Fermented vegetables #2: wild onions

A brief note: I first drafted this blog entry in May 2015, though the posting of it comes in August 2015. Its been a busy time for me and the blog seems to be the first thing that goes in the general triage of life.

I’ve decided to keep it unchanged as its a great reflection of my very initial understanding and approach to fermented vegetables at that point.

 

Ever gone foraging for wild onions? A wonderful experience. The earthy smell of spring as the early green of buds is on the trees, the promise of a rich summer to come. The reaping of the year’s first crop.

We were at our place up north first week of May at the height of the wild onion season. This is nature’s  yearly event where all the wild onions are up – their earthy garlicy pungent air – both sublime and yet not so subtle either.  

I picked what I could but for the short term I really had too much and I did not want to throw any of it away. I knew those lovely leaves probably had about a week in the fridge before they were compost material.  I did not want them to go to ruin. What to do? I wondered about making them into a fermented vegetable product.  I had heard about this that very day at the market. One of the vendors was selling a fermented vegetable condiment.

I thought, “Let’s check this out” and looked on the web. Essentially the process involves soaking the vegetable in a brine,  leaving it out of the fridge for 3 days and then putting it into the fridge for 3 weeks. That seems simple enough.

Here then is the recipe

Ingredients:

wild onion leaves

salt

water

a large leaf of a tough vegetable like kale or cabbage

Equipment needed

2 pots: 1 large pot and a smaller one to prepare the brine

a couple of jars. I use a 500ml widemouth mason jar

A rock that will fit inside your jar

A pestle to pack down the leaves.

Method

The leaves before processing

The leaves before processing

  1. Identify the jar and rock to weigh things down
  2. sterilize jar, rock and pestle.
  3. make a brine: 1litre of water, 50g salt. (20:1 solution) Heat the water and add the salt until the salt is dissolved. Take off the stove and let cool. The instructions that I saw gave volume measurements but I’ve made a ‘typical’ 20:1 brine 1 liter of water: 50g salt.
  4. Clean and cut the leaves. I decided to cut them very small because it would be likely I’m using this as a condiment so I’d want it in very small bits – almost a paste.
  5. Place the leaves in a very clean jar  – in my case a wide mouth 1L mason jar and crush/mash them with a pestle.  

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

  6. Take a large leaf of cabbage or kale as an additional barrier between the wild onion leaves and the air. NONE of the leaves can be in contact with the air and at this stage they need to be pressed down. For this purpose I used a combination of a small mason jar lid and a rock (I I subsequently realized that a small mason jar lid with a 250 ml mason jar filled with water acts as an effective press for such a little amount.)
The brine added, they will be pushed belwo the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

The brine added, they will be pushed below the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

  1. Leave the jar at room temperature for  3 days and then refrigerate for 3 weeks although it  could be eaten at this point.

What to do with it?

  • Think Umeboshi plum paste: as an addition to a rice or vegetable dish
  • Mustard flavoring – either subtle or not so subtle
  • a condiment on the side – be careful – its strong!
  • as part of the flavor palette of a viniagrette
  • a BBQ rub in place of garlic
  • a flavoring ingredient in a sauce.

In retrospect, and several months into fermenting,  I would not change a lot about this. I would add a little salt and massage the leaves before cutting them to bruise the leaves and begin the fermentation process, but I still think its a vegetable that needs the brine liquid added to it (as opposed to only massaging with salt). The 20:1 (5%) brine is, I believe correct  – but who am I to say?  

Fermented vegetables part 1

brined slaw (1)

A brined slaw I’m fermenting

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My new crock pot. I’m so excited!

 

Eric Satie, that eccentric Parisian who penned a couple of our most haunting tunes once said, “Show me something new and I’ll start all over.” I feel a little like that concerning fermented   – or cultured – vegetables.

Its now been several months that I’ve been experimenting with  cultured vegetables. Its high time I chronicled it all on the blog. But so much has happened that I’ve decided to break it down into more ‘digestible’ chunks.

It all started this spring……and the annual wild onion harvest…. Vegetable fermentation had been on my back burner for several years. Michael Pollan’s chapter in Cooked still unread, a friend at my coop who said she’d show  me not yet called. A combination of wondering what to do with an immense pile of wild onion leaves, and my butcher’s first release of cultured veggies got my ball finally rolling on this.

I thought I’d start off with how fermentation works with vegetables and why these things are good for you. I’ll credit the sources as I go.

The fermentation process

All vegetables have small amounts of lactobacillus bacteria – among many others. Once exposed to water, they begin to feed on the sugars and starches on the vegetables, and do as all living things do: reproduce and excrete. In this case, they produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. They are also very tolerant to salt – which is good, because the harmful bacteria which would lead to molds and spoilage, really can’t tolerate a high acid, high salt environment.

