Monday, May 28, 2012

Homemade, Naturally Fermented Soda

I have had a lot of small projects going on lately.  I think it's because both our cars are out of commission and I have a lot of spare time on my hands... and because making things is just so darn fun! :) 

The soda recipe that I recently made is from a blog called Learning Herbs.  If you want to view the original post, click here.

The kids and I picked some wonderful Florida blueberries a few weeks ago, and this was a perfect project to use up 6 cups of them.  I assume you can use any kind of berry/fruit with this recipe, or just make ginger soda with your "bug" (which I have done before).

To make the "bug", or soda culture, needed to naturally ferment your homemade soda, fill a quart mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 full of filtered water (non-chlorinated).  Add 1 T freshly-chopped ginger root and 2 t unprocessed sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Let it sit 24 hours, then add 2t ginger and 2t sugar.  Repeat this process until your mixture is good and bubbly.  My "bug" took only 4 days to reach maximum bubbliness!  

While you are building your "bug", make sure to cover it with a secured cloth to prevent any contaminants from finding their way in.

Here's my "bug" after only 4 days.  The natural yeasts on the ginger root are very active and ready to culture some soda!


For the next part of the soda-making process, you will need:

6 cups berries/fruit
1 1/2 c unprocessed sugar
1 gallon filtered water
1 cup soda "bug"
glass gallon-sized jar

Pour your berries into a large cooking pot and add 1/2 gallon filtered water and sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Pour into your gallon jar, then top off with more filtered water.  Be sure to leave room in the jar for your "bug" and for a little expansion from the fermentation!  When the mixture has cooled, add the "bug" and stir.  Be sure to stir the mixture a couple of times every day thereafter.

Here's the fermenting vessel I used for the soda.  And, after about 3 days, my vessel looked like this:

When your  soda looks this bubbly, you may choose to go ahead and bottle it!  If you prefer a less- sweet soda, you can let the fermentation continue for another few days- up to a week.

I chose to bottle mine on day 3.  (Before bottling, make sure you filter your soda with a large strainer or colander.)  Since I have had homemade soda bottles explode on me before, I am putting mine in the fridge right away.  The original recipe called for a second fermentation in the bottles, but I'm a little paranoid about exploding glass.  So, I will keep mine in the fridge for another week or so, then I will test the carbonation and go from there!  If you choose to leave your bottles on the counter for another 2-3 days, please check the carbonation every 12 to 24 hours so that an accidental explosion is less likely!  I would rather be cautious than sorry. :) 

Enjoy your homemade, probiotic-rich sodas with family and friends.  Feel good about serving a healthy soda to the people you love!

Homemade Sour Cream

Have you ever read the label of a store-brought sour cream?  It's not just cultured cream, is it?  Well, it should be.  I'm sick of commercial food products being loaded with unnatural preservatives, thickeners and "flavor enhancers"!  Sheesh.  What do I do about it, you may ask... I make my own :)

Above is the label from a sour cream container we go a while back... I now use this container to hold dry snacks for my children.  As you can see, there is (probably GMO) cornstarch, guar gum and carageenan, among other things.  Why, oh why do they need to ruin this usually yummy condiment?

For my homemade version, you will need about a quart organic cream (preferably raw) and 1/4 cup buttermilk.  I bought the least gummed-up buttermilk I could get from the store, although it still had "annatto coloring" as the last ingredient.  I do not own buttermilk culture, so this had to do.

Pour the cream into a glass storage container (a mason jar would work, also) and stir in the buttermilk.  No heating required- just mix it together cold!  Then, let the mixture sit on your kitchen counter for a full 24 hours, covered with a rubber band-secured cloth.

And, voila!  after the culture sours your cream, you are left with a very large batch of goodness!  Although mine was very creamy when the 24 hours was up, it continued to firm up after I put it in the fridge.  It has the same consistency as that cornstarch-ridden store-bought sour cream, and I didn't have to thicken it at all!

