Power-trip cure, ferments, and chive blossom vinegar

Know anyone who’s on a power trip? Someone who needs to be taken down a notch?

There’s a remedy for the power-hungry and those with an inflated ego. It’s called subbing in a grade nine classroom. I am convinced even CEOs of multi-million dollar companies would tremble before a class of belligerent 15-year-olds, given the opportunity. I like to think my people skills are up to snuff, but last week they were put to the test. After spending an afternoon with hormonal, hyperactive young men and woman my perspective on life, and who I was, warped. Think of plastic in hot oven.

Later, a friend called to confirm the details of a fermentation workshop I was leading at her permaculture institute. She reassured me about the presentation and told me not to get too nervous. “I’m not worried,” I told her, my recent teaching experience fresh in my mind. “Talking to a room full of adults keen on cultivating bacteria sounds dreamy…”

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Kefir, flavoured with orange juice concentrate, ready to be bottled for its second ferment.

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Susanna, and her friend Kirsi, enjoying some “orange crush” kefir. My kids are very skeptical when I promise something will “taste good”. This time they agreed with me and were asking for more.

Besides sharing some homemade kefir at the workshop, I talked about fermenting salsa. Remember the stuff I made over two months ago? It had so much garlic and cilantro, I wasn’t sure it would ever be edible. Now it’s mellowed considerably and I wouldn’t think of composting it. (Something I had considered with all thirteen jars.)

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Mellowed salsa… this one took a lot longer to ferment than other batches (because of the garlic/cilantro), but you can see the air pockets indicating carbon dioxide–a by product of lactobacillus bacteria.

Long Keeper tomatoes: these were harvested last summer and kept perfectly in my neighbours basement until now.

Long Keeper tomatoes: these were harvested last summer and kept perfectly in my neighbour’s basement until now.

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Fresh tomatoes (Longkeepers and store-bought) with 1/2 cup of fermented salsa–a gateway food to the world of ferments.

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Make-shift salsa tasting station

And lastly, because some of you will soon be able to harvest chive blossoms, here’s a picture of some vinegar I infused last year. It’s easy to make–just throw blossoms in white vinegar (I add a few sprigs of thyme) and wait until the vinegar turns a brilliant pink. I infuse my vinegars for about 2-4 weeks. Strain, cap, keep, and share!

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I took this pic last summer: chive blossoms infusing in vinegar on the left (with a jar of olive oil behind them); finished blossom vinegar on the right. You can leave a few blossoms in for aesthetics–but the vinegar will last longer if you strain them.

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Our first local salad (from a greenhouse) of the season, with chive blossom vinegar, olive oil and salt. I don’t even bother mixing up the dressing before hand, it just dirties another dish.

Have a springy week!

Saluting all substitute teachers, everywhere,

Tricia

PS. I didn’t tell the whole subbing story. After I came home from school I talked with mom, and my mother-in-law. Both of them said they would pray for me the next day. I was grateful for their concern but not terribly confident anything would change. The next day, the class that had given me so much trouble previously was practically comatose. I was so so confused/amazed/thankful I actually asked the principal (I had to find out who he was first) if he had talked to the students about their behaviour. He didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. End of story. 🙂

Water Kefir

Working with a new ferment produces all kinds of insecurities, like a first-time mother learning how to breastfeed.

I call up my kefir mentors the way an uptight mother relies on the nursing hotline.

“So Tara, do you think our house will be warm enough for the kefir to ferment?”

…”Shanon, it’s me again, I just had to call you back because I forgot to boil my water to get rid of the chlorine before adding the grains. What should I do now?”

And on the phone calls go. I try to alternate between the two of them, to give them each a break. Sometimes I ask them both the same question, just for extra assurance. Now that I’m on my third batch I’ve let up a little and realize that it’s all going to work out just fine. In fact, right beside me on the counter is a jar of it, burping out a bubbly song in harmony with the gallon of kombucha from the other side of the kitchen.

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Kefir at the end of it’s first ferment. It takes 3 days in our house because we let the temp. get down to 15C at night.  I also add a piece of ginger and a couple of dates to the first ferment. You can see them floating in the cheese cloth.

We had brewed kombucha on and off for about seven years, when I decided it was finally time to take the plunge with the next probiotic on my list: water kefir. You can order kefir grains online but I think it’s best to get them fresh. That way you can call up your benefactor every couple of hours with a new question. My kefir grains have already reproduced enough for me to give some away–if you have a hankering for some, let me know!

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Kefir grains are not actually a grain, but a culture of bacteria and yeast. Their consistency is like steamed-cauliflower. They look like crystals but they are soft.

If you are interested in learning about the process, I recommend this site, where I found lots of helpful information to supplement my hourly phone calls. You will find all kinds of reasons, online, why people go crazy for this stuff.I’m doing it for three reasons:

1. It’s fun to sit around at night and talk about how the kefir grains are doing and watch the bubbles float to the top. It’s like our own little aquarium, only instead of fish, we watch kefir grains and a floating piece of ginger.

2. My guts need all the friendly bacteria they can get. Instead of buying a bottle of pills for sixty bucks, brewing my own kefir gives me a tasty probiotic punch whenever I need it.

3. Choosing the flavouring! After the kefir grains sit in the sugar water for a few days, I strain out the grains, add flavour to the water, and bottle it up so it gets fizzy. My flavour additions, so far, have been nanking cherry juice concentrate; sweetened lemon juice; and vanilla.

There are many websites that outline more health benefits and give details about the process. This is not one of them. Instead, here are a few more pictures to make you thirsty!

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Strained kefir, in the blue pitcher; soon to be bottled for the second ferment.

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I tried vanilla because of the promise it would turn out like “cream soda”. It did. (I also added sugar.)

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We bought a bottle capper to use with recycled beer bottles. The fizzy gasp, when you twist off the cap, is beautiful! In this picture I am capping the bottles for their second ferment (this one takes about 2 days).

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finished cherry kefir

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“Cream soda” kefir float

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If you stop in at our place, drinks are on the house!

Tricia

Hey, before you go (there’s still a bit of that desperate newbie in me)–does anyone out there have other flavouring ideas or tips?