In making fermented vegetables,  you are either going to add a brine (2-5% salt per weight of water) or add salt (2-4% by vegetable weight) then massage and pack down the vegetables, ensuring they are fully covered in the brine juice, then leave them at room temperature for a few days. That’s it, basically.

But not quite – though you don’t need to do much else. In the fermentation process, 3 different species of lactobacillus eat, reproduce, release and finally die off. They succeed each other as the acid level rises and they can no longer live in that environment.The first lactobacillus that goes to work is Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Once it raises the acidity to .3% it dies off and in its place, Lactobacillus plantarum  carries acidity to 2%. Finally Lactobacillus brevis kicks in until its final acidity level of between 2.5%-3.4%. It would carry on fermenting and developing stronger and stronger tastes – so this is when it goes into the fridge to slow it all down to a more dormant state.

What happens when it hits your tummy: You are what you eat

Our stomachs – indeed our whole digestive system  – functions as a microbiome that is home to thousands of microbial species. Many of them are in the lactobacillus genus and are responsible for secreting chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine which affect our moods, appetite, sense of fullness and well being. Clearly what we introduce into our digestive biome is going to affect and alter it – for better or worse.

In the case of our fermented vegetables, its for the better. The lactobacillus interact with and complement the digestive work of our own bacteria – improving digestion, regulating mood, and generally getting our whole system in balance. Claims  have been made that fermented vegetables help with conditions such as diarrhea, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, colitis, food addictions, autism, and addictions.

The expert resources

This has been but a very brief layman’s overview, and does not truly do it justice. I would strongly recommend reading these sources for more detailed and expert information:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/wild-fermentation/how-vegetable-fermentation-works-/10151520254610369

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/03/fermenting-veggies-at-home-follow-food-safety-abcs/#.VdXW-vlVhBd

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-790-lactobacillus.aspx?activeingredientid=790&activeingredientname=lactobacillus

http://www.wildfermentation.com/whats-so-wild-about-fermentation/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/can-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-explain-your-mood.html?_r=1

Also check out the Wild Fermentation Facebook page – its very active and has a mine of information. https://www.facebook.com/groups/WlidFermentation/

And… Definitely buy Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation book

My thanks!

To a couple of market vendors who got me really rolling on this journey. These weren’t really long conversations – but enough to get my own internal fermentation going on this.

  • Cathy at http://www.countrymeadowmeats.com/ who rolled out her first cultured vegetables the same weekend I did my first go at fermented wild onion leaves. If you are up in Owen Sound – definitely visit them.
  • Dina who runs Mighty Fine Brine who turned me on to brined pickles, and to the wild fermentation facebook page!

The ultimate ‘from scratch’ burger

This blog is all about how to make your own homemade burgers. I don’t only mean the meat part. I mean everything that goes into them: the condiments and the buns as well.  Well,  maybe not the cheese, and you may be buying your own tomatoes and onions too. Nor is there a beer recipe for an accompanying brew.  This is  about everything else: the pattie, the bun, the condiments.

I know that can sound a little silly given what most people do:  head down to the store, grab some buns and some patties, cut up a few tomatoes and cheese. Barbeque. Dollop store bought  ketchup, mustard, and relish on them.

This blog is for those who want to kick up their culinary game and  do it all from scratch. So if you crave the adulation of your foodie friends impressed with your culinary DIY wizardry, then read on. In addition to the meat, I’m including a lentil burger recipe for all the wonderful vegans and vegetarians out there. I’m also covering mayo and dijon mustard, as I know lots of you like those on your burgers too.

It may seem quite daunting but really, its not. Everything except the buns are all made ahead of time. I’ve got other blogs where this is all referenced. However, I’m putting up the recipes here so you can stay on this page and make a batch of 6 burgers plus all the trimmings from what’s here and have a great time. You can dig into my other blogs for more details and refinements.  So let’s go into each of these pieces that makes up the quintessential American burger and look at how each one is done.

Before we start… know this…. I use a weigh scale and everything here is expressed in grams….

The buns (2 hours total time, 20 minutes of hands on time)

Let’s start with the buns because the buns are the only thing you need to really think about the day of. After all, if you’re going to all this trouble, why ruin it with buns a day or two old?  I’ll assume that you’re somewhat familiar with baking but if you’re not that’s okay too. I’ll separate this into a note for those of you comfortable with making breads and another for those of you not so familiar: A fail safe bun recipe. The quickie recipe may be a good option for those of you ‘already bakers’ but pressed for time.

You are already a bread baker

Familiar with bread already? Make up your basic bread dough – whether its yeast, sourdough or something hybrid. Prepare your dough as you usually do. When it comes time to shape, cut the dough into 110g or so chunks and let them rest while you get other things ready. Prepare a cookie sheet big enough to handle your buns. Line it with parchment paper or a silpat liner. Pour out a mound of sesame seed on the counter. Gradually press out the burger bun into the sesame seed and gently press them out until they have reached the desired burger shape. Egg white wash is optional, as is a brushing of oil on the top. Cover with a damp cloth until they have risen  – as you would for your usual bread. Bake for 12 minutes at 450 – you may need to adjust this depending on your local situation, but the buns should register beyond 190 degrees when done.

