Archive for Condiments

Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way + How to Drain Yogurt for Thicker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Homemade raw Greek yogurt, topped with honey and cinnamon.

 Over the past couple of years I have struggled with some fairly major health problems. leaving me with low energy most of the time, ranging to completely fatigued and exhausted on a bad day. Thankfully, the bad days are becoming less frequent than they used to be, but even on an average day I have far more project ideas than I have energy to put into projects.

This means, that while cooking healthy food is usually a priority for me, I really don’t like to make any of my projects  more involved or complicated than they have to be. Certain projects that others consider complex might fit nicely into my routine, but other projects, sometimes even one that don’t seem so complicated to most people, just seem overwhelming.

So, when I discovered a super easy way to make my own raw yogurt, I was thrilled. Yogurt is generally considered fairly fussy. Regulating the temperature is a pain and doesn’t seem to guarantee results no matter how carefully it’s done. Plus, I was on GAPS diet at the time, with little energy to spare, and a lot of special cooking to be done, and a lot of slowly fermented food needed on a regular basis. The idea that I could drop yogurt in a jar, add milk, and then just let the whole thing sit out in a warm spot to make yogurt was a relief.

Now, as simple as the process is, fermented foods do often have a bit of a finicky streak. You may immediately find a warm spot that happily makes yogurt without any problems, ever. More likely, you’ll have to try a couple warm spots to see which one ferments your milk at the speed which is convenient to your schedule. You may find that the warm spot on top of your fridge, that normally turns out yogurt like clockwork, overheats on your baking day, and the pervading warmth of the oven ferments your yogurt unexpectedly faster than normal.

To me, these inconsistencies are simply an expected part of cooking real and traditional food. Like making soup with leftovers, or marrying into a family that makes a lot of last minute plans, life is often something of a grab bag no matter how carefully we try to regiment it.

I have found this method of making yogurt to produce mostly consistent results, and the occasional batch of extra sour and thick yogurt, or runny yogurt can easily find their home in baked goods without dramatically disrupting the rhythm of my life. These odd batches of yogurt even seem to make fine starter for a new batch in most cases, as the inconsistencies are naturally evened out by the steady working of the natural probiotics and enzymes through slight disruptions of their routine.

If this sort of adaptation to changes in your life is not for you, I recommend googling ‘crockpot yogurt’ and continuing in your quest to bend the world to your will without detouring through my yogurt making method. Best of luck to you in that endeavor.

In the realm of adapting to changes, the video I have posted on  making yogurt is technically a fail video. It still demonstrates *how* to use my yogurt making technique, but in a moment of brain fog, I misremembered how much whey was needed for the amount of yogurt I was making, resulting in a less than optimal batch of yogurt. Feel free to both laugh at my fail and glean what you can from watching my methods.

Straining (or draining) the yogurt to make it thicker is completely optional, but since we really like greek style yogurt, and I find it really handy to have whey around for recipes (soaking whole wheat flour, ketchup, etc), I almost always do drain it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is the yogurt completely natural, but making your own plain yogurt gives you the ability to make your own flavored yogurts without any unnatural sweeteners or additives. Obviously, you get an extra boost to your enzymes if you start with raw milk, but you can use this method for any type of dairy you generally use (I haven’t tested it with non-dairy milks) and meet your general health standards.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I’ll be honest here: homemade yogurt isn’t something my husband raves about. He actually kinda likes Yoplaits.

As for myself, I don’t hate yogurt, but I’ve never been a huge fan of any kind of yogurt, even including Yoplait (which baffles my husband). But, throwing a couple splops (yes, that’s a very specific measurement, why do you ask?) of yogurt into a smoothie is easy and doesn’t adversely affect the taste, and if I mix the homemade yogurt with sufficient honey and fruit, my husband doesn’t mind eating it, and in the right mood, I rather enjoy it.

Homemade Yogurt

1 cup of whey or yogurt

3 cups of milk

Mix whey or yogurt with milk in a quart jar. Cover and set in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Refrigerate, or proceed to straining your yogurt first.

