Herbal Ice Cream and Sorbet Recipes

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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 LearningHerbs sharing 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).

Find the post here, and get churning!

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In my kitchen

20180917-DSC_722320180922-DSC_731420180922-DSC_7312Here 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.

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Pesto

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!

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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.

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Fermented Sriracha

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.

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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.

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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.

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Einkorn sourdough bread

And last but not least, sourdough bread. Einkorn sourdough, 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! 

 

Easy, homemade, probiotic sauerkraut

kraut

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Easy, homemade, probiotic sauerkraut recipe #probiotic #lactofermented #sauerkraut

Quick & easy chicken carnitas

Instant Pot chicken carnitas (or use your slow cooker!) Paleo

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. 

Instant Pot chicken carnitas (or use your slow cooker!) Paleo

Quick & Easy Chicken Carnitas Recipe

Ingredients

  • 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.)
  • 1 tb ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  •  2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 pint chicken broth or stock

At the table

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

Instructions 

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. 

Instant Pot chicken carnitas (or use your slow cooker!) Paleo

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.)

Instant Pot chicken carnitas (or use your slow cooker!) Paleo

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 

Instructions

Core and stem pear, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning, and eat.

And eat.

And… eat.

 

 

P.S. Need a printer-friendly version? Here you go!  

Download Quick & Easy Chicken Carnitas


Instant Pot chicken carnitas (or use your slow cooker!) Paleo

Homemade half-and-half recipe (vegan and paleo)

Homemade half-and-half recipe (vegan and paleo). Wahoo!


 When I told you I quit drinking alcohol I also mentioned giving up wheat, corn, and dairy again. And truly, the only hard one in that bunch seems to be dairy. More specifically half-and-half.

Because despite the churning belly after every sip of cow dairy, despite the eczema, the thing that holds me back from quitting dairy every time is my morning cup of coffee with copious amount of organic half-and-half or skimmed raw cream. 

Try as I have to become a purist and drink my coffee properly like any other good coffee snob (black), I just can't make the leap. So usually when I'm off dairy I give up my morning cup as well and switch to black tea or nettle chai with homemade coconut-almond milk instead. 

But this time around I was convinced to find another way.

So I set to work modifying my coconut-almond milk recipe (creamy in its own right) to be more like half-and-half. No, it won't fool your grandma, but good gracious! If you're off dairy and grieving over your lame mug of watery almond milk-diluted coffee each morning while jealously eyeing your partner's cup, here you go. You're welcome.

Honestly, it's been a game changer for my morning happiness quotient. I can truly say I no longer miss my half-and-half. (And that's saying something.)

Homemade half-and-half recipe (vegan and paleo). Wahoo!

Homemade Dairy-free half-and-half

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds 
  • 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch hulled cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • 5 cups hot water

Instructions

Pre-soak (optional)

If you are struggling with digestive troubles or issues with bone and tooth health, pre-soaking your almonds is advisable. If you can't integrate another layer to your morning cup of coffee, skip this step. Seriously.

  1. Place almonds in a mason jar with 1 tsp of sea salt. Cover with water and soak overnight (or up to 24 hours) at room temperature.
  2. The next day, drain and rinse your almonds. The soaking water will be murky and gross. That's normal. 

Puree

  1. Combine all ingredients in the jar of your blender and add 5 cups of not yet boiling but piping hot hot water. (The hot water helps bring the fats into solution and makes the cream, well, creamy.)
  2. Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes if you have not pre-soaked your almonds, or dive right in with the next step if you're short on time or pre-soaked the night before.
  3. Puree your mixture on high power for 3 to 4 minutes until it become a uniform frothy mix, free of the slightest chunks or lumps. Puree for another minute or two if you have it in you or if your blender is wimpy.

Strain

  1. Pour through a mesh strainer lined with a thin cotton towel or cotton bandana, then bring the corners together and squeeze and twist to extract as much liquid as possible.
  2. Twist more. And more. 
  3. After extracting as much liquid as possible, return your wrung-out pulp to the blender with 1 to 2 additional cups of hot water and puree again with an additional teaspoon of honey or maple to make a smaller amount of almond-coconut milk to keep your kids from drinking your creamer. (To make this "skim" milk more tasty, you can be generous and add a glug of your first pressing to the jar. Or… not. It's up to you.)
  4. Compost solids or freeze or dehydrate for other uses (ideas here).

Enjoy!