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Baking is new for you

Basic bun recipe: For 6 burgers, and using instant yeast, do as follows: (total time: 2 hrs from “OK lets do this! to “Wow! They look amazing!” ‘Hands on’ time – about 30 minutes )

Ingredients

  • 250 ml tepid or room temperature water
  • 10g instant bread yeast
  • 390g flour
  • 8g salt

Method

  1. Mix 10g instant bread yeast with 250g of tepid water. (You can use a lot less yeast too – like 3g -, and it will yield a more complex and tasty result, and take a lot longer to rise – like 8 or more hours.)
  2. While the yeast begins to develop, mix the dry ingredients: 390g flour (all purpose, whole wheat, a combination – your choice), 7g salt.
  3. Combine the water/yeast with the flour/salt and knead for about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise until it is clearly rising. This will be approximately 45  minutes to an hour depending on the room temperature: the warmer the room, the faster the rise.
  4. Gently remove the dough and knead by stretching the dough and folding over itself. (View this video between the 4:50 and 5:30 mark to see the technique) Do this about 2-3 times, until the dough tightens up. Divide the dough into 6 even pieces and let it rest. Prepare a couple of baking sheets: either oil the pan or use parchment paper.
  5. Pour out a generous quantity of sesame seeds or what ever else you want to have appear on the outside of your burger.
  6. For each pattie, do a final stretch and fold, roll into a ball, press into the sesame seeds, gradually working the pattie until it assumes the size and shape of your ideal burger pattie. An egg white wash or brush with oil is optional and will result in a glistening top.  Place on the cookie sheet and cover with a damp towel. Turn on the oven to 450.
  7. Once they are all on the sheet, leave about 20 minutes with a damp towel on top (for this quantity of yeast. If you decided to go with a lot less yeast and a longer rising time, plan on up to an hour).
  8. Bake at 450 for 12 or so minutes. Do check the buns after 10 minutes as the time will change according to both your oven and how many buns you cook at once. They should register at least 190 degrees when done.
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Buns on parchment paper about to go in oven

The burgers (30  minutes if you are using mince; about 60 minutes if you are grinding raw meat yourself)

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The ‘burger factory’

Burgers are  really  sausages without skins. There are a lot of burger recipes out there that involve bread crumbs, flour, eggs and the like, but when you approach it like a sausage you get a really rich tasting and satisfying burger. I follow Michael Rulhman’s sausage recipe in Ratio as a base. If you use my sausage calculator  – see my blog on sausages – you can use it to adjust your ingredients and quantities. Here is a recipe for 6 x 100g patties:

Mix together:

  • 425g mince
  • 65g fat (i.e. total of 980g that is a combination of meat and fat. This can be bacon grease you have saved, chicken fat from soups, suet, even butter or coconut oil, though meat fats are preferable. Keep in mind there will be some fat already in the mince.)
  • 25g very finely diced onion (about a quarter of a small onion)
  • 8g salt
  • 1g (about 1/8 tsp) pepper
  • 13g pressed garlic (about 1 clove. More can be added.)
  • 60g red wine (about ¼  cup). Beer would work too – maybe a nice porter.

Mix thoroughly.

These quantities assume it’s according to taste and preference.  Typically, patties weigh in around 100g  which is slightly less than a quarter pound. But doing it yourself means that you can do whatever you want – though if you make them too thick and big you may have logistical issues with your bun, and risk them being uncooked on the inside and charred on the outside. I probably wouldn’t go less than 90g nor more than 150g. That all said, a 50g pattie makes a great breakfast sandwich slider, with eggs and cheese.

If you wish to get more creative or change up quantities, check out my sausage calculator

To freeze, shape the mix into patties, individually wrap in wax paper, put in freezer bag and then into the freezer. To defreeze, microwave to raw (1 minute for 1st pattie, 20-30 secs for each additional pattie,  spread out on a plate). AAAND they’re ready for the  bbq.

To serve fresh, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Lentil Burgers (about 1 hr, 40 minutes hands on)

For all the vegans in the crowd, my lentil burger recipe. This is based on a Chef Michael Smith recipe I have messed with, but its definitely different enough for me to call it my own.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • hot sauce/pepper/ to taste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • optional: salsa to taste
  • Method
  1. cook lentils with 2 cups of water and a little salt
  2. cut and dice onion, saute in oil with a little salt and the herbs/spices
  3. grate 1 large carrot
  4. combine cooked lentils with carrots and onions and simmer, boiling down the extra liquid
  5. add other ingredients and keep simmering until oats have disintegrated and the mix is getting thick and sticky. ALWAYS keep stirring to prevent burning. The idea is to achieve the thick stickiness needed to hold the pattie together when cooking.
  6. shape into patties and refrigerate or freeze, or leave as a mix and form into patties right before cooking.

