Beet Kvass!

I super love when you start a process and end up with more than one end product – like a few weeks ago, when we juiced lemons and got both lemonade and a citrus infused vinegar.  Today’s project will yield three results – so I’m breaking it into three posts!  And posting every day!  Excitement.

First up is Beet Kvass.  I love a shot of this stuff on occasion and when I saw fresh beets in the farmer’s market, I knew it was time for a little beety action.

If you’ve never heard of Beet Kvass, this video (which incidentally is how I found out about it) will answer all of your questions:

The first step is to make whey!  Whey is the liquid part in a lot of dairy products.  I make it by straining yogurt – I’d definitely recommend this way (ha) of making whey because it yields the project in tomorrow’s installment.

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I wrap the yogurt into a little bundle of cheese cloth and tie it around a skewer and leave that in the fridge to drip over night.  Different brands of yogurt produce different amounts of whey, so I always get at least two of the little containers – I find that a big 16 ounce is always a little too much for my needs.

As we learned in the video (and as Sally says) – you only need 1/8-1/4 cup of whey – but never fear, in installment 3, we’ll use whatever is left of your whey for something else!

Next we chop our beet.  I never peel mine, just give them a bit of a scrub and chop them into 1″-ish cubes.

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Bua-ha-ha-ha beet carnage.

Then you just chuck your beets and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the jar with your whey, shake, and wait for two days!

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Day 1!  Beets soaking, you can see the foam around the top already!

I’ve always been fond of picklebacks (shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine), but for a colorful twist on that- you can try beetbacks.  I had the bright idea a few years ago and they were the hit of a friend’s birthday party- a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of beet kvass.  Cures what ails ya!

 

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Lactofermented Ginger Beer

Last soda recipe!  Ginger beer.  Ginger is a traditional remedy for upset stomach, remember mom bringing you ginger ale when you were sick?  There isn’t a whole lot of ginger in the store brands, but something like this is sure to deliver the healing power of the root *and* it tastes awesome.

Another bonus this time of year is that it’s the right season for the classic Dark & Stormy cocktail…and to make a good Dark & Stormy, you need a Ginger Beer that can stand up to the spiced rum.  This one should do it *and it’s pretty good for you* – could balance out the alcohol?

Ginger Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 4-6 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 2 limes (you could use lemon, but lime is better) juiced
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice (not honey – it’s anti-bacterial and you need the bacteria)

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water and ginger.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the wort (the thing about to be soda) to blood temperature! Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to get there – but spot check it, you definitely don’t want it cold. I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer. When your ginger beer has cooled, squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  6. Strain it to remove the plant material (ginger gratings and lime pulp). To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag. Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  7. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the ginger beer.
  8. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  9. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have ginger beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.

For a solid Dark & Stormy, you’ll need 3 ounces of this (a little less than a half a cup), 2 ounces of dark rum (1/4 cup) (Gosling’s is the traditional brand), and a squeeze of lime juice.  Place ice & all ingredients in a bar glass, stir, and garnish with a lime.  That should chase any early-Fall chill away. 🙂

 

 

Labor Day Lavender Mint Lemonade…and Lemon Vinegar Cleaner

Labor Day is that day when we all realize that summer is pretty much over…sigh.  But in honor of our national day of rest, I cooked up a batch of my favorite lemonade…and (because my little cherubs at school are all starting to be sick) I used the lemon peels to make a citrus surface cleaner.  I love multi-tasking.  For about $3 I got a delicious pitcher of lemonade and enough spray cleaner to last me into the new year.  Wanna know how?  Let’s go!

The first step involves your herbs – you can use fresh or dried.  I had fresh lavender in the garden, but wanted to use up some of last year’s dried peppermint.  I gave my lavender a bit of a haircut.  Once the leaves were stripped from the stalk (just like with rosemary, invert and scrape) I had about a quarter cup of little lavender needles and a few flowers.  I grabbed about a cup (not packed too hard) of peppermint leaves from their jar – with dried you always want to use more to make up for the potency lost during the drying process.

Put 5 cups of water in a saucepan – if you’re using sugar, put 2.5 cups of sugar in with it and boil until the sugar dissolves.  If you’re using honey, which I do – I use about a cup and a half of honey and *never* boil honey, it destroys the lovely enzymes in it and is just not necessary.   So for honey – heat the water to almost boiling, remove from heat add the honey and stir until it dissolves.  Then (for both versions) add the herbs, stir until they’re saturated in the syrup, cover and leave covered until cooled.  As with many recipes of this nature, it may only take 30 minutes to cool to room temperature, but the longer you leave it, the stronger the syrup.  I always recommend leaving it overnight.

