When we were in Ireland a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon Spoonful Botanicals, an intriguing fermented fruit-and-herb spread. Designed to be anti-inflammatory (and delicious) I was so tempted, but at €30.00 per jar it was way outside of my budget.
After we returned home I kept thinking about it and wishing I had been able to pick up a jar. I did a bit of researched and realized that fermented chutneys are commonplace in India, and searched around for a recipe to experiment with making my own.
Using a Nourishing Traditions raisin chutney recipe as my jumping-off point, I set to work grinding and fermenting aromatics and dried fruit.
Two days later, I cracked the jar, took a taste, and swooned. Oh, yes. This is just what I expected from the boughten, Irish version–and then some. It was spicy, sweet, and exactly what my body craved. I was hooked.
Is it a chutney? A fruity spread? I have no idea. Make a batch, then call it what you will. I won’t lie: it’s not beautiful, but the taste makes up for the appearances. (I promise!)
Why fermented foods?
Lactofermentation provides important probiotics to the digestive system. We make a habit of eating them daily: homemade Beet Kvass, sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and more. This spicy, fruity spread offered one more delicious way to included probiotics in our diet.
Anti-inflammatory Herbal Allies
Lately I’ve been experiencing more joint pain than I’d like. (I suppose any is more than I’d like, but this is quite a bit.) So I’m doing my best to limit inflammatory foods like sugar and refined grains, and to incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs in my diet each day.
A daily dose of ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and other allies is already going into in my morning tea, and I drink a shot of tart cherry juice most nights. But adding more anti-inflammatory foods and herbs felt like a smart decision.
This fruity-sweet ferment includes turmeric, pepper, and ginger–warming anti-inflammatories that can help alleviate joint pain. And it’s so delicious that after surprising Lupine with a taste on a bite of whole-grain pancakes yesterday, she dipped into the jar and spread a generous amount on her next helping. “It’s so good that I’m taking more on purpose.”
Ready to whip up a batch? It goes together in a snap and will keep for weeks in the fridge once fermented (if you don’t gobble it up before that.)
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (fine)
3/4 C hot water
2″ knob fresh ginger (peel on), grated
3/4 C dried dates
scant 1 1/4 tsp salt (divided)
Combine raisins, turmeric, black pepper, and fennel in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl. Avoid plastic or other materials that may stain from turmeric.
Add 3/4 C very warm water (approximately 100 to 120° F) water and stir to combine. Cover and allow to soak for 1 to three hours.
Meanwhile, combine fresh, unpeeled ginger with pitted dates plus 1 scant teaspoon salt in the bowl of your food processor. Process until a smooth, sticky paste results.
After raisin mixture has soaked and raisins have plumped somewhat, transfer the mix along with any remaining soaking liquid to the ginger and date mix in the the processor. Pulse for several minutes until desired consistency is achieved. (I like mine as a spread so it’s fairly smooth, but chunkier is fine, too.)
Transfer paste to a suitably sized glass jar (I used a pint), allowing at least 1″ of headroom. Tap jar gently on the counter, then insert a butter knife to remove any large air bubbles and tap again. Smooth the top surface of your paste with the knife.
In a separate container, combine 1/4 tsp salt with 1/4 C warm water. Stir to dissolve, then pour gently over the top of your dried fruit mix, completely covering the surface of the chutney. Discard any extra brine that doesn’t fit in the jar.
Tightly seal and set on a stain-proof plate or bowl. Allow to ferment at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for 2 days.
After two days, open your jar over the sink, just in case any brine spills out. (The jar may be slightly pressurized from fermentation. A satisfying “pssssshhht!” sound is perfectly normal and not a cause for alarm.) Most of your brine will have been drawn down into the fruit mix, but if any surface brine remains, pour it off into the sink.
Stir well, sneak a taste, then refrigerate.
Allow to mellow for a few days if desired, then spread on crackers, pancakes, waffles, apple slices, or toast, or stir into hot porridge.
Fermented chutney will keep for three months or more in the refrigerator.
Holidays are looking distinctively low-key this year. Unable to travel to see my family due to common-sense covid protocol, it’s just us, hunkered down here at home.
In an attempt to make things still feel special this season, we’re throwing both old and new traditions in our winter holiday mix. And some fancy fizzies seem like just the thing to cultivate a more festive feel, even if we’re just hanging out at home.
With that in mind, I improvised the two soda syrup recipes below last night, and today Lupine and I are having a hard time not drinking them all before dinner time. Making them takes almost no active time, so get on it! If your family celebrates Thanksgiving, you can get these made easily with time to spare for tonight’s meal. (And if you wait until the last minute, just double down on the herbs and spices quantities, and steep for just 10 to 20 minutes instead of 2 hours, then quick-chill in the freezer.)
Amounts are so forgiving and flexible! I only measured because I wanted to share with you. Feel free to go rogue and wing it, throwing in your own favorite aromatics like thyme or sage, coriander or clove, grapefruit or lime.
Rosemary & Lemon Soda Syrup Recipe
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey or sugar
1 tbsp dried rosemary
12 whole peppercorns
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place all ingredients except lemon juice in a small cooking pot.
Place over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Bring mixture to a vigorous simmer, then cover and remove from heat.
Steep for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
Strain and transfer to a 1/2 pint jar.