Add a splash to your coffee and delight in the pleasures of a creamy cup of goodness. Mmmmm…… That's more like it! 

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to four days or until it becomes sour.

Homemade half-and-half recipe (vegan and paleo). Wahoo!

 

Psst… I even saved the recipe for you as a PDF! 

Download Homemade dairy-free half and half recipe (1)

 

Live fermented salsa recipe

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When I first heard of live fermented salsa all I could think was: gross.

I mean really. Salsa crossed with sauerkraut just didn't sound like a good idea. Ew. But the idea got stuck in my head and I kept circling back. The more I mulled it over them more I wondered… maybe.

Finally a few friends told me it was the best thing ever, so I had to give it a go.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. The sour of the lacto-fermentation could play well with the natural acidity of the tomatoes and lime and the heat of the peppers. Hmm…it might not be so weird after all.

So we went for it. Just before I left for Maine a couple of years ago Pete made a few quarts. By the time I got home four weeks later there was approximately a tablespoon left, waiting for me at the bottom of an otherwise empty mason jar.

I think he liked it.

One taste and I, too, was hooked. So every year we make a gallon (give or take). It never lasts us long, but at least now I'm sure to get more than a spoonful!

The benefits of probiotic salsa are many. Here are my top 3:

  1. Easy! Ridiculously easy. Just chop, salt, and jar it up. Boom.
  2. Probiotic. It's gut-healthy, probiotic nourishment. Which – I would attest – everyone needs more of in their lives.
  3. Summer-friendly. No need to heat up your kitchen making salsa during steamy tomato season.

Care to make some yourself with the last of the tomatoes? Here's how. (This recipe was my jumping-off point.)

Please note: ingredients and proportions are flexible! Tweak to suit your preferences, but be sure to include all of the salt as that ensures proper fermentation, approximately 1 1/2 tsp per quart.

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Makes 1/2 gallon (2 quarts)

6-8 large tomatoes

1 large red onion

1 bunch cilantro

3 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 fresh lime

2 medium hot peppers or to taste

1 tbsp salt

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Instructions

  1. Chop tomatoes into smallish cubes (the size you'd enjoy balancing on a corn chip or fork-full of taco salad). Transfer these tomato chunks to a mesh strainer and allow the liquid to drain out into a bowl for three or four minutes. (This keeps your salsa from being too soupy.)
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop red onion and cilantro and mince garlic.
  3. Stem the hot peppers and seed if desired (for a milder heat), then finely chop with sharp knife or food processor. (Gloves are a good idea for this step to protect your fingers from the lingering burn of the peppers, and if using a food processor hold your breath when opening to prevent from don't breathing the vapors.)
  4. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to 2 quart-sized jars or a single 1/2 gallon, filling to just past the shoulders. Press all vegetables beneath liquid, then lid with a fermentation top or a non-metallic canning jar lid. 
  6. Place jars on a plate or baking tray (they sometimes overflow during fermentation) and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, tasting throughout the process. You'll notice some separation, with solids floating a bit above a mostly clear liquid. This is normal! After fermentation and when you're pleased with the flavor, transfer jars to refrigerator, and enjoy with every meal. 

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A small bonus: a few of you have asked about the lids I use. I was sent a free sample of tops and glass fermentation weights by MasonTops a couple of years back and I really love them. They have generously offered you all a 10% discount code (through the end of October) if you'd like to get some for yourself! Just use code "LUSA10". (Technically I think that qualifies as an afflink since they sent me my lids.) 🙂 

 

Easy homemade applesauce (with optional canning instructions)

I am carrying a tinge of sadness that we'll be gone for the entire month of September, and that this August (for the first time ever) has proved too busy for foraging wild apples for saucing. It's one of my favorite markers of the season's change, signifying the turn from high summer toward fall, and I feel a bit disoriented to miss it.  
 
But with our departure to Ireland just over a week away, this year seems a fine time to buy apples instead. (How lucky we are to have an organic orchard just over the hill from our farm!) And the orchard we planted is beginning to bear fruit, so perhaps we'll come home in October to a few ripe Asian pears as well. 
 
So today, as I hustle about readying the farm for the house sitter and packing rain gear, warm hats, and an unreasonable number of knitting projects into bags and backpacks, I thought I'd share this post from 2015 with you. It contains everything you need to know to convert apples (wild or tame) into the finest sauce around.
 
Will you make some sauce in September with us in mind? Because I'm certain that's not on my list this week, as much as I'd love it to be.
 
