5 Easy Ways to Preserve The Harvest: Herbs

Herb Harvest_Alba 2014

Happy Harvest, Blessed Equinox! Autumn has arrived!

Any regular readers of this blog know that the autumn is my favorite time of the year. The colors are so vibrant after the lush green of summer, the air is crisp and that crispness seems to make food taste so much better!

Today is the first day of autumn, the official equinox will happen tonight at 10:29 PM, EST. This is the perfect day to give thanks for the bounty of the season, all those delicious garden fresh fruits and vegetables that we have been enjoying all summer and that we can now harvest and use to prepare foods to keep for the leaner, colder months and let us not forget about our herbs, those wonderful plants that bring such wonderful flavors to our foods.

I love having a nice big herb garden although I admit that some years I am not very good about preserving the harvest. This year I decided to make it a priority. We didn’t have a very big vegetable garden this year – it was an unseasonably cool summer this year here in Vermont. So I concentrated on my herb garden. I had a variety of annuals and perennials and I really tried to make the most of the harvest this year.

I hope you enjoy these five easy ways to preserve your herbs and some delicious recipes to go with it, so you can enjoy your harvest all winter long!

DRYING HERBS:

Hanging from rafters

The easiest way to preserve herbs is to dry them. Some herbs are better for drying, than others because there are more natural oils in them and therefore they retain their flavor better. Herbs I particularly like for drying are: oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, savory and anything in the mint family. These herbs will retain their flavor for about 6 months to a year depending on how you package them after drying.

It takes about a week for most herbs to dry. Those that are very oily and have woody stems, like rosemary and sage might take a few days longer. The best place to dry your herbs is in a well-ventilated place that gets a lot of natural sunlight. In my fantasy world I live in a little cabin in the woods with herbs hanging from the rafters in the kitchen. So that is where I decided to dry my herbs this year, and they did very well.

Thyme

You know your herbs are dry when they crumble easily at the touch. Dried herbs should look much like they did while they were in the ground, the same color and have a strong smell.

thyme in bottle

You can see in this picture, I have some thyme from last year on the bottom and the thyme I just harvested and dried on top.

Once your herbs are dry, you can package them for storage. I prefer glass bottles. I usually save any old glass spice jars, and then re-use them for this purpose.

COMPOUND BUTTERS:

Compound butter

Compound butters are another great way to preserve the harvest and add some excitement to winter meals. Several years ago I made an herbal compound butter with maple to rub under the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey. I couldn’t locate that recipe, so I made up one of my own. I am looking forward to putting this on my turkey this year. However, I made extra. I might toss it with some roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash or perhaps put a dollop in the pan when I am cooking chicken. Making compound butters is really very easy and is a great way to enjoy your herbs.

Autumn Maple Herb Butter

INGREDIENTS:
16 Tablespoons of softened butter (I use Kerrygold)
8 TBS of fresh herbs minced – I used a combination of sage an rosemary, equal parts
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup (from Vermont of course!)

METHOD: On a large flat plate place the butter and spread it out a bit. Don’t work it too much or it will begin to melt. Sprinkle the herbs, pepper and drizzle the maple on top, then gently fold everything into the butter.

TO STORE: I found these wonderful Ball Frozen Herb Starters to help me preserve my herbs this year. So using a spatula I filled the cubes until all the butter was gone and then froze it over night. The next day, I popped them out and put them in a plastic freezer bag and then back in the freezer to be used later.

PRESERVING HERBS IN BROTH:

broth

I always have bone broth on hand. If you don’t you can always use some organic free-range chicken (or vegetable) broth. I like Pacific Organics in a pinch. This is an easy way to get you a step ahead when making soup in the winter. I love a good chicken soup, so I created a quick Chicken Soup Starter.

