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Archive for the ‘Fermented’ Category

(Psst…if you haven’t signed up for my subversive cross stitch giveaway yet, do so now!)

When your Bad Mama Genny and The Boy lived in the New York City place, we frequented the occasional Jewish deli.

Fine, the SLIGHTLY MORE THAN OCCASIONAL Jewish deli.  What can I say?  I’m a half-Jew.  Making me a Cashew.  Fun, little known fact about your Bad Mama Genny, misfits.  Oy vey!

In any case, these fine establishments almost always carry the elusive, the beautiful, the mouthgasm inducing…SOUR PICKLE.  These are totally different from vinegar pickles–they’re sour because they go through lactic acid fermentation, which gives them a unique flavor profile, makes them easier to digest, and grants them special probiotic superpowers.

I am all about superpowers, misfits.  Just this weekend, The Boy’s mom taught me how to crochet.  She was in town for a funeral, which is pretty much as good a place to learn crochet as any other.  There were no sour pickles at this funeral, but someone did chip a tooth, so that was exciting!

It was me.

Oddly enough, there are those who think the most valuable thing in the pickle crock isn’t even the pickles–it’s the garlic.  In fact, lacto-fermented garlic is something of a folk remedy for its probiotic and antibacterial properties, as well as its ability to repel strangely moody, pale man-boy mouth breathers with names that rhyme with Schmedward.  So basically, this garlic IS SOME VALUABLE SHIT.  And, um, just in case you were worrying that this recipe wouldn’t include enough of that fine and funky garlic?

Yeah, I think we’re pretty well covered here.

Y’know, naturally-fermented pickle brine was also once a precious commodity and cure-all.  But historical misfits wouldn’t stop at applying it to cuts, bruises, and rashes–they used it on wrinkles, too, which is just. so. sexy.  Of course, people don’t do this anymore, but I say, why pass up a perfectly good opportunity to torture the people you love?  In fact, the next time The Boy walks into the room, I plan to toss a bucket of cold pickle brine into his face.  For love.

Naturally.

Make up some naturally-fermented pickles with your bumper crop of cukes, lovey loves.  Because the BMG is worried that you may not be colonized by sufficient numbers of foreign bodies.

Colonizing you with foreign bodies.  It’s one of the things I do best.

Lacto-Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles
Makes 1 gallon pickles

Go Get:
3 1/2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, washed, with blossom end shaved off (that would be the non-stem end)
6 Tablespoons sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon calcium chloride (optional, for crisp)
3 heads garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
1/2 cup whey (extract whey from yogurt like so) (wanna do this the vegan/dairy-free way?  See this post.)
2 large bunches dill weed
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
2 Tablespoons dill seed
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
2 teaspoons mustard seed

Go Do:
Start with a clean, 1 gallon container–a pitcher works well for this.  Pile in the cukes, layering them with the dill weed, garlic cloves, and spices.

At this point you may be wondering if my manicures are EVER unchipped.  The answer is…no.

Reposition any cukes you have to in order to keep them several inches below the top of the container.  Now mix 8 cups of lukewarm (not hot), filtered water with the calcium chloride (if using), salt, and whey.  Stir and pour over the pickles to thoroughly submerge them.  If you need more liquid to cover, add additional filtered water.  Now place an open Ziploc bag over the crock (open side up), and fill with enough water to weight the cucumbers down and keep them submerged.  When you have that right, seal the bag, cover the whole thing loosely with a towel, and let sit in a dark, room-temperature location.  Check the pickles for sourness each day.  Mine are usually at optimal sourness in 1 week, but your results will differ based on temperature and environment.  Once they’re where you like ’em, refrigerate the batch to slow fermentation and enjoy!  They’ll keep for about a year, and usually longer.

Note: If a little mold develops on top, don’t worry–this is normal.  Just skim it off, rinse and replace the bag, and keep on fermenting, lovey doves.

