Now that I am (once again) trying to eat healthier I have a desire to try lacto-fermenting. I have been hearing about this for a while, especially when I was hanging out on a kombucha board. I admit that I thought it was pickling with milk....and that didn't sound tasty. Come to find out it is pickling the old fashioned way, using natural lactic acids and yeasts, which are present in our environment. You've heard of "probiotics" and how healthy they are for our guts? That is the benefit of lacto-fermented foods. Unfortunately I got this desire at the very tail end of the pickling season. The only pickling cukes to be had were well past their prime and verging on spoiling. I also couldn't find any dill seed heads. Still, I forged ahead. Nothing will dissuade me from my desire to produce my own delicious, natural dill pickles. Will I achieve this dream? Time will tell. For now let me share with you my first fumbling baby steps on this journey.
First I picked out 6 of the least rotten feeling pickles at the produce stand. I gave them a good scrubbing and trimmed off any soft spots. I also trimmed both ends of each cuke. Then I soaked them for about an hour in an ice water bath to firm them up. Next I located one of the pickle jars I'd saved. It was just big enough to do the job. Now to add my flavorings. Lacking a proper head of dill I opted to use a tsp. of dried dill. I also added a tsp. of pickling spices and 2 peeled cloves of garlic to the bottom of the jar. Next I added the cucumbers, standing them on their ends. After I had all the goodies loaded into the jar I mixed up a pickling brine using some kosher salt and water. Now to rig up some way to keep the cukes below the surface. I put some water into a Ziploc bag and stuffed that into the jar top. Oh, I forgot to mention the oak leaf. I had read somewhere that if you add a tannin rich leaf (or leaves) to the jar it will make your pickles crisper. The leaves can be oak, grape, horseradish, or cherry. I had access to none of the above. I finally located an oak tree in the Walgreen's parking lot. Later on I read that the oak leaves need to be the rounded, not pointy, variety. Apparently pointy oak leaves have too much tannin and will make your pickles too astringent.
I added a cloth to the top of my makeshift pickle crock and left it alone for 3 days. On day 3 I removed the cloth to take a peek. I was looking for bubbles which would signal that fermentation was underway. Success!
Fermentation is an inexact science. There are lots of variables. My pickles should be done in 7 to 10 days. Our days are getting colder now so I am thinking it will be more like 10 days before they are ready to go into the fridge. The cold will then inhibit fermentation and allow the pickles to mellow. There is just one hitch in my plan. I will be out of town on day 10. I am going to set the jar against a cold outer wall and hope for the best. Here is a picture of the pickles showing the oak leaf I had found.
As you can see, it is the pointy leaf variety (figures). I have removed it today and am hoping the tannin levels in the brine aren't too high. I do have some powdered tannin that I use in wine making. I wonder if I couldn't add a bit of that to my pickles in the future? Check back in about a week to see how these pickles turned out.
I have not found time to mix up my own GF baking mix but I found this Arrowhead Mills All Purpose Baking Mix on my last visit to Fred Meyers (Krogers). Yesterday I decided to fix the husbeast some blueberry muffins using blueberries I picked at our local Blueberry Park in the summer of 2012. I sealed them in one cup batches in vacuum sealed bags and stored them in my freezer. Yes, the berry are still good.
I followed the Blueberry Crumb Muffin recipe on the back of the box, but omitted the crumb topping. Other changes I made were to use regular whole milk and use 1/2 cup of honey in place of the 3/4 cup of sugar. I used salted butter, as that was all I had. The muffins were not too salty. The recipe did not tell you when to add the blueberries, which I found amusing since they are blueberry muffins. I added a Tbs. of the baking mix to the blueberries and coated them thoroughly then folded them into the batter before spooning the batter into the lined muffin tins. The recipe says to pour the batter in, but it is far too thick for that to happen.
The muffins turned out nice and moist and very, VERY buttery. I think I will try decreasing the amount of butter next time. It seemed like overkill. Otherwise I am very happy with them and the husbeast declared them "delicious".
One thing that I've discovered since going gluten free? You have to cook a LOT of things from scratch. This has been a challenge, but also a lot of fun. Yesterday I decided to try making some corn tortillas. There are only 3 ingredients, so how hard can they be? I started with the recipe from the back of the Maseca bag. Turns out there is a bit of a learning curve. The first dough was too dry and I didn't know how to properly cook them. They were also a bit bland for my liking. Today I tried again and I am happy to report that I have been successful. Here is my recipe. I added a bit more water and salt to that first, original recipe off the bag.
2 cups masa flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
(plus more if needed)
In a bowl, wisk the salt into the flour, mixing it in thoroughly. Add the warm water and mix it in using your hands and fingers, until all the flour is incorporated. You want the dough to be the consistency of Play-Doh. If the dough feels too stiff, add some more warm water, a tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too moist add a bit of masa flour. Once your dough feels right, cover it with some plastic wrap. It dries out really fast. Get out your tortilla press and start heating your pan. Start with your pan on medium high heat. You may have to adjust the heat up or down. All stoves vary and it will also depend on the type of pan used. I use a cast iron frying pan and a medium heat. Anything hotter and it burns off the seasoning from my pan. Cover your press with some plastic wrap.