Freezing tip for burgers  – and anything else like this:

You know how frustrating it is to extract just one frozen pattie, or piece of fish, or bun or what have you from the package in the freezer? Here’s how to avoid that. Spread the wrapped  patties on a baking sheet and put that in the freezer for an hour, then bag them in sealed plastic bags. They will freeze in such a way that they will not stick together when you retrieve them.

Tomato ketchup (20 minutes)

Tomato ketchup is pretty easy.  It’s essentially tomato paste + vinegars, salts, sugars and flavorings. I usually make a batch of green tomato chutney each year, at the height of the green tomato season and for my ketchup I use a cup of that plus a  small 125 ml can of tomato paste. My blog on the chutney describes that preserve, and what I have done here is to distill that recipe so that you have measurements for 1 250 ml jar that you would combine with a single can of tomato paste.

Green tomato chutney 2012 (7)

setting up for green tomato chutney

Green tomato chutney: 1 single jar (the calculated weight is given, along with an approximation of how much of the fruit)

Ingredients

  • half a green or a fairly dry tomato (93g)
  • ¼ onion (46g)
  • ½  tart apple  – like a granny smith (46g)
  • 1 tbs raisins or currants (5g)
  • 1 clove of garlic mashed and pressed
  • 1 tsp of finely minced fresh ginger (1g). (really fresh good quality garlic and ginger powder can also be  used)
  • 5g salt
  • a pinch each of cloves & turmeric
  • 23g brown sugar
  • 28g vinegar

Method

If you want a jar of chutney, roughly chop the tomatoes, onion and apple using the pulse function of a food processor until they are the size and consistency you like. Add in the other ingredients. Leaving it for a week or two will help meld the flavors.

For the ketchup, puree all the fruit and vegetables, then add and mix in the sugar, vinegar, spices and a small 125ml can of tomato paste.

Relish (10 minutes)

Relish essentially is pureed pickles plus sugar. If you taste commercial relish you will see the truth of that very quickly. It’s also salty so there’s sweet, salt and vinegar and that’s why we love it so much.

IMG_0413

Pickles & sugar is all you need.

To prepare the relish, weigh out the pickles and then add 10% of the pickle  weight  in sugar and 10% of the pickle weight in the pickle vinegar brine.  Although there is already salt in the brine, I suggest adding a little more – to taste: 3% of the pickle weight. Using the pulse of your food processor, chop until it is the desired consistency. You can experiment with other additions: garlic, spices, apple come to mind.

An example of this would be: 300g pickles, 30g sugar, 30g pickle brine, 9g salt.

Mustard

Hot dog mustard – AKA yellow mustard (20 minutes)

I’ve been having a lot of fun with mustard lately as you can see in some of my other blogs. Recently I came across a recipe for hot dog mustard by Joshua Bousel. He has you mix yellow mustard powder with water, and add  salt, vinegar and some turmeric and garlic, then cook it briefly for about 5 minutes. The recipe here gives you almost a cup and it’s also weighed in grams which is the way I like to do business.

Ingredients (Joshua’s recipe with metric weights yielding a cup of mustard)

  • 150ml water
  • 35g dry ground mustard
  • 60g white distilled vinegar
  • 2g all purpose flour
  • 4g kosher salt
  • Large pinch turmeric
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of paprika

Method

  1. Place water, mustard, vinegar, flour, salt, turmeric, garlic powder, and paprika in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until smooth.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Allow mustard to cool, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Dijon mustard (10 minutes, but it should have a week or two for the flavours to meld)

My standby basic Dijon mustard is as follows – but check my blog for other options

Ingredients

  • 75g (combination of) yellow mustard powder, crushed yellow mustard seed, crushed brown mustard seed. (I keep a coffee grinder for grinding spices and nothing else)
  • 75g apple juice
  • 75g apple cider vinegar
  • 3g salt

Method

Mix these together to yield a 250ml jar. It will be quite hot. If you want it calmer, put the mix in a pot and heat it up, tasting until the heat is at a level you prefer. Leave it at least overnight for the mustard to absorb the liquid.

Mayonnaise (10-20 minutes depending on how much persuasion the emulsion takes)

Some people love mayo on their burgers. For you, here’s mayo. This is Michael Ruhlman’s take on it, as described in his inspirational Ratio book.

This will yield 1 cup of mayo, so I usually double it as it is tricky and labour intense. You spend the same time and labour making a double batch.

Ingredients (1 cup mayo)

  • Beat in this exact order.
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt (but taste at the end)
  • 1 cup oil: You want a really mild almost tasteless oil, as it will impart whatever flavour it has to the mayo. DO NOT therefore use cheap, harsh  olive oil. My preference is grapeseed oil.

