We finally had cherry tomatoes begin to ripen after a long, cool spring, and the hottest, driest summer I can remember. And they are ripening just as it’s beginning to hit the 30’s at night, so I’m trying to bring them in as soon as there is a hint of yellow.
Of course, there are too many to eat fresh, even with a tomato loving six year old, so I have to do something with the extras.
So I made a batch of fermented garlic Basil tomatoes which I’ll probably blend up later on to use as a pasta sauce. After it ferments I’ll strain it and blend it all together in the food processor adding little bits of the fermenting liquid until I like the texture, and then pour over and toss with cooked pasta.
If you want to try your own, take fill a quart size jar with cherry tomatoes to about 1/2” below the shoulder. Add 2 1/2 tsp of salt, a few basil leaves if desired, and 1-2 cloves of garlic (also optional). Cover with filtered or distilled water. Weight down and cover with a glass weight, clean onion skin, or zip-lock baggie filled with a bit of water. Your goal here is to keep all the food particles under the liquid so that they are not exposed to oxygen so that they will not mold.
Loosely screw on your lid, and you’re done! That was easy wasn’t it? Let it sit for 2-3 weeks until it hits a flavor profile that you like, and when it does, move it to cold storage in the fridge. Fell free to open your jar to taste the tomatoes after the first week to see how they are progressing so that you can learn what flavors you like and when to stop the fermenting process by moving it to cold storage. But, each time you open the jar be sure that you settle everything back under the liquid and your weight or follower as fermenting weights are called.
You may notice that the jar I am using is not a regular mason jar. Any glass jar that you have will do. I have used canning jars, old jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars, etc. as long as it is clean and you have a way to keep the contents submerged, you’re good to go! But these Weck jars are my new favorite jars for fermenting. Why? Well, they are very pretty, but the main reason is that they have glass lids that clip on. This means that I can grab a lid from a jar that is the next smallest size down and use that lid as my weight. It’s so easy and it fits perfectly! I love it! And they don’t need to be burped because the lids clip on. They will release the pressure on their own or you can just give the little tab on the sealing ring a pull if you want to and you never have to remove the lid until it’s ready to be eaten. Plus, if you are a canner, they work for that too. The rings can even be reused. So they are very versatile. They can be pricey if purchased new, but last a long while if cared for well, and I have even found some at thrift stores before and I definitely snatched them up!
Weck Small Batch Preserving (affiliate link) is a great book if you’d like to investigate using Weck jars further for either canning or fermenting. It’s available through most libraries as an e-book, which is how I discovered it. And if you are new to fermenting, the Fearless Fermenting workshop (affiliate link) by Carolyn at Homesteading Family is a great course to get you started.
Hope you get to concoct something fun and yummy in your kitchen soon! 😊
I’ve been experimenting with making citrus scrap vinegar this summer and I must say that I am hooked!
Pictured here is a batch of lemon grapefruit vinegar and it couldn’t be easier to make your own. And the best part is, it’s a great way to use up all the rinds from oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, or whatever citrus you have on hand. Just keep the rinds in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks until you accumulate enough to make a batch.
So far I’ve tried lemon, lime (my favorite so far – the flavors are complex and delicious!), orange, orange with blood orange, orange and lemon, and now grapefruit and lemon, and they are all great!
To make a batch first collect your jar of rinds, add some sugar, add some just boiled water, cover with a coffee filter kept on the jar with a rubber band, and stir daily for 4-5 days. You will see it start tomorrow bubble. When the bubbling slows down, add more sugar and stir for another week. Strain out the fruit scraps pour back into a clean jar, cover again with the coffee filter and let it sit for a month. If a opaque film develops on the surface, don’t worry, that is the vinegar mother and a good thing.
For a 1/2 gallon jar of citrus peels add 1/3 cup sugar at the first mixing, and then another 1/4 cup somewhere around day 5 or once the bubbling settles down.
For a quart jar of citrus peels add 2 tbsp sugar at the first mixing, and then another 2 tsp somewhere around day 5 or once the bubbling settles down.
