Well ice fishing season is in full swing. It’s been -50 outside for a couple days but in the fish house things have been pretty toasty. The pickled eggs are already almost gone, hopefully the next batch will be ready soon. The butterscotch brandy is hot and ready!
A while back I received a very good, very expensive bottle of wine as a gift of thanks. It was even signed by the vineyard owner. It was a red wine, I usually prefer white but this was the perfect blend of fruit, chocolate and floral. It had wonderful flavor. I know because it was my job to create a dessert to pair with it. I have been saving my bottle for a special occasion.
When we moved the last of our things to reach the farm were a few miscellaneous boxes, garden and yard tools that were just stacked in the barn to be organized this spring. I went out in search of something the other day, what it was I don’t remember. What I found was a box labeled “fragile kitchen”. I had been missing a couple things in the kitchen but not enough to really think twice. Until I noticed the bottom corner of the box was purple.
My special bottle of wine had froze, and in doing so push up the cork and leaked all over. I was so disappointed. Having been expose to air, once the bottle thawed it would either need to be consumed immediately or left to turn to vinegar. I’m all for a bottle of wine but 10 am on a Tuesday, alone could be a bit questionable.
In it’s most basic form vinegar is just wine gone bad. Not bad like unusable bad but bad like not drinkable as wine. Wine left exposed to air will pick up natural bacteria and aromatic yeasts which will feast on the alcohol and leave acetic acid in it’s place.
The type of vinegar is distinguished by it’s source of alcohol. For example my excellent red wine will turn to red wine vinegar, Apple Cider vinegar comes from the obvious hard apple cider, Rice Wine vinegar from rice wine, you get the picture.
The most widely used is distilled vinegar made of grain. (Malt vinegar is also made of grain but the process is a bit different resulting in a darker colored and more flavorful vinegar than its counterpart.) The popularity of distilled vinegar is growing rapidly as people are again exploring it’s many uses. Try searching uses for vinegar, you will find more sites boasting 101 ways to use vinegar. Apple Cider vinegar is a close second for the same reason, everyone having 101 ways to use it.
The alcohol content of the wine will determine the amount of time the wine will need to age to turn to vinegar and the acidity of the finished vinegar. A very rough estimation of time would be about two weeks in a warm, somewhat humid environment and about five weeks in a cool, dry environment.
If you are making your own wine vinegar it is best to follow the steps of making good wine all the way to then. Let it age as if you were planning to use it for wine and then expose it to air and allow it to further ferment. (Wine is already a fermented product) Once the alcohol has been consumed by the yeast the process is done. The vinegar will be shelf stable (not needing canning or refrigeration). Vinegar is the end of the line so to speak, it won’t turn into something else if left to sit longer. You can taste your wine every week or few days to check this.
Fruit vinegars are another fun kitchen experiment. Put your fruit scraps in a crock or jar, add a little sugar and enough water to cover everything and let this sit to ferment for 2 to 4 weeks. (Longer if you like) This technique works great with apple scraps. When we were in Mexico I talked to a chef and was introduced pineapple vinegar, in which the same process was used. Pineapple scraps, sugar and water. Upon more searching I found a recipe for this in the book “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Homemade vinegar tends to be a little cloudy unless it is strained or pasteurized because it contains “mother”. The mother of the vinegar is good. Pasteurizing the vinegar will kill the mother and some of the healing properties. It would be comparable to raw milk verse pasteurized milk; both have health benefits but the unpasteurized of the two will have good bacteria that aids the body in many ways.
Infused Herbal vinegars are a fun thing to make as well. Simply collect herbs, flowers, fruits, (you can us stalks, stems, leaves, petals, or even root in some cases) even nuts chop them finely and put them in a jar. Fill the jar with vinegar leaving about an inch of headspace. Seal with a cork or a few layers of wax paper under your jar lid. If the vinegar comes in contact with metal is will act as a corrosive and will poorly flavor your vinegar. Allow this to sit for about six weeks. It can be left longer, it will continue to get stronger. After the desired amount of time strain out the herbs and your vinegar is ready to use. It can be used for and recipe calling for vinegar; marinades, salad dressings, added to steamed vegetables, stir fry, soup, anything! Don’t be afraid to get creative with your herbs.
You can make vinegar until the cows come home and use it just as fast, if you do all 101 uses. You may also lose a few friends or at least be demoted to phone conversations only; you can only sit with someone soaked in vinegar for so long. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. After reading a ridiculous amount of things you can do with vinegar I think I will just stick with the couple that I use regularly.
– Cleaning, of course. It’s great at killing bacteria, mold and unwanted germs. With a little baking soda and vinegar you can clean anything! (I know there are a million “recipes” for cleaning with vinegar and soda, but there’s no real need. Just a dash of vinegar and enough soda to use as a light abrasive when there’s extra scrubbing required.
–Laundry, I add about a cup of vinegar during the wash cycle sometimes. It does a lot in there, whitens, removes any soap residue, softens, helps to repel lint among other things.
Apple Cider Vinegar With Mother
– Digestion help, I mix a shot glass of vinegar with a glass of water to aid in digestion. ACV works as an anti-inflammatory; having IBD, anti-inflammatory is good. Also I have a very acidic body, the cider vinegar, though acidic itself actually helps to turn your system more alkaline. This is good because cancer cells like an acidic environment, so keeping your body more alkaline helps keep cancer at bay. There are more health benefits to drinking the ACV but those are the reasons I like it.