Note Again: Pickled garlic turns blue sometimes.  It’s normal.  We all get blue sometimes, right?  Well, this is a totally harmless chemical reaction and you can (and should, and MUST) still eat the blue cloves.

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Hey there, pumpkin muffins.

I’ve only met one of my grandparents, and none of my great grandparents.  But according to the tale I’ve been told, a great grandfather on my mother’s side was quite the Moonshine makin’ man during Prohibition.  Bathtub gin was on the menu, oh, pretty much every night.  Until that fateful day.

(Asshat Neighbors pound on door.  Great grandpa swears under his breath, gets up slowly–his knees just ain’t what they used to be–and hobbles over.  He opens the door and sees Asshat Neighbors.  Criminy, what do they want?)

Asshat Neighbors were all, “Give us some of that bathtub gin you make, or we’ll tell on you!”

And my great-grandpa was all, “No deal, Asshats!  Make your own.”

Well, maybe he didn’t say “Asshats.”  But who knows, he could have.  He is related to me.

And do you know what the Asshat Family did?  They told on him!  To the cops!  Now, where I come from, you don’t go tattling on neighbors, but I implore you to remember, dear readers, that these people were Asshats to the 10th degree.  Maybe even the 11th degree.  I’m not really sure what level of Asshattery happens at the various degrees.  I’ve also never been too clear over what the various sexual courtship “bases” are.  Which, actually, explains a lot.

Anyhow, the cops came and took my sweet little great grandpa to the slammer for making his sweet little bathtub gin and let him make one sweet little phone call to my sweet little great grandma, who had to show up to post his sweet little bail.

Wait…from what I’ve heard, there was nothing sweet, nor little, about the bail she posted.  Great grandma be pissed at great grandpa.  Great grandpa be pissed at the world.  Great grandpa sweared on the family Bible that he would have his revenge, mwahahahHAHAHAHA!

Okay, that didn’t happen.  But the bail part did, and the getting pissed part did.  And you know what else happened?  My sweet little great grandpa kept making his sweet little bathtub gin.  ‘Cause you know what?  Eff The Man!  Who is he to come between me and my gin!?

I mean, between great grandpa and HIS gin.

Well, thankfully, Prohibition eventually ended (where alcohol is concerned at least.  Did you know that weed was wiped out with alcohol when Prohibition began, and that it was never allowed back?) and when Jimmy Carter was President (remember my thank you to Jimmy Carter?) he legalized home brewing, making adventures like these (and The Boy’s career) possible!

Now, remember when I was talking about how I’m saving the pods from shelling peas in the freezer for a batch of peapod wine?  Well, I also loaded up on beets when my CSA began trying to clear them out.  Really, you don’t need too many–about 3 1/2 pounds will do just fine for a gallon of wine.  AND you get to eat the beets after you’re done with the boil.  AND it’s a great way to use up the beet boiling water that you’d otherwise have thrown out or tossed in with the compost!

People, this is free wine.  FREE WINE.

Mostly free wine.  I had everything home for this, but I was out of wine yeast.  So The Boy picked up some wine yeast for me.  For $0.36.  Then came home.  And went, Oh.  I brewed all day.  And now we’re going to brew some more.  Okay.  It’s fine.  It’s not like I wanted to sit.  Or anything.

Actually, The Boy isn’t passive-aggressive at all, nor would he ever turn down a brew project.  In fact, I ordered him to the couch and slipped the remote into his hand, but he jumped back up to bring out his sanitizing buckets and fancy tools (which you will not need).

If ever you have lied to yourself and assumed that wine making would be, OMG like sooo hard!, you can forget it.  This will take you an hour of active time to get started, tops (not at all like making beer, which, admittedly, can take kind of a while).  Even less time than an hour if you count the beet boiling time as part of dinner prep.

Which I did.  Because I like cheating the system.  Also, because I forced mass quantities of beets down our throats last night and I feel like I should get some extra credit out of that.