Chicken Soup Starter

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups fresh herbs, minced (I used a mixture of sage, rosemary, winter savory, parsley and thyme)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: Mix the herbs and the garlic together. Place the herb mixture into a silicon freezer cube, fill to the top and then press down. Continue doing this to all the cubes in the tray until all the herb mixture is used up. Mix the salt and pepper in the chicken broth and then pour on top of the herbs. If the chicken broth is thick, it might not fill in around the herbs. I had that problem with mine. So I used a chopstick to swirl everything together, this left a little more room in the cube and so I just added more broth to fill the cube to the top.

HERBAL VINEGARS

vinegars

If you have a large bulk of herbs and you have dried as much as you will need for the season, I find that making herbal vinegars is the next best thing. It uses up a lot of herbs and you can use the vinegars on many things – salads, drizzle on grains, rice, and vegetables. You can even take a tablespoon of it for a healing elixir. This article by herbalist Susun Weed sheds more light on this and gives wonderful directions for how to make these vinegars. I made several this year: oregano vinegar, cilantro vinegar and one with sage, rosemary and thyme.

PASTA SAUCES

Every year I make pesto from the basil in my garden. I really like adding arugula to it and sometimes I make a pesto using cilantro (one of my favorite herbs). I don’t find that either basil or cilantro dry very well, so if you have an abundance of these herbs (or parsley, chives) I recommend turning them into compound butters, vinegars or making pasta sauces.

This year I made a different kind of sauce as well. My favorite chef, who is also a dear friend, Bruno Staccioli lives and cooks in Tuscany. A few years ago, he and my other dear friend Grazia De Tommaso wrote a lovely cookbook called Cucinar Cantando which is now also a small café, opened by Grazia in Colle di Val D’Elsa a year or so ago where she cooks local rustic specialties.

I was lucky enough to receive one of the first 11 special addition copies of the book and it is still to this day one of my very favorites. The recipes are simplicity at their best.

Bruno makes the most mouthwatering delicious food – all local and seasonal. One of my favorite dishes he makes is pasta with a butter and sage sauce. It is very simple, literally butter, sage, garlic and topped with parmigiano. But it is mind-blowingly delicious! The first bite brings me right back to a fall day in Tuscany, the clean crisp air with the scent of wood burning. Paired with a beautiful glass of red wine and I am in heaven. To read more about my adventures in Tuscany, click here

So I decided to do myself a favor and make up a batch of this sauce, in compound butter format that I can just toss on the pasta when I feel like a quick amazing dinner.

Butter and Sage Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
16 Tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold)
13 leaves of fresh sage, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced

METHOD: I made this recipe just like the compound butter recipe at the top.

Easy Techniques To Make Super Gelatinous Bone Broth!

Bone Broth

SUPER Gelatinous Bone Broth

There is a lot going around these days about the health benefits of eating bone broth and, or gelatin (aka collagen). Bone broth contains gelatin, which in turn contains the amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids are found in the bone, connective tissue and organs of animals. Our ancestors used to consume these parts of the animals they ate, but modern diets don’t usually include them, which is a shame because gelatin is great for our skin, nails, hair, joints and even our digestive organs, which directly relates to our immunity.

This article  discusses the many health reasons to consume gelatin, including, digestive health, releasing toxins and wound healing. It also gives suggestions for how to incorporate it into your diet.

I stated taking collagen when I was pregnant with my daughter. I started craving jello at about 4 months – and it made me think, why am I craving this? The main ingredient in jello is gelatin and what is gelatin good for? Bones. I was craving jello because I was literally growing my daughter’s bones, skin, joints and teeth. If that doesn’t put “you are what you eat” into perspective, I don’t know what does! I always say collagen is the reason why she is in a very high percentile for height! This post is not officially a part of my Post-partum Foods series, but it should be! If you know someone who is pregnant, make a batch of bone broth for her!