My recipe (with optional canning instructions) follows. (And if apple crisp or cobbler is more your speed, this refined sugar-free recipe won't disappoint.)
 
How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

We picked two bushels of apples at the nearby organic orchard about a week ago. And because we don't have a root cellar, keeping them on through winter means freezing or canning.

So we put by a few bags of apple crisp and apple pie filling, ate more than we probably should have, and turned the rest into sauce.

Homemade applesauce.

Until you've made a habit of shunning that flavorless store-bought sort and making your own, you just can't know what you're missing. Because alongside homemade sriracha, dilly beans, and canned tomatoes, applesauce is a pantry staple around here.

If you care to make your own (for canning or fresh eating), my recipe follows!

Easy Homemade Applesauce

(made with or without a food mill) 

I will confess to never having made a batch of applesauce this small. Double or triple or exponentially increase as needed. But know that too many apples crammed into a small pot may scorch. So if you're making a bigger batch, divide it among a few large pans.

Ingredients for approximately 7 pints of applesauce

10 lbs apples

1 1/2 c water

optional spices – cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, clove, orange peel, etc.

optional sweetener of your choice

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

With a food mill

If you have a food mill (mine is this version (afflink), scored at a second hand store more than a decade ago), making applesauce couldn't be easier. As a bonus, food mill applesauce is often rosy pink from all of those apple peels.

1. Quarter your apples. No need to core or peel them. Remove any bad spots and compost.

2. Combine quartered apple with water in a cooking pot. Ideally you will have a large, thick-bottomed pot. (If your pot is undersized or thin-bottomed, watch your apples carefully to prevent scorching.) Add water and set over medium heat.

3. When the water begins to simmer, carefully stir your apples, then cover the pot and set to low heat.

4. Every five to ten minutes stir your apples. (I prefer a wide wooden spoon or spatula so that I can turn the apples effectively.) If the pan is becoming dry, add another cup of water.

5. After 20 to 40 minutes your apples should be soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool for one hour.

6. Set up your food mill and transfer your partially cooled applesauce into the hopper.

7. Process apples.

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

 
How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

7. Return processed applesauce to cooking pot. Taste and adjust flavor as desired. You may choose to add sweetener, cinnamon, ginger, or other spices. (We left our batch plain.)

8. If you will be canning your applesauce, bring to a simmer over low heat before packing jars.

9. Hot water bath can for 15 minutes for pints or half-pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

10. Enjoy!

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

Without a food mill

If you don't have a food mill, making applesauce is still easy! There is just a different first step you need to take. The best part of not having a mill? Perfect. Chunky. Applesauce. Oh, yes.

1. Peel and core your apples, then cut into approximately 1" cubes. Remove any bad spots and compost.

2. Combine your prepared apple with water in a cooking pot. Ideally you will have a large, thick-bottomed pot. (If your pot is undersized or thin-bottomed, watch your apples carefully to prevent scorching.) Add water and set over medium heat.

3. When the water begins to simmer, carefully stir your apples, then cover the pot and set to low heat.

4. Every five to ten minutes stir your apples. (I prefer a wide wooden spoon or spatula so that I can turn the apples effectively.) If the pan is becoming dry, add another cup of water. After 20 to 30 minutes your apples should be soft.

5. For chunky applesauce, proceed to step six. For smooth applesauce, either puree with an immersion blender while hot or allow to cool for one hour, then puree in batches in your blender. (Do not puree hot applesauce in your blender as it can volcano out the top!)

6. Return processed applesauce to cooking pot. Taste and adjust flavor as desired. You may choose to add sweetener, cinnamon, ginger, or other spices. (We left our batch plain.) If you won't be canning your applesauce, simmer with optional spices/sweetener for five minutes, then cool and refrigerate or freeze.

8. If you will be canning your applesauce bring to a simmer over low heat before packing jars.

9. Hot water bath can for 15 minutes for pints or half-pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

10. Enjoy!

P.S. When did this applesauce helper…

How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)

 
…become this one?
 
Oh, my heart.
 
How to make easy, homemade applesauce. (For canning or eating fresh!)
P.P.S. You can find my choice for canning supplies – along with ideas for sourcing them on the cheap – here
 
Originally posted in 2015.

Picking berries with Lupine

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How could I resist her request?

To spend the day together picking blueberries was just what I wanted as well.

The weather was agreeable (it's been deliciously cool here for the past couple of weeks, feeling more like autumn than August), making (in my opinion) for the best possible picking weather. So in the morning we packed a picnic, grabbed our baskets, and just the two of us set out to see how many we could gather. 