Method

Start with the largest bowl in your possession and a good big wisk. Have all ingredients prepared beforehand as once you start whisking you are committed to the end. Also strategize and position the bowl so that it is held in place while one hand whisks while the other pours. Some ideas about this are: sitting and wedging the bowl between your tummy and the table edge, or using a rolled towel to sit the bowl in.

Whisk until emulsified:

  • 1 large egg yolk at room temperature with 1 tsp water at room temperature. The successful beating of the water and egg yolk is critical to everything else that happens. If this does not emulsify, the rest of it won’t either. If this is proving difficult, make sure your egg is relatively fresh, and also that everything is at room temperature.
  • Keep whisking and add in this order:
  • lemon juice, vinegar, salt. Add these slowly, making sure your emulsion holds. (I like using both lemon juice and vinegar. It wants the lemony taste, but with a little vinegar kick. )
  • Add the oil in a slow stream to the whisk.
  • Optional: 1 tsp – or 2 of Dijon mustard. Indeed you can add whatever you like at this point to make your own unique artisan mayo.

If you mess it up, and it breaks, pour all the mayo into the oil cup, and start over. Add a teaspoon of water and another yolk and try again, whisking until emulsified. Slowly add in the broken mayo, whisking continuously.

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The assembly

Burger all done!

The reward

Well – That’s it. Sure it would be a massive undertaking to do all of this on one day. And you are also likely to be serving other stuff as well  -snacks, dips,  salads , desserts, etc. Just keep in mind that everything but the bread can – indeed should be – easily be prepared ahead of time, and the buns can be done while you are doing other mealtime prep.

Enjoy your burgers and all the praise & awe from your gathered friends!

The mustard experiment

A few months ago I was talking about mustard with Laura of Cottage Country North – a wonderful and imaginative jam maker in Owen Sound. We were talking about how strong mustard is and that it always seems to be so much stronger when its first made. All mustard makers know this to be true. Still some mustards are milder than others. Why? Something she heard was that the initial and subsequent strength of the mustard is dependent on the initial temperature of the liquid added to it. Apparently higher temperatures decrease the volatility of the mustard so this experiment will test this.

A little bit of research:

Yes! You get more than a recipe here. I wanted to find out a bit more about what makes mustard tick  – or rather why mustard makes US tick. If you want to delve deeper into the hidden truth of the mustard plant click on the links and go on a journey.

What is mustard?  Mustard is a member of the brassica family  – same as cauliflour, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. Its leaves are eaten in salads, and its seeds are made into prepared mustard. There are 2 varieties of mustard, white (Sinapis hirta) and black (Brassica juncea) In terms of providing your daily dietary needs, it is particularly blessed with phosphorus, though you would need to eat an awful lot of it to get there.

Where is it grown? Canada produces the most mustard in the world  – 27% of the world’s crop.

How does it work? The seeds themselves have no heat on their own. Its only when water comes into play and interacts with the sugars (sinigrin or sinalbin) and the enzymes (myrosin) in the seed  that the resulting reaction  releases their powerful taste.  This also is going to happen if you put it on your tongue, (don’t) or put it into your cooking which will have water that does its catalystic action.

What factors affect the heat and taste of mustard?

Heat of liquid: the cooler the liquid, the hotter the mustard. That’s what this little experiment is all about.

Water/vinegar: Mustard will always eventually lose its pungency. However, the presence of an acid will halt its decline. AnnMarie MacKinnon recommends adding a vinegar once the hotness has dissipated to a point you want.

Type:  Of the two, black mustard is stronger. Putting it all together, fine grinding black mustard, making a thick paste of water, letting it sit 15 minutes, then adding some vinegar to ‘fix it’ should result in a mustard that will leave some searing body memories in your nasal cavities.

How is it used medicinally? Canada’s First Nations peoples added it to animal fat for joint and sprain issues (Rodale Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs). Currently mustard plasts are used to relieve chest congestion. Place the mustard plaster in a cloth and apply the cloth to the skin. Do NOT place the mustard  directly on the skin. Always remove it if irritation is felt.

My process:Mustard experiment (1)

I’ll be making up 3 250ml jars. Each one will have my typical mustard ratio 1:1:1 mustard/apple juice/apple cider vinegar, each at 75 grams, with 3 grams of salt (see my previous mustard blog). I’ve decided to do just three jars because that should show clearly the difference if there is one. The vinegar/apple juice poured into the first jar will be at room temperature  -it was a little warmer than that  –  25 degrees. The second liquid addition  will be at 60 degrees, while the liquid for the third jar will be where it is at a rolling  boil. I will do a  taste comparison after a day, after two days and after a week.Mustard experiment (4)

In order to keep things really consistent: 225 grams of dried mustard, 9 grams of salt mixed in. Likewise, the wet ingredients:  225 grams of apple juice and 225 grams of apple cider vinegar. Before the pot is heated, 150 grams of the apple cider vinegar/apple juice for the first mustard jar is mixed in. The remaining liquid was heated to 60 degrees then added. Since there was considerable evaporation occurring with the boiling, additional apple juice and apple cider vinegar were added to ensure there was at least 150g to pour into the 3rd. jar.  The jars were mixed, labeled and stored at room temperature.