When anyone I know asks me what they can do for immunity, or especially if they are having digestive issues or joint issues, one of the first things I suggest is eating bone broth because it is so easy to make and so good for you! In fact both of my parents managed to break bones this year from accidents, and I made sure they both got some collagen to take during the healing processI make sure to include bone broth in our family meals, mostly in the way of soups and stews, but I also take this collagen* every day, stirred into my morning hot drink (usually Dandy Blend, sometimes Lavazza Decaf). 

So now that you are getting a general idea of why it is so important to add bone broth, or gelatin/collagen to your diet, how easy is it to make it? SIMPLE. It is one of the easiest things to make.

In my house, I am known affectionately as “the bone collector”. At any given time we have lots of bones in our freezer. We also have lots of whole chickens in our freezer, because we homestead and raise our own meat birds. Some years we have to “turn over” our laying hens when they stop producing eggs, and these hens are usually too small to roast, so I will use them to make bone broth. I also collect bones from other meals and sometimes buy beef bones from our favorite farm. The point is you have a lot of options when it comes to getting your raw materials. Collect bones, freeze them and then pull them out whenever you need to make more broth. I often mix and match my bones; one of my favorite broths to make is a chicken and pork broth, which is what I used to make the soup I will share with you in my next post.

All you need to make your own bone broth are: bones, apple cider vinegar (preferably raw), water and a crockpot.

Step 1: Place bones or whole chicken in the crockpot
Step 2: Cover bones and or chicken with water
Step 3: Pour in 1 TBS of raw apple cider vinegar (at this point you could also add seasoning, I like to season simply with salt, pepper and one or two bay leaves)
Step 4: Turn Crockpot on High setting and let cook for 24-48 hours.
Step 5: After 12 hours, put crockpot on the Low setting
Step 6: Strain broth and store

If you used a whole chicken, you can now take the meat off the bones and reserve to make classic chicken soup,  chicken tostadas, even my Moroccan chicken salad or throw it in some pasta! Then I store all the skin, tendons and other less desirable pieces to mix in with my pets’ food. I burn the brittle bones in our wood stove. This means there is never any waste.

This is a simple process that is mostly hands off, very cheap (you already bought it!) and so good for your health. There really is no reason not to do it! Plus, if you have pets they will literally love you forever!

Happy Spring with Vegetable Dyed Eggs!

Happy Spring! Blessed Ostara/Eostre! Happy Easter!

Eostre Eggs_bunny

 

It has been such a long time since I posted anything. I do apologize and I promise that I have a good reason, but I am keeping it close for the moment.

Even though we have about a foot of snow on the ground outside the week before the change of the season was very tangible. It has retreated for the moment, but I am still trying to hold onto that energy.

Eggs are always associated with this time of year no matter what holiday you celebrate and I love the tradition of dying eggs this time of year, but I do not like the food coloring normally used for this purpose, which is why this year I wanted to try some truly natural dyes, made from plants.

Beets stain everything and so that is why I decided to go with beets. The eggs our hens give us range in color from light to chocolate brown and so I knew we needed something dark to see any results.

We started by placing peeled and frozen beets in about 2 cups of water with some vinegar and let it sit for about an hour. I pre-boiled all the eggs we were going to use for this project. I warmed the water/vinegar solution up and we put a few eggs into this beautiful pink water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. There was no result. So we tried going a little longer and nothing. Then we cut the beets into pieces to release more of the pink juices and then boiled them in the water/vinegar mixture for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the beets had lost most of their color and tried again. Again, no result.

I went to my facebook page and asked my knowledgable readers and someone suggested leaving them in the solution overnight. This morning I was worried when I pulled them out because it looked like a thin layer of  shell had peeled off. But what it left us with after we washed them off was what you see above (and below) – this very cool tie-dyed effect! It wasn’t what I thought they would look like, but they are quite beautiful in their own right.

Have some fun with your family this Springtide and experiment with dying eggs using vegetables. Please leave comments letting us know of your successes and failures, so we can all learn something new about this process!