After a month can test the acidity of your vinegar if you like to be sure it is acidic enough (4-5 on the pH scale) using paper test strips, or you can just taste it. If it tastes like vinegar, then it’s done! You can store it in the fridge to age and mellow it if you want or keep it in a cool, dark cupboard or your pantry as you would your other vinegars.
You can really make vinegar out of almost anything with fruit or some level of sugar content. I’ve been really enjoying this book if you want to learn more. Kirsten does a great job of explaining it ALL!
It may sound strange, and I’m not sure what to name it (comment if you have suggestions), but it is beautiful, delicious, and easy to make.
I saved my stems from my red Swiss Chard, chopped them, added some chopped onions, and a few slices of a chopped Jalapeño, added sea salt and mixed until it tasted pleasantly salty, covered with water and a follower (in this case a zip lock baggie with water), let it sit for 2-3 days on the counter and Voilà! I have a delicious, beautiful, probiotic rich relish that livens up any meal. I’ve added it to dinners, topped my lunches with it, and even added it to my fried egg with breakfast.
For other fermented vegetables ideas try some of these recipes:
Who doesn’t like a little spice in life? I know I do.
I was bottling up some kombucha for a second ferment tonight planning to add some strawberries. But alas, the strawberries had gotten pushed to the back of thr fridge and when I finally found them they were moldy.
But there’s always some fruit around here that is on the edge needing to be used up, so nectarines to the rescue. I sliced up some white nectaries that were over ripe which makes them perfect for this use as there will be lots of good sugars to feed the bacteria, and while I was slicing them I noticed half of a Jalepeno on the counter from dinner.
🤔 My wheels started turning and I got to wondering how that would go with the nectarines. I think it might be pretty good. I’ve never made a spicy kombucha before, so I decided to add a couple slices to one bottle and see how it turns out. At the very least, this will ensure that I’ll get a bottle to myself before the kids drink up the other two. 😂
Playing with flavors can be fun, and I’ll be sure to edit this post and let you all know how it turns out. To see my other favorite kombucha flavors visit this post on Flavored Kombucha.
And if you like spice, stay tuned for a post later in the week on my new favorite spicy fermented relish. 😁
I just got it in the mail today and after just one flip through I think it is going to become one of my most used books.
It’s basic but thorough and covers basic botany, wildcrafting, making plant medicine, as well as individual plant profiles which include ID, harvesting, medicinal uses, cautions, how to harvest safely to ensure future harvests and/or how to propagate, and the best herbal preparations for each plant.
There is also a super helpful chart showing each plant and what time of year it actively growing for harvesting.
AND these are plants that actually grow where I live! So many of my books have plants that don’t grow here or don’t have plants that do grow here.
There are books for each region of the U.S. Affiliate links are below. I can’t wait to devour this one. I almost want to get one of each to compare how the plants overlap by region.
I got inspired to sew up some aprons from some vintage cotton and linen scraps that had been sitting around for too long. Isn’t this one pretty? This vintage cotton worked up into such a beautiful apron. Sneak into the Bedroom and rummage around all the way to the bottom in Maggie’s Quilt Box to see my latest creations on the Recycled Sewing page. Be sure to scroll all the way down.
The School of Traditional Skills brings together experts in homemaking, homesteading, gardening, and real food topics. September 12-15 you have the chance to attend an amazing and FREE Summit featuring the following speakers:
If you’re a woman and you’ve had a baby, you may find that you have trouble with varicose veins. The tendency toward varicose veins is hereditary. My grandmother had them, my mom had them, and I’ve always struggled with them. Typically they’ve not bothered me outside of pregnancy but every once in a while they flare up. Standing or sitting for long periods of time can aggravate them and make them painful. What to do?
Well, I’ve found some different strategies and techniques over the years that have helped. One of the most basic is to elevate your legs above hip level. But if they are really bad, that might not be enough. Maybe one of the following strategies will help you. Pay attention to the contraindications to the herbs listed below if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Note: Nothing suggested below is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding the best treatment options if you suffer from varicose veins.