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Next we make the lemonade part!  You’ll need about a 2lbs of lemons (about a dozen).  Usually when it comes to citrus, you don’t really need to wash them…but because we’re using the peels – I like to give the outsides a little scrub (and take the stickers off).  Halve them and juice them.  I love any excuse to use my vintage citrus juicer!

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Strain the seeds and pulp out of the lemon juice and pour it into a pitcher.  Once the herbal concoction has cooled, strain that into the same pitcher, add 4-5 more cups of water (you might want to spot check it for strength as you go), stir and serve over ice.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a shot or so of gin to the mix and garnish with fresh mint. 🙂

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Pictured with my favorite gin….that I will need to figure out where to procure now that I’m not in the northeast!

Making the cleaner is the easy part – pack a mason jar (or jars) with the peels, pour vinegar into jar and let steep for two weeks.  I periodically check to make sure that the vinegar is covering the peels and to agitate it slightly.  Once you’re ready to use it – fill a spray bottle 1/4 full with the infused vinegar and the remaining 3/4 with water (or half and half if you’ve got a really dirty mess on your hands, but I find 1:3 works great).  You can also use citrus vinegar as a base for salad dressing or in cooking.  It’s useful stuff! 🙂

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First Week of School Done – Celebrating with a Cocktail!

Mint Juleps are my favorite summer cocktail (school may have started, but it’s still summer ok?!)– they’re a no brainer when you have a mint plant in the garden that just won’t quit.  I also, no surprise, have a little honey around (not mine yet, but local and raw and tasty).  So I decided to make my own version of the classic.

First of all – Minty Honey Simple Syrup:

Fill a mason jar (or equivalent) about a third full of mint leaves.  Then 1/2-2/3 full of tap water as hot as you can get it to come out.  The rest of the space in the jar should be filled with honey!  Leave a little “headspace” in there for future shaking.  I like to stir or swirl it a little at first as it’s cooling and then close it up and give it a good shake.  Steep that as is for at least 20-30 minutes…get it good and minty.  Shake it occasionally.  I like to make mine the night before and then leave it in the fridge to really get good and steeped.

Next, strain all the leaves out – and combine with a good bourbon (Four Roses is my current fave) at 1 part syrup to 2 parts bourbon.  I like mine sweet!  I’ve also seen a shot an a half of bourbon to 2.5 tablespoons of syrup…but that’s too precise for my taste.

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Serve over crushed ice in a julep cup if you’ve got the gear…or regular ice in something you like drinking out of…and obviously garnish with more fresh mint.  Delish!

Honeysuckle Buzz – Champagne Cocktail

One of my besties’ bridal showers was this weekend! I was in charge of games and favors (the former, I was not so excited about – the latter gave me an excuse to get crafty)…and then I put myself in charge of creating a signature cocktail for the event.  I walked out into my garden for inspiration and decided to use the last of the honeysuckle blossoms!

I remember as a little girl, walking in the woods with my mother and pulling the stamens out of honeysuckle blossoms and “drinking” the nectar, it is such a fond memory that although the vine is wildly invasive, it’s hard to think of removing it.

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The first step is creating honeysuckle simple syrup, which of course necessitates gathering up some blossoms -erring on the side of whiter rather than more yellow/orange.

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Add hot, but not boiling water to the jar (I sized up – so this is a pint jar), cover it, and let it sit for 12-24 hours.   You should *just* cover the blossoms.

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After it’s set – strain it into a measuring cup – for every cup of water, I add 2/3 cup of honey.  You can go 1:1 and for more strongly “scented” syrups  – but I find that the honeysuckle gets lost easily with too much honey – unlike mint which can stand up to it a bit better.  Whisk the honey in until it’s dissolved – on a warm day, you shouldn’t need to add any heat to it – but if you do, you can feel free to transfer it to a pan – just DON’T LET IT BOIL!

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Et voila.  Once it’s done, transfer it to a storage container and move it to the fridge.  Cool & then shake before using!

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The Honeysuckle Buzz

Tablespoon of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup

4 ounces of Champagne

Stir with a bar spoon

Garnish with an edible flower or a honeysuckle blossom (I picked Borage for some color, but the honeysuckle adds a lovely scent)