Fermented Things Friday: Easy Homemade Sour Cream

Thanks to this Mother Earth News article, I have successfully made homemade sour cream, and thus Fermented Things Friday can return, after a long hiatus, during which I *gasp* threw away my kefir grains, and have my kombucha scobys stacked up in a veritable high-rise, and just await the energy to want to ferment more things again! This was an easy entry back, and a delightful and tangy spring treat. What’s more, it was made….

…In about 2 seconds (plus fermenting time).

It is seriously so easy, my children could do it. And come to think of it, I will teach them, so they could do it.

But first, “Why would a person want to make sour cream?” If you are asking, I will answer from my own perspective.

I just get sick and tired of seeing a long list of ingredients in my sour cream, when I know what sour cream is (should be) made of. Cream. Cream that has soured, and thickened.

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My first batch of homemade sour cream. Ingredients: cream, and vinegar to start the souring/culturing process!

Just as in this post from a few years back on chowhound.com, I don’t like the thickeners and weird things added, but was feeling lazy about doing anything about it. Well, after 2 seconds work and some fermentation on my countertop, I have sour cream made of cream once again.

I also think, and I think this blog attests, that I’m one of those weirdos who gets satisfaction from doing traditional things in a traditional way, and knowing that, even if my supermarket down the street explodes, I might still be able to feed myself. Rah!

Basic method:

Fill a clean glass jar with 1 c. of cream, and add 1/4 c. white vinegar (or, already prepared sour cream). I let it sit with a napkin over the top, held in place by a canning ring, for about 48 hours. I kept checking to see if it was thickening, or gelling up. It stayed fairly ‘milky’, though did thicken somewhat. After 48 hours, I plopped it in the fridge, where it cooled and thickened up very nicely!

The difference in taste between homemade and store-bought for me is – my homemade has a tangier bite to it, and is perhaps slightly less thick and gelled. I would imagine that over time, as I continue to make the soured cream in this method, it might gel more and loose a little bite. The neato thing is, after my first batch, and moving onto my second, I didn’t need to add the vinegar. I just topped up with some cream (and no, I didn’t measure) and then left it out. I left it out half as long this time also, before putting in the ‘fridge. So far, I’ve used it with my Wildtree spices to make a potato topped, and to make a dip for tortilla chips. Both were gobbled up, which I would equate with success.

This process does make me wish I had local organic heavy cream available, but alas, I do not. Many of the organic brands are ultra-pasteurized, making them perhaps unsuitable for this task. So, I’m using a locally available regional-based brand of heavy cream for making this, and will call that good.

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You can tell a bit in this picture, I think, that the cream has really thickened. It ‘traces’ when you stir it and let it drip into the jar, that is, you can see the lines where it has dripped, maintained on the surface.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Update: I added pictures, and, wanted to give an update on subsequent batches….My third batch of the sour cream was really runny. I’m not quite sure why! I left a little bit, maybe 2 Tbl. in the bottom of the jar, and then added more heavy cream (country style) and 2 Tbl. of white vinegar. The resulting sour cream tasted the most like ‘boughten’ sour cream of any of the batches! Success! I will try the next batch without adding any vinegar, and if I get the runny problem again, will consider continuing to add between 1 and 2 Tbl. of vinegar to each batch, with the residual sour cream from the last batch left in the jar to help get things going.

I won a book! ‘Vegetable Literacy’ by Deborah Madison, and review

Wow, now I can never again say, “I never win anything!” 😉 Following along with Margaret Roach’s gardening blog (horticultural how-to and ‘woo-woo’), I regularly enter the giveaways for the wonderful goodies, many of them books. And, right before Easter, I won a book!

picture of cover, Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison

Tempted as I am to devour the whole book in a day, I’m instead taking my time and reading the ample chapters just one at a time. The book, Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison, features a beautiful picture of garlic scapes on the cover (and I was sort of impressed with myself for knowing what they were, as a year ago, I would not have known!), and includes many pictures inside as well, of the delicious recipes she puts forth, each tucked neatly into her ‘family’ chapters – families of vegetables, that is. *One recipes I’m especially eager to try is a carrot cake unlike the traditional ‘American’ version, made with yellow carrots, and drizzled with a lemon ricotta sauce. The picture is breath-taking. As much as I love words, I’m a sucker for good, tempting pictures of food as well.