For rosemary syrup, add lemon juice and stir to combine.
Refrigerate until chilled.
Ginger & Cardamom Soda Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey, sugar, or maple syrup
2″ knob of fresh ginger, sliced or smashed
1 tsp cardamom seeds or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Place all ingredients in a small cooking pot.
Place over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Bring mixture to a vigorous simmer, then cover and remove from heat.
Steep for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
Strain and transfer to a 1/2 pint jar.
For rosemary syrup, add lemon juice and stir to combine.
Refrigerate until chilled.
To use, add a splash to fizzy water, and serve over ice (we like approximately 1 tbsp per cup).
I joked yesterday on socialmedia that I’m going to have Sage (18) caption all of my photographs going forward.
This one? “I don’t know what you’re making in here, but it smells disgusting.”
Because, well, fire cider.
If you’re new to fire cider, I’m betting that this probably isn’t the most compelling sales pitch ever. But this witchy, pungent infusion is an incredible seasonal immune tonic. And funky scent or not, I’m betting that’s something we all could use in spades right now.
To set the record straight, Sage despises apple cider vinegar in any form. So that’s the main bit of trouble with fire cider for him. Layer over that the smell of sliced, fresh horseradish punching him in the nose when he walked in the room, and he just couldn’t do it. To me, on the other hand, it smells delicious, nourishing, and like fierce immunity magic in a jar.
Which, of course, it is.
Made with fresh onions and garlic, horseradish and aromatics, fire cider is spirited, spicy, pungent, and warming. This immune-supporting marvel is made with fresh herbs and aromatics, it’s just the kick our bodies need to stay healthy during this most challenging time. It takes just minutes to prep enough to last the winter, with extra bottles to pass along to friends. Will you make a big batch this weekend to share with those you love?
Don’t wait. Make it now, and it won’t be ready until early December.
Don’t let the specific ingredients or quantities listed in the recipe below limit your creative flex.
If you’re out of cayenne and want to add fresh chilis (like I did in the jar pictured below), go for it. If you’re vegan and want to sub maple for honey, knock yourself out. If you’re not eating alliums, cut them from the list; then boost the quantities of the other ingredients a bit to make up for the missing oniony-punch.
Because every herbalist has their own favorite fire cider formula, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. This recipe just happens to be mine.
Homemade Fire Cider Recipe
Makes approximately 3 pints
¼ cup chopped fresh ginger root (approximately 1 oz.)
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh horseradish root
1 small onion, finely chopped (approximately ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1⁄4 teaspoon dried cayenne powder
2 tbsp rose hips (optional)
2 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried thyme
¼ cup raw honey
3 cups (plus extra if needed) organic raw apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon (at bottling time)
Place finely chopped or grated vegetables, and dried herbs in a quart-sized mason jar. Add honey, then top off with enough apple cider vinegar to fill the jar to just above the shoulders (approximately 3 cups).
Stir well, then cover with a plastic lid or a metal lid lined with waxed paper or a food-grade plastic bag.
Infuse for 4 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking gently once a week, or any time you think of it.
After 4 weeks pour your fire cider through a cheesecloth-lined colander and transfer liquid to a clean mason jar. Add lemon juice, and label with date and contents. Stored in the refrigerator, Fire Cider will keep for at least 1 year.
Take 1 tsp to 1 tbsp daily for adults; ½ to 1 tsp for children, throughout cold and flu season. Stir into a cup of room temperature water, cold juice, or (for the bravest among us!) take right from the spoon or shot glass.
Fire Cider may cause stomach upset in people with heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
And finally, my (and most of the world’s) inspiration for my fire cider recipe is the lovely Rosemary. If you’d enjoy a how-to video of this simple process, her’s is below. I adore Rosemary, and if you don’t already, this video should be all that it takes for you to join me in the herb-nerd fan club.
Now get busy and make a quart or two for yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighborhood!
Together, we can find our way back to our roots, back to handmade and homemade, back to effective remedies made from what we have.
Another pre-release from the Unplugged Family Activity Book? You bet! Since lilacs are bursting for many right now, it felt like the perfect time for this simple, delicious, springtime recipe.
Before we dive in with the download, I have a few quick thoughts to share…
Just a month from today, my new book will land in the welcoming world. And all things considered, I’d say that just about perfect timing. Don’t you think?
As so many children and their families and trying to regain their equilibrium from an unprecedented end to the school year, we are all entering a summer that will be equally disorienting. Many of our usual summer activities–from camp to summer school, community potlucks to swimming at the local pool–are off the table for so many of us.
If you pre-ordered, in just four short weeks, The Unplugged Family Activity Book will land on your doorstep, and you’ll be off on a grand adventure all summer (and all year!) long. And I can hardly wait to hear which project, recipe, or celebration you try first.
Will it be bark boats or infused honey? Campfire bread or giant bubbles? A backyard tea party or a backyard campout? There are so many simple, free activities to enjoy within these pages, I can’t wait to see where you dive in.
In the meantime, can I ask a small favor of you?
Because I could truly use your help. Below are five small, but powerful things you can do to help support me during this launch. And aside from pre-ordering your family’s copy, none of them will cost you a dime.
