Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homemade Kombucha Tea

I have been reading a lot about the health benefits of Kombucha tea and was interested in trying some. I purchased a bottle of the raw Kombucha tea and really liked the flavor but not the price. One bottle is $2.65 but I wanted to make sure I liked it before starting on the adventure of making my own. Fermented foods are highly prized to have amazing health benefits, unfortunately I don't care for sauerkraut, or other fermented veggies. I've been looking for DIY fermented foods and so I came upon Kombucha. Komucha tea has tons of probiotics, enzymes and organic acids that are healthy for the colon and because of the acids formed in the tea it is very cleansing. It is a fermented black tea and sugar drink that is an overall body detoxifier. The caffeine from the tea and the sugar are almost completely gone from the fermentation process. The organic acids bind to toxins in the body and are removed through the kidneys.

So, I decided to give it a try. I bought a Kombucha culture aka scoby or mother mushroom and started my first brew. Black tea always has to be used in the fermentation process because of its tannins but you can use green tea with it. Herbal teas are not recommended  as they can damage the scoby. The first brew I did just black tea and organic evaporated cane juice. I didn't want to use  bleached white sugarbut, white sugar has to be used. You add some starter tea that you can get with the scoby or white vinegar to bring the pH down so the culture stays healthy and no bad bacteria forms. It is supposed to culture and brew for seven to thirty days. I liked it after the first week. It gets stronger and more like apple cider vinegar the longer it ferments. The recipe is different based on how much you make at a time.

Basic Recipe:

4 bags of black tea
2/3 c starter tea
1/2 c sugar
3 quarts water

The water is heated to a boil and then shut off, the tea is added and steeps 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add the sugar and stir till mixed in. Let cool to room temp. put in a glass jar add starter tea and scoby. Cover jar with tight weaved cloth and rubber band. Let this sit in a 70 degree area or so undisturbed,  for a week. There will be bubbles starting and a white film over the top, this is the new scoby forming. The longer the culture ferments the thicker the culture will get. If the mother and baby adhere to each other you can leave them that way or separate them after the brew is done and use the new scoby for another batch. The mother can be used forever if kept healthy. The recipe also includes a higher amount of starter tea because it doesn't take as long to ferment then. I usually have a new scoby in 5 days instead of seven.

The dark areas on the sides here and there are just thin areas where the tea is showing through. The mother should stay a nice beige color. Pink or grey is mold and the culture and tea should be thrown away. Also, you will see some strands of brown or beige in the tea.  These are normal and are just beneficial yeasts. The mother never needs to be washed or rinsed just make sure the containers and your hands are clean. When making a new batch just remove the scoby with your hand and place in the next container. The finished tea can be strained of the yeast strands if desired.

After I made the first small batch I knew I wanted bigger amounts so I bought a 2 gallon glass container from Walmart for $9.99. The scoby will also form to the size container you culture your tea in. I now have two of these containers going and plan on buying another container at the end of the month. So my cost is closer to five dollars for this amount of Kombucha instead of $25.00+. When I make the larger amounts I do a concentrated tea with the sugar in 1/2 gallon water on the stove and let it cool a little.  Then pour that mixture in the container on top of the other gallon of water, it usually is then cool enough to add the starter tea and scoby. With this process you don't have to wait for the concentrated tea to cool for several hours and it only then takes me about ten to fifteen minutes to make Kombucha.
FYI the only containers that kombucha should be fermented and stored in is glass just to be on the safe side. The acids can leech metals and toxins from other containers. The lids I used above never come in contact with the tea; I leave a good head space. The tall containers are from the other kombucha's I bought and  saved the bottles for this use. Also many people do a second ferment of the tea to get more bubbles etc. You have to be sure the container you seal it in won't burst under the pressure. Then you let it ferment in the new container another day before refrigeration. I don't do the second ferment just to be on the safe side.
Homestead tip: Look for someone in your area making Kombucha since they will have a baby you can have instead of purchasing one. Many places sell them if you can't find a person to help you out. Cultures for Health, Amazon and even E-bay sell scobys.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1 Chicken Three Meals