Results:

Day  1

25 degree jar: Really very hot, but not inedible

60 degree jar: There was a slight coolness compared to the first jar

100 degree jar: the coolness was more pronounced, but it was still similar to the room temperature jar.

Day  2

25 degree jar: The heat is immediate and intense; it will tend to clear out your sinuses  but dissipates.

60 degree jar: initially seemed a little mild, but then the heat struck, especially at the back of the throat.

100 degree jar: initially mild, then it gets hotter, and then dissipates.

Day  

(These results are still to come. I’ll update the post in a week. )

25 degree jar: Its still quite hot – not much change in the week. Its turning out to be a quite classic mustard.

60 degree jar: there is not a lot of difference between this and the 25 degree batch. This is slightly cooler.

100 degree jar: Again its a little mellower than the other 2, but its still good and strong.

Next steps:

Although the liquid temperature did have an effect, there were other issues at play here that may be more profound – notably making a water paste first, then fixing the vinegar when it has achieved the correct heat level.

  • prepare a jar in which the mustard paste has been boiled briefly
  • prepare a jar where the juice/water is added first, then add the vinegar once the heat dissipates, making note of the time.
  • Experiment to compare the relative heat of the black vs. white seeds.

Some other take aways from this:

  • Rodale’s ‘double hot  mustard’ from Rodale Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs: boil 1/3c cider vinegar, ⅔ cup cider, 2 tbs honey, 1 tbs red peppers, ⅛ tsp tumeric, 1 tsp salt. (Based on information  here, this would be even hotter if it were not boiled.)
  • Joshua Bousel’s hot dog mustard recipe: 1/4cup water, 4 tbs dry yellow mustard, 3 tbs white vinegar, ½ tsp all purpose flour, ¼+tsp salt, ⅛ tsp turmeric, pinch garlic powder, pinch paprika
  • AnnMarie MacKinnon’s hot mustard: 1/8 cup (30mL) whole black mustard seeds, 1/8 cup (30mL) apple cider vinegar, ½ cup (125mL) ground mustard, ½ tsp (2mL) salt, ¼ cup (60mL) additional apple cider vinegar, cold * 1 Tbsp (15mL) honey, Enough cold water to smooth out the mustard. Be sure to click the link and check her process. 
  • Although I still really like my ratio approach to mustard, I can now see how my outlook can be broadened: how the heat can be better regulated through a combination of the type of mustard, the temperature, and the process – both boiling the mustard and adding the water before adding the vinegar at the desired heat level.

My DIY week

Sometimes I wonder what kind of monster I have created in committing myself to make everything from scratch wherever possible. Things have gone from a novelty to dependence, and I seem to be doing more and more of it. I do recognize that the only reason I can is because I work out of my home. If I had a 9-5 job, I could probably do the bread and yogourt, and that would be about it. Yet, I also know that if I planned it right I could likely do it. I could also train family members to pick one item to take responsibility doing as well.

I’m not buying less food as a result, but I am buying cheaper, and in considerable bulk: a 10 or 20 kilo bag of flour, or a 4 litre 3-bag of milk. I’m definitely not dependent on running out to a grocery store for a last minute ‘must have’.

When I look back on it, it all began with tomato sauce 25 years ago. A friend said, “why don’t you do it?” and the local Portuguese hardware store was more than pleased to help me get set up. I’m still using the same manual grinder I used to.

A week in the DIY life

So lets take a look and see what I have done in the last week, with links to blogs I’ve published on these items in the past. Perhaps you may be inspired to try out a few of them.

Bread: I’ve made bread a few times in the last week, including this morning. I use my own google sheet ‘app’ for sorting out my quantities, and I now have my default infallible sourdough loaf down.

Ketchup: Last Thursday, I did up some ketchup. My go-to ketchup recipe is pretty simple: 250ml of green tomato chutney, pureed with a 6oz can of tomato paste.

Yogourt: I make yogourt about once a week. I’ve noticed that my starter just keeps getting better and better. We were away for the weekend so I made it when we got back on Sunday night.

Granola: is one of those items everyone has come to depend on just ‘being there’. I get reminders when the jar gets low. This morning there was none, so time to make up a new batch.

Dog food: I just put out my dog food post before this  – and that is this afternoon’s task. I’ve got to put together the meat portion of it.

Pasta: Although we do have a jar of old fashioned dried pasta, if I am cooking it for  a family dinner, I’ll always make it from scratch. Tonight, my wife will be in need of some serious comfort food – so pasta, it will likely be.

What’s ahead?

Last weekend I bought some ‘cultured vegetables’ from the market, and I can’t wait to do my own. I’ll be posting about this shortly.  I also want to make up another batch of puff pastry and croissants. There’s a couple of bunches of rhubarb defying me in the fridge. I don’t know if I will do jam, chutney or both there.