Always do a skin test on a small area before applying any of these remedies to the skin to test for any allergic reactions or irritation.
1. Diluted Cypress Essential Oil. I’ve used this with good success for years. Cypress increases circulation to a particular area of the body. I dilute about 15-20 drops of cypress essential oil into 2 ounces of carrier oil. Do your research as to the dilution ratio you should use. I like the Education page at Hopewell Essential Oils for this information. Create an account and log in to access this information. When applying oils, always apply and massage from the affected area up towards the heart. Do not apply below the vein you are trying to treat as you want the blood in the vein to be able to move back up towards the heart and not pool backwards in the vein which could cause a clot. Avoid Cypress if you have any allergies to any of the plants in the Cedar or Juniper plant families.
2. Diluted Helichrysum Essential Oil. Always dilute any essential oil in a carrier oil (I like olive oil). Apply to the varicose veins in the same way described for Cypress above. Helichrysum is expensive, so Cypress is a very effective and affordable alternative.
3. Avoid hot, apply cool. Heat can worsen varicose veins. Avoid hot baths. Instead take cool baths or use cool compresses. Use ice packs for 20 minutes a day on the affected areas.
4. Witch Hazel. This extract is an astringent and helps tone tissues. It can help strengthen and tone the walls of the vein so that they are more likely to hold their shape and not weaken causing the blood to pool in painful pockets.
5. Infused Witch Hazel Liniment or Herbal Poultice or paste. Make your own liniment by infusing witch hazel with herbs that improve circulation to make it even more effective. Or make a poultice or paste of dried herbs to apply directly to the skin. Liniments and poultices are for external use only.
Choose from some of the herbs below to make an herbal paste or use them to infuse into your witch hazel. You can choose a single herb or a medley of them based on what you have on hand. Instructions for using herbs in paste form are given below. Be sure that you do your research for contraindications for any medical conditions that you may have.
Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne increases circulation. You can make a paste with it by adding a little water, apply it to small area of the affected vein (do a skin test first to check for irritation and cayenne can cause redness due to the heat it brings to the skin), and cover the area with a band aid or gauze bandage.
Turmeric – This herb is an anti-inflammatory. Just like cayenne, a paste can be made from turmeric and applied to the skin. Be careful though. Turmeric stains EVERYTHING yellow and it won’t come out. It will stain your skin, clothes, and bedding. Be sure to cover the area well to avoid ruining your clothes or other cloth covered surfaces.
Black Pepper – Increases circulation like cayenne pepper. Infused into witch hazel or blend and apply as a paste directly to the skin.
Sage – This plant is part of the mint family and acts as an astringent toning the veins. Infuse into which hazel or use powdered sage as a paste. Caution: Do not use or use minimally if you are breastfeeding as it can dry up your milk supply.
Hawthorn – Use hawthorn berries and flower as an infusion. Hawthorn is considered a cardiovascular tonic. It opens blood vessels and improved circulation. Can also be used as a tea.
Yarrow – This herb in the Aster/Sunflower family supports circulation and heals and tones tissues. Infuse into witch hazelor drink as a tea. Caution: Do not use yarrow in large amounts during pregnancy. Avoid if you have any seasonal allergies to ragweed or any other plants in the sunflower family.
Two ways to make an Infused Witch Hazel Liniment:
A. Slow Countertop Method: If you are making this remedy for future use and you have the time, place your powdered or dried herbs into a jar. Fill the jar 1/3 full with plant material and 2/3 with witch hazel. Leave about 1 inch of headspace at the top. The herbs will expand as they absorb the liquid. Shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Strain into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Should be shelf stable for a long time if all the plant material is strained well.
B. Quick Stove-Top Method: When you need relief right away, fill the jar with plant material as described above and place the jar on top of a small washcloth in a small sauce pan filled with water. Turn on the heat and let the water come to a simmer. Once you see bubbles, turn off the heat and let the jar sit until cool. Strain off the herbs into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Apply as described below.