Nearly 15 pounds later we were thirsty and tired and on our way home, but so satisfied by time well spent, and time spent together.

We'll be making jam soon (from the recipes here). Last night after dinner Lupine made us a blueberry fool, and she's already prepped a batch of dairy-free coconut-blueberry ice cream for tonight. (She modified this recipe with canned coconut milk and lemon juice in place of the buttermilk.) 

As we picked we chatted about books we read when she was little – Peter in Blueberry Land and Blueberries for Sal – and I marveled at how quickly she has grown. How quickly things have changed.

Because when we first came here to pick, both kids used small tin pails, and "kerplink kerplank kerplunk" was heard often from both buckets and giggling voices.

And the faster time accelerates, the harder it is to dig in and make it all slow down.

 

But this day? On this day time stood still.  

And how grateful I am that I made the time for this.

For her.

For us.

: ~ : ~ : ~ 

P.S. The books I mentioned (plus one other harvest-season gem) are below. All three are among our all-time favorites, though it's still hard for me to read the last page of Christopher's Harvest Time without sobbing.

You should be able to request them all from your library.

Links below are afflinks, for those wishing to add them to their home library. (A very small percentage of your purchase helps support our family, our homeschool, and our blueberry jam making supplies. We thank you for that!)

All three books own a permanent spot on our family bookshelf and are enjoyed even now, with my children nearly grown.

    

 

 

 

Honey-sweetened blueberry jam recipe (with ginger, basil, or lemon balm)

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There's something about blueberries, don't you think?

That's why once a year we drive an unreasonable distance to pick all that we can at a "local" no-spray farm (not really local because: 1 1/2 hours away). Then we'll fill every corner of our freezer with bags of berries for winter muffins, breads, smoothies, and ice creams.

We almost skipped picking blueberries this year, since this summer has been unreasonably full, but Lupine suggested that not picking blueberries would be unreasonable as well.

I agreed and we'll squeeze it in this weekend.

When we get home we'll spend a day or two making jam from the recipes below. (Lupine is pulling for a double batch of blueberry-basil. I'm sure to make a batch of ginger or lemon balm as well.) 

Read on for some tips on my favorite canning supplies, plus three simple jam recipes and canning instructions – sweetened only with honey – and made as sweet as you like.

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A word about supplies…

(A few afflinks follow, though look to see what you can borrow or buy locally or second-hand! With the exception of Weck jars, I buy all of the linked supplies at my natural foods coop and grocery or hardware store.)

Lids

I got in the habit early on of using BPA-free Tattler Lids. Back then all canning jar lids contained BPA. Today they do not, but I'm still not confident that whatever they replaced the BPA with on the metal lids is any safer. While Tattlers are also plastic, I love that don't have any scary mystery lining and are reusable.

These days I go back and fort between the new BPA-free metal lids and Tattlers and a small set of Weck jars that I have and adore. I figure if I buy a few Wecks each year, I'll soon be able to use these exclusively. (At this point, Weck is your only plastic-free option for home canning.)

The upshot: use what you have or whatever you prefer. 

Pectin

The recipe below calls for Pamona pectin. I call for this specific brand because this is the only pectin I know of that can be used with a honey-sweetened jam. Unlike other pectins, you can reduce the amount of sugar or leave it out all together.

I frequently get comments that someone prefers to make only jam with chia seeds, not pectin. For eating fresh, knock yourself out! It's lovely stuff. But because I like to can my jam to save on freezer space, chia seeds are not an appropriate substitute. 

The upshot: For best results, use only the pectin I recommend in the recipes below.

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Other supplies

If you are new to canning, hit the second hand store or a few rummage sales and you're sure to find all of the things you need. Better yet, ask a more experienced friend to come over and show you the ropes! She's sure to bring a case or two of jars to share and be happy to loan you her canning pot for the day.

Jars

All of the jams below were canned in 1/2 pint jars that I picked up at our local grocery store. For really special small batch jams I'll use 1/4 pints as well. Which are adorable. As a small family these small size works for us. Bigger family/bigger jar? Probably. The Pamona's package insert will tell you how long to process if you use a pint jar instead.

Water Bath Canner

I have several of these, all of them gleaned from tag sales or thrift stores. If you're buying second-hand be sure to inspect for major injuries. I did have one spring a leak a few years back when it rusted through. 

