Water kefir

As I’m not eating or drinking dairy products right now, I wanted to take advantage of the benefits of my newly acquired kefir grains without having to rely on milk kefir. Kefir is an ancient probiotic cultured beverage, full of good bacteria and good yeasts and a great immune system booster. I’d read conflicting advice on t’internet on whether it was possible to convert milk kefir grains to make water kefir, but thought I’d give it a go.

The method seemed fairly simple, 2 cups spring water, 3/4 cups of raw sugar or cane juice ( we grow our own organic sugar cane) and some dried fruit. 10 dried cranberries were recommended, as the favourite fruit of kefir grains, but as I didn’t have any I used raisins. Leave on the kitchen counter for 48 hours. Shake the jar several times a day to mix up the contents.

Repeat 3 times and on the fourth fermentation, save the fermented water, divide between 2 sterilised flip top bottles and fill those bottles to 2/3 rds full with fresh juice of your choice (kefir grains really like grape juice apparently), leaving enough space for the carbonisation process. Place in a warm dark cupboard for 24 hours and voila! A healthy fizzy drink. It needs to be refrigerated after 24 hours in order to slow down the carbonation process, as the bottles can explode.

So I followed the process above….and nothing happened. No fizz, no slightly yeasty smell, nothing. I changed the sugar water mix after 48 hours and thought I’d try some dates instead of raisins, and I’m happy to report that within 24 hours that jar was fizzing! Kefir grains really like dates, thank goodness we have abundant supply of them.

I saved the water from the fourth batch, as instructed above, filling 2 bottles with cranberry juice (homemade but no additional sugar) and 2 bottles with white grape juice. I left them to carbonate for 48 hours, as I’d stretched the fermented water between 4 ¬†bottles and assumed they’d take longer to carbonate – wrong! I opened one of the grape juice bottles after it had been in the fridge for about 10 hours, and it blew the stopper off the flip top bottle and sprayed the kitchen, ( did I mention that these bottles should be opened over the kitchen sink).

Anyway, the kefir water tasted amazing, although a little sweet for me. I opened the cranberry kefir water, and got a loud pop, rather than an explosion. It was nice but far too tart, so I mixed them both together and now have a very, very nice cranberry flavoured fizzy, but healthy drink.

With a shot of vodka, this would make a fantastic cosmopolitan ūüôā – but as I’m booze free currently, will make do with my ‘virgin’ cosmos!

Milk Kefir

I’ve been fermenting batches of milk kefir for 3 weeks now. The first attempts were revolting. I’d heard that kefir was an acquired¬†taste, but how anyone could drink that frothy yeast brew was beyond me. I was fermenting on a shelf in the kitchen for the recommended 48 hours. Then it occurred to me that our kitchen was probably too hot overnight once the aircon was switched off ( I hadn’t noticed as Tom gets up at 5 am to take the dogs to the beach and turns the aircon on, so the kitchen is already cool when I get up). I tried fermenting for 24 hours and it was better, but not great. My dilemma was- as I’m not eating any dairy right now, didn’t want to make too much of the stuff, so fermenting a new batch a day was out of the question.

So now I have a new method, which I’m sure kefir aficionados will not approve of. I ferment the kefir overnight in the kitchen, and then put it in the fridge as soon as I get up. I left the first batch in the fridge for 5 days and it tasted delicious, thick and creamy and slightly tangy. I left the 2nd batch for 7 days and tried it this evening, as good as the first, but with a slight yeasty aroma. I’m not drinking it, just taste testing for now, but the dogs absolutely love it – they dance around me when I take the jar out of the fridge!

I have another batch going now, and will leave it for 6 days, and then will try a double ferment ( adding organic lemon or orange slices and leave it out for 24 hours), which allegedly improves the flavour and the nutrients.

My scoby (kefir grains) has doubled in size in 3 weeks!

 

Busy Weekend

Busy weekend, homemade lemongrass and ginger soap with a copper mica topping ( bit OTT but smells amazing); berry flavoured Shea butter lip balm; home- made ketchup, used the last of the Roma tomatoes, and bone broth – all before lunch!

i have milk kefir fermenting ( thanks to Aisha for the scoby) and have been converting some of the grains to water kefir over the last week or so. I now have 2 bottles of cranberry kefir brewing, and 2 bottles of grape. Will post separately on the process and the results.

Watermelon Rind Pickle

Ever wondered what to do with the rind left over from melons? They take so long to breakdown in the compost, even the chickens leave them alone after the flesh has been pecked off. ¬†I found this great recipe for pickled watermelon rind so thought I’d give it a go. It’s not paleo, as it contains sugar, so I won’t be eating it but Tom might like it.

The process is quite drawn out, but because there was only a little bit to do each day, it was actually easier than making pickles in one big batch from start to finish.

Ingredients

Rind of a water melon, flesh and dark skin removed

3 ltrs water plus 3 cups for the syrup

1 cup of salt

5 cups of raw sugar

3 cups of white vinegar

1 Tbsp of cloves

6 sticks of cinnamon

1 Tbsp allspice berries

1 thinly sliced lemon

Day 1- peel the watermelon rind and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch squares. I sliced my watermelon she’ll into 1 inch strips, which made it easy to strip of the skin and the flesh with a vegetable pearler, took about half an hour.

Make a brine with the salt and water and soak the rinds overnight in the fridge.

Day 2- drain and rinse the rinds. Put in a large pan with just enough water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently until the rinds are fork soft, about 15 mins. In another pan pan mix the remaining ingredients, except the lemon, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over the rinds and when cool, add the lemon slices and put back in the fridge overnight.