Eostre Eggs

Our Yearly Ritual and Making Pap-pap’s Italian Sausage with Pastured Pork!

I apologize for my extended absence these past few months. It was not an intentional blog break and I am not sure that it is over yet, either. But today I felt inspired to share with you an activity that has become a favorite family tradition for us over the past few years. This activity really kicks of the holiday season for us. It is food focused and a time for celebration with good friends.

It all started 3 years ago when we met a pair of young farmers at our local farmers market. They were growing food on a small diversified farm and had some options for meat shares. We liked the idea of buying a whole animal and then stocking our freezer with healthy meat. This is when I met Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher. He was doing a workshop on breaking down lambs and so Roberto and I decided to take the course using the lamb we bought from the farmers.

I have talked about Cole in the past, but I don’t think enough can ever be said about him. Over the years he has become a great teacher to Roberto and I, but those he has taught probably number in the hundreds. He has an immense wealth of knowledge being in the business of butchering for over 50 years. He has such a passion for his art and for teaching others the little known skills of breaking animals down into primal and gourmet or retail cuts. He believes in small local farms and farmers that raise animals who get plenty of sunshine, and exercise and are fed without antibiotics, GMOs and hormones.

At that first workshop with Cole, Roberto and I first met our very dear friends Corey and Kurt. We hit it off immediately – foodies can pick each other out of a crowd! Since that day 3 years ago, we have been cooking and eating delicious food with these guys and having a great time. We all care deeply about where our food comes from, and supporting local farmers and we love to cook, have fun in the kitchen and do foodie projects together.

So for the past two years we have bought a whole pig with them and have brought Cole back each time to help us break it down. After several hours breaking down the pig, we all sit down to an amazing lunch prepared with some of our fresh pork, drink some wine and share stories. Then the next day we get together again and spend the day making various kinds of sausage. Each year we experiment with different kinds so that in 10 years or so we’ll know exactly which ones to make! We grind the meat and fat, mix in giant quantities of spices (that usually cause sneezing fits), drink wine and just laugh together. Sometimes there is even dancing to German Oompah music! Or hog casing jump rope.

This year though we made the best Breakfast Sausage yet and made for the second year in a row the same Italian Sausage (my grandfather’s recipe) and Smoked Kielbasa recipe. Those I will share with you today, in a lazy sort of manner. But I just want to say, I love this yearly ritual. It is a great time to catch up with friends, be thankful not only for the friendships but sharing this task together. We talk about food and work together on something that truly has meaning. It is a way to support local farmers who are raising animals humanely and healthy. It supports your local economy and rewards people who are doing things the right way. It harkens back to the days when butchering an animal for food was a communal thing, something to be celebrated and respected. It is something I recommend to anyone that eats meat to try at least once. Maybe you’ll end up loving it as much as we do and will make it a yearly tradition of your own.

If you are interested in learning how to butcher an animal, Cole is the best in the business. If you can’t make it to a live workshop he has an amazing DVD series that goes through all the steps for various animals: beef, pork and lamb. Then he and his friend the amazing Chef Courtney Contos create delicious recipes with those cuts. He also has a blog  and a facebook page  both of which are full of lots of wisdom, tips and recipes.

These are the books we use to make sausages:

Home Sausage Making: How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 125 Sausages at Home

Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage

RECIPES:

Pap Pap’s Italian Sausage

Ingredients for each pound of pork/fat mixture. For sausage your meat should contain 30% fat:

1 level tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 TBL fennel seed
pinch of cayenne pepper

METHOD: Knead well until thoroughly mixed. Sausage can be eaten right away but tastes better if it sits in the fridge for 24 hours for flavors to marry. Store in fridge or separate into smaller packages and freeze.

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Best Breakfast Sausage

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Smoked Kielbasa

 

Eggplant Relish

15 lbs of homegrown produce!

