Lactofermenting for the Time-Challenged

Stainless steel bowl available at Lehmans.com.

All the root veggies are washed well, not a speck of soil remains. Then they air-dry. Use a colander, or spread on your counter on a clean dishtowel. Stainless steel bowl for photo spiffiness only! (Lehmans.com has ’em.)

Alrighty then, it’s that time of year. The garden is starting to really gear up and I have more produce than we can eat before it goes bad. My plan for filling the pantry with wholesome and delicious foods that have less than 5 ingredients, none of which came out of a lab, is working.

Pickling for people disinclined to boil vinegar
So, what is a girl to do with all this bounty?

I know, I’ll lacto-ferment it all. I like lacto-fermented veggies, so does the hubbin, and I really actually find cutting up veggies to be enjoyable. I’m weird that way!

And as a completely unrelated bonus, lacto-fermenting things is so incredibly easy that even I can’t mess it up. Though I thought I had and threw out the first batch I ever made: more on that later.

Lacto-fermenting is what creates sauerkraut, kimchi and cocktail onions, to name some of the more commonly known results of the process.

Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation at Lehmans.com

Make your own healthy, pure lacto-fermented veggies, vinegars, pickles and more! Pick up The Art of Fermentation now at Lehmans.com to get started fast.

It is a bacterial process, utilizing critters that are present in any environment that has not been completely sterilized (it will not work in outer space, so those of you reading this from the Mir Space Station, sorry, try it when you get back home), so yes, when I first got into this process I had to get over my germophobia and embrace the little things (metaphorically speaking). It’s similar to the fermentation that creates alcohol, just with different microbes.

Which brings me to examine exactly how one goes about lacto-fermenting, rather than creating carrot booze accidentally.

We want to attract the right kind of microbe, so we have to create the right kind of environment. Think of it as very, very small game trapping, because the microbes are all there, hanging out together. We want to encourage the lactobacilli, while discouraging the yeasts (alcohol) and other things that would spoil our food. Continue reading

Easy How-To: Make Your Own Potato Flakes

PotatoesBecause the ingredient list in commercial instant mashed potatoes is longer than my arm and mostly completely unpronounceable, and because we NEVER eat the whole bag of potatoes before they become something from a horror movie that gives me nightmares when I look into the potato box, I dehydrate a lot of spuds in various forms.

Costs to Make Potato Flakes

One 10 pound bag of potatoes (conventionally grown): cost $2.98

Gas for the stove and electricity for the dehydrator/grinder/lights so I can see, water to wash/boil/rinse with, fuel and maintenance portion for the grocery run during which I acquired these items, amortization cost of items used during the production: =/-$1.00
(Frankly, it’s less, but I’m gonna just be lazy about it, this is about dehydrating, not higher math with fractions)

Total cost for homemade potato goodness: $3.98. Continue reading

Easy How To: Dried Turkey Stock

 

Center, turkey carcass. Upper left, ginger bug, which is pulling the last flavor from ginger bits. At top right, the inset from my steam juicer. I was juicing fruit while the turkey carcass cooked.

Doesn’t that just look delicious? And there was sooooo much meat left on that bird I almost made enchiladas. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m doing a step by step on how to make turkey broth powder :)

Step One: Obtain turkey carcass. Skin, bones, meat scrapings, basically what is left after the meal. This is the same process as one would use to make any other poultry broth, so don’t think you need to limit yourself to turkeys. (Beef is a bit different. The next time I do beef I’ll do a post about it too!)

Step Two: Put the carcass into a large enough slow cooker to cover it all with water. If there is grain-based stuffing, you want to remove that, but veggies, fruit and herbs are perfectly fine to leave in there. This is when you add any seasonings you want in there. I used garlic powder, mixed herbs and salt and pepper.


BGirard cooks her turkey carcass and veggies in a slow cooker/roaster. But you can do it in a large foil-covered pan at a slow simmer on your stovetop if you don’t have a slow cooker/roaster. Or try a large lidded stockpot.

Choose a size! Our freezer containers are sized pint to half-gallon, and seal tightly. In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Choose a size! Our freezer containers are sized pint to half-gallon, and seal tightly. In stock now at Lehmans.com.