To make greek yogurt: Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth or thin cotton (not terrycloth) dishtowel. Set on a bowl to catch the whey. Pour yogurt into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for a few hours, until it is your desired thickness. (You can also make yogurt cheese, which can be used as a cream cheese substitute, by draining the yogurt longer, until it’s very thick.) Using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, transfer yogurt to a jar or covered bowl and store in refrigerator. Pour whey into a separate bowl or jar and store in refrigerator.

 

Homemade Sauerkraut

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If your New Year’s resolutions involved phrases like ‘learn to make sauerkraut’ and ‘eat more fermented vegetables’ you have come to the right place. Seriously, you’re going to like it around here. Bookmark my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel. I’ll wait.

The other reason you’ve come to the right place is that I happen to be posting about making your own home fermented sauerkraut today. What a crazy, random happenstance, huh?

Sauerkraut is made out of cheap ingredients (cabbage and salt) and is really fairly simple to make. (There are a few pitfalls to avoid, which I’ll cover later, but the process is not overly complex.) It stimulates the production of stomach acid (which is often low in people with digestive problems, including acid reflux and ulcers–sufficient stomach acid actually helps *prevent* these problems, counter intuitive as it may seem) and provides needed probiotics.

The down side, of course, is that it’s sauerkraut, with the pungent intensity that we all know and many of us hate. I, myself, can enjoy sauerkraut just fine, as long as it’s used in small quantities on a food that needed some spicing up anyway. Even so, after doing the GAPS diet and ‘enjoying’ sauerkraut with almost every meal, I was burned out on sauerkraut for a while.

Even if you’re not so fond of store bought sauerkraut, I recommend trying to make your own and see how you like it. My husband can’t stand store bought sauerkraut but he tolerates and will sometimes intentionally eat homemade sauerkraut. He says it has a flavor other than ‘Pow, vinegar!’, which is all the store bought sauerkraut tastes like.

If you’re just trying out homemade sauerkraut for the first time, you probably don’t want to go buy one of those fancy fermenting crocks people are always recommending. On the other hand, I’ve heard some serious warnings about using old crocks that may leech lead into your ferments through tiny cracks in the finish. My solution was to go buy a $20, 1 gallon stoneware crock at Ace Hardware. It’s simple, not too expensive, and unrisky. (Don’t use anything metal for fermenting your sauerkraut in. In a pinch you can probably do a big batch in a five gallon food grade plastic bucket though.)

Whatever kind of crock you use, you need a way to keep the air away from your sauerkraut is it ferments. The good bacteria does not require oxygen to work, while stray bad bacteria that might take over your ferment does require oxygen, so creating an oxygen free environment for your ferment is ideal. In the recipe I explain how to use a ziploc bag to allow the gases from the fermenting cabbage to escape without allowing air in contact with the cabbage.

You may get a white film on top, which is probably harmless, though I recommend doing your own research to confirm what is growing on your sauerkraut. If you get anything fuzzy, brown, green or pink growing on your sauerkraut throw it out and start over.

Edited to add: Once you’ve made your sauerkraut you may be wondering what to eat it with. It goes well with most meats–hot dogs and sausages are obvious ones, but I often put it on hamburgers, and it can also work with pork or beef roasts as well. You can use it in place of pickles for a tang on any sandwich, and don’t forget Rueben sandwiches as a classic use for sauerkraut. (I requested Rueben sandwiches for my birthday meal several years running, and that was before I even made homemade sauerkraut.) If that’s not enough to get you started, you can can also find recipes for soups that use sauerkraut!

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Cabbage and sea salt fermented to provide probiotics. Doesn’t get much healthier than that.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy
Okay, I admit it’s not that amazing as a flavor, but it is tolerable, and once you develop a taste for it you’ll miss it when you don’t have it.

Homemade Sauerkraut

1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds

1 TBSP sea salt

1-2 cups filtered water, if needed

Core and shred the cabbage. I find the easiest method is to slice it thinly, then cut across the slices in two or three places to keep the shreds from being unreasonably long. Put cabbage into a stoneware crock.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until the juices start to come out of the cabbage.

Begin to squeeze and knead the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage is softened and has released it’s juices. You may get enough liquid out of the cabbage to cover it, but I only ever get enough to just barely come up to the level of the cabbage. Press the cabbage down tightly into the bottomof the crock. Unless the cabbage juices completely submerge the cabbage, add filtered water until the level of the liquid is an inch or two above the level of the cabbage.