Simmering the rinds

 

Day 3 Рpour all the ingredients into a pan and simmer for about an hour until the rinds are translucent and the syrup thick. Pack the rinds into sterilised jars and cover with the syrup.  I turn the jars upside down and leave for 24 hours (British method) but you can also use the water bath canning method to sterilise the jars for 15 minutes (American method)

Watermelon Rind Pickle

I did have a sneaky taste, and it’s lovely, the rinds have the texture of ripe pears in a tangy syrup. The combination of spices make this smell and taste quite festive, and I imagine it will taste great with the cold meats and cheeses we usually eat around Christmas – if it lasts that long!

 

Rendering tallow

I’m really getting into this whole paleo lifestyle, but don’t like coconut oil for cooking savoury dishes and so thought I’d have a go at rendering my own tallow (lamb in this case), and it’s surprisingly easy.

I bought a pack of lamb fat at the local supermarket ( as I’ve said previously, you really can get anything here) trimmed off most of the excess meat, which the dogs really enjoyed, and set about slowly rendering the remaining fat. I used a heavy saucepan on top of the stove, using the smallest burner and putting the saucepan on a trivet so that it really was a slow melt, but this can also be done in a slow cooker, it just takes a bit longer.

The whole process took about 4 hours, by which time most of the fat had melted and there were bits of crispy lamb meat in the pan. I poured the hot fat through a muslin lined sieve into a slightly warmed mason jar (to stop it cracking)’ and got a full 500gms. I didn’t render it all, as it was getting late, and thought I might render the rest the following day, however we gave the leftovers to the dogs and chickens as we were too busy to keep watch over a boiling pan of oil the following day!

I have to say, I’m really pleased with the result. The tallow is a creamy colour, is odourless in the jar, but gives off the most wonderful aroma when used. Food cooked in the tallow is much tastier also.

The only thing I would do differently next time is pour into a small loaf tin and then once solid, cut into squares and wrap in grease-proof paper, as this is quite difficult to get out of the jar when solid – and we have to keep it in the fridge here. Photos of the finished product below

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Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomatoes have done really well. They grew quickly and ripened quickly, each bunch weighing over a kilo. Even though it’s 40 degrees here now, we still have some flowering although it’s probably too hot for them to pollinate now. Last week I picked 7 kgs of various tomatoes. As well as using them in sauces or cooking them for breakfast, I’ve made ketchup and canned several jars ( with my new pressure canner that my friend Karen got for me in the US)Image

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The raw ingredients for my ketchup in a big saucepan. I didn’t have any fennel bulbs so used fennel seed, tasted fine.

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Tomato ketchup reducing. I’d used 2kgs of Roma tomatoes plus at least a couple of Kgs of other veg, and ended up with just 750mls of sauce. It took about 3 hours to reduce after sieving, but was definitely worth the effort. All natural ingredients, no preservatives and I used agave nectar instead of sugar. Tom loved it so much he’s eaten half of it already!

I also have 6 x 500gm jars of home grown and canned tomatoes

 

Candied/crystallised Peel

February is the season for oranges in the UAE – 7 dirhams for 3 kgs at the farmer’s market, that’s just under EUR 0.5 per kg. So today I made marmalade. Although technically marmalade should be made with bitter Seville oranges, any citrus fruit will do. I leave the pith on my fruit, essentially because I don’t have the time or patience to de-pith kilos of fruit, but also because it imparts a slightly bitter flavour. I used 2 kgs of oranges (8 fruits), I thinly sliced 4 and peeled and chopped the other 4, adding just the flesh to the marmalade. I squeezed the juice from 2 lemons and added that to the pan, marmalade underway- but what to dowith the leftover peel……?

I’d read that crystallised peel was easy to make, so thought I’d give it a try, and easy it was! Being lazy I threw the peels into a pan of water as they were and brought to the boil for 10 minutes. I drained, refilled and did the same again, so total of 20 minutes boiling ( I poured the 2nd lot of water into the marmalade for extra flavour!) and then drained in a colander. When they were cool enough to handle I scraped the leftover flesh and pith off the lemon peels and then sliced all the peels into thinnish strips. Much easier to do when soft.

I made a syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of raw sugar and boiled for a couple of minutes before adding the peels ( see photo below) and boiled for 45 minutes.

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45 minutes later the peel was translucent and the syrup had almost been absorbed. The peels were drained, rolled in sugar and put on a rack to dry. Some recipes recommend drying in the oven at 200F but my oven doesn’t go that low, so my peels are drying overnight at room temperature, and they taste amazing. However next time I won’t bother with the additional suger coating, they are already sweet enough. These should keep for about a month in an airtight container, or several months in the freezer.

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Update 8th May

the peel had mould growing on it after 3 weeks of being in an airtight jar on the kitchen shelf, so will definitely keep them in the freezer in future

Lacto-fermented Ginger Beer

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This is my first attempt at a lacto-fermented beverage, and it’s delicious.

I’d juiced a big lump of ginger root to make some Lemongrass and Ginger soap, and had a couple of ounces left over. I dissolved a couple of tablespoons of raw sugar in some hot water, added the juice of 2 lemons and the ginger juice. this was poured into a flip top bottle and filled with warm water. Next I added a couple of tablespoons of whey that had been drained off a carton of yogurt. Shook it up and left it on the counter for 2 days.

After 48 hours I tested for flavour and fizziness, it scored well on both. Another 12 hours later and it was really fizzy, so time to put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process – don’t want the bottle to explode!