Madison groups vegetables and herbs by their family classification, and in the beginning of each chapter, talks about growing habits and conditions, a little bit of history at times, and the characteristics of the family — many members of which can be diverse even within a family group. the key, as she points out, came when she threw a handful of seeds into an un-used bed, mid-season in her garden. “I didn’t take time to label my plantings, believing foolishly that I’d remember what I had planted and where. I noticed that the seeds were all round and looked pretty much alike and when they came up the cotyledons were round and fleshy, and the true leaves, when they emerged, looked similar to one another. Similarities are what characterize related plants, after all, and there they were” (from Chapter 5: the Cabbage Family: The Sometimes Difficult Crucifers).  She then takes each vegetable and herb at its turn, telling more about its history or cultivation, popular varieties, and then, the recipes!

This books makes me take a deeper look at vegetable pairings to cook with, and also encourages me to make herbs an important part of my garden in the future. The herbs represented in each family have wonderful and unique recipes, maybe more impressive to me because, while I’ve definitely grown in using herbs, I still have a lot to learn! I will have no shortage of new recipes to try with the help of this book.

I also appreciate learning about some “old” vegetables and herbs that are uncommon in this day and age. While Madison readily admits that some of these oldies aren’t necessarily the “goodies” (and therefore it is no reason they’ve fallen out of fashion, due to such factors as taste or difficulty in preparation), some deserve to be rediscovered. On my list for further reading and review, inspired by this book, are Jerusalem artichokes, and chia seeds.

Lastly, what I have appreciated about this book is its approachable nature. While Madison is no doubt quite knowledgeable about gardening, this journey occurred more lately in her life, and so there is an aspect to her writing that suggests we’re on this learning journey together. I enjoy that, and it makes me want to read more..

Thanks to Margaret Roach at ‘A Way to Garden’ for the book, and of course, to Deborah Madison for writing it!

Wheat Free Wednesday (on Tuesday): Pancakes!

I really like pancakes. Especially when someone else makes them!

I will occasionally, to the delight of my children, make pancakes for lunch, but there’s something about the flipping, flipping, flipping alllll day long that just gets me. Maybe its because I usually don’t seem to stand in one place for that long.

But, today, I’m up early, before the sun. So, what do I Google?

Coconut Flour pancakes.

Not only is it ‘Wheat Free Wednesday’ appropriate (this post coming at you one day early, hope you don’t mind!), but also I am entirely out of whole wheat flour until I pick up my Azure Standard order tonight, and I also wanted to surprise Hub’band by making breakfast.

Because he’s usually the breakfast chef. Because though my younger brothers would appreciate that I’m a bit more civil in the morning, I’m still not very coherent. Unless I get a jump start on coherency – like today!

Why use coconut flour? Its a high-fiber flour (the highest of any flour, by the way, at 58%) , much lower in carbs than wheat flour, is gluten-free, and because 14% of it is coconut oil (and, of course, because of the high fiber content) it makes you feel full faster – and stay full (which could lead to weight loss for some).

There are several great pancake recipes I’ve tried, and I’ll make a list below. This new recipe for this morning comes from the Nourishing Days blog, and features the original recipe, and then the author’s revised recipe (which I decided to use), for today’s experiment.

Some tips:

Use a generous amount of oil, and keep reapplying the oil. You want the edges to be crispy.

Leave them baking on the first side even longer than you think. I tried to flip them once, the first time, and thought I had a good snag on ’em with the ol’ spatula, but the result was a little bit mashed up (still very edible, but lacking in presentation).

Keep them on the small side, and not incredibly thick.

Obviously, these tips are pretty general, but they might help give you a guideline if you make them.

We slathered a little more butter on, and then topped with Wildtree Blueberry Pancake syrup. Absolute yumminess. I will definitely make this one again!

Two other non-wheat recent favorites:

All three of these are from one of my absolute favorite-est blogs, Kitchen Stewardship (thanks, Katie Kimball, for experimenting, so we don’t have to! ;-):

Orange Vegetable Pancakes 

Apple-Almond Pancakes

p.s. pictures to come of the coconut pancakes – I can’t find my camera cord! Oh where, oh where, has it gone?

CSA Survival Tip #4: Conquering Weird Vegetables You Never Heard Of

I’m back with a survival tip this Friday!

Consider this a tip, or a challenge – but either way, hear me on this – every vegetable is a victory!

It has taken me 4 CSA seasons to conquer FENNEL.

