“I’ve loved the stars to fondly to be fearful of the night”
– Galileo Galilei
I love the night stars and the moon as well. There’s nothing better than sitting out on a clear night watching the sky.
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Traditionally fermented food are super healthy. It’s always nice when you can make something using these methods. Not only is it quick and easy to make, the end product is healthier than it’s more time-consuming processed counterpart. Pickles are a prime example. I make one kind of vinegar pickles that are canned. The rest of the pickles I make are fermented. Basically you put the pickles in a jar with whatever herbs you want to flavor them and cover them with salt water. A few weeks later you have a probiotic feast! Adding fermented pickles to your meals will help with digestion and increase the amount of nutrients you can absorb from what you eat.
When it comes to making pickles there are a few things you want to consider. First of all, you don’t want the cucumbers to be too large. The smaller the cucumbers the crisper the end product with be. You want the cucumbers to have distinct warts or bumps and no yellow on them. The smaller they are the less developed the seeds will be inside as well. Freshness also counts, if you can process them the same day you pick them that’s best. If you can’t process them right away make sure to put them in the refrigerator to keep them cool and process as soon as possible. The cucumber on the left is perfect for pickling, the one of the right is a little overmature (but you can still use it if you’d like). You can still use it for pickling, but there will be more seeds and the final product most likely won’t be as crisp.
Second you want to make sure you scrub the blossom end of the cucumber well. It is believed that it can harbor bad bacteria increasing the risks that your batch will not ferment properly. It is also thought that it can make your pickles not as crisp. Some people cut the blossom end of the pickle off, I simply scrape it with my nail until I can see the clean end of the cucumber. You can see the different between a cucumber with the blossom end cleaned (left) and one that hasn’t been cleaned enough (right).
Gently wash cucumbers. I usually just wipe with a damp cloth to remove all dirt. You don’t want to scrub them too much as they are delicate and they have beneficial bacteria that aid in fermentation in their skins. Place cucumbers and spices in a fermenting crock or a glass jar. Typically I avoid the use of any kind of plastic when pickling as the acidic brine encourages leeching of BPA’s and other chemicals from the plastic into the foods being fermented. I use 1 Gallon Glass Barrel Jars for fermenting pickles and sauerkraut. Wide mouth half gallon mason jars work quite well also. Depending on the size of container you use for fermenting you can use small plates, glass jars, or drinking glasses to weigh down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the brine.
I also always put my fermenting jars on a plate that has a lip to contain any brine that spills out of the jar. This seems to happen most of the time when I’m making pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. Do not be alarmed if you see white mold or green mold floating on top of the brine when you’re pickling or in the brine that spills out of the jars onto the plate. This mold is common (some cultures even prefer it) and harmless. You will want to skim this off of the top of the brine daily, but don’t worry about getting all of it as it has a tendency to break up and float away. Since I use wide mouth pint jars to weigh down the vegetable I usually just push down on the jar, when the brine overflows out of the fermenting jar the white mold usually slides down the side of the jar. Every few days I add some extra brine if needed to keep the level up.
When fermenting you want to use pickling salt or sea salt. You do not want to use iodized table salt or any kind of salt that has anticaking agents in it. Many places will tell you to only use pickling salt, but I prefer to use an unrefined sea salt called Redmond Real Salt with the minerals in it. I purchase this salt in 25 pound bags directly from their website.
LOWER EAST SIDE FULL-SOUR DILL PICKLES
from The Joy of Pickling
About 4 pounds* of 3-5 inch pickling cucumbers, blossom ends removed
4 to 6 dill heads or large sprigs
2 small fresh or dried hot peppers broken or cut into pieces
8 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1/2 cup pickling salt (4.65 oz)
3 quarts of water
Layer cucumbers in gallon jar with dill, peppers, garlic, allspice, peppercorns, and coriander. Dissolve salt in the water and pour enough brine over the cucumbers to cover them. Place something in the mouth of the jar to weight down the cucumbers and keep them submerged in the the brine (I usually use a drinking glass or pint mason jar with brine in it). Keep jar at room temperature. I keep mine on the dining room table so I can monitor it.
Within 3 days you will begin to see tiny bubbles rising to the top. If scum forms on the top of the brine skim off. Pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks when they are sour and olive green throughout. At this point, remove the weight jar, remove any scum, and top off with brine if needed. Cap the jar and store in the refrigerator. These pickles will keep for several months to a year, although they seem to lose a little bit of crispness after a few months. I have had a batch in my fridge for about 9 months and they were very good down to the last pickle.
*if you do not have 4 pounds all at once you can continue adding cucumbers to your jar until it is full. Just remember to let them ferment for 2 weeks after last cucumber has been added.
You can certainly change the spices in the recipe above to suit your tastes. Add some sliced onions and mustard seeds, or perhaps mixed pickling spices instead, some horseradish would be nice as well. When making more than one batch of pickles, always make sure to label your jar with the type and date started. I also include the page number that the recipe was on. If you’re interested in learning more about both traditional fermentation and other kinds of pickling I’d highly recommend purchasing The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market. It’s full of all kinds of recipes from fermented vegetables to gravlax and so many other interesting things.
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The beef we eat comes from the same farm we get our milk from. Their cows spend their days out in the fields eating green grass and feeling the sun on their backs. As a result the meat is really great – tasty and healthy. We eat mostly venison around here because of Mr Chiot’s hunting prowess, but we buy loads of meaty bones from the farm to feed the resident Chiots. I also use the bones for making stock and every now and then some braised beef.
