Very Cool Customers … and Their Stories

karen g at may daze

Organic Gardener Karen Geiser enthralls a crowd at Lehman’s May Daze Celebration this past spring.

Organic gardener, author, blog contributor, and mother of five, Karen Geiser, is no stranger to country living. She shares her expert advice with customers just as if they have pulled up a chair on her front porch. . . and all the while shelling peas, pitting cherries, or churning butter (depending on what is in season on her farm). 

We always enjoy hearing about fascinating customer connections that happen in our store. And Karen certainly has the pleasure of interacting with many visitors and hearing their stories!

Here are some recent tidbits she reports:

  • Last week I met folks from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil (Must have been Latin America day).
  • A fellow from Pennsylvania visits frequently and always tells me about his garlic (which he got from me) that has won several blue ribbons at the county
    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family's Jersey cow.

    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family’s Jersey cow

    fair.

  • This week there were many good conversations over edible weeds – around the table were an herbalist from New Mexico and a family from West Virginia who really knew their plants.
  • An interesting couple from Virginia who has lived off grid for many years visited the store to finally buy the luxury of a gas refrigerator – mainly to have ice. It’s hard to believe they could live without a fridge for so long, and they described how they can their butter.
  • This week a lady said she was there from Robinson, IL because she heard me speak at the Master Gardener conference over a year ago. She had no idea she would run into me, and we had a good laugh together as she told me about the things she grew because I recommended them (like mouse melons). I helped her figure out other places to hit for her first adventure in Amish country. She said some of her girlfriends have visited Lehman’s after the conference, too. 

Stop by Lehman’s on Thursdays, from April through early November to visit Karen and learn from her wealth of hands-on knowledge. 

Growing Great Asparagus

asparagus tipsI’ve been learning a lot about permaculture in the past decade and while I subscribe to many of the theories, I do worry that many people who could benefit are turned off by the intensity of people teaching the subject. You don’t actually need classes or certificates nor do you need to dig up your entire backyard. It’s possible to engage in permaculture just by using plant varieties that will provide a source of food over decades.

One of our most productive, perennial food sources is asparagus. We put in bed in many years ago. Each spring we indulge. We eat asparagus steamed, roasted and chilled with a vinaigrette. When we tire of eating it fresh, we dry some (read on for how-to) for winter soups and pickle some, too. Asparagus is also easily frozen.

How to Start and Maintain an Asparagus Bed

A well-planned, well-maintained asparagus bed will produce every spring for decades! Asparagus needs full sun and should begin in a spot with a rich, sandy loam. It gets tall when it goes to seed, so don’t plant it where it will shade other sun-loving plants. You can start from seed (I have a tray of seeds starting right now) but you’ll wait a long time for your first meal. Most people choose to start with roots. They are usually sold in bunches of 25.  Continue reading

Root Cellar Blues? Time to Make Sauerkraut!

Premium Late Flat Dutch Cabbage

Grow your own cabbage this year! Heirloom seeds available at Lehmans.com

 It has been cold here. It isn’t really out of the ordinary, -10 degrees in January is pretty typical but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. My root cellar doesn’t like it either. It’s a fine dance we do, keeping the door open just enough to keep the temperature above freezing but not so high as to trick the carrots into thinking spring is here and it’s time to sprout.

It is so important to check the food down there. Today I find that I have cabbage and carrots that must be seen to and apples that must be used up. The apples are easy. We love apples and onions caramelized with some butter and maple syrup and poured over pork chops. The cabbage and carrots are going to be fermented. We are kraut crazy around here. I got one of those dandy little air lock tops and lids for my ½ gallon Mason jars and now I can make kraut without getting the brine all over. Bruce bought me a mandoline for Christmas so I’m going to break that in too. I do love my little gadgets!