– Facial Toner, every other day I put some ACV on a cotton square and use it as a toner. It helps to heal tissues and again anti-inflammatory. If you plan to do any serious detox you will most likely get some acne and inflamed face due to toxins leaving your body. ACV will help heal and sooth this. Only use it until things are under control. **Don’t use full strength daily, it is very acidic and even with it’s healing properties less is again more. If you would like to use this daily dilute it to at least a 50/50 mixture with water.
– Hair Rinse, I mix 3/4 ACV and 1/4 water and pour over my wet hair every few days. If you’ve ever had well water you know that you can get some mineral build up on your hair as well as some soap residue sometime. The ACV strips this from your hair leaving it soft and shiny again.
If you’ve ever made homemade yogurt or scratch cheese you know about whey. It’s that cloudy yellow-ish byproduct. If your unfamiliar with it, it tends to get thrown away. Whey actually contains vitamins, minerals, protein and enzymes. To drink it straight won’t hurt you, I’m not too fond of the taste though. Luckily there are plenty of other uses.
There are two types of whey: Acid Whey, a result of making cheese with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice and Sweet Whey, a result of yogurt or cheese made with rennet. Both will work for any of the suggestions to follow.
I like to use whey in place of milk or water when I make bread. It adds a nice subtle flavor and the bread seems to keep it’s moisture a little longer (in case you don’t eat the whole loaf in a day or freeze it).
Making Whey Cheese also known as Whey Ricotta is another way to use it up.
Ok so Whey Ricotta will still leave you with whey, but you can then make mozzarella and use the whey to stretch the curds rather than salt water.
Whey can also be used to soak your grains instead of buttermilk or water. This will give a little less flavor than buttermilk and a little more nutrition than water. We have also used whey in place of water when making rice pilaf.
One more use (there are many more but I stop here for now) is to use for Lacto-Ferment vegetables. This process is quite simple and we will go more in detail with it later but the just of it is, you add some whey as starter to your pickling brine.
I love yogurt, just to eat and to bake with. Mostly to eat, with raspberries and honey. I can’t have refined sugar so buying yogurt is out (and I don’t like the “extra’s” they add).
Homemade yogurt seems to be the “new” thing, when really it’s been around for centuries. Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, most often made with cow’s milk. Notably the most popular cultured/fermented food for it’s health aspects. Now more than ever. Probiotics are getting lots of press lately and yogurt has a few.
Probiotic are good bacteria that help maintain the microflora in the intestines. There are 400 different strains of probiotic bacteria in your digestive track. The most populous strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus or lactic acid. This strain is found in yogurt and is probably best recognized today (even if people don’t actually know what it is, kinda like antioxidants, I’ll tell you about those later). Surprisingly people with a lactose allergy can usually tolerate homemade yogurt because as it ferments the good bacteria eats the lactose leaving it almost lactose free.
Without a healthy balance of bacteria in your system, trouble digesting is the first of the problems you can have. Yogurt is usually recommended to people who are taking antibiotics. This is done because antibiotics do just that, they kill bacteria and not just the bad bacteria but the good stuff too. (I wish my doctor would have told me this. I learned the hard way and on my own) Probiotics help protect the body from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Colon Cancer, Skin irritations and some mental disorders. Long story short, you need good bacteria.
This is where homemade yogurt comes into play. Most recipes I’ve seen are pretty close to the same; milk and plain yogurt. I do things a little different.
The whey is the yellow jar in the picture above.
Don’t throw the whey! It makes great bread just use it in place of water or milk in your favorite bread recipe.
To keep the milk at the desired temp for hours people say to fill mason jars with warm water and place them and your milk in a cooler and check the temp every so often and exchange the cool jars with warm ones. Another method is lining a cooler with a blanket and put your yogurt in it. I find both to be a pain in the ass. I do everything in the crock pot. Warm the milk, let it cool, add the yogurt, then place the lid back on it and put it in the oven with the oven light on. Done! No changing water jars, no fussing with coolers and blankets and it stays the perfect temp.
You need the bit of plain yogurt for the probiotics to start the fermentation process. Most commercial yogurts list 2-4 different strains of probiotic. Kefir is another fermented dairy product it’s thinner than yogurt and thicker than cream and sometimes slightly fizzy. Kefir generally averages 12 different strains of probiotic depending on the brand. I use plain kefir instead of plain yogurt as my starter. It turns out great!
If left to ferment longer than 12 hours you will end up with sour cream, which is equally good. This being said your yogurt is unsweetened. I prefer adding honey to my individual serving, you can sweeten the whole batch if you like. Once you have made one batch you can use a little of what you made to start the next batch.
Less is more too. Adding more plain yogurt (or kefir) will not give you super probiotic yogurt. Too much starter will actually give your yogurt a more tart or sour taste. It won’t hurt you but it’s just not as good.
The only thermometer I have is a candy thermometer and it’s not worth the space it takes in the cupboard. General rule of thumb I go by it to heat to 180 you want it to be starting to steam and a film will develop on top. To cool to 110, I use my finger, it should be a little warmer than body temp. Be sure to wash your hand before testing the temperature as you do not want to introduce bad bacteria to your yogurt.
Happy yogurt making! (It also makes great frozen yogurt too 😉 )
Summer is a very distant memory now and there’s so many months of cold left. I think I’m pretty well acclimated now as I went to get the mail this afternoon and thought to myself it was pretty nice out… it was -10. That doesn’t mean I’m not craving a garden fresh meal on the deck. It’s still winter and winter flavors.