Harvest season is here! This has been our best gardening year yet. I owe it all to our bunnies actually. It was their little pellets, collected through the winter which has made our plants produce like crazy. Between that and the warmer, drier temperatures this summer, we are just awash with so many delicious fresh vegetables!

This year we are growing tomatoes (we have about 30 plants!), zucchini, ground cherries, carrots, cabbages, sugar snap peas, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons lettuces, Swiss chard and arugula and beans (hope I am not forgetting anything). We tried new varieties of tomatoes this year, German Pink, Black from Tula and Ukrainian Purple, all developed in colder climates. We also tried cold climate melons. All are doing great this year!

This year, so far we have preserved 25 lbs of cabbage (red and green), 11 lbs of greens, 15 lbs of stone fruits, 10 lbs of tomatoes, as well as assorted carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, onions, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. So it has been a busy couple of months. We are really going to enjoy this in the winter months. That taste of summer is always so welcomed when the snows are falling down all around us.

I want to share with you a delicious condiment that I made. One that I wanted to dig right into but will have to reserve a bit of will power to leave it on the shelf for the dead of winter when the taste of sun ripened tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be just the right thing I need to lift my spirits!

Eggplant-Tomato Relish (from The Joy of Pickling – My VERY favorite cookbook for this time of year!)
Makes 2 pints

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 tsp sea salt
6 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes
¾ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 TBS pine nuts
1 TBS capers
Black pepper to taste

METHOD: In a bowl, toss eggplant with salt, put in a colander and let drain for an hour or so. Rinse eggplant and drain it well. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pot. Add eggplant and sauté about 5 minutes. Add onion and pepper and sauté another 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Over medium heat bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring often for about an hour. Remove bay leaf and ladle mixture into pint or half pint mason jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Close jars with 2-piece caps and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup

 

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows how much I rely on herbs and plants to keep myself healthy. My interest in herbs began sometime in high school after reading The Mists of Avalon which is full of herbal lore and of course magic and just went on from there.

I don’t think herbal remedies are magic, per se, I think they are natural ways to keep our bodies in the best shape possible, mentally, physically and emotionally. Herbs are helpers who have evolved right along with us, our allies. As people that love to cook, we use herbs a lot in day to day life spicing up our dishes. But there are also healing properties behind the many culinary herbs we use.

If you have ever enjoyed Middle Eastern desserts you may have encountered rose water. Or if you watched the amazing movie, Like Water for Chocolate you will remember vividly the scene in which the protagonist cooks up a wooing meal using roses.

Roses, both wild and domesticated are edible, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. I find roses to taste rather sweet (big surprise!) and they are also incredibly soothing. In herbal medicine they are considered to be cooling and dry, but there is a warmth to them to be sure. It is no coincidence that people have been using roses to tell people they love them for a very long time, because it has much to tell us about the properties of roses.

Roses are associated with the heart and are good for both cardiovascular issues and emotional well-being. They are good for keeping our bodies balanced. Rose petals are high in Vitamin C making it a good idea to use in staving off colds or other infections. Rose petals, because of the natural occurring acids they contain is good for keeping your GI tract in good condition. Rose petals have been known to expel toxins in the gut and helps support the good and friendly flora in the gut.

Rose petals can also help with stress and emotions. One of my herbal teachers recently said that she uses Rose to help people create healthy boundaries, to give the person an ability to give and receive love without wearing their heart on their sleeve. Rose petals are physically almost see through when you hold them up to the light, but to the touch they are almost leathery, roses are beautiful but also thorny. Rose teaches us about balance, helps regulate the emotions and helps us navigate intimate relationships.

Roses are in full bloom right now, but if your roses are past their prime, don’t worry, just wait for them to give way to rose hips, their natural fruit!

