Monday, August 30, 2010

Catching Up with Vinegar and Booze

Last week, we expanded our horizons up at our cabin; thus, we missed the vinegar preservation challenge.

However, we'll make up for it this week for whatever it's worth. Last night, we filled two jars with plums and brandy. It wasn't very complicated overall. The organic plums were smaller, and they were a lot harder to pit. As a consequence, we lost more of the meat than we would of liked. In contrast, the second set of plums was easy to pit and went quite smoothly. We chose not to add any sugar to the mix, but we did spice them with cinnamon. We will add some vanilla beans as soon as they arrive in the mail. The whole process took about thirty minutes. We have never tried brandied plums before, so it will be interesting to try one.

For the vinegar challenge, we chose to preserve herbs. Unfortunately, locating organic white vinegar was more difficult than we imagined, so we settled for the basic sort. After picking a handful of Marjoram, Chives, Oregano, and a few sprigs of Parsley, we diced them after removing stems, and then mixed them thoroughly before pouring them into the two jars. Finally warming the vinegar slightly, we topped off each jar and sealed them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Tomato Experiment: supervised by the sun.

We began thinking we had more tomatoes then we actually had. Everything seen in this picture came from our own vines. Most of them are cherry tomatoes with the first of the larger ones. I dried them six hours the first day and about nine the second. They lost about half their diameter. We added fresh finely chopped basil and a light sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Below is our standing security guard against insect invasion.

With so little created with the first batch, we decided to buy some more to fill a full jar.

We’ve been drying another fourteen non organic tomatoes sliced as suggested – most of our own tomatoes will ripen over the course of the next several weeks.  They have dried about the same amount of time, and hopefully will be finished by Sunday night. With this batch, we chose to season them with dry Basil, Italian Seasoning, Garlic powder, and hint of Curry powder. It’s a real pleasure to find ourselves downwind of them.

After two days, the tomatoes are mere specters of their former selves. They still smell like an Italian kitchen, but there’s no chance of filling a jar with them. On the positive side, this challenge was met with resounding success. The drying process worked wonderfully. They kept their dark red color, brought to the forefront from the pasty green and mustard yellow spices. The final lesson of this challenge— prepare to use a whole lot of them to fill our needs. Even with the extra, we didn’t get near a full jar.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More About Us

We began researching why and how to eat locally in early spring of this year. Before that, we had tried a number of different dietary systems including Weight Watchers and The Worlds Healthiest Foods; essential guide for the healthiest way of eating, by George Mateljan, which by the way, is the most comprehensive cook book we’ve ever had the pleasure to use.

Melissa and I also began watching a lot of documentaries about food during our search for non-processed food that was not only affordable, but reasonably convenient to create without losing its health benefits. We plucked a virtual harvest of them from Netflix about food: where ours comes from, what is it made of, how is it connected to obesity and other health related issues including ADHD, Autism, GERD, Cancers, and many more. A few of the most eye-opening ones for us were Future of Food, Food Inc, and King Corn. We encourage those of you who are either new to this life style, just curious, or interested in the new studies about the relationship between skyrocketing health issues of adults and children and corporate food processing to watch those three movies listed.

Eating healthy is not just about weight, it’s about longevity. It’s about how different nutrients interact with our bodies and our minds. It’s about producing sustainable energy personally and communally, and for us, it’s also all about self-sufficiency.

In the last eighty years, our communities and our nation as a whole has become increasingly dependent on food supplies from destinations further and further from our backyard. As a result, the quality of these foods becomes more questionable as it is harder to regulate, and as with all things, plant and animal energy diminishes with the passage of time once picked or killed. What we don’t think enough about is what they eat, we eat.

During our tour-de-diets, what we learned is that weight loss and health are not regulated by how much or how little we ingest, but by how fresh, natural, and connected it is to us. By that, I mean organically fed and grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides (not only poison for them but us as well), inhumane conditions that breed all the same problems for livestock as they do for ourselves , and how close we and our food are chemically. As an example, the geological and chemical makeup of China’s soil is very different from our own. It has a different measure of elements. It has microscopic bugs that they have grown immune to, but we may have not. The same is true of us in relation to them. Each environment shares some similarities but share as many differences. When we move from one place to another, we must re-adapt to different pollution levels, water purity, climate, population, why not the ground itself and that which comes from it?

Recently we invested in our local CSA. From them, we receive one box with a variety of produce from local farms throughout Central Washington. We get a dozen eggs a week as well, and had hoped to be supplied with raw milk. So far, that has not been attainable. We bought half a side of beef in our preferred cuts from Oberg Brothers Natural Beef which we hope to use through the winter, and we have found two good sources of grass fed poultry Tiny's Organic and Crown S Ranch. In addition, while we are not avid pork eaters, our family does enjoy bacon. Until recently, we couldn’t find a reasonably priced source for this until a few weeks back at Crown S-- $9.03 per pound. Wednesday, while collecting our produce and eggs; I also purchased two pounds of their bacon. We’ll test it later this week when we retreat to our cabin.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Preserve The Bounty Challenge: Fermentation

Until this year, I have never, yes never, tried to preserve food. Unless of course, you count freezing leftovers. With our family's new commitment to eat local food as much as possible, my lack of experience with food preservation might be a bit of a problem this winter. With this in mind, I began a bit of research on the net, and bought a couple of books on the subject of food preservation. In addition, I am currently enrolled in the How to Cook Real Food eCourse led by Jenny at Nourished Kitchen. The eCourse includes a lesson on fermenting vegetables, but I wanted to know more, so when Jenny decided to host a challenge related to the preservation of food, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

The Preserve The Bounty Challenge  is a 5-week course. Each week will focus on a different preservation technique, "sun-drying, oil curing, freezing, fermentation and salt-curing – traditional techniques that optimize nutrition and don’t heat up the kitchen like canning." Every Monday, I will blog about our adventure with food preservation.

The first week focused on fermentation. Perfect, especially since I just fermented my first sauerkraut--thanks to Jenny's eCourse.  I am still very new at this, so I  decided to start with something small: Ginger Carrots from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

I had a fresh bunch of carrots from our local CSA. These particular carrots came from Tierra Gardens in Leavenworth, WA.

These carrots made almost eight cups of grated carrots, so I doubled the recipe. I added all of the ingredients in a bowl.

8 cups grated carrots
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons sea salt
8 tablespoons whey

Then, I pounded them with a meat hammer and my wooden spoon (I really need to purchase a wooden mallet.) I wasn't getting much juice, so I asked my husband to help, just in case my arms were just wimpy. 

Finally, we packed the mix into our Fermentation Jar that we purchased from Cultures For Health.

Now we leave them at room temperature, and wait three days before we decide whether to make a larger quantity. This gives us time to purchase some larger jars as well.

Eat Red Meat! ...Just don't eat it processed.

A new study published in May of 2010 "found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb."

Watch this video from the Harvard School of Public Health website that explains the findings.

In July, we purchased a half beef from the Oberg Brothers Ranch. We have been enjoying their grass fed beef over the last month and our freezer is still packed. The Ranch is located in the small community of Havillah Washington, a beautiful place with rolling grass and evergreen trees.

While we decided on purchasing from the Oberg Brothers, we have found that there are many sources for beef here in Central Washington.  Check out Eat Wild to find other sources for Grass Fed Meat, Eggs and Dairy.