Canning Tongs

You can buy big fancy sets of canning accessories. But don't. All of it is just a duplicate of things you already have in your kitchen and honestly don't need with two exceptions: the canning jar funnel and the canning tongs. Tongs are vital. Don't try to wrangle your screaming hot jars out of boiling water without them.

Canning Funnel

Since I'm not crazy about the idea of pouring hot food over a plastic funnel, I upgraded to stainless steel. (These are the sorts of things I ask for for my birthday. Thanks, mom!) This funnel has enjoyed daily use in our house for the past six or seven years. I'd say it was worth paying a few extra dollars for.

The upshot: Use what you have, borrow what you can, choose second-hand, and buy as little as possible – but of the best quality that you can afford. (That's a free life-lesson for you there.) 

Now that we've ironed out all of those details, let's make some jam, shall we?  Jam on.

(The recipes that follow were originally published in 2013.)

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You want recipes, I'll give you recipes.

Two weeks ago my sister and I cooked up three small but glorious batches of fancy blueberry jam.

We could have made straight up blueberry, of course.

But why?

There was ginger in the kitchen and lemon balm and basil in the garden. So we had to get all fancy with it.

And we took notes! Just for you.

So here goes: blueberry jam, three ways.

And: please don't make us choose a favorite!

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Blueberry-Ginger Jam

Ingredients

10 C whole blueberries or 8 C crushed

1/2 C lemon juice

1 1/2 Tb fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

2 tsp dry ginger

1 1/4 C honey

1 Tb plus 1 tsp calcium water (from pectin package)

1 Tb plus 1 tsp Pomona's pectin

Process

Combine berries with lemon juice, ginger root, dry ginger, and calcium water from your pectin package.

Heat berries over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Your berries will begin to break down.

Meanwhile, begin heating water in your water bath canner. Wash and drain your jars and sterilize your lids.

Crush berries with a potato masher and heat until they reach a full boil. Remove from heat.

Combine honey with 1 Tb + 1 tsp pectin powder. Stir well to combine.

Add pectin/honey mix to berries and stir well to combine.

Heat jam mixture until it returns to a full boil once more.

Fill your clean jars to within 1" of the top. Wipe jar rim with a clean, wet paper towel.

Screw lids into place and lower carefully into your hot water bath.

Return to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove to a towel on the counter. If using Tattler lids crank your canning jar bands on tightly now! It will make your Tattlers as fool-proof as metal lids!

Allow your jars to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. (Check after 1 hour for any failed lids by removing rings and testing lid. Transfer any fails to the fridge.)

Makes approximately 9 half-pints of jam.

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Blueberry-Basil Jam 

Ingredients

10 C whole blueberries or 8 C crushed

1/2 C lemon juice

1/2 C finely chopped fresh basil leaves

1 C honey

1 Tb plus 1 tsp calcium water (from pectin package)

1 Tb plus 1 tsp Pomona's pectin

Process

Combine berries with lemon juice, basil, and calcium water from your pectin package.

Heat berries over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Your berries will begin to break down.

Meanwhile, begin heating water in your water bath canner. Wash and drain your jars and sterilize your lids.

Crush berries with a potato masher and heat until they reach a full boil. Remove from heat.

Combine honey with 1 Tb + 1 tsp pectin powder. Stir well to combine.

Add pectin/honey mix to berries and stir well to combine.

Heat jam mixture until it returns to a full boil once more.

Fill your clean jars to within 1" of the top. Wipe jar rim with a clean, wet paper towel.

Screw lids into place and lower carefully into your hot water bath.

Return to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove to a towel on the counter. If using Tattler lids crank your canning jar bands on tightly now! It will make your Tattlers as fool-proof as metal lids!

Allow your jars to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. (Check after 1 hour for any failed lids by removing rings and testing lid. Transfer any fails to the fridge.)

Makes approximately 9 half-pints of jam.

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Blueberry-Lemon Balm Jam

Ingredients

10 C whole blueberries or 8 C crushed

1/2 C lemon juice

1/2 C finely chopped fresh lemon balm leaves

1 1/2 C honey

1 Tb plus 1 tsp calcium water (from pectin package)

1 Tb plus 1 tsp Pomona's pectin

Process

Combine berries with lemon juice, lemon balm, and calcium water from your pectin package.

Heat berries over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Your berries will begin to break down.

Meanwhile, begin heating water in your water bath canner. Wash and drain your jars and sterilize your lids.

Crush berries with a potato masher and heat until they reach a full boil. Remove from heat.