I made my rose syrup the same day that I was blanching stone fruits for the freezer. I decided not to throw away the water I used for blanching and to use it for my syrup. I also added a star anise, a few cardamom pods and a vanilla bean to the brew in addition to following the recipe from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter. The result is a delicious syrup, perfect for adding to fizzy water for a wonderful summertime drink. I also find it goes well in a cup of herbal tea as the sweetener. Check out the link to the original recipe and you will find more uses there for rose syrup.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup (adapted from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter)

INGREDIENTS:

approximately 3 cups loose, unsprayed rose petals
5 cups cold water
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 star anise
A few cardamom pods
A vanilla bean

METHOD: Just pick a few handfuls of unsprayed rose petals, throw them in a pot with sugar and water (and additional spices, if desired), bring everything to a simmer and cook for about five minutes before adding lemon juice (important for both the color and the flavor!). Remove from heat, and allow everything to infuse overnight. All you have to do the next day is strain it and store it in the refrigerator (I also froze some).

Is It Ethical To Eat Meat?

 

Recently the New York Times was asking for essays defending the act of meat eating. Pop culture, health and news all have made vegetarianism their darling for many years, and the New York Times wanted to hear stories from the “other side”. This is a topic close to my heart and I was encouraged by many of my readers to submit an entry. Although my essay did not win, I still want to share it with you.

First a quick and very timely story: We recently faced the possibility of raising lambs for meat. Both of our sheep, Inga and Iona gave birth to their first lambs in the past few weeks and of course we didn’t know what the sex of the babies were going to be. But we had steeled ourselves for the possibility of males. We knew if we got any males we would be raising them for meat – on a small homestead like ours, we don’t have the infrastructure to raise rams for breeding.

We were blessed with two beautiful baby ewes and I admit we were relieved.

I don’t know how many years of farming it will take for us to not feel that sense of relief knowing that we won’t have to take any lambs to slaughter. I don’t know if that is because we weren’t raised on a farm, or if it just our nature. But what I do know is that if we ended up having to raise lambs for meat, it would have been and ethical solution. Here’s why: (Essay Submission)

Most people are out of touch with the reality of how food gets to their plate, whether animal or vegetable. For me, my meat consumption and how I source it has become a spiritual act – taking responsibility for what I consume and its consequences.

I was a vegetarian for over a decade because I love animals. In my naivety I thought by avoiding meat, I was saving animals. Opting out of the savage and merciless killing of animals that occurs every day on the large feedlots and slaughterhouses of industrial America is something we should all do. But abstaining from humanely raised meat, animal products even vegetables for that matter doesn’t keep you from the cycle of life and death. As a human on this planet, you can’t escape this simple truth.

“Sustainable” and “locavore” are buzzwords held in high esteem these days, a positive trend, yet these movements are riddled with half-truths. We know eating local and in season has the least impact on the environment. What about those of us in northern climates, with a three month growing season? Eating local humanely raised meat is a sustainable and ethical solution. Eating vegetables shipped from large organic agribusinesses out west whose farming practices destroy animal habitats even killing small burrowing animals as well as birds and insects is not. Using unsustainable resources to get those vegetables to us is not. Both systems result in animal deaths, but which is more ethical? The one in which you turn a blind eye or the one you take direct responsibility for? In that light, who are you to decide which lives are more precious?

I have heard arguments that dairy is not a “death food”. With dairy comes meat. In order for you to have dairy, animals must become pregnant and have babies. What happens to those babies? Let’s look at goat cheese as an example. There are many new goat dairies cropping up all over the place, to sustain our taste for this delicacy, farmers must have found a solution for the babies. Female offspring are easy to sell, or keep for breeding stock, males, not so much. With goats typically having twins, that is a lot of potential male babies. So what do most dairies do with males? Compost. Is that ethical? Isn’t raising an animal in love and respect to sustain another life more ethical than throwing it in the garbage? Sustainability means responsibility, finding a place in the system for all life involved in it. Animals, especially those providing nourishing food for us deserve respect, good care and the forethought necessary to make the most ethical decisions for their fate.

