Butter Review

“Mmm . . . butter is the most yummy thing to eat!” said my seven year old daughter as we enjoyed pats of butter and peanut butter on crackers.

It’s not only yummy, it’s good for you (assuming you aren’t eating it with enough sugars/starches to begin gaining weight). Butter is an excellent saturated fat for absorbing and utilizing the important vitamins A, D, and E, which are too often lacking in the western diet, as well as metabolizing the calcium and other minerals in our diets.

However, there’s a big difference in the quality of butters.

Here are two different colors of yellow butter. The one on the left is Kerrygold, which comes from cows in Ireland which graze on green grass. It is always yellow, and is cultured with probiotics during the butter making process. The one of the right is Trader Joes Sweet Cream butter; it is nearly white compared to the Kerrygold.

Here is a photo (mobile download from a friend; thanks Stephanie of beeyoutiful.com) of homemade butter (left) from fresh raw milk from cows eating the quickly growing green grass of spring, and a stick of Costco butter (right). This photo is not doctored; I’ve seen and tasted butter this yellow. It’s an indicator of the high levels of vitamins in the butter.

About a hundred years ago, Weston A. Price traveled the world to find the healthiest peoples. He discovered some astounding truths of optimal health, one of which was that cows and other dairy animals give nourishing milks when they are fed their natural diets of green grass. Cows kept in stalls in the city, and fed hay and grains, gave milk products which did not produce the excellent health, stature, and dentition in the people who drank it in comparison with the people drinking the milk from grass fed cows. (Whew! Did you catch that? It even confused me, and I wrote it. Bottom line: grass-fed milk=healthy people, grain-fed milk=not-as-healthy people.)

Here are two excellent brands of cultured butter (probiotics used in the butter making process). Little difference can be seen in the butter color, although there is a slight difference in flavor. Both are from pastured cows, which gives the yellow color, although not as bright as the spring butter. Both are from pasturized milk; the Organic Valley brand is unsalted. I found it interesting that these cultured butters were easy to cut with a butter knife, even straight out of the fridge, not rock hard like conventional butter. Both taste fabulous.

I purchase the “conventional” butter from Trader Joes (top picture, right side) to use when baking things for potluck or other groups where nobody cares a whit about the butter quality so I can stretched my grocery dollars further. This way, I can purchase Kerrygold for spreading on bread and vegetables at home.

I also regularly purchase Trader Joes Organic Butter, which is a little cheaper than the Kerrygold, and I purchase it for baking and frying at home. It is not cultured with probiotics, but does have a similar color to the Kerrygold most of the year. However, as I understand that Trader Joes uses a number of local vendors around the nation for their fresh products, their organic butter in your are may not be this yellow (indicating that it is not delivering vitamin A in good amounts).

Kerrygold runs around $2.69 for a half pound at Trader Joes (more elsewhere)
Organic Valley runs about $5.50 a pound at my local Fred Meyer
Trader Joes Organic runs about $4.79 a pound at Trader Joes
Trader Joes (Conventional) Sweet Cream Butter runs about $2.99 a pound at Trader Joes

Butter is an excellent choice in baking and frying (along with virgin coconut and palm oils, and beef or duck fat) since the saturated fats are so stable and will not be damaged into a trans fat form.

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!

 

Baking Fail: Holiday Bread

It’s so disappointing; after all the work of sourcing the best ingredients, converting a family recipe to gluten and sugar free, measuring, stirring, the anticipation while it bakes . . . and it fails.

Actually, I failed. Failed to fully read the instructions, the little added-on-note at the bottom of the card which said bake large pans longer.

Here is my Date Nut Bread:

I thought it was baked all the way through when I took it out, but realized my error when it began to fall in the middle.

And let me tell you, once you’re at this point, you can’t go back. I tried putting the loaves back in the oven, and when that wasn’t baking the gooey top, I tried broiling them. Nope; darker tops but still gooey on the inside.

At this point, we are eating the sides, bottoms, and ends of the loaves. It’s delicious, but not pretty. To have bread worthy of taking to the family Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll try again. And this time I’ll follow the instructions.

Do you have a memorable baking or cooking fail?