Combine honey with 1 Tb + 1 tsp pectin powder. Stir well to combine.

Add pectin/honey mix to berries and stir well to combine.

Heat jam mixture until it returns to a full boil once more.

Fill your clean jars to within 1" of the top. Wipe jar rim with a clean, wet paper towel.

Screw lids into place and lower carefully into your hot water bath.

Return to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove to a towel on the counter. If using Tattler lids crank your canning jar bands on tightly now! It will make your Tattlers as fool-proof as metal lids!

Allow your jars to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. (Check after 1 hour for any failed lids by removing rings and testing lid. Transfer any fails to the fridge.)

Makes approximately 9 half-pints of jam.

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Homemade ice cream recipe round-up

Pete and I used to have this obsession with ice cream. I don't recall when it started, but but for years we ate ice cream every night before bed. Every. Single. Night. A frightening amount, when I think about it. We were so addicted that if we discovered we were out just before bedtime, we would run to the store for more, possibly in our pajamas.

I know. We had a problem.

Finally, after stumbling upon an old hand-crank ice cream maker at a second hand store, we flipped our addiction to homemade.

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And now? Well, store bought doesn't hold the charm it once did. Our palates adjusted to the flavor of homemade – sans-refined sugar, and made with fresh raw cream. Even the kids reported (when tasting their once favorite store-bought ice cream after we switched to making our own) that the boughten kind was "way too sweet".

Our kids deciding that less sweet = better? That's a big win in my book.

Being able to control the type and amount of sweetener, the flavor combinations, and the quality of ingredients was a huge upgrade. And when we were off dairy we switched all of our recipes over to coconut milk (worked like a charm!) and kept our weekly churning dates going strong.

Plus the price of homemade is ridiculous. (Ridiculous meaning cheap.) We figured that even our brand new ice cream maker paid for itself after just one season of use; one summer of passing on the store bought organic ice cream we were so fond of. Find one second hand and it'll pay for itself in a single batch! Add to that raising kids who have the knowledge of how to make a favorite treat from scratch (eventually without even a recipe) and the value keeps going up.

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Which ice cream maker do I suggest? 

Because honestly, I've tried them all. I might as well lay it all out there! (A few afflinks follow.)

Whatever you can find! Thrift stores are overflowing with ice cream makers. (I can't explain this phenomenon.) That makes it affordable to experiment. If you don't love it, donate it back. 

I've had the oak barrel type that you put salt and ice into. They are charming, but messy, and require some pre-planning to be sure you have enough ice on hand. And if you're buying new they are insanely expensive. Mine was $5 at a tag sale, but I eventually passed it onto my Amish friend after theirs was lost in a house fire. I haven't missed it.

I also went through a collection of hand-crank plastic models I picked up at the thrift store. They were fun, but the quality of ice cream they made was hit-or-miss, perhaps because of their age (or our technique). While they'll run you under $6 at a second hand shop, this type is also pricey online. If you find one for a steal snatch it up. It's fun to have kids churn their own – with muscle power – rather than grid power.

Sage was gifted one of the ball-type makers which was really fun for occasional use. But it would never be our every week go-to. On a camping trip? Yes. When I wanted to shag them out of the house for a few minutes after dinner? Definitely.

But what I really wanted was a workhorse of a machine that I could fill and walk away while it worked its magic. So with great trepidation, I finally upgraded to electric. Based on reviews and the advice of my wise big sister, I chose this model, and I couldn't be happier with it! Seriously. I am in love with this machine. The texture of our ice cream improve right off the bat, and several years in I'm still loving it. With a second insert in the freezer (found at the thrift store, of course) we're always ready to make some ice cream.

 

Below are some of the ice cream recipes I have shared through the years. Don't hesitate to modify them to suit your bounty or your palate! Mulberry-buttermilk, anyone?) I also heard recently that when you cut the sugar back in a recipe, adding a small amount of dissolved gelatin to the milk when you heat it will help the ice cream stay softer in the freezer. Who knew?

If you're in the market for a book, we have thoroughly enjoyed this one. When Lupine was egg-free/dairy-free this one was a major hit, and a new book just hit the shelves that also looks promising.

Happy summer, friends. And happy churning!

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Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

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Rhubarb Ice Cream (add strawberries!)

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Raspberry-Ginger Ice Cream

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Cherry-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (with vegan variation)

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Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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Favorite Vanilla Ice Cream (with apple crisp recipe)