Livestock animals have been bred over thousands of years to have certain traits (to the detriment of others); this makes it impossible for them to survive on their own. We evolved together, we sustain each other, and the link between us cannot be severed. Even if we set them all free tomorrow, most would die from starvation. Is that ethical?

Those of us, caring for livestock humanely, live in a reciprocal and symbiotic relationship with our animals. We give them good and happy lives and in return they nourish us. There is nothing more ethical than honesty, even if it is something you don’t wish to face. But in order for us to live, things must die. All life is precious and plays a role in the nourishment of other creatures, from humans to bacteria, so we should meet it in the eye and say thank you.

To read more from me on this subject, see my series on my Homesteading blog Got Goats?(…and sheep too!) called For The Love of Horns and Hooves.

Cortido and Kraut (…and a lamb!)

This has been an exciting week on the homestead! We welcomed the first lamb ever to be born on our farm into the world on Tuesday! We named her Thorina, after the Norse God of Thunder. She was born during our first major thunderstorm of the season, which is very auspicious. Just look at this face…

…and here she is less than 48 hours later out on pasture with her mom, Inga.

How amazing she is! Such a strong little girl – loves exploring the farm. To read more about her, check out my homesteading blog, Got Goats? (…and sheep too!).

It has been a while since I wrote about fermented foods – a staple in our house. On a daily basis, we find ourselves enjoying delicious fermented foods made at home such as yogurt, dairy kefir, water kefir, kefir cream (like sour cream) historic raw milk cheeses, quark, ginger carrots, kombucha, lacto fermented pickles, traditional sauerkraut, cortido and various fermented condiments.

Why do we love fermented foods? Well for one they are extremely good for you – a way of getting high quality probiotics into your body without having to take a supplement and whole body health really starts in the gut. Having healthy gut flora keeps the bad bugs at bay and naturally boosts you immune system. Plus they taste extremely delicious and fermenting foods is a traditional food preservation method. To learn more about this method of preservation, please read my post: Lacto Fermentation Questions Answered.

During the summer months we have an abundance of vegetables. In addition to our own ( growing every year) kitchen garden (we are now up to 12 vegetable beds and soon to be adding 4 herb beds) we also join a local CSA. This ensures that we can eat our fill of delicious fresh vegetables all summer long and have enough to preserve a large majority for winter eating . My favorite preserved vegetables are sauerkraut and cortido, a Latin American cabbage and carrot ferment. I love sauerkraut all year long, but cortido feels like summer to me! Cortido is a great condiment to eat on tacos or to serve with your favorite grilled meats.

We should all be well into garden season now, at least in the Northern hemisphere (we are in one of the coldest gardening zones – zone 3, so if we got our tomatoes in the ground, most everyone else already is harvesting veggies!) and so these are some great recipes to keep on hand for when you or your local farmers get a bumper crop of cabbage and carrots! Both are very easy to make and are not time consuming and both are a delicious way to preserve your summer abundance for the leaner winter months while naturally boosting your immune system!

Sauerkraut (from Nourishing Traditions)

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 TBS caraway seeds
1 TBS sea salt
4 TBS whey (or if not available an additional TBS of salt)

METHOD: In a bowl mix cabbage with caraway seeds, salt and whey (If using). Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in a quart sized wide mouth mason jar and press down firmly until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes one quart. It may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age. *I have had some of my jars for over a year and they are still delicious!

Cortido (from Nourishing Traditions)

INGREDIENTS:
1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup carrots, grated
2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise and finely sliced
1 TBS dried oregano
¼-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS sea salt
4 TBS whey (or an additional TBS of salt if not available)

METHOD: In a large bowl mix cabbage, carrots onions, oregano, red pepper flakes, sea salt and whey (If using). Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in two quart sized wide mouth mason jars and press down firmly until juices come to the top of the vegetables in each jar. The top of the vegetables should be at least one inch below the top of the jars. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes two quarts. It may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.