1. Pre-Order The Unplugged Family Activity Book
You can pick up a copy for yourself, your family, or a friend directly from me, or through your local bookshop. (Bookshop.orgis another great resource that many local, independent bookstores are using in order to stay afloat right now. Usemy local bookstore’s portal, or search for your own!)
2. Contact your library
Drop an email to your local library, requesting they pick up a copy for their shelves. It’s a perfect resource for what will surely prove to be a DIY-fun sort of summer season.
3. Tell your friends!
Word-of-mouth is everything, so talk it up. I can’t express enough how important this one is. Use social media, email, or a good old-fashioned phone call. Whatever your strategy, I appreciate each and every recommendation.
4. Post a review
After your copy arrives, post a review online. Goodreads and Amazon are both excellent places to generate some positive buzz that helps other families know better what to expect within the pages. Along with sharing with your friends, reviews are profoundly helpful for the longtime trajectory of any book.
5. Go outside and play!
Then get out there and enjoy all 60+ ideas, projects, recipes, and celebrations. And savor this season. If you share photographs online, use #unpluggedfamilyactivitiybook to share your adventures and creations.
Thanks, friends. It means so much to have your support along this road.
And now… the recipe you’ve been waiting for! Find your download in the link below. Enjoy.
Since I quit drinking alcohol 2 years back, homemade herbal shrubs have become my main squeeze for an evening drink. A splash of homemade shrub syrup added to fizzy water fills the void left by Malbec nicely (without the headache!).
Shrubs are easy to make, probiotic, and absolutely delicious. Also know as “drinking vinegars”, they are sweet + sour and nourishing.
I make mine with organic, raw apple cider vinegar, local raw honey, and whatever flavors speak to me at the moment. Added bonus: homemade shrubs are a zero- or near zero-waste drink option (especially if you have access to local vinegar or make your own, which is surprisingly easy.)
I wrote about shrubs in my book Herbal Adventures. (You’ll find a dandelion shrub on page 88 and a citrus and white pine shrub recipe on page 161. There’s also an elderberry switchel, which is similar to a shrub but a bit quicker from start to sip.) I also share my love of shrubs in Taproot Magazine BLOOMa year or so back, and there are still back issues in stock if you would like the recipes (and open-ended make up your own recipe guide).
Today’s shrub is made with lemongrass, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, turmeric, aromatic clove, star anise, allspice, and lemon. And it’s divinely delicious. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, improvise. It’s surprisingly adaptable, so go off the rails and mix it up with whatever flavors you have on hand, using the instructions below for inspiration.
Ready to make your own? Then grab some vinegar, honey, fruits and aromatics. My recipe follows!
Turmeric, Lemongrass, and Cardamom Shrub Recipe
1 fresh lemon, halved + gently squeezed (reserve both peel and juice to add to the jar in step 1 below)
1 stalk lemon grass, chopped
1 tsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp whole clove
1 tsp whole allspice
1 whole star anise
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tbsp ground, dried turmeric (a 1″ piece of fresh would be even nicer, but I was out)
1 large ginger root (just smaller than your palm) sliced, smashed, or grated. (No need to peel.)
Place all ingredients in a mason jar.
Fill 2/3 to 3/4 full with apple cider vinegar
Top off with honey, and stir or shake well to combine.
Infuse in a lidded glass jar out of direct sunlight but at room temperature for 7 to 14 days, shaking daily or as often as you think of it.
Strain your shrub, squeezing to extract as much goodness as you can from the fruit and spices. Compost solids, and transfer liquid to a clean glass jar.
Add a splash to fizzy water and enjoy. Store in the refrigerator. (Will keep for 6 months or more.)
Are you already crazy about shrubs? What’s your favorite combination?
There are so many things that our great-grandparents knew how to do that we as a culture no longer remember. Things like how to can soup, bake bread, craft a poultice, split firewood, butcher a hen, or make kraut (off the top of my head).
Somewhere along the way, we traded our collective domestic wisdom for the lure of convenience. And what a loss that truly was! To our families, our health, our budgets, and the earth.
I say it’s time to bring that knowledge back.
One person, one family, one step-outside-of-your-comfort-zone at a time, let’s start to remember. We can regain what was lost, and take back some of the simple skills that have been commoditized in our modern world.
When I posted a photo on Instagram and Facebook last week of a batch of cabbage kraut in the making, I didn’t anticipate such a flurry of earnest questions regarding procedure, safety, equipment, and more:
“Do you have any advice for someone new to fermenting? I am honestly so terrified of doing it ‘wrong’ and making my family sick…growing up in the era of all-bacteria-in-food-is-potentially-deadly. Natural mold=bad. Bubbly ferments=good. Hard to wrap my head around how it all works and when good ferments can lead to poison for our bodies…and how to know a bad ferment. […] I need to get over this hurdle of fear!”
“Inspired to finally try this, as i keep feeling the tug of ‘what if it doesn’t turn out?’ holding me back.”
“I’ve been wishing I had the bravery to try to make my own recently… but I get scared about not knowing if it’s spoiled on the counter while it’s curing… and do I need those glass weights or special water or other gear?”
The questions above really to to the heart of the matter, don’t they? Without learning these skills from our ancestors, they became cloaked in mystery, anxiety, and fear–and we fret that if we do it wrong we’re sure to kill someone.
Let me assuage your fears.