In case you’re curious, the finished wine is like a deep, dry, earthy red.  Or more like fuschia.  I likeses that.  I want to go to there.  Do you want to go to there with me?

Then shut the blinds and cast a suspicious sideways glance at your neighbors!  Gather round, children!  It’s beet wine we be makin’ tonight!  Bathtub optional!

No Asshats allowed.

Beet Wine
Makes 1 gallon

Go Get:
3 1/2 to 4 pounds of beets, peeled, with the tops and a sliver of the bottoms cut off (I used a mix, which will influence the color somewhat.)
5 3/4 cups sugar (I myself think it would be kinda awesome to use beet sugar for this part.  Just for parallelism.  Or something.  Whatever, I used evaporated cane juice.  I’m betting you could also tweak this and use honey.)
Juice of 2 large lemons, or 3 small ones
1 1/2 cups strong, cold black tea
1 packet wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient (not strictly necessary, but recommended.  Hit a home brewing store–I like Brew & Grow in Chicago.)

Stuff You Should Have on Hand:
1 gallon glass jug
Another glass jug or food-grade bucket
An airlock
A siphon (or a ladle)
Wine bottles and corks

Go Do:
Hi!

Cleanse, rinse, and sanitize any equipment that’ll be touching wine but that isn’t getting boiled.

Okay, so now you put those rough and ready beets into a pot, cover ’em with, oh, 12 cups of water or so, and bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer the beets until they’re tender enough to eat (for me, this took about 30 minutes).  Take out the beets and eat ’em or save for another use.

Stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved.  Now cover it and let it all cool to somewhere in the area of 70 degrees F.  When this happens, stir in the tea, yeast nutrient, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid into your bucket or first jug (use a funnel if you need to), and fill with enough filtered water to make a gallon (but leave some room for 1/4 cup liquid).  At this point you can take a hydrometer reading to determine the original gravity of your mix.  Why?  Well, ’cause if you know it, you can take a final gravity reading after fermentation and determine the exact alcohol percentage of your finished wine.  Click here to figure out how to use one properly.  But admittedly, this is a totally unnecessary step.  We have a hydrometer that gets pretty regular use around here, so I took a reading.  If all goes according to plan, my finished wine will be between 12 and 13 percent alcohol.  Sweet!

Now mix the packet of yeast into about 1/4 cup lukwarm water…around 100 degrees F.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and re-acclimate to the liquid world.  There’s a science-y reason we do this, but I won’t bore you with that now.  Scrape down the sides of the yeast bowl and pour it into the beet stuff.

Mmm…beet stuff.

Even Bad Mama Genny makes messes. It's okay. Calm down.

Stick a sterilized airlock (filled with a little water) into the jug’s neck or a tight hole in the lid of your bucket.  The airlock allows CO2 to get out without allowing bacteria in.  And you need to let CO2 out.  Otherwise, I hope you like exploded glass.

‘Cause I know I heart exploded glass!

Put your jug in a dark place that’s between 70 and 75 degrees.  Let the whole thing sit and ferment for about a week, or until activity slows down.  What activity? you might be asking.  Well, about 12 hours after the yeast is pitched, you’ll notice signs of fermentation.  The jug may produce a gurgling or bubbling sound, or a clicking from the airlock.  You’ll see lots of air bubbles moving around, perhaps some foaming up top, and lots of gas bubbles rising up out of the airlock.  Once the little yeasties have eaten lots of nommable sugars, though, they’ll get tired.  Their environment is full of alcoholic waste, and there’s no more food.  Man, this really sucks!  Fermentation slows.  Some of the yeast will drop to the bottom of the jug and die.

<Sad trombone sound>

So after fermentation has slowed to a stop, use a sterilized siphon or ladle to move the liquid from the first container into another sterilized jug.  Be careful to leave the yeast sediment and general STUFF on the bottom of the first container.  You’re going for a clear wine, and muddy stuff does not aid this process.  Stick that airlock back on top (again, with a little water inside), and put it back in its dark, happy place.  You’ll want to leave it until the wine clears itself.  If you’re not sure, there should be no signs of fermentation, and no air bubbles in the air lock.  This usually takes about 8 weeks.