When I think back on it, I would not do it any differently. I know I would feel I had let myself down if I bought a bag of granola or a loaf of bread. I also know that I can’t complain either. My family members would look at me and say, “Well just go and buy it”.

I’m curious to see who else out there approaches their food this way. I’m sure there are though I don’t know anyone in my immediate circles. Drop me a line and send me to YOUR blog!

Burns

 

DIY organic dog food

The background

The other week I took my dog to the vet for her annual checkup. She was pronounced in excellent health: great coat,  excellent teeth,  nothing wrong with her at all. Then I disclosed that I make all of her food from scratch, its all raw, and give her raw (frozen) marrow bones. Upon hearing this, she looked concerned she said, “You may not be giving her everything she needs and terms of vitamins and minerals.”

I responded with “Didn’t you just say this dog was in perfect health?” to which she replied “You never know. Commercial dog food is formulated so that that stuff is all taken care of”. It was better not to engage. I was not going to see her for a year. Needless to say I have not taken her advice to give extra vitamin supplements and dog is still in excellent health.

Some philosophical considerations

I want to go back a little bit and explain how I arrived at the diet that I’m giving my dog. It started with our last pooch who in her dying days, gradually gave up on eating.In response to that I started giving her offering her better and better food. This briefly worked but ultimately it was her time to go.

This started me thinking about what is appropriate for the family pet in this day and age. We expect our pets to be cheaper to feed than we ourselves are, yet so often people agonize about the minutiae of their pet’s diet in a way they don’t about their own. I have a feeling they have been beguiled by the pet food industry.

So one has to ask: Is the pet a member of your family? If the answer is “yes” then the next questions are:

  • What entitlements around food does this involve?
  • Does one apply the same level of food care to your pet as you would to the members of your family?
  • What if anything should be the per person cost differential?

While these are questions someone contemplating this should answer, my answers were essentially that the family dog is entitled to the same as the humans, and that the cost should really be less.

What to feed

I did some research on the net not a lot but enough to find out what ratios people tended to do with their pets and I arrived at a 1:1:1 carbs/meat/vegs ratio. I talked this over with another vet way back when when I was first beginning it and he suggested that I try a 20:40:40 ratio (meat:carbs:vegs) and I use this ratio currently. I did go through some shifts in how I prepare it, however, and hopefully my experimentations will save others some trouble.

I began by making a rich vegetable soup using marrow bones. This was, frankly, time and electricity consuming. One day, I decided to grate raw vegetables instead. The result?  a perkier dog. I’ve never looked back on that one.

I also initially cooked the meat. That was my vet’s idea as he said you can never tell where its come from and what its been through, so its safer to cook it.  However, I do know where my meat comes from. I am very fortunate to have a butcher up in Grey County (Ontario) where I go frequently. Country Meadow Meats goes hoof to table: they are a beef and lamb farm that butchers their own grass raised, antibiotic free, animals. Often I even know when the animal I’m buying from was butchered. Following the success of the raw vegetables, I decided to try raw meat as well – and again noticed a slight but none the less discernable rise in energy. She’s really as energetic as one could possibly wish a lab to be.

For carbs, its whatever is going, from rice, to homemade bread.  I always have a jar of organic brown rice on the go in the fridge, be it for humans or dogs.

Where’s the beef?

My monthly meat order costs me about $50-60. It consists of a beef tongue and heart, 1kilo of liver, and about 2.5kilos of beef trim. There’s lots of organ meat in that, as well as muscle and fat.

How much?

Our pooch is a black lab weighing about 30kilos. In terms of quantities, I settled on 100 grams of meat 200 grams of vegetables and 200 grams of rice per meal, twice day. This seems right: she’s staying on her her weight, is looking wonderful and healthy.

Time commitments in food prep

It is true that scooping out a cup of kibble is fast. Doing what I am doing is slower. I would also argue that having fewer vet appointments over her life from a more natural and healthier diet more than makes up for the time spent in the prep. The meat prep takes a little over an hour and a half a  month, and you need a meat grinder. The vegetables take about 15 minutes a week, using a large food processor with a grating wheel. The rice likewise takes about 15 minutes a week of your actual time.

Organic or not?

I would absolutely recommend using organic meat, vegetables and grains. You do not want your pet ingesting the various hormones and antibiotics found as a result of large agri business food lot meat processing. You do not want spray residue hiding in the leaves of a cabbage, and since you are not washing your veggies, you do not want any insecticide or hormonal residue on any of your other vegetables. In the case of meat , this is where costs can rise, and why its important to make a great relationship with your butcher. Much of the organ meat is a lot cheaper than even the cheaper cuts, and you want to get the absolute cheapest cut you can. My request is usually for ‘trim’ or else ‘what you would usually use to make sausages or patties’.