I happen to be one of those weird people that like to cook but not everyday. So sometimes when I cook on the weekends I'll do several meals at once. I think since  I'm going to be at the stove anyway why not make more of a bang for my buck with what I'm cooking. So today I used one chicken to make three meals. I start off with an organic chicken. Now if you have never bought one they are pricey but the flavour is so different than a conventional chicken I have a hard time buying a regular one now. I also think since I use it in more than one way most of the time it is totally worth it.
To start off I filled a huge stock pot with water and added 2T grey Celtic sea salt and couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. There are a lot more minerals in Celtic sea salt. The apple cider vinegar is used to pull the minerals from the chicken bones and the flavor is pretty much gone by the time you make your soup etc. Start off with cold water and start the water heating on medium. The lower the temperature to start the better the chicken tenderness will be, also the organic chickens don't tend to get so rubbery. I let this boil at med-high for 4 to 6 hours. Start off with a lot of water and let it boil down. Remove the chicken carefully because it will start to fall off the bone and put it in a dish to cool. Taste the broth, if it's too watery let it reduce more also add more salt to taste. It takes more salt then people realize to get a nice flavorful broth. Once it gets were you like it pour half in another stock pot. Once the chicken is cool remove the breasts and set aside. Divide the rest of the chicken between the two stock pots. 
For the first stock pot I do a basic chicken vegetable soup.
1. Large onion diced
2. One to two parsnips, peeled and diced like a carrot (try to get larger ones)
3. Three large carrots
4. Four ribs of celery sliced
5. Two bay leaves
6. Two tablespoons of coconut oil (the flavor will decrease when cooking)
7. Half a cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
I let this cook for a couple hours more developing the flavors and adding more water as needed.
For the second stock pot I did a Chicken Tortilla soup.    
1. In a saucepan put 4 T olive oil and heat, add 1 large onion, saute 5 min.
2. Add 2-4 T Cumin (if you love it add 4)
3. Add 2 T Paprika and sugar
4. Add 2-3 T Chili Powder mix into onions and continue to cook 15min
5. Add couple shakes of Garlic salt and 4-6 large diced tomatoes stir and cook.
6. Put all ingredients into stock pot and add 1/2 cup chopped cilantro cook 15 minutes more. Taste an adjust garlic salt etc. Serve bowls with diced avocado and tortilla chips, top with desired shredded cheese. I use what I have on hand.

For the third dish I made inside out Chicken Empanadas.
1. For the empanadas use the above ingredients except use 2 onions and only two tomatoes with the shredded chicken breasts. I cook it 20-25 minutes and add a little chicken stock from the tortilla soup to make a nice sauce about 1/2 c or so.
2. Instead of making a dough I pick up some bread dough from my grocery store in the bakery dept. and I pinch off a handful and stretch it and fry it in a little oil on both sides over medium heat. Top it with the meat and shredded cheese and a little cilantro. Then use whatever other toppings you want, guacamole or sour cream. I like it with just the meat and cheese. Most empanadas have green olives but I like it without.

The left over bread dough can be fried up and topped with butter and a little sugar or stevia. My husband loves these for dessert. I add cinnamon to mine.

I usually take a quart jar and take that amount out of each soup and let it cool, refrigerate then freeze the next day for a fast meal for a night when I don't want to cook.

Homestead tip:

When using the soup from the quart jars let it thaw then remove it to pan to heat. Don't thaw and heat it in the jar in the microwave. Microwaving a canning jar changes the glass and it can not be used for canning later and can also make the glass unstable for freezing the next time you want to use it.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Master Horticulture Classes, New Books I ordered

I am so excited, there are some Master horticulture classes being offered at the University next year. You can do volunteer work for them and get the classes at half price. I've been talking to my husband about it and am thinking I will take them. I'll write more about them when it gets a little closer. For now, I ordered a Medicinal Herbs and Wild Edibles book. I am going to start building a better library for myself. The next book will be on wild mushrooms. I have been watching a couple YouTube videos on wild edibles.

 I was shocked that I had the ornamental version of gout weed in my garden. It's edible and is best mixed with other greens in a salad etc. There are a couple people doing videos on wild edibles so I've been watching when I can. It is amazing the information you can find out now. I am a real visual person and enjoy the videos.
The next book I bought was on how to survive economic collapse of the country. I know a real upper huh! But we live in uncertain times and so many people are completely unprepared. We are heading into a time when the only things that will be grown in the USA for the most part is corn, wheat and soy. What happens if we go into another world war or have economic collapse and can't get our food shipped in etc. What if the dollar continues to devalue? A lot of people that are experts in economics say we aren't going to recover, we will never be where we were. I don't want to be a Dolly Downer but, I'm starting to prepare so if things get worse we are better off than we are now.
I also bought another book on Homeopathic self-care by Robert Ullman. I checked it out from the library and really liked it. I've used several recommendations from the book and have had great success. I will be buying different books every month to build my knowledge and become more self-sufficient.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saving Lettuce seeds

As the season starts to wind down I have been letting my lettuce bolt and flower. To get seeds you have to let the flower mature and turn into what looks like a dandelion ball. You pull the pods free and separate the seeds.
The seeds are really small, but each seed pod will have 15 or more. I have saved a lot because I wanted to start some new plants to get baby greens now and for next year. When I plant next year, I plan on planting more successively. So every week or two I will start some new plants. Some plants won't sprout in weather above 80 degrees so you have to start very early in the spring.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall Already?