Sandor Katz, my live fermentation hero (whose books I reference below), said at a recent talk that he’s never heard of anyone dying–ever–from fermented foods. Yes, he’s made bad ferments that he’s spat out before, but no, he’s never gotten sick, nor has anyone he knows. I’m going to back him up here.
Because it’s all about the science.
Lactofermentation (or live-fermentation) uses the naturally occurring good bacteria (Lactobacillus) found in raw veggies to preserve. The bad bacteria (the kind that could make you sick and/or poison your peeps) can’t handle the salt, and so are killed in the kraut-making process.
This is why you won’t give anyone food poisoning with your ferment. Because it’s, well, fermented.
In short, it works like this: We salt our veggies which kills the bad bacteria; then the good bacteria have a party to celebrate. Bubbles form in your ferment, the brine rises up and out of your jar, and everyone is happy. (Sour, but happy.) It’s nearly fool-proof.
Best of all, it doesn’t take any special equipment. You don’t need weights and silicone lids; pickle crocks or razor-sharp mandolines. While in years past I’ve used all of these gadgets and more, you really don’t need them, and I’ve come full-circle, back to the basics. Knife, jar, plate.
And I realized this week that after nearly 10 years of blogging and kraut-making, I have given you a proper sauerkraut tutorial! Forgive me.
So I made another batch, photographing and documenting every step of the way. Think of me as your virtual, younger than I should be great-grandmother. Or something. And with a bit of courage and knife work from you, you can join me here in the simple, sustainable, health-giving act of making your own sauerkraut.
Ready? Let’s get our kraut on.
Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut Tutorial & Recipe
1 cabbage, approximately 2 lbs.
1 tbsp good quality sea salt
Screw-top mason jar with a tight fitting lid
plate or bowl with an adequate diameter to hold your jar
1. Peel the shabby, outer leaves off of your cabbage and compost them.
2. Peel off a full-sized, not-so-shabby cabbage leaf. Do not slice, but set aside whole.
3. Cut your cabbage in nearly in half, slicing at an angle just beside the core. Repeat on the other side, creating a wedge with the core in the center. Cut off the edges of the wedge that aren’t core. Don’t fiddle with it too much, just whack off the excess.
Set the core aside for use in a bit.
4. Grab your sharp knife (or, if you prefer, a box grater or electric food processor), and thinly slice your cabbage. My method is to cut the cabbage halves into wedges that are approximately 2″ across, then slice the 2″ chunks as thinly as you wish, as pictured. Continue slicing until your whole cabbage is in thin shreds.
5. Using your box grater, grate the core beginning with the inside, and holding onto the stem. Grate just until where it stops looking appealing, then discard the stem end.
If everything went according to plan, your bowl should look something like this:
Your pile of sliced and grated cabbage may be smaller than mine, as I was working with 3 cabbages instead of just 1, but honestly, do whatever size batch you wish. (When we were recently traveling, I made tiny 1/4 to 1/2 cabbage-sized batches in an empty peanut butter jar, just big enough to fit in the cooler.)
6. Now it’s time for the magic. Add approximately 1 tbsp. of high quality sea salt for every 2 lbs. of cabbage you used. (An average smallish/medium cabbage normally runs around that size.) Sprinkle the salt over the grated and sliced cabbage, and stir to combine with your hands. Give it a little massage to work some salt into the cabbage. Work it for just a minute or two, until thoroughly combined.
7. (And this is the hard one…) Walk away.
Really. Walk away. You can go and grab your grandma’s kraut pounder (like the one pictured above), and expend 1,200 calories beating those vegetables into juicy submission, or you could just… walk away. I suggest the latter, and only pulled out my kraut pounder to tell you you don’t need one.
Come back in 10 to 20 minutes, and see what you’ve got.
8. Rewash your hands, and head back to your kraut bowl. If the salt has already started working on the cabbage, the veggies will have a slightly translucent appearance, and feel a bit wet. That’s a good sign! Use your hands to gently massage the kraut, further softening the vegetable and breaking down the cell walls. Do this for as long as you want (1 minute, 5 minutes, it honestly doesn’t matter), then walk away again, giving it another 5 to 15 minutes to continue to release its juices and soften.
When you return, your cabbage should have started to release even more liquid. Using clean hands, stir it well, then grab a handful and give it a squeeze. If your cabbage was really fresh, you’ll probably have brine running down your elbows.
If your cabbage wasn’t as fresh and juicy, repeat step 8 one or two more times.
9. Taste the brine. It should be nice and salty, but not like licking a salt lamp. If you still have very little brine and tastes like cabbagy water with little or no salty flavor, add more salt. If it’s unpleasantly salty and has you running for the sink to rinse your tongue, you can add 1/2 c of water, stir, and taste again.
10. Let’s review. You’ve chopped up your cabbage, given it a relaxing salt massage, and now you’re swimming in soft, briney cabbage. Great! Now it’s time to pack it in a jar for fermenting.
Most average sized cabbages will make around a quart of kraut, I made a gallon using 3 large cabbages. Using your (clean) hands, a widemouth canning jar, and canning funnel (if you have one), place a couple of handfuls of cabbage in the jar. if your hands fit in jar, make a fist and press the kraut firmly in, using your knuckles. (If your hand doesn’t fit, use a sturdy spoon to mush it in there as best as you can.)