The prep

Still interested in reading on? Lets get to recipes.

Meat:

  1. Weigh the meat
  2. Divide the weight by 60 to get the amount of salt to add. (Use grams. Its easier!)
  3. Cut the meat into chunks that will go through your meat grinder, and sprinkle the salt over it. Mix it up –
  4. Portion the meat into sufficient quantities for one day each. I’ve found it most efficient to make them into large sausages wrapped in wax paper. These are easily cut in half, and you can then easily tell how much supply you have left. Most of this goes into the freezer, and is taken out a day or two before consumption.
  5. The grinder I use is a Cuisinart home grinder. Its not the best out there, but for my needs its fine.
Meat ready for grinding

Meat ready for grinding

Meat grinder setup

Meat grinder setup

Rice:

Make 3 cups dry (add 6 cups of water) organic brown rice, with a pinch of salt in it.

Vegetables:

There’s no getting around it. Dogs don’t like veggies. A carrot may look initially bone like and interesting, but in the end, its not. So you do need to make it so that the vegetables mixed in with the carbs and meat make the whole affair palatable to a hungry pooch. I weigh out 2 kilos of what I have: carrots, cabbage, broccoli ends, kale stems – anything that has good roughage and constitutes a decent variety. There is no need to peel or wash them. (just think of what goes in their mouths on a daily basis) I gradually mix in 40g (i.e.2%) of salt to help the taste along. Having a good sized food processor with a grating blade is essential. This mix lasts about 5 days and takes about 15 minutes to put together.

2 Kilos carrots cabbage

The 'slaw'

The ‘slaw’

Extensions

I frequently give the dog leftovers as part of her dinner (but always in her bowl, always as part of her regular dinner). These are inevitably things that are still fine to eat, but its clear none of the humans will consume them on short order. You could say that the dog is like the first order of composting. So lets say I have a grain casserole that is in this category. I would weigh it into the dog’s dish, and then add rice until the overall carb complement is at 200g. Or lets say that the leftover is a mix of grains and vegetables. Same idea: weigh it, then add in more or less even amounts of the slaw and rice until it is 400g.

Similarily with meat: Lets say you are preparing a chicken soup with bones from the roast. There’s inevitably all kinds of little bits of meat left from a roast chicken, both before and after the soup. I package it all in 100g packages and put it in with the rest of the dog food. I tend to mix it with the raw beef though as my sense is that once it has become soup much of its nutrition is lost.

Bones

Marrow bones are an equally important part of the equation. Not only are they going to be your doggie’s favorite chew toy, they are wonderful for their teeth and are a great source of essential minerals and nutrients. As our vet noted, her teeth were perfect after a year of raw marrow bones. I understand the issue of raw or cooked is contentious, as with the meat. I would argue that this is what they would be doing naturally, and as long as you trust your butcher and know their practices, raw will ultimately be better.

Consider it at least

So there you have it. Although it takes more time than your kibble, I’d argue that by doing this you  will know exactly what goes into its food, and be assured that it is getting the best organic, naturally prepared food you can possibly give, for about the same cost as cheap kibble. Once you get into the rhythm of it, and can plan ahead, it becomes a part of your regular routine. You also won’t be part of that enormous pet industry that is out there.

Most importantly, and based solely on my own empirical evidence, you will have a considerably healthier and  content best friend.

Your dog will always be there!

Your dog will always be there!

My bread baking log

Over the last number of months I have been refining my bread baking application. I’m definitely not an app developer – its just a humble Google sheet that helps me figure out how I want to do my bread.

If I bake bread, I usually use a sourdough preferment – so this involves that extra piece of calculation that results in a preferment. But I also will do bread from a 166% starter, and albeit rarely, from yeast. I also use up excess starter in making crackers and pancakes.

The APP sheets are formatted so that someone with an android phone with the Google Sheets App can view it easily on the phone.

How it works:

Open the sheet. You will see that the tabs are either LOG or APP tabs. Use the APP tab to figure out your quantities. You are only allowed to enter data in the highlighted cells. By adjusting the amount of starter, the starter ratio and the hydration, you can control how much bread you want, at what hydration.
If you do not like the result, just overwrite it next time you bake.
If you DO like the result and wish to replicate it, then go to the LOG sheet beside it. You will find that your entries on the APP sheet are in the 2nd row of the LOG sheet. Copy the whole row. Go to the next available row and select ‘paste special’. Then select ‘paste values only’. That will copy the data from that loaf you wish to remember without reference to the APP sheet.
I suspect that a few people might wind up reading this, and some will try it. If you like it, I would suggest making a copy of it (either as a google or an excel sheet) and then messing with it any way you like.
Here is the link…… https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Pgn0Glm5jTwAY3wuuJPCrMUB0EAK5i4QEH-r8jmfGnE/edit#gid=1960123605

I definitely welcome your comments on it. I’ve used it for a few months now, and finally I find I am not making little tweaks here and there.