Applying the Liniment:
To apply the liniment, brush onto the skin using a wide, clean, dry paint brush, makeup brush, or even pastry brush. Let it dry and apply several more layers. This is called a soft cast. Cover with a gauze bandage or cotton cloth to avoid it rubbing off on your clothing or furniture. Leave on overnight or longer to allow it to soak into the skin, reapplying as needed. Be aware that cayenne or turmeric can stain the skin and clothes.
After a long summer road trip, the herb infused witch hazel gave me overnight relief from a painful varicose vein in my leg that was aggravated from long hours sitting in the car.
My wheat sourdough starter (half all purpose and half whole wheat), my delicious fermented cranberry lemon honey, my gluten-free sourdough starter, and my homemade wild sour cream.
My family and I hit the road this summer for a 3,000 mile road trip to visit family, and these little guys came along for the ride.
I packed them carefully in my electric cooler and at each place we stay I’ve been able to bake bread for my family, cranberry lemon scones for the aunts, uncles, and cousins, GF bread for my SIL, and most importantly, I can keep my clabber culture going so that I can make cheese once we get home. It needs to be fed weekly and would have certainly died while we were away if I had left it at home.
Ferments can behave differently during the summer. Changes in temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, elevation, all affect how your cultures perform and you need to know them well enough to adjust your technique accordingly. At the lake where we are at a higher elevation than at home in New York, my sourdough and yeast breads rise faster, and my clabber takes longer to culture because of the cooler temperatures. Each ferment has a personality. You have to get to know it and adjust how you use it accordingly. For example, I have to watch the rise on my breads much more closely and reduce the amount of yeast that I use. I have to allow more time for my clabber to set up for fresh homemade sour cream.
I plan to start some new cheeses when I get home. And you’ll probably see some new fermented vegetables on my counter once I get back to my garden.
I have a wild clabber culture that I have kept going this last year with one batch of raw milk that my in-laws were able to bring me. I make a little batch of wild sour cream with it every week. If we don’t eat the sour cream, I use it up in baking to keep the culture going. I even travelled with my culture while we were away this summer to try and keep it alive since it needs to be cultured weekly.
My summer goal is to use this wild culture to make hard cheese for my son. If I had a regular source for raw milk, this would be easy. But I don’t. So my aim is to use store bought milk and my wild culture to achieve a cheese that my son can eat since store bought cultured dairy products and cheese brother him. Yet he does well on raw milk and my wild clabber culture.
We’ve done without cheese for so long, I’m really hoping that I can develop a successful recipe using my wild culture and store milk so that we can add back in some of our favorite family recipes. Let’s face it, pizza and enchiladas just aren’t the same without cheese.
So stay tuned as I post my progress. And I’m the meantime, if you’d like to delve into the world of homemade dairy, check out Homesteading Family’sHomemade Dairy Masterclass (affiliate link). It’s how I’ve learned and you definitely don’t have to have a milk animal to make all the recipes in the class. Everything I’ve made so far – butter, dairy creamer, sour cream, wild buttermilk, feta, ricotta, hard cheese, have been made all using store bought milk. And there are so many recipes that I haven’t tried yet. It’s definitely chock full of content.
Mix the above adding flour gradually until the texture of the dough is like a thick cream cheese frosting.
1/2 cup flour
6 tbsp cold butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to combine the butter, flour, sugar, and cinnamon until the mixture is crumbly or the butter is pea size.
Loosely mix 1/3 of the amount of your filling into your batter. Reserve the rest.
Prepare your pans:
Grease your pan(s) and fill halfway with batter. Sprinkle 1/3 more of the prepared topping/filling on top of the batter. Fill with more batter until the pan(s) are 2/3 full. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the topping on the top and use your fingers to poke some down into the batter like you would if denting focaccia bread.
Cover with a lid or a damp tea towel. Let the bread rise for 1-4 hours until 1/2 inch from the top of the pan.
Bake covered if you have a lidded pan or baking dish for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, and 20-30 minutes more uncovered at 350 until the internal temp measures 190 degrees.
Cool and enjoy.
Makes 1 large 5×13” Pullman style loaf, or two 9×5” loaf pan loaves.