Triple-bladed cabbage cutter makes quick work of slaw or sauerkraut. At our store in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

Triple-bladed cabbage cutter makes quick work of slaw or sauerkraut. At our store in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

I cut the cabbage by hand but we love our carrots in slivers and that’s where the mandoline comes in. I make the mixture about 1/3 carrots and 2/3 cabbage. For 2, ½ gallon jars of kraut, you need about 5 pounds of vegetables. It can be any mixture you like. I sometimes add a bit of garlic, some beets or Daikon radish if I have it. Today it will be straight cabbage/carrot. 5 pounds of vegetables will need three tablespoons of salt. It is really important to use good salt. It should be coarse and not iodized. There are so many lovey salts to choose from, some pink, some grey, but I have made many a jar of kraut with just kosher salt. I put my salt in a bowl and sprinkle as I go so the salt is fully incorporated. As you put the cabbage/carrot mixture in the jar, tamp it down tightly. This helps draw the water out of the cabbage and creates the brine. I use the wooden reamer from my old-fashioned food mill. You have to really push it down. Once the jars are full you should start to see the liquid rise to the top. You should re-tamp the kraut every few hours. If, after a day, the brine has not covered the vegetables, you can mix a tablespoon of salt to a cup of water and pour it

Himalayan Pink Salt: Rich mineral content makes it pink. Ideal for fermenting. In glass jar, 18.6 oz.

Himalayan Pink Salt: Rich mineral content makes it pink. Ideal for fermenting. In glass jar, 18.6 oz.

over the top. This happens if the vegetables are older as they simply have less water in them.

Now let the kraut sit in a cool place to ferment. I check it every few days. You will see a bit of scum on the top. Just skim it off. It won’t hurt the vegetables as long as they remain submerged. The warmer the spot, the quicker the fermentation will be. When you reach the right level of tang for you, refrigerate your kraut and enjoy.

The brine is full of healthy lacto-bacillus. If your stomach is feeling iffy a table spoon is a great tonic.

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

Lehman's Catalog

Request our newest catalog!

DIY: Building Your Own Fermenting Jar

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! If you aren’t sure about making your own fermenting jar, it’s available in two sizes at Lehmans.com.

When I was little, my mother made pickles in crocks. It seemed like a lot of work with many steps to finally get to a tasty pickle. I recently found out that what she was doing was fermenting the cucumbers and that it’s not hard to do! And in the last couple of weeks, I have gone from thinking probiotics were just capsules or something in special yogurt to making my own sauerkraut. How did I not know that lacto-fermented foods are good for you?

Airlock fermentation systems like the Perfect Pickler™ are attractive, but to stay within my budget, I created my own. Here is what you can do to make your own airlock fermentation system.

Continue reading

Pickle Your Fall Vegetables With A Lacto-Fermented Process

recycled paper cutting board

Durable! Our employees swear by our Epicurean® Cutting Board. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickles than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch.

The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well; odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

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

In a Pickle…and Those Darn Tomatoes!

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Perfect Pickler: large size fits your 1 gal to 2-1/2 gal wide mouth jar; small size fits your 1/2 pt to 2 pt wide mouth jars.

Beyond Pickles I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too but by now, last year’s are are getting a bit soggy and nobody likes a soggy pickle. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickled than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch. The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well…odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

Garden 2014: Plan To Preserve!

Put 'Em Up is in stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio and at Lehmans.com.

Put ‘Em Up is in stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio and at Lehmans.com.

Sure, we all plan to plant. But how many of us plan to preserve?

For instance, when do you figure your supplies for your jars, bands, lids, freezer boxes and other preservation supplies? And what recipes do you use? Do you stick with the tried and true because it’s the last minute? After all, the harvest isn’t predicatable, right?

Well, that may be true. But this is the year you change, because Sherri Brooks Vinton has published Put ‘Em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook and Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide and Cookbook, two fantastic collections that share some great ways to dry, freeze, can and preserve your garden’s and orchard’s harvest. Continue reading

My Kitchen Is Alive!

My countertop fermenation farm:

My countertop fermenation farm: sour pickles, red cabbage kraut, kefir, the pizza dough and apple cider.

There’s something to be said for a quick and easy meal, that can make a hurried, hungry person happy in a matter of minutes.  A fried egg, for example, or a peanut butter sandwich, or a handful of cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine. 

But there’s something very different and just as beautiful to be said for foods that take a long time to create. Fermentation is a hobby of mine, I have to say—I get more excited about creating vast quantities of sauerkraut than consuming it, as delicious as it may be.

When, the other night, I looked at my counter and saw a total of 5 different cultured foods fermenting away (fyi: sour pickles, red cabbage kraut, kefir, sourdough pizza dough, and apple cider), I decided I had to write about it. Continue reading