Step Three: Add any vegetable left overs you have laying around/ in the freezer (you DO keep your vegetable leavings in the freezer, right? Everyone has that, right? I’m NOT weird, stop saying that).

Step Four: Add enough water to cover the whole shebang. If you’re using a slow cooker or a slow cooker/roaster, set that baby on high, go off to do other things for about 16 hours, just stir every now and then and at some point taste it.

Because you’re using a pre-cooked turkey carcass, you’re all set, food-safety-wise. Never use this process for a raw bird of any kind!

I do like to let it go for a bit so the flavours can mingle and get to know each other. This is what your re-constituted broth will taste like, so make it work for you. Here’s what you are looking to get:
Finished Turkey BrothI wish I could take a picture of the smell, it’s simply divine.

With a 9-inch diameter, Lehman's Enamelware colander will fit over stockpots for easy straining. At Lehmans.com.

Lehman’s 9-inch Enamelware colander fits over stockpots! At Lehmans.com.

Step Five: Using a pot large enough to accommodate all of this, or several pots if you need to, strain the bones and vegetable matter out, pouring the liquid into the pot (or pots).

If you are canning this you will want to strain it much, much better than what I am doing here. Generally, you want a clearer broth to can.

Since I’m dehydrating, I just get the majority out, and don’t worry about some bits left in, as you can see, below center.

Step Six: Boil the strained stock. Then boil it some more. If you cannot do this outside, your kitchen will become a steam room/sauna, so make sure to wrap yourself in a towel and enjoy the experience. Here’s what you are looking to achieve:

Notice the lack of about 8 and a half quarts of liquid? Yes, my skin is baby soft and my entire house smells like turkey, thanks for asking! That’s about a cup of liquid, it’s noticeably thicker than water.

Step Seven: After that has cooled a bit, load the liquid on fruit leather trays for your dehydrator.

I set my dehydrator to 160 degrees F and let her go. Takes about a day and a half to dry out the concentrated stock.

Step Eight: you know your broth is completely dehydrated when you can do this:

What I’m doing here is simply pressing on the back of the roll up sheet and the dehydrated stock pops right off the front (or top) of the fruit leather tray. The thinner a layer of stock you originally load, the quicker your drying time. (If the broth sticks to the tray, it’s not done. Dehydrate a bit longer, and try the test again.)

Vintage style in a practical, compact marble mortar and pestle from Lehmans.com.

Vintage style in a practical, compact marble mortar and pestle from Lehmans.com.

Unload all of your trays and crush up the dried stock finely. If you feel so inclined, run them through a food processor or use a mortar and pestle to create powder.

Just be quick about it, this stuff WANTS water. As in, if you just LOOKED at the faucet it will stick to your fingers. You can just break it up small enough to fit your jar. Consistency does not affect the taste. However, the stock does re-constitute faster if powdered. And it’s easier to measure.

There you have it. Homemade, dried and powdered turkey stock. All ingredients that I know and can pronounce (but then, I speak German, so that’s probably a weird litmus) and lovely stuff I can use in my dried soup pre-mixes without worry.

I keep it in the fridge or freezer, because I keep it long-term. It’s perfectly fine in the pantry for at least three months. It does have trace fat in it and it’s a meat product, so some caution is advised, but it’s also pretty salty in this state, so if it smells good (and boy howdy, does it ever), it’s fine.

I also make a second brewing of the turkey carcass, with more vegetables and seasonings added, that’s the broth I freeze or can.

Aside from taking about 3 days to make, the dehydrated stock is easy to make, actually pretty low effort and cost me next to nothing. The carcass was free, and even if not, it’s using something that is a by-product of eating poultry, the vegetables are also by-products of something we already ate, the seasonings are pennies at best and the fuel is probably around $1.

So for a very generous estimate of $2 (no, I’m not going to figure out what the cost of the bones was by weight, because:
1. I don’t know what the turkey cost
2. I didn’t weigh the carcass
3. Even if I had bought the bird, I would have considered the entire weight as part of the meat and accounted for it that way, so in MY house bones are free, your mileage may vary)

Now, with just a little work and time invested, I have the equivalent of 2 jars of organic/preservative free (OK, salt, stickler, you) broth base. I’ll take it.

That’s all I got for now,
Happy Pinching!