Kombucha

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I was given my first SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) the other week and have today put my first batch of raspberry flavoured kombucha in to the fridge for a ready supply of chilled homemade goodness. I have, up until now, only fermented milk and water kefir. If I had appreciated how incredibly easy it was to make kombucha I would have done this ages ago!

Step 1:  get a SCOBY – any one who makes their own kombucha will have baby SCOBY being produced all the time. This one cycle has started the growth of a new SCOBY

Step 2:  I boiled about 2 litres of water and added this to a pan of 6 green tea bags and 170 g granulated sugar.

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I left this in the pan to cool to room temperature.

Step 3: Add the sweet green tea to the kilner jar that has the SCOBY + liquid it came in

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It is important that no metal utensils come in to contact with the SCOBY  or liquid it is in. Because it is a living organism, it needs to ‘breathe’ so cover the top with muslin.

Step 4: Leave it to brew for 7 – 28 days. The longer you leave it the more acidic the ferment will become. I was advised to taste it every day and when it no longer tasted like tea but was fruity, it was ready. I could then choose to let it brew longer for a stronger flavour. By day 4 the tea taste had gone. I left it to brew for 8 days  – I will probably leave it longer as I, and my gut, become accustomed to it.

Step 5: Using plastic utensils drain the majority of the liquid into a glass container that has a grolsh type top – i.e. creates a good seal. The SCOBY and its liquid is now ready for the process to start again i.e. Steps 2-4

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Step 6: The decanted kombucha can now be put in the fridge and be drunk  – the longer it is left…the fizzier it will get. This is the point at which I decided to flavour it. I popped a handful of fresh raspberries in to the bottle and sealed the lid. Every day I ‘burped’ the liquid i.e. opened the lid to let the pressure of the building gas be released.

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I left this on a kitchen work top for 4 days.  I have tasted it today and it has a mild fizz and is now in the fridge to drink.

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Raspberry kombucha

 

My next step is to experiment with longer period of brewing the SCOBY  in the liquid before I remove ii and experiment with flavours – the tea i use and the flavours I add.

What flavours have you tried? What would you recommend? What didn’t work so well?

 

Kefir – an acquired taste

My friends are probably tired of me ‘banging on’ about the wonderful benefits of kefir … but I won’t stop because more and more research is highlighting the health benefits of eating / drinking fermented foods. Dr Michael Mosley has been in the press recently talking about the importance of a healthy gut and the links with depression and anxiety . Kefir and Kombucha (future post) may be a recent health craze but have been drunk for a very long time…before trendy was even a word!

I have passed both milk and water kefir grains to many of my friends for them to start fermenting their own kefir.

Milk kefir is definitely an acquired taste and I recommend to all of my friends that they will drink it much more easily if they increase its palatability (not sure if that is a word but I like it!).  In fact people’s comments have ranged from hmmm…? to yuk! and…how do you drink that?!

So to ensure that they do benefit from the wonderful bacterial cultures I do say, ‘Disguise it!’  My husband is my barometer. I can drink it neat but I have to completely disguise it for him. So, for him, when each batch is strained I add coconut milk and a generous dollop / or two of a flavoured organic yoghurt / coconut yoghurt / soya based yoghurt. This ensures that he has a glass every day 🙂  The adult equivalent tactic to hiding vegetables in food for fussy children!

If you really cannot enjoy the milk kefir then water kefir is a really good runner up. Not as diverse a range of beneficial bacteria but still very good for you.

How do you flavour your kefirs?

Breakfast muffin (gluten free)

One of my daughters is always dashing around, frequently doesn’t have breakfast and often ‘picks something up’ on the way in to work when she gets her daily caffeine hit.

I know you can buy breakfast bars etc. but when I have looked at the ingredients I can’t really say I would want to start my day in this way.

So, I had a session experimenting at the weekend and created a muffin – full of breakfast  ingredients. Tasty, filling and nutritious.

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Makes 9

Preheat oven to 180c / Gas 4       Lightly grease a muffin tin

Ingredients:

1 cup of rolled oats      1 cup of milk           2 eggs (1 if using non gf flour)

1 cup of gf plain flour    1tsp baking powder   1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup coconut sugar / muscavado sugar       1/2 cup stewed apple    1/2 cup raisins

Method:

Put the oats, milk and eggs in a bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Finally add the sugar, apple and raisins. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

I served them with Greek yoghurt and a dollop of apples sauce.

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…my daughter took a couple to test – had them for ‘breakfast on the go’ – thumbs up from her 🙂

Seasons

Chatting with a friend the other day, we started to discuss the seasons – random I know – and tried to pick a favourite.

I found this really difficult but in doing this task I realised that my love of the different seasons revolves around food choices!

Spring: I love spring – the fresh colours – vibrant greens of new buds, blossom laden trees – replaced with fruit in the autumn, blankets of yellow for daffodils. Planting of vegetables under glass ready for the frosts to stop. Hens, ducks and quail come back in to lay.

Summer: fruit sorbets / nice cream. Arrays of salad vegetables. New potatoes…yum

Autumn: the amazing palette of colours and the trees enter their quiescent phase for the winter. This is when I really wish I could paint. With autumn comes such a marvellous bounty of fruits and vegetables and the sound of the tractors harvesting wheat, barley, maize. hay for the animals etc. Nights turning cooler – one pot suppers / casseroles / fruit crumbles  /  jam/ liqueur and chutney making / freezer filling.

and then there is winter…curtains closing early, log fires burning, mulled wine, fruit cakes, mince pies, rich food and of course – family gatherings.

If I had to choose one…probably  autumn.

How about you?