11. Keep filling and pressing, filling and pressing, until the jar is full to the shoulders or and your cabbage is all used up. At first you won’t see any brine at all, but as you add more layers and press in the veggies, the brine will begin to release. By the time you’ve loaded your jar, you should be left with a bowl with brine pooled in the bottom. Pour this over the cabbage now.
Your jar should look something like this: cabbage firmly packed at the bottom, topped with juicy brine. (If you don’t have this much brine, taste again to make sure it’s plenty salty and add more salt if needed stir it a bit with a fork, press again, and/or wait another 20 minutes or so. It will release more. I promise!)
12. Remember that reserved cabbage leaf? Go and get it. Press the leaf into the top of the jar, holding your cabbage beneath the brine, and preventing oxygen from getting to your kraut and making it taste less amazing. Tuck the leaf around the edges, pushing until it stays beneath the brine as well. (Anything above the brine can develop mold, but it will not effect the kraut beneath the brine. Just remove and discard if this happens and all will be well. Really! Because: science.)
Use your fingers to swipe around the neck of the jar to remove any cabbage bits you may have missed.
13. Add additional brine if needed to fill your jar right to the neck, so that it looks something like the picture below (adding approximately 1/2 cup of water to 1 tsp of salt).
14. Tightly lid your jar with a regular canning jar lid, and set on a rimmed plate or bowl in a cool, out-of-the-way corner of your kitchen, out of direct sunlight.
After 1 to 3 days, your brine will rise up and out of the jar (thus the plate or bowl)!
Edited to clarify: as long as you are “burping” your jar after day 3, and daily going forward, the jar should not build up enough pressure to break. A friend who makes kraut professionally told me that she has never had a jar break using this method, and I concur. Though you’re tightly sealing it, it’s not pressure-canner tight, so a drizzle of brine will be able to seep up and out by the pressure generated from fermentation. For this reason, I don’t recommend fermenting in latch lid jars, as they seal up too tightly and don’t let any air escape, causing a breakage risk.
If you’re concerned about breakage, simply “burp” your jar daily from the start by loosening, then retightening the lid.
Pour off any liquid that pools on the plate, and wipe down the jar if desired.
15. After four or five days, it’s time for a taste! Using clean hands, remove the lid and cabbage leaf, and set aside on a clean plate. Scoop out a bite of kraut on a fork, and taste. It should be just beginning to taste sour, and the cabbage will be softer than when you jarred it up.
Unless your kitchen is quite warm, your kraut won’t be ready for a few more days, but I think daily tasting to get a feel for how it changes it’s a great habit to get into. Consider it kraut-bonding.
After each taste test, press the kraut back under the brine with clean hands, and top with your cabbage leaf. Double check that everything is below the bring before twisting on the lid.
16. When you are pleased with the taste (normally after 1 to 2 weeks, depending on your flavor preference and the temperature of your kitchen), pop it into the fridge. You can remove the cabbage leaf and compost it at this stage, then push the kraut beneath the brine. Serve with every meal, and be sure to push the kraut back under the brine after each serving.
Look at you, making your own kraut!
Your great grandma would be proud.
P.S. There are a thousand ways you can embellish your next batch of kraut once you’ve mastered making a basic batch. Add a some caraway seeds, a teaspoon of dill, or some thinly sliced hot peppers. Throw in sesame seeds and kelp, or an assortment of other grated veggies.
The sky’s the limit, and–aside from adding salt and keeping the veggies beneath the brine–there are no rules.
P.P.S. Want a book on the subject? Here are a few of my faves. Buy them at your local bookshop! (If you choose to buy online, some afflinks are below.)
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I’ve got a thing about ice cream.
Likely my favorite dessert of all time, I can think of nothing more delightful than a rich, tasty scoop of homemade ice cream, dairy-free ice cream, or sorbet.
Today, I’m thrilled to be over on LearningHerbssharing two of my favorite herbal frozen treats: hibiscus + tulsi sorbet (with or without an ice cream maker), and chamomile and lavender ice cream (dairy-free variation included).
Here in Wisconsin, the seasonal shift from summer into fall is taking hold.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Where last week there were cucumber-mint fizzy waters, and burgers and zucchini on the grill, today there are cups of hot tea and a simmering pot of chicken stock. My old canner is rattling away on the stove as we slowly fill the pantry shelves with the last of summer’s bounty.
Below are five of the things that are making my heart (and tastebuds!) happy in the kitchen this season.
We had a bumper crop of basil this year and I set to work making a ridiculous amount of pesto. So much so that we’ll have to work at using it up before next July! We enjoy homemade pesto on eggs, our weekly homemade pizzas, veggie sautés, and pastas.
I don’t know how most folks store their pesto for use later in the year, but here’s my simple, handy method:
Make your pesto with whatever recipe you love (mine is your basic basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt).
Run through the food processor until you’re happy with the texture, then drop onto a cookie sheet (closely spaced) using the smallest ice cream scoop you can find. (Mine is something elvish like 2 tablespoons, and sold as a ‘cookie scoop’.)
Place the tray in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours, then remove pesto from sheet with a thin spatula.
Store in zip bags or mason jars in the freezer. Thaw those cute little buggers in any quantity you’d like throughout the year.
Easy! Convenient! Less waste!