I’m not a person that enjoys a lot of anise taste. And this kept me scared enough from trying to do much with fennel.

The first year we joined our CSA, we received several humungous bulbs of fennel. And I considered the options: I didn’t have any ideas, and I didn’t like how it smelled. I tried to give it away, and ended up composting it.

Sad, as I just made the most amazing soup, and thus: Victory (and good health, good stewardship, and all kinds of good stuff) is mine!

So, my advice in this tip is kind of an old adage, applied to the CSA: If at first you don’t succeed in eating it, try, try, try some more recipes. Click here to see my fennel soup recipe.

What veggie still has you stumped?

Where’s the Beef?

…I finished off the last of our local organic beef the other day. I documented the process – so moved was I that this was the last great beef I’d be eating for a while.  The next round of butchering will be late this fall, into winter. Our beef has usually been a Christmas present of sorts..

I have come to value to highly the dedication of the farmers, the great taste and quality of the meat, that it becomes harder to buy anything else. And, though buying a share of a steer can be some up-front cha-ching, it is very much worth it (and actually works out to be less per pound than the ‘natural meat’ of questionable naturalness and even more questionable origin, at the supermarket). I am always on the look-out for opportunities to buy local meat, and its nice when its organic too, but for me, local is the first check-mark on my search.

What local meats to you buy? Do you find it to be a good value to buy in bulk? What local meat would you like to try? Next on my list is lamb, and after that, goat – have never tried either, but I do know of some area farmers raising sheep and goats!

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Zucchini Pasta Update

Remember how I said I was going to try this new ‘zucchini pasta’ recipe! Well, I did – and it was great!

The “pasta” definitely benefits from thin slicing, and spicy sauce – but because zucchini is a vegetable that takes on the flavors of whatever it happens to be near, this works out just great with any sauce you can throw on it!

I sliced it, tossed it with a sprinkle of salt and let it sit for a good 20 min (probably not a super-necessary step, but – meh – see what you have time for), gave it a quick saute for about 5 – 7 minutes with some Wildtree Basil Pesto grapeseed oil, then it was ready for my sauce. Yum!

Found: A use for all that basil…

Hello, my name is Laura, and I love pesto –

Hi Laura…

It’s true, I really do! As I made a list last year of what I missed in my garden, basil was the herb at the top of the list. I did receive the gift of basil from a friend, but ALMOST ran out of basil pesto, which was almost tragic! Not this year – I just made my second batch of pesto today, in a jiff!, and it reminded me that other might be thinking, “What should I do with allllll this basil?!”

The answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind – the answer is here: make pesto!

Pesto just means, ‘pulverized sauce’, in basic terms – so though we commonly think of basil pesto when we think of pesto, pesto can be made out of many things – tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, etc —

But today, I’ll tell you about basil pesto. Referring to my favorite cookbook (“Simply In Season, we know, we know!” the regular followers of my blog are all thinking!), pesto is “a very forgiving recipe”, and I would quite agree.

Here’s how I make mine:

1 – fill up my food processor (I have a 4 c. bowl) with basil leaves, and, as long as they aren’t excessive, some stems won’t hurt the process either, and will save you time and brown fingernails from picking all the leaves off one by one (which I sometimes do, but sometimes don’t – it really depends on how much time I have)

2- add 1/4 cup of nuts – pine nuts are traditional, but are a little too rich for my blood. I’ve used walnuts, soynuts, and sunflower seeds (all raw, unsalted, un-anything-ed).

3 – Add a glug of olive oil – about a 1/4 C. Add a half tsp. salt, then as you go, see if its is salty enough for you. I like to add garlic as well (fresh is best – 1/2 to a full clove, or even more, to taste) and some add Parmesan cheese right away, too (since I freeze mine, I do not add the fresh grated Parmesan at this point).

4. Process, scrape down sides, judge if you need more oil, process, scrape down sides, repeat.

Put in a jar, and then add some additional olive oil on top, letting it filter through any ‘holes’ in your pesto. Use a butter knife to get out the air pockets, and make sure the top is covered with oil to avoid getting brown and gross-looking.

I make a few jars at a time, and keep one in the fridge, and freeze the rest!

And what do I use it for? Throw over veggies, toss with pasta, spread over chicken or fish, make pesto french fries, put in mayo and use on a sandwich – and I bet there are plenty more uses out there, too!

This really takes only 15 or so minutes, and is a great way to preserve a bounty of basil – Enjoy!