I can't believe the season is almost over boo-hoo! The mornings are starting to get really chilly and it's not getting very hot in the afternoon.This is one of my biggest heirloom tomatoes, it was delicious. I'll miss my tomatoes when the seasons done. They've been great in my V8 juice.
 After my apples were done for the season I aggressively pruned my tree. I want more apples next year not a bigger tree. I did the same thing to my peach tree last year and we got an enormous hall this year. When the leaves on my grape vines start to brown I will do the same with them. I'm already talking to my dear husband about ripping up the front yard for more room to grow veggies. He has never been open to it before, but now he is yea! We talked more about wanting to move,  but may decide to stay were we are planted a little longer. I told him I was going to make some big changes really soon.
At the end of this month I'm going to start looking for a cherry and a pear tree and maybe more fruiting bushes. I would like some raspberries and maybe choke cherries. When we have the money I'm going to start calling some nurseries and start the hunt. Fall is a great time to plant new trees and bushes. They tend to adapt better and have a nice growth spurt.
I'm also gonna call tree services and start having wood chips dumped in my R.V. parking. I watched the "Back to Eden" film recently and also saw a video of a woman that started using wood chips and I am convinced! She had the biggest kale leaves I have ever seen and is completely organic. They were even bigger than with compost. If you have the chance watch the film for free at www.backtoedenfilm.com off to the right is the button to watch it for free.
My kale was nice, but I want bigger leaves for juicing next year.

Homestead tip: If you don't have a garden but want to start one next year save the seeds from organic produce that you're buying and store it for next year. Seed Savers Exchange has tips on seed saving and storage.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Still Juicing My Days Away

I'm loving my juicer and using up a ton of my produce from the garden. I think I'll do this every year to help use up produce. In the past some things have gone bad before I could use them or I would get so much at once I would have to give some away. I've used up a ton on zucchinis and cucumbers juicing. The above picture is of my Armenian cucumbers. They get huge but stay nice and soft. When I juice these I slice them down the center and for the really large ones I scoop out the seeds. I can slice these in thirds and it equals about one large regular cucumber.

A great juice is lemon, cucumber, zucchini and pineapple. I thin it with water a little and add stevia to sweeten. It is so addicting.

Homesteading tip:

Pour fresh juices into popsicle trays for a sugar free, healthy alternative to store bought popsicles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Juicer

I think I mentioned in a post that I was having a birthday.  Well,  it came and went this last weekend. I am (boohoo) forty one. Anyway without wallowing further, I decided to get myself a new juicer with all the cash I got for my birthday.

 I have an Omega 8002 masticating juicer that is over 10 years old. Yeah amazing huh, that anything last that long anymore. I really like it but it doesn't do great on some things. It does a great frozen fruit sorbet and of course greens. I've been doing a lot of research on new juicers and decided on the Omega Vrt 350 HD. This is a masticating juicer, which means it chews and extracts the juice. It leaves a pretty dry pulp and doesn't oxidize the juice the way centrifugal juicers can.
 I watched videos on you tube with all kinds of demos. I found it at Bed Bath and Beyond and with the 20% coupon got it cheaper than I've seen it anywhere. I've used it five or six times and am still a little undecided.
I like to do green juices and all of the greens need to really be cut up to stop it from backing up.  That is a little bit of a pain and the same goes for any herbs, celery etc. Even cutting them up to 1/4 inch they can still block the pulp port.  The other down side is that after about 25 ounces it starts to back up if you do any sort of softer fruits or veggies. The bonus is that if you want to make a lot of juice and keep it you can with this juicer. The RPM's are so low that the juice can stay fresh, the manufacturer states for 72hrs. I think that is too long and just about every time I juice I drink it immediately.
I like a couple different greens, cucumber, apple, a couple carrots and zucchini. All from the garden. I also add grapefruit sometimes to aid in fat loss. I have to add stevia to all of my drinks to sweeten the taste up, otherwise I can't tolerate the taste. This also will keep you from using too much fruit in the juices.  My  3 year old son will also drink these.
I always switch up the greens which is highly recommended due to oxalic acid in spinach and kale etc. This can cause kidney stones. So it's recommended to use a different green everyday. I grow, two different kinds of kale, Swiss chard, parsley, stevia, spinach and different kinds of lettuce, along with pac choy. You can also do the tops of carrots and beets.
 I always change up the juice but, the base is usually the same. Zucchini and cucumber give a lot of juice that can be flavored with other fruits and veggies. I did see a fruit juice on YouTube today that sounds so good. It was pineapple, lemon and apple. When I start juicing, I tend to start craving it. Never in a million years did I think I would love kale! Hello! But with some beet root, carrots and cucumber it is so good. I highly recommend juicing but, you will have to go to the bathroom more and you will get a little buzz from the juice!
Homestead tip:                                                                                     
When you have those huge zucchini and cucumbers in the garden juice them. The yield is really high and then compost the pulp.