How To Soak and Dry Nuts

I’m drying a few batches of walnuts in preparation for holiday baking. Here’s my method:

Put 4 cups walnuts into a glass bowl. I’m doing 2 batches here.

Add a heaping tsp. of sea salt to the nuts.

Cover with purified water. Let sit for 24 hours on the countertop. This allows the nuts to soak up the salt water, which breaks down the phytic acid in them.

After the nuts have soaked 24 hours, drain off the water, and transfer them to baking pans. I try not to use aluminum cookware, so I use my glass pans.

Place in an oven at about 120 degrees, to allow the enzymes to stay intact. My oven only goes down to 170, so I use the warming drawer under my oven.

Leave in there for about 2 days, stirring every 12 hours or so. When done, they will be crispy all the way through. Store in a sealed container. Use them in baking (which kills the enzymes, but there is still the benefit of having the phytic acid removed). They are also delicious on salads, or as a small snack.

How To Soak Grains

Q:

I’m planning to make the High Protein Waffles, but I’ve never soaked grains before, and I am unclear on the process. I looked around a little on the internet, and it wasn’t much clearer. Did you separate your own whey from milk, or buy whey powder and reconstitute it, or would you suggest I just use yogurt? I haven’t even purchased the whey (or yogurt) yet, so if you have some direction on that, I’d appreciate it!

~Debra , via Facebook

A:

Soaking grains is pretty straight forward, although I know it can seem daunting at first since this practice has been all but abandoned in modern cooking. To soak my oats, I measure them into a glass bowl; you’ll want one large enough that there is some space left for the whey or yogurt. You can see my whey here in the picture.

Pour the liquid/yogurt on top of the oats and begin to incorporate with a small spoon.

Stir the wet and dry together until there aren’t any dry oats left.

Then smash them down firmly in the bowl with the back of the spoon. There shouldn’t be any pooling wet areas.

Cover with a dish towel and place on the countertop, or another warmish clean place, for 12-24 hours.

At the end of this time, you’ll notice that the oats seem to have dried out some, and are stuck into a clump which will need a little bit of breaking up before putting into the blender.

If you double or triple the recipe, you can soak all the oats together and then evenly divide them the next day after soaking. Since they are stuck together in a chunk, it’s not to hard to cut them evenly. However, I recommend only making one batch at a time (unless you have a really strong blender) as doubling the batch makes it difficult to completely blend the oats into the eggs and cottage cheese mixture.

Whey and yogurt can both be used in this recipe. If you use yogurt you’ll need to use a little more than if using whey, since it is thicker and won’t mix with the oats as freely. I often use whey just because I have it on hand when it has separated from the kefir I make continually on my countertop. If the whey hasn’t separated, I use the kefir or a plain yogurt, which is probably what you should do at this point.

Here’s a picture of oats soaked in yogurt.

These soaking agents are actually souring the oats, and the waffles will have a pleasant sourdough flavor. I think kefir makes them more sour than yogurt, but it is pretty inconsequential. The acids and bacteria in the whey/yogurt are the agents that are eating away at the sugars in the oats, and dismantling some of the anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Therefore, whey powder (protein powder) reconstituted would not work for this purpose, as it no longer has these active cultures at work.

On purchasing the yogurt: get plain, and make sure it has active cultures in it. I like the European Style Whole Milk Yogurt from Traders Joes, and while you’re there, their Small Curd Cottage Cheese seems to be a good choice (for the waffle recipe) since the side of the carton makes it sound like the cows live in a resort. 🙂
Make sure your waffle iron is fully heated before pouring in the batter. I was in a hurry when I made these a few weeks ago, and I ended up with a mess in waffle maker! :-/

The waffles freeze well after cooling, and can then be toasted for a quick snack later.

Soup and Scones Weather

Mmm…raindrops on the window, and soup on the stove. Fall is so cozy.

The secret to really rich soup? Sautee the veggies long and low in butter, onions first. The carmelization of the sugars in the veggies will give the broth wonderful flavor when you add the stock and/or water.

I love biscuits with soup, and have a fabulous gluten free recipe which I’ve developed. I make them as scones, since it’s faster/easier/cleaner than rolling them out.