Enjoy your sour cream in soups, sauces and as a Tex-Mex condiment.  So glad I don't have to yell at the ingredient labels in the store any more! :)

This post shared on Monday Mania.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Homemade Yogurt Cheese and Whey

Yogurt Cheese is probably one of my all-time favorite snacks.  It is fresh-tasting, very filling, and perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.  Whole milk yogurt cheese is packed with probiotics, healthy fats and energy, and it tastes like heaven!

Since I didn't have any homemade yogurt on hand, this batch is made with an organic, whole milk, store-bought yogurt.  Greek yogurt will have substantially less whey, but I used American yogurt because I have other plans for that whey!

The first step in making yogurt cheese is finding a filter suitable for separating the cheese and whey.  I used a coffee filter because it fit very well into the jar that will catch the whey.  You could also use a spare cloth, such as layered cheesecloth.

I fit the coffee filter into the opening of my jar and scooped in a fair amount of yogurt.  You can use whatever sized jar you have on hand!  If the opening is large, you might want to secure the filter/cloth with a rubber band around the lip of the jar.  Since my jar was small, I just folded the filter over, as you can see in the above picture...

Let the whey drain out of your yogurt for at least 4 hours.  The longer you let it sit, the thicker the cheese will get.  This last batch I made was on my counter all night, and it turned out to be thick like cream cheese!  (I let mine separate on my kitchen counter, but you could move your jar to the fridge during this process.)

This is how I eat my yogurt cheese! :)  The small amount that I made (around 1/4 cup) was more than enough to satisfy, and by adding fresh Florida blueberries and a drizzle of honey, it was a sweet treat!  Peaches, strawberries or mangoes would also be delicious in yogurt cheese.

The whey that I collected can be kept in cold storage for up to 6 months.  I use whey for fermented veggies and beverages!  For more information fermented beverages, click here.  For a great recipe for fermented green beans, click here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homemade Sourdough Starter

Sourdough is a treat- one of my family's favorites.  I have kept starter in my refrigerator since I made it over two years ago.  So, it was a sad day in our house when I accidentally killed my culture.  Yes, I killed it.  Let's just say that it was death by bacon grease...

Thankfully, sourdough starter is not hard to make!  I have a new batch in my fridge as I write this, and I just started it a week and a half ago.

Here's what you need to make your own sourdough starter:
1/4c  flour ( I used unbleached, then added whole wheat- use whatever you have on hand.)
1/4 c water

That's it!  Mix the two ingredients in a canning jar and cover it with a clean piece of cloth, secured with a rubber band- I used a piece of an old tee shirt.

Next comes the waiting... and get the idea!  Every 12 to 24 hours, you need to "feed" your starter with equal amounts flour and water (about 1/4 cup each time).  If your starter begins to reach near the top of your jar, just pour off up to half of it before a feeding.  The sour flavor that gives sourdough its name develops better in small batches anyway :)

This is my starter on day 4.  Finally, some signs of life!  My patience has paid off, and there are tell-tale bubbles in my starter- this means I have captured the wild yeasts in my kitchen.  They are happily feeding on all the gluten in my flour mixture.  But, it's not done yet!  Even though the yeast is there, my starter hasn't yet developed the yummy sour smell that a ripe starter should have.  Time to wait again... and wait... and wait.  Go ahead and keep feeding the starter until a nice, yeasty, sour smell develops.  You decide when it's done- mine took an extra four days for it to become this:

Here's my finished starter!  It is soured and ready to use in breads, pancakes and bagels!!  There are so many wonderful things you can make with sourdough, and if you're nice to your starter, it can live in your refrigerator for years and years.  My deceased starter has many children in the fridges of my friends, and I intend to spread the love with this new starter as well! 

When your starter reaches this stage, you can cap it with a tight-fitting lid and pop it in the fridge.  When you want to use some, just get it out several hours in advance and let it warm up on the counter (covered with a cloth).  Before you cover it back up and store it, be sure to feed it equal amounts flour and water to keep it happy :).  If you do not use your starter for a week-ish, just feed it and store it again.

If your starter gets a funky smell (like acetone), sometimes you can bring it back by adding a T plain yogurt! 

Enjoy making treats for your family and friends with sourdough starter! 

For recipes, click on the type:

This post was shared on Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.