Remove any stray pieces of cabbage from the sides of the crock.

If you don’t have a special fermenting crock, fill a gallon sized ziploc bag halfway with water. (Tap water is fine for this part.) Squeeze out most of the air before closing it. Put the ziploc bag in the crock on top of the cabbage. This will form fit to the sides of the crock, holding the cabbage underwater. Some liquid, and probably a few shreds of cabbage, will rise around the sides of the bag, but that’s fine as long as most of the cabbage is secure at the bottom of the crock.

Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from one week to a few months depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut and how forgetful you are. I generally transfer the sauerkraut to canning jars in the fridge after two to three weeks. (You may need to add water to the canning jars occasionally to continue to keep the sauerkraut submerged as you use it. There’s less danger of the ferment going wrong at this point, but it’s just kind of gross if it gets dried out.)

Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

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I make my own ketchup.

It started when I was on the GAPS diet. I made a GAPS legal fermented ketchup and was thrilled to have a different flavor available on my plate. My (non GAPS eating) husband was less impressed. It wasn’t bad, he said, it just wasn’t anything like ketchup.

Then it was a challenge. Could I make my own healthy ketchup that my husband enjoyed eating?

I didn’t expect it to be so good and so easy that homemade ketchup would become a necessary item in my kitchen. In five minutes I can make a batch of ketchup that lasts the two of us a couple of weeks, tastes just as good as store bought, has no nasty chemicals, and is actively good for you. Plus, it’s a great trump card to pull out if I’m ever feeling threatened by super talented people or obsessively healthy eaters: “Well, yes, we did eat a frozen pizza last week, but that’s not normal for us, you know. Normally I even make my own ketchup!”

This ketchup can be eaten immediately or fermented for a couple of days to make it a good source of probiotics. (It will be noticeably thicker after fermenting, but both consistencies are within normal ketchup range.) I normally make my ketchup with whey (saved from draining yogurt to make Greek yogurt), but it can easily be made dairy free by substituting water for the whey. With the raw apple cider vinegar and salt in the ketchup it still ferments just fine.

(Edited to add: There are other options for substituting the whey including brine from vegetable ferments or thinned down yogurt or kefir. Brine will affect the flavor depending on the type of brine used, but that could be a good thing, especially if you like the fermented veggies you make in the first place. If none of these are a good option for you, the best flavor replica will be from replacing the whey with half apple cider vinegar and half water. As a last resort, replacing the way with only water will yield the proper consistency.)

If at all possible, don’t substitute any other sweeteners for the honey. In a pinch you could use agave, but only honey will give it that sheen we’re used to in store bought ketchup. (In the store bought ketchup it comes from corn syrup.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy!

*Cooked tomatoes (as in tomato paste) are a better source of lycopene than raw tomatoes, as it’s more easily digested in the cooked form.

*Honey is classified as a superfood, being antibacterial and containing many enzymes and other nutrients.

*Whey provided probiotics essential for a healthy digestion (even better if it’s from organic yogurt and skips the extra hormones).

*Himalayan pink sea salt contains many minerals, some say containing every mineral our body needs.

*Apple cider vinegar is also antibacterial, high in potassium and seems to help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Yumminess Rating: Husband approved

Not only does my husband willingly eat this ketchup, he prefers it to store bought ketchup and takes every opportunity to tell people they need to try this amazing homemade ketchup. Everyone who’s tried it has also approved, including his younger brothers and sisters.

Fermented Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup raw honey
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup yogurt whey (see notes above for substitutes)
1 tsp pink sea salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a pint jar. Cap loosely and ferment at room temperature for two days. After two days tighten the cap and transfer to the fridge.

A couple of notes:

Make sure your jar is completely clean before putting food to be fermented in it. A good environment for probiotics to grow is also a good environment for harmful bacteria to grow. I don’t personally go to the extent of sterilizing my jar before use, but if I’m at all unsure about the cleanliness of the jar I thoroughly rinse it in very hot tap water.

Also, make sure your different ferments (such as this ketchup, sourdough, sauerkraut, etc) stay about two feet away from each other while they’re fermenting. Any closer and the strains of bacteria will start to cross over between them, and different ferments work best with different kind of good bacteria.

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