Here’s the GF Biscuit-Scone recipe:

In food processor, with blade add:
2 cups My GF All Purpose Flour -scooped, not sifted (equal parts sorgum, brown rice, and tapioca flours)
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Whir together, then add:
7 TBS cold butter, cut into pieces

Whir to cut butter into flour, then add:
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt or kefir

Whir until combined, should resemble wet biscuit dough.

Turn out as a solid lump onto a baking stone, or a grease cookie sheet. Press into a circle, about 9 inches in diameter. Using a butter knife, cut the dough like a pizza into 8 equal wedges. This scoring will allow the biscuits to be divided after baking.

Bake 22-25 minutes at 350.

Serve hot with good butter, jam or honey.

Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

For those of you who are trying a gluten-free diet, here is the flour combo that I’ve developed to substitute for all purpose wheat flour in quick breads, cookies, and cakes.

Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

whisk together

1 part organic brown rice flour
1 part sorghum flour
1 part tapioca flour

Xanthan Gum is required in all recipes with this flour, and should be whisked in prior to adding the flour to other ingredients. Here are the amounts needed for different types of baked goods.

Add per cup of All Purpose Flour used:
1/4 tsp. for cookies
1/2 tsp. for cakes
3/4 tsp. for muffins and quick breads
1 to 1&1/2 tsp. for breads
2 tsp. for pizza crust

Pectin vs. Gelatin for Making Jam

My Raspberry Freezer Jam

Christina of Ramey Ranch Review (check out her post on Making Mozarella) writes:

Pectin for Making Jam: I have heard pectin and gelatin content are about the same. While I’m not a vegetarian or anything, I do try to feed my family as wholesomely as possible. Animal waste products are not high on my healthful list! There are some alternative (vegetarian) jam pectins out there, but they are pricey. We live on a ranch and grow most of our own fruits and veggies. I preserve lots of food every year. I am looking for an economical alternative to pectin since I make 12 + batches of freezer jam per year. I would prefer to not cook and can the jam. I did find a product from Mary Jane’s Farm http://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/store/p/65-ChillOver-Powder.aspx. I heard a rumor you could use it for jam. I’m going to try to find out. If you find anything on this topic, please let me know.

Way to go, Christina, on growing the majority of your own fruits and veggies! That has got to be a huge amount of work in and of itself, not to mention the preserving. Your family is undoubtedly reaping the health rewards of your labors!

Pectin is a vegetarian product found in the cellular structure of fruits and veggies, and often sourced from citrus peels or apples. It can be pricey, particularly in small retail packages. In bulk from Azure Standard, a 1lb bag costs $42. 90; this makes about 320 cups of jam.

Gelatin, on the other hand, is an animal product, and most gelatin is made from pork carcasses. Chicken broth and beef broth (made from bones/carcasses) are marketable products, but pork broth doesn’t have much of a market, so this “waste” product is made profitable in the form of Jello, jams, and jellies.

Although this is a waste product of factory slaughterhouses (and that’s a disgusting thought with their sick animals and unsanitary practices!), gelatin in general is a very healthful and nourishing food; this is the main source of nourishment in bone broth (read Bone Broth: Body Builder) and gelatin can even be purchased in capsules as a nutritional supplement for joint problems.

So to find a clean source for gelatin . . . I thought briefly about whether you could make your own from bone broth; gelatin powder must be just dehydrated bone broth. However, I can’t imagine going to that amount of effort (and I didn’t find anything coming up when I googled making your own gelatin powder). I did find some other options, though: certified organic porcine (pork) gelatin, which is more expensive than the pectin above. The bulk size of 2lbs of powder should gel about 200 cups of liquid (perhaps it would be less in making jam?), with a current price of $53.10.

Some people prefer to avoid all pork products, organic or not, in which case beef gelatin is available, and quite a bit cheaper at $7.25 for 1lbs. This is from Azure Standard, a supplier of natural foods, so it is unclear to me if this is gelatin sourced from naturally raised beef or from conventional/factory farming, but a call to their customer service should clarify this. There is no information given on how much would be required to make jam, but I would think it would be 1:1 with the porcine gelatin. If this truly is naturally sourced gelatin, I think this would be an excellent, healthful addition to homemade jam, and an economical option too!