Roasted Red Peppers
Some years back, Pete and I were panini-crazed. Eggs, sharp cheddar, sausage, spinach, and roasted red peppers, all on sourdough bread, were our standard.
Since bread became a treat (rather than a staple) around here, we’ve mostly outgrown our panini habit, but we still love to have them once or twice a year for old time’s sake. Back when these were a weekly affair, I started canning our own lemony, garlicy, roasted red peppers. And we absolutely love having them on hand! These days they are often destined for salads, pizzas, and egg bakes.
My recipe comes from my favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation (afflink). I. Love. This. Book. Her recipes tend to be small, though, so I always double or quadruple.
Buy that book. It’s fabulous.
We’re swimming in hot peppers over here. (I mean that figuratively, because: ouch.) I bought some from my friend Mary last week and ended up with quite a few more than I was expecting.
Backstory: I’ve introduced you to Mary in the past. She’s an herbalist, an organic farmer, and a wickedly funny Amish mother of seven boys. (“Wickedly” is probably the wrong word here. You get the idea.)
One year I ordered organic calendula from her for LüSa. I told her I could take (and I quote): “a ton of it”.
She politely smiled and nodded. (Some of you already see where this is going.)
When I came to pick the calendula up three months later, she said in a very serious voice, “Now back when I went to school a ton was 2,000 lbs.” She looked at me over the top of her wire rim glasses. “And you did order a ton of calendula this spring…”
My eyes widened.
She couldn’t restrain herself anymore, and broke up with laughter, along with her husband and adult children. I blushed, and breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, how we laughed!
There was a similar vibe when I picked up hot peppers last week. I told her the week prior that I would take “loads”, but carefully corrected myself and added, “Though not a ton.” More laughter.
I know know that a “load”, in Amish Farmer Speak is something close to a bushel.
Because that was what was waiting for me when I came back for my veggies. I took the abundant hot peppers gratefully.
But honestly, a bushel is a lot of hot peppers (nearly a ton, in my estimation). What to do with so many?
Most went straight into the freezer for future salsas and hot sauces; but three pounds worth were trimmed and brined with garlic for a future batch of fermented sriracha.
I’ll share a recipe after I’ve taken this project through to completion, but for now you can find my canned sriracha recipe here.
An autumn-inspired shrub
Since I gave up my evening glass of red wine nearly a year ago, I’ve taken up a new (and arguably healthier) habit: shrub. A probiotic and alcohol-free beverage, I make a batch every week or two from seasonal fruits and herbs. (Some of you saw my shrub recipes in Taproot 27: BLOOM.)
This one is based off of that same vinegar-honey-fruit-spice blend that I outlined in Taproot, and is beautifully balanced with ripe, local pears; spicy fresh ginger root; and fragrant cardamom. Quite possibly my new favorite evening sip.
Einkorn sourdough bread
And last but not least, sourdough bread. Einkornsourdough, to be precise.
A year or so ago some of you tipped me off to einkorn as an easier to digest wheat and we gave it a try. (We had been on-and-off gluten-free for years and were just starting to dabble in wheat again at the time.) It turns out you were right! We find einkorn easier to digest then other wheat.
We still don’t do a lot of it, but we do love to bake and when we do, this is our go-to now.
The book we picked up is this one (afflink) and includes everything you need to know, including instructions on nurturing a wild sourdough starter (mine is pictured above).
Bread is a treat indeed, and this version is our hands-down favorite.
What’s happening in your kitchen these days? Share your favorite recipes, projects, or links below!
I posted a photo of our kraut-making process on Instagram this week, and promised to share a simple method for making homemade kraut, suitable for beginners.
While there are countless ways to do this age-old process (and an abundance of veggies you may add to the mix), I’ve kept it intentionally simple to get you started on your fermentation journey with ease.
I’ve extolled the virtues of live-fermented foods many, many times on the blog, so we’ll let the archives do the talking. This post in particular lays out the basics of why eating a variety of probiotic foods daily is important, plus tips for getting your kids in on it without drama, if kraut is a new taste for them.
Making your own fermented veggies is easier than you ever imagined.
All you need is cabbage and salt; a knife and a mason jar. You can get fancier than that, of course, but these are the basics.
To put it simply, making kraut is just slicing, salting, tasting, jarring, and waiting. I’ll break it down into more details below, but that’s honestly all we’re going to do! Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of steps. It’s seriously a 20 minute job.
So let’s get on with it, shall we? The recipe your gut has been waiting for!
A few afflinks follow below. I encourage you to seek these products out locally before buying online. Yay, local economy!
Easy, Homemade Probiotic Sauerkraut Recipe
Make your kraut in any amount you’d like. I suggest beginning with a quart of kraut, or a scant 2 lbs of cabbage.
While cabbage weights and sizes vary widely, here’s a general rule: a large cabbage will be somewhere in the 2-3 pound ballpark, while a small cabbage will weigh in around 1/2 pound.
1. Prep your work station.
If your kitchen looks like mine (meaning: well-loved and lived-in and not exactly sanitary), give your work surface a washing or wipe down before you begin. We’re encouraging bacteria in this jar–let’s make sure it’s the good kind.
Gather your supplies: a cabbage or two, some unrefined sea salt, a knife (or mandolin or food processor), and a mason jar.