Last week I made dinner to take to some friends who were moving. I wanted to make something that would taste great hot or cold and would be quick and easy to eat. After looking in the freezer and the pantry, I decided to make pulled beef sandwiches. I thawed out some beef shanks, beef short ribs, and a venison roast. These fatty bony bits are perfect for braising, the meat gets tender and falls off the bone and the fat melts into the sauce making it so smooth and velvety (not to mention super healthy). The venison roast added more meat since the other pieces don’t have a ton of meat on them.
I rubbed them liberally with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and seared them over a campfire out back. Then I threw them all in a big cast iron dutch oven with a three cans of Guinness and braised them for a few hours until the meat was falling off the bone (mine braised for 4 hours total, but you could do more if needed). I made a huge batch but you could easily scale this down for four. You’ll be wishing you had leftovers though so maybe you should go ahead and make a big batch.
After braising, I pulled the meat off the bones, shredded it, then mixed it with the remaining braising liquid, which had become thick and rich from the beef bones. We put the meat on homemade ciabatta and topped with onions that I had caramelized over the fire in a cast iron skillet. We topped it all off with some local raw milk cheese and what a meal it was! I kept wanting to take a photo of the sandwiches, but never remembered because they were so good. We’ll be making these again on Saturday for a cookout before enjoying the Fourth of July fireworks display in our community. I figured I’d share this fantastic recipe in case any of you were trying to come up with something tasty to make.
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Actually it was Ginger Venison Stir Fry. Our beef recipes become venison recipes since Mr Chiots is a hunter and we are lucky enough to have 3 deer in the freezer. During the winter we enjoy rich hearty venison stews and warming bowls of venison chili. In the summer I’m much happier eating a venison burger or stir fry. The great thing about stir fry is that you can use whatever vegetables you have in the garden. In the spring we’ll use sugar snap peas and garlic scapes, later in the summer it’ll be zucchini, carrots and onions. It’s quick and easy to whip up a stir fry.
Currently we’re harvesting those golden peas, green onions, kale and garlic scapes, so that’s what I’ve been using as vegetables in my stir fry. I was also lucky enough to find some lovely oyster mushrooms at the farmer’s market and I’m always happy to add those to just about anything.
GINGER BEEF STIR FRY
(adapted from Simply Recipes)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or coconut water vinegar
5 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce (naturally fermented is best)
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you’re of delicate palate)
1 tsp freshly ground cumin (feel free to omit or substitute other spice)
(if you want a thicker sauce add a Tablespoon of corn starch as well)
3 Tbsp coconut oil or lard
1 – 1 1/2 lb steak cut into strips
2-3 cups mixed chopped vegetables of your choice: green onions, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, garlic scapes, sugar snap peas, carrots, zucchini, etc.
chopped fresh cilantro if desired
cooked rice or noodles for serving
Mix ingredients for sauce in a bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet (cast iron works best) over high heat. Working in batches, sauté beef until just brown outside but rare inside, about 1 minute, transfer to plate.
When all of the beef is cooked, add more oil to pan if necessary and stir fry the vegetables for a minute or two – until vegetables reach your preferred level of doneness. I usually add longer cooking vegetables first, and throw in green onions for the last 30 seconds or so. Return beef to pan. Add sauce and mix everything together. Cook for 1 minute. Mix in cilantro if desired.
Serve over freshly cooked rice or noodles. Should serve four people unless you’re super hungry. (rice is especially good if made with some virgin coconut oil so it has a slight coconut taste)
Nothing beats a quick stir fry with freshly harvested vegetables for a summer evening meal. The great thing about this dish is that you can substitute in other spices if you’d like. Things like coconut milk, ground coriander seeds, orange zest, various chiles and other spices would pair well with different kinds of vegetables and make the dish taste differently each time.
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We picked our first strawberry last week and have been enjoying strawberry shortcake for dinner ever since. Strawberry shortcake at Chiot’s Run is a little different than most. The first time I made it for Mr Chiots he said, “What is this?” No little round spongy cakes or loads of sugar here.
When you grow you own strawberries they’re so much better than what you get at the store, you don’t want to overpower them with too much sugar. I make homemade shortcake with real butter, whole grain flour, crystallized ginger and just a small amount of sugar. This lets the sweetness and flavor of homegrown sun ripened strawberries be the star of the meal. The shortcakes are cooked until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When cooled we crumble them in a bowl, top with strawberries macerated with maple syrup and a dash of vanilla. Then we top it all off with some raw milk.
1 1/2 quarts of strawberries
2 Tablespoons of maple syrup
a dash of vanilla and salt
Slice strawberries and mix with maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla and salt. Put in fridge to macerate.
2 cups of flour
(I use 10 oz of freshly ground soft white wheat flour)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
(I use 2 t of cream of tartar and 1 t aluminum free baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger*
1/2 – 3/4 cup of heavy cream or buttermilk
1 Tablespoon of sugar
*If you don’t like ginger, you can add lemon zest and some lemon juice, or perhaps cinnamon and vanilla.
Preheat oven to 425, butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper (you can also use a cast iron skillet if you’d like).
Sift flour into a large bowl and mix in baking powder and salt (if you want sweeter shortcake add 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar). Cut butter into pieces and work into the flour mixture with pastry blender, knives or fingers until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir crystallized ginger into flour mixture.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in half a cup of cream or buttermilk. Stir lightly, if mixture is too dry, add the rest of the buttermilk or cream. You want the mixture to be like biscuit or scone dough, not too wet and not too dry. Spread or drop onto cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with sugar. I make mine in one big piece but you could easily make individual ones if you’d like. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
When shortcakes are cool, crumble into a bowl, top with macerated strawberries, pour cold milk on top. Enjoy. (makes about 6 servings unless you’re really hungry)
When made this way, it’s the perfect light dinner on a hot summer day. With all that whole grain, fresh fruit, pastured butter and raw milk I don’t feel a bit guilty about eating it every night for dinner during short strawberry season!
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