Dios mio, you mean I have to wait to drink this wine?!

Yes, yes, I do mean that.  And you’ll have to wait longer:  After that 8 week thingy happens, use that sterilized siphon (or ladle and funnel) to transfer the wine into sterilized wine bottles.  Leave a little less than an inch of space at the top.  You can take another hydrometer reading now–click here to figure out how to use one properly.  Cork or seal the bottles and move them into a cool, dark place to age for ::drumroll::…

4 to 6 months!  I know, I know, waiting to get drunk is NO FUN, DUDES.  No fun at all.  So I recommend having other alcohol on hand to meet your party animal needs.  Don’t try to drink the beet wine before this time has elapsed, though, and leaving a little more time will generally make it even better.  Wine that’s way too young?  Not as tasty, my friends.  Not. As. Tasty.

So whaddya think?  Sure, it’s a wait, and sure you can buy wine, but this is fun!  It gives you bragging rights, and it will make people at BYOB places think you’re a total badass.  Not to mention it’s waste-preventing and almost free!  How can you turn down free wine?

I’ll tell you, my sweet little cucumbers–you can’t.  You just can’t.

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Hiya.

Yeah, that’s right.  I’m talking.  Me.  The pretzel.

So how’s it going?

That’s nice.

Enough small talk.  This is just a friendly reminder that if you haven’t made your own soft pretzels yet this year…

What could you possibly be waiting for?  Everyone knows the Germans actually celebrate Oktoberfest in September.

But you can have a free pass this time.  I give you until mid-October.  Frankly, there’s no bad time for pretzels and beer.  (What’s that, Atkins people?  You don’t like carbs?  What are you even DOING at this blog?)

First, the beer.  Whip up a batch of delicious home brew, a la The Boy.  Or find some local brew pubs that may be selling growlers of malty, hoppy, autumnal carryout craft beer near you.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you might try Half Acre, Piece, or the fine offerings on tap for sampling at Brew & Grow.

Well that was easy enough.  Now onto those pretzels.  Here’s one nice recipe I found for your classic, white, soft pretzel.  Craving something different that’ll pass for dinner so you can soothe your conscience?  (” A conscience?  What’s that?”) How do chicken stuffed soft pretzels with homemade honey mustard sound?

Somewhere, Keanu Reeves just went, “Whoah.”

Or, OOOooooooh, Garlic Soft Pretzels.

And if you’re a fan of those big ‘ol pretzels ye can procure from ye olde chaine shoppe in the mall, this should intrigue you: Mall Pretzels. (Because sometimes we just gotta calls ’em as we sees ’em.)

Or, gaaaaaaa, cannot speak because sweet tooth is enlarging, ENLARGING: Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels.

What’s that, you say?  You want the recipe for mine?  The ones in the picture?  The ones that look like…

THIS!?

Well, you can’t have it.  Not because I don’t want to give it to you.  But because there isn’t one.

I couldn’t give you measurements on this one if I tried.  But I can tell you roughly what I did, and those of you who are accustomed to baking bread and working with sourdough and work by feel and instinct, as I do, will be able to follow along.

By feel and instinct.  You can do a lot of things that way. Including making love, raising children, and killing a man.

But I digress.

The FEEL AND INSTINCT METHOD for soft sourdough pretzels is:

Proof some sourdough starter.  A little for a few pretzels.  A lot for lots.  (Told you this would be vague.)  Once it’s ready, toss in some flour.  Some whole wheat.  Some white.  Mix it in.  Add some kosher salt, and some melted butter.  I’m going to say I made a large batch, somewhere around 3 lbs. of dough, and I used about 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup, of melted butter.  Oh, relax.