2. Thinly slice your cabbage.
I used a mandolin for the project pictured, but I often cheat and use a food processor. A chef’s knife works as well, though expect slightly larger pieces of cabbage in your kraut. Each method results in a different texture of finished kraut, so experiment with a few batches to find your favorite method.
Note: Reserve a single large, relatively intact cabbage leaf. We’ll use it later to keep your sliced cabbage below the top of your brine.
Protip: if you, like me, are terrified of your mandolin because you’re afraid you’ll cut your fingertips off, don’t despair! We recently purchase a pair of kevlar gloves for just this purpose, and it’s honestly the best thing ever. No more fiddling with the awkward hand guard, and no more fear of cutting my hand off. Kudos to Alton Brown for the brilliant idea.
3. Add salt.
Transfer your grated or sliced cabbage to a bowl, and add 1 generous tsp of salt for each pound of cabbage.
Gently massage your kraut for 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to release brine.
If there is one step that I think is important–and often overlooked–it is this one. Massaging the kraut works in the salt, begins to break down the cell walls, and releases the brine. A healthy amount of brine is vital for a good batch of kraut! Once upon a time I did this job with a kraut pounder, but it was loud, clumsy, and not nearly as zen (or effective) as the massaging technique.
Massage until the cabbage becomes soft and liquid begins to pool in the bottom of your bowl. Give a handful a squeeze. You should see liquid dripping into the bowl. Now we’re getting somewhere.
4. Adjust the salt.
Taste-test a pinch of cabbage. It should be salty, but not uncomfortably so. Think more salty than you’d want to eat a whole serving of, but just barely. The salt is critical in keeping your cabbage from spoiling, but too salty and your finished kraut will be unpalatable (we’ll address that below). Err on the side of a pinch too much rather than a pinch too little at the start. Stir in extra salt a pinch (or for a large batch, a 1/2 teaspoonful) at a time until it tastes pleasantly salty.
5. Jar it up.
It’s time to jar your kraut! Using a canning funnel if you have one, fill an appropriately sized wide-mouth canning jar with cabbage. Fill the jar 2/3 full, then press down using your fist or a kraut pounder. Repeat this layering technique until your jar is nearly full and looking really juicy.
When your jar approximately as full as mine shown above, use your fist to press firmly one more time to submerge all the sliced cabbage you can, well below the brine line. This will insure proper fermentation and prevent spoilage during the next few days.
Remember that cabbage leaf that you reserved? After compressing your kraut, gently tuck it inside the top of your jar, using it to hold the grated cabbage below the brine. Tuck in all the bits that stick up (like those show above) using your fingers until everything is held beneath the level of the brine.
6. Top with a weight (optional).
If you have a kraut weight (mine is this type from Masontops), place it in your jar on top of the submerged cabbage leaf. If you don’t have one, you can use a clean flat stone, a tiny 1/4 pint jar tucked inside the neck of your larger jar, or use nothing at all. Just be sure to push as much cabbage as possible beneath the brine level. Anything above this level will spoil and need to be discarded.
Protip: Don’t freak out if some of your cabbage leaf is peeking above the brine. You’ll be discarding it anyway, not eating it, so it’s not the end of the world if a bit of it is exposed. A bit of funky leaf won’t ruin the jar.
7. Lid your jars.
Lid your jar with whatever lid type you have on hand. I have (and love) a couple of silicone Pickle Pipe lids. But I usually have more batches of kraut going than I have fancy lids for, so my solution is to simply lid with a one-piece plastic lid (if I have it) or a regular canning jar lid. I choose the one-piece when possible because, well, they tend to leak, and when you’re making kraut that’s a good thing.
Whether you use use a one-piece or two-piece lid, be sure you don’t crank it on too tightly. Your kraut will produce CO2 and needs to vent a bit. Nobody wants exploding kraut jars in their kitchen.
Protip: If you love making kraut, invest in a set of vented silicone lids. (Our local hardware store sells them, so check locally before you buy online!) They’re worth their weight in gold. I find my kraut is more foolproof and tastes a bit better when I use them.
8. And now, we wait.
Set your jar on a plate in a cool, out-of-the-way place. Since our kitchen is often warm, I normally ferment in the corner of our sewing/dining room! Place them wherever works for you, where you won’t forget about them.
Test your kraut on day three and every other day after that until you are pleased with the flavor. To test, remove the weight and cabbage leaf (using clean hands) then sneak a sample out from below your brine level. Press the kraut back down, and replace the leaf, weight, and lid.
Protip: if your brine level was too close to the top of the jar, it might overflow. Always keep your kraut on a plate to catch any spills! If your kraut gets really lively and bubbly and overflows, then calms down, you may need to press the cabbage back under the liquid or even add a dash of salted water to the top to replace the lost brine. I rarely need to do this if I have packed the kraut down well in step 5.
Sometime between 4 days and 4 weeks, your kraut will be ready to eat! I normally like mine best after 8 to 10 days in summer, 2 to 3 weeks in winter.
Remove the cabbage leaf and the weight, and wipe the rim of your jar. Lid with a one- or two-piece mason jar lid and transfer to the refrigerator. The cold storage will slow the fermentation down to a crawl, and hold your kraut at this perfect, delectable level for months.
Serve with savory meals daily, and celebrate your happy gut flora and better health!