Take a small amount of dough (about walnut size) and roll it into a ball, then slightly flatten the ball and place it on the press.
Top the ball of dough with another piece of plastic wrap and close the press, pressing down hard on the lever.
Open it up and "ta da"! You've made a tortilla. I like to rotate the tortilla 180 degrees, then press again, to make sure it is flattened evenly.
Carefully lift the tortilla and remove the plastic, one side at a time. Brush the tortilla lightly with oil (depending on the type of pan you are using. Mine needs oil) and lay the tortilla in the pan. Cook it for approx. 50 seconds per side. You want it to get cooked and slightly browned, but not burnt. Flip it once the first side is done.
Don't worry if your tortilla feels a bit stiff. You may be wondering, as I did, "how is this thing going to roll up or fold around a filling without breaking"? Here is the secret to soft, moist tortillas. Once they are cooked you place them into a tortilla warmer (or steamer). These can be made of cloth, pottery or plastic. Mine is blow molded plastic. You close the lid and the tortillas steam each other, making them soft and pliable. Like magic.
Once you get the hang of it, making fresh tortillas from scratch is incredibly easy. You will never want to eat those rubbery tortillas from the grocery store, ever again. Enjoy!
Fall is the most crucial time to treat for varroa. The mite population is increasing as the bee population begins to decline. The bees go into the winter with much fewer numbers and the winter bees are the ones who will be hatching in the fall. Those winter bees will be cooped up inside the hive until the weather warms up in late winter/early spring. If there is a large mite population in the hive during the winter it can really weaken the bees. Even if you don't see any mites in your hive, they are there. By the time I noticed them in my hives, which was after their 2nd winter, they were heavily infested. One of the hives was weakened enough that they developed nosema and dysentery. I was able to rectify the situation using HopGuard but the bees took all summer to recover. This seriously effected my honey harvest.
This year I am going to treat both fall AND spring. I use HopGuard, 3 applications, 7 to 10 days apart. I put solid boards, smeared with Vaseline, under the screened bottom boards to catch the dead mites. These are the mites that were on the board after 24 hours.
Close up of mites. They are the blood red ovals.
I will treat twice more this month. Meanwhile I am feeding them 2:1 syrup and giving them pollen patties. I want to make sure they have plenty of food to get them through the winter and raise their winter brood.
This is my honest review of GF Joe's which is a Gluten Free Market in Tacoma, WA.
"From the outside it looks huge, which adds to the shock when you actually enter the store. I agree with others that the ambience of the store is too sparse and quiet. It feels as though they have too large a space for their actual needs. There is what appears to be a deli area but it is empty. I asked how long they'd been open (thinking it must have been a very short period of time) and was surprised to hear it has been an entire year.
There is a good variety of GF foods offered but prices are high.
One of the things I miss most about being GF is beer. Finding Omission beer was well worth the visit. $2 per bottle and delicious. Udi's bread was also worth the visit.
Things that I would like to see: Deli/bakery area, more bulk offerings.
I will continue to shop here for things like bread, beer, pasta."
Here are my purchases:
Omission IPA $1.99
Van's crackers $3.99
Udi's bread $5.89 (for 13 slices)
Veggie bouillon $3.19
Quinoa pasta $1.32 (it's $6.29per lb.)
tax $.57 (not sure why I was charged tax on the crackers????)
I don't eat a lot of bread but I do like a piece of toast with my morning egg. The Udi's was very much like traditional bread. Here it is shown toasted, with butter and honey.
My favorite find was the Omission IPA. I savored it. Yummy! If only my husband, the brewmaster, could figure a way to brew GF beer.
I'm sure I will be a regular customer at GF Joe's although I am a little concerned that Tacoma may not have a large enough GF community to keep them afloat. If you are GF and in the area, please pay them a visit.
I harvested my honey rather late this year. My bees had a rough time this season and I wanted to give them every opportunity to get some honey capped for me. I finally pulled all my honey frames last week and was waiting for another 80 degree day so I could extract. Today proved to be just such a day.
My uncapping tank is a sink I bought off Craigslist which I set on top of 3 shallow honey supers, stacked one on top of the other. There is a bucket lined with a straining bag placed directly beneath the drain opening.
I set the frame in the sink and use my uncapping knife to uncap the cells. Then I go over the ones I missed with the capping scratcher. You need to make sure all the cells are uncapped in order to extract the honey from the frame. Once the frame is uncapped, on both sides, you place it into the extractor. The wax and honey that remains in the uncapping tank gets pushed through the drain opening and falls into the bucket.
Once all of the frames have been extracted I place another bucket, lined with a filter, under the opening on the front of the extractor and open the "honey gate".
The honey flows out, along with chunks of wax and any other debris. The honey is then filtered by passing through a very fine strainer. This large bucket also features a honey gate. The nicely filtered honey is now ready to be placed into smaller storage buckets, or jars, for long term storage.
After the frames have been extracted I place them, and the rest of the extracting equipment, out into my bee yard for the bees to clean.
That way there is no waste. The bees are only too happy to take the leftover honey back to their hives. Today the air in my backyard was full of happy, excited bees. It was a challenge to get these videos and pictures as the bees were careening past me, full throttle.
In the end I extracted 16 pounds of honey this year, which is twice the amount of last year's harvest.