Fermented Vegetables: Delicious and Nutritious

We closed up the garden a couple of weeks ago and did a final harvest. Now the decision is what to do with end of the season vegetables.  I’ve been reading a lot lately about the probiotic nutrition in fermented vegetables and thought this would be a great opportunity to try my hand at a new way of preserving foods as well as saving money.  (Have you seen the price for probiotic supplements?)   Fortunately this isn’t a complicated process.

I started with the most essential vegetable for fermenting:  cabbage (set aside a couple of the large outside leaves to cover the vegetables during the fermentation process, cabbage

 

followed by the last of the collards. Collards

 

 

To this base I added an assortment of vegetables that were languishing in the refrigerator and pantry: cucumbers, carrots, tiny squash, red bell pepper, some garlic and a few slices of pickled ginger.  There’s no real rule here, just use what you like and what you have.  It all goes into the food processor for a medium fine chop.

 

Fermented Foods 003Sprinkle with some kosher or canning salt (any kind without iodine) and let the chopped vegetables drain.  I didn’t really measure this, but one source said that 3 tablespoons salt to 5 lbs of vegetables should be about right.  After about half an hour, squeeze out as much water as possible and pack tightly into a glass or ceramic container with a tight fitting lid.

I found this one at the thrift store for $3 and replaced the rubber lid casket.  Works great.

Pack the vegetables down tightly (I use a big wooden spoon) a little at a time.

In a 2 cup measure, add 1 3/4 cup filtered or distilled water.  I add whey to speed up the fermentation process (I use the whey drained off the plain Greek yogurt which seems to work well, but you could use a probiotic starter that you can purchase.)   You don’t have to use the whey, some people just use the salt and the natural bacteria from the vegetables for the fermentation process but I like the added tang that the whey adds.

Pour the mixture over the tightly packed vegetables making sure the liquid completely covers the vegetables.  Fold the cabbage leaves you set aside earlier and place on top of the vegetable mixture.  Place a heavy weight (I used a ceramic cereal bowl) on top of the cabbage leaves and place the lid tightly on the jar. Fermented Foods 006Fermented Foods 008 And that’s it.  Set it on the counter inside another dish or pan to catch any residue from the fermentation.  Once a day, lift the lid and replace it.  I like to let my veggies ferment for at least 7 days, but it depends greatly on your personal taste.   When you think they’re ready to eat, spoon the fermented yummies into clean (sanitized in dishwasher) glass jars and put in the refrigerator. Fermented Foods 001 The vegetables will continue to ferment (slowly) in the refrigerator.  In addition to being delicious, fermented foods are a great way to keep your digestive system and your entire body healthier.   Enjoy!        Ε

 

 

LaVonne Bouwman liked this post
Three Seasonings

Vegetable Powders

Magic in the kitchen is really all about enhancing flavor and, whenever possible adding nutrition.  That often means very expensive little jars of flavorings, extracts and packages of fresh herbs.

Recently I discovered a way to make many of those extra special ingredients at home for much less money (thank you, doomsday preppers).   I started with dehydrated tomatoes.  I used both fresh from the garden, and a #10 can of diced organic tomatoes from Costco ($2.79 for the whole thing).  It seems like a lot, but the end product could easily fit into a 1 gallon zip lock or a couple of quart jars.  It took about 24 hours (time can vary) to get the tomatoes to a dehydrated state.  I loaded up the spice grinder, and pulsed until the tomatoes were a fine powder.

Making Tomato Powder
Making Tomato Powder

After grinding, press the powder through a sieve to remove the large pieces.  Save the larger pieces to use in soups or as a sprinkle on garnish.

Tomato Powder
Tomato Powder

Store the powder in the cupboard in a tightly capped glass jar.  Add a spoonful to sauces, soups, homemade pasta dough, almost anywhere you would like to have the tomato flavor with out the need to reduce the water content.  Careful though, it’s pretty intense flavoring.

Another really great flavor enhancer is mushroom powder.  This is very expensive to buy so making it at home is a real money saver, and it’s also a stealthy way to add great mushroom flavor to any dish without upsetting all the anti-mushroom eaters.  I bought the mushrooms on sale.    I cleaned and sliced the mushrooms and put them in the microwave for about 1 minute.  This enhances the flavor.  (Some people even cook them first, or use the mushrooms from their stock, puree and spread them on the fruit leather sheet in their dehydrator, but it’s not a necessary step.)

Quick Steaming Mushrooms
Quick Steaming Mushrooms

After microwave steaming them, I placed the mushrooms in a single layer in the dehydrator.  It took about 12 hours to reach the desired state, but this can vary.

Dried Mushrooms
Dried Mushrooms

Once dried, I put them in the spice grinder and pulsed until I had a fine powder.  A word of caution, don’t open the spice grinder right away or you’ll be inhaling mushroom powder for the next 5 minutes or so.  I like it in my food, just not in my lungs.  Again, pass the powder through a sieve and put into a glass jar.

Drying Mushrooms 009

Last, but certainly not least, there’s kale.  We drink a lot of protein shakes and smoothies, and adding green vegetables is a super way to up the nutrition and to put some extra vegetables in your dishes without attracting any unwanted grousing.  The process is very similar to both tomatoes and mushrooms.  I cut and washed the kale and dried on paper towels.