Note: if you finished kraut is too salty, you can pour off a bit of the brine and replace it with water. Fluff the kraut a bit with a fork, then press back down into the jar. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 days to allow the salt in the cabbage to reduce. Taste and repeat if needed.
I learned much of what I know from Sandor Katz (Author of several books including my go-to, Wild Fermentation). I’m not crazy about the fermentation recipes in Nourishing Traditions as most of them contain added whey, which makes for slimy (in my experience) ferments and seems unnecessary.
Go forth and ferment all the things!
P.S. Let me know if you’d like a recipe for live-fermented dilly beans, garlic dill pickles, or foraged ferments, too!
On something of a whim this winter (while we were at the cabin celebrating the Solstice), I whipped up a batch of chicken carnitas for dinner. I had had them a few times before and craved them constantly, and I knew that we'd all be down. Plus they were ridiculously easy to make – always a bonus in my book (especially on vacation).
And? They were pretty much the best thing ever.
We ate every bite, and have made them at least once a week since, with no one tiring of them (quite possibly a record for our crew).
And considering the 90-some chickens we butchered this summer that are still filling most of a chest freezer in the barn, I don't see them dropping off our meal plan any time soon.
The recipe that follows is flexible and forgiving. I normally make them the day-of in my Instant Pot, but if we'll be away all day I use the slow cooker. I've also partially made them ahead and frozen the meat and sauce separately after removing it from the bones. After thawing, I simply proceed with the recipe from the broiling step. Works like a snap! I've even jammed a frozen bird in both the IP and the slow cooker with equally delicious results.
Before I dig in on the recipe, I would like to acknowledge that I am a midwestern Norwegian girl living in rural Wisconsin. This is not my family recipe or my tradition. With that in mind I would like to take a moment to thank to the brilliant culinary minds of Michoacán who first conceived of this delicious wonder. My family thanks, you, my tastebuds thank you, I thank you. Sincerely.
My interpretation is simple, fast, and kid-friendly. It's mild because, well, children – but because Pete and I really like spice I serve it with homemade sriracha (A spicy homemade salsa would suffice as well.)
The whole thing can be made from start-to-serve in under 2 hours with an Instant Pot, or take the slow road and let it simmer all day in your slow cooker. As an aside, I discovered recently that Wisconsin-based West Bend brand slow cookers are lead-free, if you, like me, fret about such things. (Those are afflinks, by the way.)
Serve your carnitas on your favorite tortilla (corn, GF-wheat-like, or actual wheat) or in a bowl with rice, crisp romaine, and maybe a few corn chips. Or go paleo and serve on a bed of lettuce.
Basically, you can't go wrong with this.
Oh, and the pear salsa. The pear salsa! It's almost a requisite part of the meal. I made it up on a whim with what we had on hand at the cabin last December and we've stuck with it every since. Don't skip it.
Hungry yet? Me, too. Let's get cooking.
Quick & Easy Chicken Carnitas Recipe
1 whole chicken or equivalent in chicken parts (Boneless/skinless is fine, bone-in skin-on is fine, too. See how flexible we are? Use what you have. Mine is a whole, homegrown bird with skin and bones.)
Serve with any or all of the accoutrements below. (I normally opt for all.)
Fresh pear salsa (recipe below)
1 lime cut in half, then eighths
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sriracha or other heat of your choice
Chopped red onion
Tortillas, chips, rice, or lettuce (or all of the above)
Live fermented cortido or kraut
1. Pour stock into Instant Pot or slow cooker. Place chicken on top of broth, then pour lime juice over the chicken. Top with spices and garlic.
2. Cook in your Instant Pot for 40 minutes, natural release. My IP is older and doesn't have different pressure settings, so if you have a fancy newfangled one, (afflink) you're on your own. Chicken parts will require less time than a whole bird.
If using a slow cooker, set on low for approximately 8 hours.
Your goal is a chicken that is fully cooked and tender. Err on the side of slightly overcooked. Our goal is ridiculously tender meat.
3. Remove chicken and set aside on a cookie sheet until cool enough to handle. Reserve liquid in the cooker until the next step.
4. When chicken is cool enough to comfortably handle, preheat your broiler to high. Remove bones and skin, reserving for stock-making. * I sometimes toss the skin back into the liquid in the pot for a minute to do some spice recovery, then remove, but it's not necessary.
5. Using your hands or a couple of forks, shred chicken into bite-sized strips and return to the cookie sheet. Pour 2/3 of your cooking liquid over meat, approximately 1 cup, and stir or toss to combine.
6. Place under broiler with rack pretty close to the heat. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, then remove, stir, and return to broiler for another 10 to 12 minutes.
After 2 rounds the edges of the meat should be starting to get crispy and amazing. Depending on your broiler heat, you'll want to do this a total of 2 to 5 times until your meat looks something like the photo below, with a good mix of dark crispy bits and soft, tender pieces.
(This is a good time to make your pear salsa, below.)
7. When chicken is crispy in parts but still juicy and tender it's ready to eat! Serve with tortillas or lettuce, pear salsa (below), limes, and other toppings listed above.
For Fresh Pear Salsa
2 large or 3 medium fresh, ripe pears
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 green onions, sliced (or 1/2 red onion, minced)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprica
pinch of cayenne (optional)
salt to taste
Core and stem pear, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning, and eat.
P.S. Need a printer-friendly version? Here you go!