Choosing Olive Oil

Q: In addition to using the test for fake olive oil, what comments do you have for all of
us on buying cold pressed olive oil?

~Heather

A: Oils and fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) is the category of foods which I prioritize as #1 for switching to organic. (See the Organic Food tab for my list.) So I’m always looking for that Organic seal when buying olive oil. However, if you can’t find an organic olive oil which hardens in the fridge, then the certification has been falsified (every system has cheaters I guess), so I would then look for an oil from a small family farm in the US. My reasoning is that family farms tend to make more conscientious choices, and sometimes have organic practices but can’t afford the certifications.

Also, you already mentioned “cold pressed olive oil” which is a great thing to point out: the processing of the oil does have an effect on the final product. Cold pressing avoids damaging the unsaturated parts of the oil, which would set it up for rancidity before it makes it to your kitchen. “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is the first press of the olives; the subsequent presses produce a lower grade of olive oil, with fewer of it’s healthy properties…sometimes called “light olive oil” because it has less of the distinctive olive flavor. There is no difference in caloric value. I only buy cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Another thought is that glass is an inert material for the oil bottle…a large jug of oil in plastic isn’t a great idea, even if it’s one of the lesser toxic plastics. Most high quality EVOO that I see today is sold in dark green glass bottles, which can make it difficult to see the color/flavor profile, but which protects it from degradation/rancidity caused by light. Light and heat are what you should strive to protect your oil from as it’s stored.

Speaking of flavor profile…this seems to be it’s own art, like wine tasting. My (very!) simplified understanding is that greener means a sharper flavor and golden means a more mellow flavor. What you choose is up to your own palate!

The best way to enjoy olive oil is cold, as in salad dressing. I also like to pour it over steamed vegetables like broccoli, and top with Pecorino (a sheep cheese similar to Parmesan). Enjoy!

Using Over-Cultured Dairy Products

Ever let your yogurt go a little too long, or get a little too warm? I do.

Although its disappointing to have separated whey and “cottage cheese” in place of the creamy yogurt I was expecting, the curds and whey don’t have to go to waste.

20130623-170659.jpg
Today I’m pouring about 2 cups of whey over 2 cups of oats for use in High Protein Waffles tomorrow morning. The curds can be used as part or all of the cottage cheese in the recipe.

Other uses for over cultured yogurt or kefir:
• in a smoothie, if not over-sour
• whey can be used in small amounts in culturing vegetables such as sauerkraut (I don’t do this, preferring only salt for sauerkraut, as I can taste a slight cow or goat flavor in the product when using whey.)
• any baked recipe which calls for buttermilk, such as biscuits or pancakes. In this case, the more sour the better! It may be necessary to use all the curds and only part of the whey so the batter is not too watery, and to blend thoroughly. This presents a great opportunity to soak the grain or flour in the recipe for 12 hours or longer.
• whey can be sipped straight, as a tonic
• creamy curds can be strained and mixed with herbs for a soft cheese spread for crackers or crisp green apple
• in case of an abundance of whey, I feed it to our (lucky) cats. 🙂

What creative uses have you found for over-cultured dairy?

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

What is it? A fermented tea drink, sweet and with a kick (though non-alcoholic).

Why make it? Taste’s yummy, and it’s good for you. Here are some of the benefits:

  • full of probiotics: good bacteria and good yeasts
  • the amino acids created by the fermentation process help with liver/body detox
  • reported to prevent cancer in peoples from a polluted area of Russia where it was widely consumed (probably a result of the first 2 benefits)

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea for several days or weeks. I have been making it off and on for about 2 years, and our favorite is Ginger Kombucha. My children love it; since it is strong I only give about 1/4 cup to them at a time.

Ingredients

1 Scoby with some starter Kombucha
3 qts. purified water
2 Tbs. organic black tea
1 cup organic sugar
candied ginger
Equipment

large stainless kettle
gallon size glass jar
cloth cover (tea towel or handkerchief)
rubber band
strainer
large knife
funnel
1 qt. glass bottles for bottling

 

Boil about 3 qts of water in the large kettle. Remove from the heat, and add 2 Tbs. black tea* (see note below) and 1 cup sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool on the counter for several hours. If scalding tea is added to a scoby, it will kill the yeast.

Here is a scoby in finished Kombucha. You can see there are three pancake-like pieces (2 are floating sideways). The three can be separated to start three new batches. The newest one always forms on the top of the Kombucha.

When starting out, you will place 1 scoby and about a cup of Kombucha in a clean gallon glass jar, and then add the tepid sweetened tea to it. Use a strainer to catch the loose tea leaves.

Then place a clean towel over the jar, fasten with a rubber band. Leave on the kitchen counter, or another clean warm place, for 7-14 days. You can go longer if you like, but it will taste like vinegar. The warmer the room (or season), the faster the Kombucha will ferment, so begin to check it after 7 days. When it is fermented to your liking, it is ready to strain into bottles.

To flavor it with ginger, I chop up candied ginger to place in each bottle; just a few pieces for each bottle.

Chop it finely so that it doesn’t get stuck in the bottle after the Kombucha is gone and you want to wash the bottle.

Then put the ginger in the bottles.

 

Then pour or ladle the fermented Kombucha into the bottle; leave a few inches at the top. I use a funnel with a strainer piece fitted inside it.

Close the bottles of Kombucha, and leave them on the counter for 2 more days. This allows the Kombucha to continue fermenting the sugar in the candied ginger. Carbon will be formed and trapped in the sealed bottle, which will give the drink a nice bubble when it is opened. After 2 days, place the bottles in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation. Drink chilled, using a tea strainer to strain ginger pieces as you pour.

*Organic tea is preferred to conventional, as conventional often has aluminum residues from processing. Any black tea will work; English Breakfast and Oolong are both delicious varieties I have tried.

Although some people use green tea, I found that there wasn’t nearly enough flavor.

For this batch I used Hampstead Tea and Now Foods Ginger, which can both be ordered from iherb.com. If this is  your first order with iherb, use my coupon code: RON268 and receive $5 off your order.

You can order and scoby from Cultures For Health. Or, if you live near me (Portland area) email me and I’ll give you one!