow-cooked beans. The organic canned beans are fully cooked. However, if you have fresh, frozen, or dry cannellinis, they must be fully cooked, completely tender.  So, you must cook these in a separate pot and drain them before adding to your soup.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/18/2016

Beet Kraut in Jars

The word suggests a coiled energy ready to burst forth, which is exactly what this season delivers. There is a rush of unseen commotion—seed, bulbs and roots waking up under the ground, then bursting out of the earth in an explosion of green underfoot. The songs of birds, frogs and the hushed suckling of fox kits born in dens break the winter quiet.

Humans too, find themselves needing to move. We are eager to open the window to let our homes inhale the fresh vernal air and replace what is stale. We find we long for change in our bodies as well. We’ve all experienced the longing that we call “spring fever”.

Traditional Chinese medicine describes this time as one when our liver and gallbladder need to move the stagnant energy of winter. Many of the vegetables that are seasonally available this time of year support the needs of our bodies during this change. Without getting into the intricacies of the medicine, we can recognize that beets, burdock root, radishes, ginger, turmeric, parsnips and turnips are the appropriate foods to give us the verve we need in the coming months.

For me, the soul-warming root based soups no longer feel like the right nourishment, I’m ready for crisp and fresh. However, we can reinvent any of these roots for freshness and added health benefits through fermentation. So let’s ferment some beets!

The health benefits of beets are tremendous. The striking crimson color is beautiful and also part of what makes beets healthy. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine sees the red foods as blood food—nourishing, building, and keeping it moving. Western medicine, with its scientific analysis, confirms that beets improve blood flow and arterial health while reducing blood pressure. The high folate content and bioflavonoids keep our blood and bodies strong. To these things, add the health benefits of raw probiotic rich and vitamin enhanced fermented vegetables and the result is a real power food.

And as a spring bonus use this ruby kraut to color your hard-boiled eggs.

Ruby Eggs in Beet Kraut

Beet Kraut Recipe

Makes about ½ gallon

Beet kraut is as messy as it is beautiful. It is messy in the making, discoloring hands and counters, but watching the magenta brine take over the cabbage and deepen in color is magical. For extra credit beet fermenting here is another fermented beet recipe you may want to check out.

Ingredients

• 1 medium head (about 2‑3 pounds) cabbage, shredded
• 2 medium beets (about 1½ pounds), grated
• 1–1½ tablespoons salt

Directions

This is the simple part. This is where you finely slice your cabbage into shreds. Place in a bowl. Grate your beets and place in the same bowl.

Massage in one tablespoon of the salt. Taste - it should be like a salty chip, you should taste salt but it shouldn't be at all briny.

By now your brine will be developing. Continue to massage the veggies. (As if you are kneading bread.) When the veggies are glossy and there is a liquid at the bottom of your bowl you will begin to press them in your jar or crock. Start by putting a little of your kraut in the bottom of your vessel, press until compacted and continue until all of the kraut is pressed in the jar—air bubbles are out and brine is on top.

There are many ways to add pressure to ensure that your kraut stays under the brine once the fermentation starts bubbling.

The simplest fermentation method for a small jar batch is to use a zip-style plastic bag.

Open the bag and place in the jar on top of the vegetables, wedging it along the top edges. Fill the bag with salt-water brine until all the air spaces are filled. Seal the top of the bag.

The first day or so you will see your beet kraut get a layer of pink foam—think cotton candy. If you are using a plastic bag for the weight, it will ooze up the sides of the bag. This is our friends the LAB, eating the sugars and exhaling the CO2. A few days later, this foam can have a nasty brown muddy color with the remaining bubbles looking almost metallic. It can be alarming. Keep breathing; it is still okay—lift out your bag and rinse the bag with clean water, set aside. If you have plenty of brine, gently ladle this scum off using a clean utensil. If you are a little low on brine your best bet is to use a clean cloth to clean the sides of the jar and then return the bag to the top of the kraut.

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life—but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and maintains the website Fermentista’s Kitchen. Read all of Kirsten's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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