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Checking The Homebrew

Homebrew essential items

It’s a snowy day here on the farm, so I am compelled to tidy. That means checking the homebrews in the pantry. Currently, I have a Dandelion Beer from back in June. It’s by far my favorite homebrew concoction so far. Sadly, there isn’t much effervescent, but the taste is crisp and clean. I LOVE it! I’m looking forward to trying again this spring and trying to nail it. Unfortunately, it requires fresh dandelion greens as well as the root, so I can’t make any just yet.

My second homebrew is just some plain, old Kombucha that I bottled in February 2016. It’s delightfully fizzy and still tastes faintly of apples, with a crisp bite at the end. No way would you know that it was fermented tea unless you were already familiar with this tasty brew.

Finally, today I started some hard cider using a kit I purchased off of Ebay. I’ll let you know how it goes. In 10 days I bottle it, so pics will follow.

In other news, my bookshelves are tidied and dinner is ham with scalloped potatoes and veg and rhubarb sauce on the side. It’s a fussy kitchen day, since we have a self-imposed snow day today. No reason other than this time of year is “meh” for schooling. We drag all month until the first of the year when we kick off with full energy until spring. It really pays to not take off all those “holiday and vacation” days the rest of the year.

What Is That Smell – Homemade Sauerkraut

When people find out that I have gurgling vats of fermented things in my kitchen, the first things they say involve safety and food poisoning. I think there is a  misconception that aging food or fermenting food equates rotting food. Although fermented food is aging, I like to think of its as aging with style. What I mean, is that fermenting is controlled decaying of the food you start with, into a completely different food, that is healthy for different reasons.
My advice to anyone trying to eat fermented foods is to start slow. A tablespoon of real sauerkraut alongside a richer food, like a piece of beef, will not only benefit the flavor of the dish, the sauerkraut will help your body digest the meat itself.  Possibly, there is nothing valid in this, but it’s how I think.
If you ferment, there are some things you should know.
1. Fermenting is bubbly, smelly and sometimes kind of creepy.
2. Fermented food has a tingly feeling on your tongue and many times a natural carbonation. It’s yummy, but weird if you don’t expect it.
3. Your family and friends will think something has dies or gone terribly wrong in your kitchen if you even dream of letting a vat of sauerkraut work on the counter.
4. Once you start to like fermented food, you will begin to crave it. I think that is a basic and natural part of us being human.
If you want to get started with fermenting, its not hard. Try to make something easy, like sauerkraut
You need:
Glass jar to make it in
Something to seal out the air, like a bag filled with water that will squeeze down onto the top of the cabbage and keep it under the brine.
Shred cabbage fine and place a layer in the glass jar.
Sprinkle canning salt over it
Mash down cabbage as you go, to sort of bruise it and help release the juice.
Repeat until jar is full, with juice covering the cabbage
Fill bag with water, seal and press that onto the top of the shredded cabbage, salt,juice layer.
Every other day, remove bag, clean off scum that formed on the bag and the top of the liquid if any. Check that cabbage is under the liquid at all times. Add salty brine to keep it that way if needed.
Wait for a couple of weeks and your sauerkraut is done. Don’t leave it in the main part of your kitchen or it will smell unholy-this is good and means its working but your friends and family will not understand. Enjoy!

The Farm Kitchen

My kitchen is never clean. Not in the way that you may think. Yes, things are wiped and all that, but if you look carefully, you will see things bubbling, steaming, working, growing, fermenting, in every corner of the room. I leave my crockpot out to throw things into as I harvest them. I have a gallon jar of Kombucha fermenting all the time, sometimes two!
My cast iron frying pans are never put away. You never know when you have to throw something together for the kids. And there is nothing worse than pulling out a pan and having it be slightly rusted from not being totally dry when  put away.
Then there is the wormbin. Yes, I have thousands of red wigglers growing and thriving on my counter. I cant say that it is tiny, the thing is 2 ft square and at least two feet high. Good thing they compost quietly and with no odor, or guests would never come into the house.
How about the stove? It is a restaurant style, with 6 burners and a huge griddle. I have to keep the griddle clean because it is impossible to clean otherwise (that and it’s gross not to), but the stove itself is stainless steel. Whomever thought of making anything shiny silver, is a dolt, in my opinion. It is never shiny or beautiful for more than a day after you take the time to shine and buff it. Lame
Today, I am going to make kombucha. This is a fermented drink that tastes sort of like sweet apple cider. I make it 3 quarts at a time, and it never lasts long around here. In fact, when served ice cold, it is the first thing anyone asks to drink. Kombucha  does have a little alcohol in it, less than the equivalent of 1 beer in a gallon of kombucha, but it is something you should know.
Here is how I make it:

3 quarts cold water
1 cup sugar
6 black tea bags
1 SCOBY pad
½ cup Kombucha starter
In large pot, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat, add the teabags and cover tightly
Steep 15 minutes
Remove the tea bags
Cover tightly to keep impurities from falling into the pan
Cool the tea to room temperature
Place the scoby into a gallon sized glass jar
Pour the Kombucha starter over the SCOBY
Pour the cooled tea into the jar
Cover jar with a coffee filter and hold it in place with elastic band.
Let sit until it smells like apple cider vinegar. It takes about 7-10 days in our house.
Pour the finished Kombucha off into a clean jar to use and keep about ½ cup in gallon jar along with the SCOBY, to start another batch.
The scoby can be peeled apart and shared after each batch of Kombucha is made.
Back in the day, I made kombucha for a customer who also bought my raw milk.   Once a week, I would carefully drive down the mountain, with coolers full of milk, kefir and kombucha. It was quite an exchange. I was sort of like the milkman, only I delivered eggs, milk, and other cool foods.
Fermented foods are so important to our diets. I am surely preaching to the choir, but I truly believe that there are good bacteria in them that our bodies really need, in order to digest whole foods like we should. 
So there you have it. My kitchen may seem quiet, but it is actually hard at work, making healthy things for our family. You have to appreciate that.