 

 

Blackcurrant cassis 

Ingredients:

650 g blackcurrants -washed and drained

750 ml red wine

500 g sugar

100 ml brandy

Method:

Put the blackcurrants in to a large bowl and partially mash them. Add the red wine. Cover the bowl and leave for 2-3 days at room temperature. Stir and mash each day.

Strain the liquid through a colander and then a sieve and place the liquid in to a large saucepan. Add the sugar and warm to dissolve stirring continuously. Allow the liquid to heat up but  do not boil. Keep the liquid hot for 15 mins stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the brandy. Stir. Bottle and seal.

Enjoy – this is delicious on its own, with a sparkling wine or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Baked apple stuffed with raisins and honey

A deliciously simple desert that reminds me of autumnal suppers as a child.

Take a large cooking apple and remove its core. Place on a oven proof dish. Stuff dried fruit of your choice into the hole and place a heaped teaspoon of set honey on top. Bake in the centre of the oven- gas mark 5 / 180 C until the apple is soft. I served this with a generous pouring of cream. If you wish to play around with the flavours and make it a grown up pudding – a drizzle of a liqueur on the dried fruit before cooking is a tasty addition.

Personally I like the simplicity of the flavours as it is.

What to do with all this produce…fruit liqueurs

There is only so much fruit that I can freeze – the new additional freezer we bought last year for the bumper crop of gooseberries, plums and pears was only half empty and this year’s bumper harvest of rhubarb, blackcurrants and redcurrants have filled it completely again. I am now faced with 5 full tub trugs of apples and a couple of tub trugs worth of damsons still on the trees! I am, however, not complaining and I will manage to find space in the other freezers for most of the produce.

It does however mean that I the liqueur making season is upon me ! People who know me always find it amusing that one of our cupboards is filled every year with an array of fruit liqueurs…amusing because I very rarely drink alcohol. There is little I enjoy more than being able to offer a tasty fruity tipple to accompany the food I make when visitors around.

The selection in the picture is my array of blackcurrant liqueurs – vodka, liqueur, cassis and gin. If you were to rummage in the cupboard you would also find: redcurrant cassis, rhubarb and orange liqueur, damson gin, sloe gin, gooseberry vodka and pear vodka.

All the fruit used, once strained from the liquid is put in to a pie or crumble – a deliciously warming dish that I call my drunk fruit desserts. Always a favourite with my husband 🙂

I will put all my recipes on my blog over the next few weeks.

What to do with some much produce…apple, honey and rosemary jam 

I first tasted this delicious combination at a friend’s house a couple of years ago. Whenever they visited some friends in France they would come back with a jar of loveliness called: Confiture de pommes au romarin et au miel de montagne. I acquired a recipe and then promptly forgot about it until recently. Recipe translated and tweaked resulted in 5 jars of apple, honey and rosemary jam in my kitchen yesterday. I resisted the urge to taste it until today to allow the rosemary to infuse the jam…delicious.

This is what I did:

Ingredients:

2kg of cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped in to small pieces (pips saved)

100g sugar

250g honey – I used set

Juice of 3 lemons – keep pips

20 ml of water.

Rosemary sprigs – washed and dried

Method:

Put the sugar, water, lemon juice and honey in a large pan and bring to the boil – stirring frequently. Put the apple pieces in to the syrup mixture along with the apple and lemon pips wrapped in a piece of gauze. Bring back to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and mash about half of the apple mixture down – I used a potato masher. Put back on the heat and simmer for anohter 5 – 10 mins.  Put in to prepared jam jars and push a sprig of rosemary in to the mixture ahead of sealing the jar.

I have no idea how long this will store  – probably quite irrelevant as one jar has nearly gone already. I didn’t treat this like an ordinary jam, cheese or jelly in that a setting point wasn’t reached. The consistency is of a very, very thick sauce. Delicious on toast but I would imagine equally scrumptious with pork or game.

What to do with so much produce?

Those people who know me well know that I cannot bear to waste any food that my garden produces. My cooking apple tree and damson trees are laden. So my husband is gathering a tub trug from each every few days and I am freezing it all.  Damsons are easy – I just wash them, drain, bag and freeze. Apples take a bit more effort. An old aunt showed me a simple and not too time consuming way to prepare the fruit:

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Peel and slice

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Put in water with a bit of salt to preserve colour and prevent browning

 

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Drain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spread out on to a cling film lined baking tray. pop in to freezer.

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Leave for about 2 hours until frozen

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Break the slices up as you pop them in to a freezer bag.

There you have it…sliced apple that with a quick rinse are ready for pies etc throughout the year until the next harvest 🙂

 

 

Nature’s bounty

Someone said to me over the weekend, ‘You never get anything for nothing.’

To which I responded, ‘Blackberries!’in probably a very annoying manner!

But it’s true…if you know where to look at this time of year nature provides an amazing array of gorgeous fruits to harvest. Riding through the forest this weekend I passed elder trees with boughs hanging from the weight of berries – jam, chutney and wine. The hedgerows were bursting with blackberries – perfect on their own or sublime when combined with apples. Old twisted and gnarled damson trees seem to survive on some otherwise inhospitable land – perfect for crumbles, chutneys, damson cheese / jelly / jam and of course drowned in gin and sugar and left for the next 3 months to create a warming and festive liqueur.

An afternoon stroll along a country path can reveal: sloe, bilberries, plums,  and hops.

I love this time of year – so much, for nothing. 🙂   All the fruit gathered and sitting in various receptacles in cold rooms in the house is then followed by hours of baking, cooking, freezing and of course the delight of eating these autumnal flavours throughout the following year.

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Damsons and cooking apples from the garden