Chill Over Powder

I have no experience with this, although it sounds really interesting. I wonder what’s actually in it? I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Jane is marketing her own brand of fruit pectin, similar to the one above, in which case you just need to compare the yield/price against the price at Azure or another bulk supplier of natural products.

[Christina writes back: I found out what Chill Over Powder is made from. Ingredients: Agar-agar kanten, an odorless powdered sea vegetable with superior gelling qualities—a MaryJanesFarm exclusive.]

Read Raspberry Jam for my recent experience on using both pectin and gelatin. Good luck in all your summer preserving!

Raspberry Jam

My Raspberry Freezer Jam

Today I made raspberry freezer jam with some local fresh picked raspberries. My first batch was the “yummy” batch because my husband asked me to make sure that it turned out really good. 🙂 My second batch is made with honey rather than sugar, gelatin rather than pectin (because I ran out of pectin, and I wanted to experiment with gelatin), and without lemon juice because my daughter is allergic to citrus. Here are my recipes:

Raspberry Jam
4 pts. fresh raspberries, rinsed and mashed with potato masher (yield 3.25 cups)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, stirred into raspberries
1 package pectin, slowly added and thoroughly stirred into raspberry mixture
4.25 cups organic sugar, added slowly to raspberry mixture, then stirred until completely dissolved (it takes awhile)

Pour into freshly washed glass pint jars, leaving 1 inch at top for expansion. Leave on counter for 1 day to set, then freeze. Thaw in refrigerator and use within a few weeks. Yielded 5 jars, and tastes delicious (of course, with all that sugar!).

Raspberry Jam with Honey
4 pts. fresh raspberries, rinsed and mashed with potato masher (yield 3.25 cups)
1.25 cups honey
4 envelopes gelatin, stirred into 1/2 cup water in saucepan (my jam turned out a little too firm, so I’ll try 3 envelopes next time)

Add about 1/3 of the mashed raspberries and all of the honey to saucepan, and stir over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Add back to the rest of raspberries. Pour into freshly washed glass pint jars, lid, and place directly in freezer (one recipe I was adapting stated that if left covered at room temperature the gelatin would liquefy). It did set up, even more firmly than the pectin jam. Yielded 3.5 jars jam, and tastes nice, although not as bright of a flavor as if I had added lemon juice.

Read Pectin Vs. Gelatin for Making Jam a review on the health and price comparisons of these two products.

I am linking to a linky party on Inspiration at theinspiredroom.

Experiment Kitchen: Making Cottage Cheese

After making yogurt and kefir from raw milk last week, I felt courageous enough to attempt cottage cheese this week. Actually, it turned out to be a cinch.

I took a quart of raw milk yogurt, emptied it into a clean 2 qt. saucepan, and set it on the stove over medium heat. Stirring constantly, I waited to see a change in the yogurt curd. Here is a picture of the yogurt when I began heating it.

As I was heating it, I kept sticking my finger in it to test for temperature. The instructions I was going off of were word-of-mouth that it should be warmer than bath water, but not boiling. It took less than 10 minutes for the yogurt curd to change into a cottage cheese curd. The yogurt I was using came from the refrigerator, but if it had been from the counter (just finished yogurt culture) then it would have been less time. You can see the picture of the cottage cheese curd.

I removed the pan from the heat, and at this point I had the brilliant idea to be a little more scientific about the whole process and stick my candy thermometer in the pan. It registered 130 degrees. This probably means that the cottage cheese is not technically raw any longer (less than 117 should leave enzymes intact) but it also is a far cry from the “ultra-pasteurization” temperatures which damage and alter the protein molecules of dairy.

After allowing the batch to cool for 10 minutes or so, I spooned the curds and whey into my funnel fitted with a strainer. The whey ran through into the canning jar, and the cottage cheese stayed in the funnel for transfer to a second jar. One quart yielded 3 cups of whey and 1 cup of cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese has a really high protein content compared to other dairy products; 13 gms protein per half cup. It is an ingredient in my High Protein Waffles.