Fresh Kale
Fresh Kale

Place the kale pieces on a single layer in the dehydrator.  You can crowd them, but don’t stack them up.  It’s easier to handle if you work with smaller, salad size pieces.

After the Drying
After the Drying

Process in the spice grinder until you get a fine powder.

 

 

Kale Powder
Kale Powder

Pass it through a sieve and store in a glass jar.

Add a teaspoon to shakes, smoothies, soups or pasta dough.  You can do this in your oven if you don’t have a dehydrator, and they are great additions to your pantry.

 

Three Seasonings
Three Seasonings

Let me know your ideas for using powders.

E Sign

 

 

Pickled Carrots Cubes or Sticks

Golden Pickles

We had our first mild frost last week and I’ve started the final harvesting.  I’ve decided to pickle the last of the carrots and beans.  The first order of business is to scrub them good with the vegetable brush and trim the ends.  Cut into sticks and cubes, or slices if you prefer them that way.

Straight from the garden
Straight from the garden
After their bath
After their bath

I got pretty tired of boiling water, blanching and ice baths and I thought “why am I doing this” when I have a perfectly good microwave oven.  It works great.  Well, I haven’t tried it with tomatoes so I can’t recommend it for those.

Cover with plastic and one minute in the microwave
Cover with plastic and one minute in the microwave

Set up the water bath and pull the hot jars out of the dishwasher (sanitize cycle).

Pickling Solution

This is the same basic solution I used for pickling beets.  I like the sweetened mix for carrots, but you could “dill” them.

  • 4 cups white distilled vinegar (5%)
  • 2 cup of distilled water (no chemicals)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons canning salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 12 whole allspice

Combine all ingredients into a non-reactive pot (not aluminum) and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Pack the carrots into the jars.  I made cubes this year, along with some carrots sticks.  Pack the jars tightly and add 1 slice of fresh ginger to each jar.   Using a strainer, pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrots, making sure they are covered but leaving about 1 inch of space in the top of the jar.  Put the lids on and tighten the bands finger tight, but not tight, tight.

When the water bath reaches boiling, turn down to a simmer and process the jars in the water bath for 15 minutes.   Remove the jars and set on a kitchen towel.  Listen for the “ping” which means the jars have sealed.  Let the jars sit for 24 hours, then you can tighten the bands to finger tight again, or remove them and use just the lids.

Pickled Carrots Cubes or Sticks
Pickled Carrots Cubes or Sticks

Enjoy!

E Sign

Summer in a Jar

Winter’s coming, so now it’s time to gather in the bounty of the garden and store some summer in jars for those big batches of chili and the bone chilling days to come.   This process will be repeated for several weeks until the first frost ends the tomato harvest.  Then we’ll pick all the green ones and make tomato jam and green sauce.

Canning tomatoes or tomato sauce is not difficult, just time-consuming and a little messy.  The first batch consisted of somewhere around 3/4 of a bushel of tomatoes (I can’t find my scale so this is a guess based on the size of the basket.)  First of all gather your canning equipment.  You don’t need anything fancy to can tomato sauce, just an old-fashioned water bath canning pot

Water Bath Canner
Water Bath Canner

Sterilized mason jars and lids (you can do this in the dishwasher on the normal wash, sterilize and hot dry cycle) and a jar lifter.

Jars and Jar Lifter
Jars and Jar Lifter

and some ripe tomatoes (don’t have to be perfect because you’re going to peel them.)

Tomatoes
Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin, put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer.  Trim the stem end of each tomato and cut an X on the bottom.

X marks the spot
X marks the spot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop the tomatoes into the simmering water for about 4 minutes.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl or sink of ice water for about another 4 minutes and place in a bowl.  The skins will slip off easily.  I remove the seeds at this point because they interrupt the flow of my tomato sauce.  Just use your fingers to open the side of the tomato and squeeze out the seeds.  Put the squeezed tomatoes into the food processor.

Into the boiling water
Into the boiling water

 

I never said it was pretty
I never said it was pretty
Kitchen helper squeezing tomatoes.
Kitchen helper squeezing tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in food processing
Adventures in food processing

 

 

 

Puree the tomatoes and pour into a large pot (not aluminum)  or dutch oven.  Bring up to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the sauce reaches the consistency you want (about 1-2 hours).

Simmering sauce
Simmering sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill the water bath canning pot up to the fill line and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a strong simmer.

Salt the sauce to taste (I don’t recommend adding any spices.  Do that when you use the sauce).  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each sterilized jar (I used bottled to ensure consistent acidity).  Ladle the sauce into the jar, leaving about 1/4 inch at the top below the screw top line.  Wipe the rim on the jar with a damp cloth, place the lid on the top of the jar and screw the band on hand firm but not too tight.  Place the jars into the water bath canner and process on a strong simmer for about 20 minutes for quart jars.

Remove the jars and place on a dry kitchen towel to cool.  Don’t mess with the jars.  As they cool, you should hear a “ping” which signifies that the jars have properly sealed.  Some jars will seal immediately, some may take a little while (do not mess with the jars).  After 24 hours when the jars have cooled completely you can re-tighten the bands slightly (or remove them completely).  The lids should be sealed at this point and the bands are not required for storage, but I leave them on anyway.  The lids should be slightly concave which shows that they are properly sealed.

Ready for winter.  Well talk about the pickled beans later.
Ready for winter. Well talk about the pickled beans later.

Summer in a jar and ready for those cold days ahead.   E Sign