Now stir that all in, and add more flour.  You know what I’m talking about.  Until it’s…not needing any more flour.  Don’t worry about getting it quite as dry as regular bread dough.  And it doesn’t need to be elastic either.  Just knead in enough flour and work the dough until it could hold a decent shape.  Now stick it in that trusty, oiled bowl and cover it with your favorite heirloom tea towel until it’s doubled…2 hours, wouldja say?

Actually, guys, I don’t feel as if I’ve been honest with you.  I didn’t let it rise for a few hours.  Instead I stuck it in the fridge overnight to rise in there.  What?  You didn’t know you could do that?  Well, you can.  Just let your dough sit at room temp a little while before you work with it.  I know, I know.  I’m brilliant.  I should really charge for all the fascinating things you learn here.  Like how to kill a man by instinct.  Anyway.  Moving on.

Divide the dough into balls and roll ’em into ropes.  I’ll say mine were about 18-20 inches long.  I like my soft pretzels on the small-ish side.  You know that annoying person who always takes, like, two bites of something, and then puts it back in the container for later?  That would be me.  Anyway, small foods give you options, man.  And that’s what I’m all about, dude.  Options.

Do a cool twisty thing where you make a pretzel.  The Girl says some of my pretzels have an extra twist in them.  I say they have just the right number/amount of twist(s).  Decide for yourself, man.  You gotta do what’s right for you, dude.  That’s what it’s all about, bros.  Doing what’s right for you.

Crud, this is going to take all day.

‘Kay, so now you’ve got a bunch of baby pretzels all lined up on some buttered parchment.  Oh, yeah, go back in time and butter some parchment.  Now set a pot of water to boil.  I used 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda.  Once it’s boiling, slowly tong each pretzel into the water, let it cook for 30 seconds, and take it back out.  Repeat.  As many times as you need.  Until you’re out of pretzels.

Now go back in time again, and preheat the oven to 450.  Thanks.  Take some coarse sea salt and sprinkle it over the pretzels.  Be sorta liberal about it.  Pretzel making is no time for conservatism.  Or limited sodium consumption.  I’m not making a political statement here.  I’m just saying, I think even the GOP could agree that pretzels should be salted liberally.

You know, pretzels are really the thing that could bring our nation together.

Wait, didn’t George Dubya Bush aspirate on a pretzel or something?

Forget it.  Peace and Harmony plan busted.

Once they’re all salted, bop ’em into the oven.  Now watch ’em.  That’s right, I said “watch ’em.”  I’ll be honest, friends…I don’t use recommended baking times that much.  I find that most of the time, they’re not accurate.  I just know when bread is done.  And if you’re actually able to follow this recipe up to this point, you probably do, too.  But it’s maybe around 15 minutes.  When they’re nice and golden.  My darker batch was more to my liking than my lighter batch.  What can I say?  I like my pretzels like I like my….

Not going there.

Now this is optional.  After you’ve pulled them out of the oven and oohed and aahed over how amazing you find yourself to be and how you don’t know why someone hasn’t made you Princess Pretzel yet, brush them with melted butter.  Oh.  Yeah.  Now stick ’em on a cooling rack to, you know, cool and stuff.

But eat ’em while they’re still warm.

I’m only gonna say this once: pretzels do not keep well.

Actually, this is important, so twice: Pretzels do not keep well.  Only make what you think you’ll eat today.  I hear you whining, being all, “wah wah wah, I don’t wanna do all this again tomorrow.”  Well, tough, Cupcake!

Just kidding, Cupcake.  Please don’t be mad, Cupcake.  I don’t know what’s come over me lately, Cupcake.

You could do what I did.  Just go back in time, now, and don’t boil all your pretzels.  Freeze them after the shaping, and make a solemn promise to pick up where you left off the next time you want pretzels, adding just a few seconds to boiling and a few minutes to baking.  You could also continue to do as I did, and break that solemn promise and end up with an emergency bag of emergency soft pretzels for when you have a soft pretzel emergency…for emergencies.

Totally awesome.

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