What to do with Abundance….Strawberries

This month we ended up with 4 flats of strawberries from Feed My Sheep. For many the first thought would be jam, but let me be clear…we have more jam then we know what to do with! All kinds of wonderful sweet sticky goodness all stored up and ready whenever we would like it. So jam was out for preserving this wonderful abundance! So I came up with a few fun treats that you may like to try.  (One for now and One for later)

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SHRUBS

Shrubs or Drinking Vinegar can be made easily with just a bit of time. I am always looking for ways to get vinegar and other healthy foods into our diet. We have experimented with kombucha, fresh ginger drinks and ferments. Shrubs are in the same family and can be made from a wide range of fruits They are easy to make and do not need a long time to be ready for consumption.

What you need:

  • 1 lb Strawberries (Other berries can be used too)
  • 1 lb sugar (I think this may be too much)
  • 1 pint high quality Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Jar with lid (I like Mason jars)

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Mix the berries and the sugar and mash them slightly. set aside in a covered bowl at room temp. I let mine sit for 2 hours, but you can let them sit longer. This allows the juices to form.

Press the fruit mix through a sieve and set the pulp aside. Add the vinegar to your fruit juice. This is when I do a taste test. You should get a clear vinegar taste, but it should also be slightly sweet and taste of the berries. This should last a nice long time stored in the refrigerator. When you are ready to pour yourself a drink just add ice to a glass, pour a shot of your shrub and fill the rest of the glass with carbonated water. Enjoy!

INFUSED LIQUORS:

Last summer we experimented with cordials and infused liquors. The results were a bit mixed so I’m trying again. Keep in mind I will not have results for these mixes for another three months, so try at your own risk…or change it up a bit. I would love to hear what you add to the mix if you make changes! I am including the recipes for the two infusions I started this week.

What you need:

  • 2 Liters Brandy (or try a mix of Vodka and golden or dark Rum 1 Liter of each)
  • 2-4 Cups sugar (I went with 2C. and will add more sugar later if needed)
  • 4-6 Cups strawberries (I used 6C)
  • Jar with a lid (I like Mason Jars)

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I went with both options and they are made the same way. Mix the fruit with the sugar and let it stand for a bit. Then pour your alcohol over the berries and cover tightly. Shake every few hours until the sugars are all mixed in. I used a raw sugar so it took a bit longer. Set your jars in a cool dark spot and shake from time to time over about 2-3 months. After they have sat for a few months drain the berries out and save those…they are a yummy treat to have on hand! There you go! wonderful infused liquors. They can be used in all sorts of mixed drinks or pour a shot over ice with some carbonated water. I also mix with lemonade for a great summer time treat.

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Hope you enjoyed these little treats! If you give them a try I would love to hear how they turn out! Have fun with your abundance!

What to do with abundance…Peppers

OK, I am doing this for real….so that means I must have some level of commitment when it comes to writing each month, but I think I can swing that. Some ladies and I were chatting at this months ‘Feed my Sheep’ food distribution and it just solidified the fact that I need to be writing more about what we do at The Ebed house.

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‘Feed my Sheep’ is an amazing food share program that is open to the public. If you eat food then you are eligible to purchase shares. ‘Feed my Sheep’ is a bit unique in the fact that what we receive is mostly produce. I have participated in other programs that focus more on packaged and processed foods. These programs are wonderful, but when you eat a gluten-free, paleo heavy diet it just isn’t worth it.

On the first Saturday of each month I wake up and head out of the house before the sun comes up. I drive about an hour to a little country church, I purchase a few shares and enjoy a wonderful time of community with lovely ladies while we wait to pick up our food. We often joke that the time together without kids is worth getting up so early…It’s a time for moms to chat and see each other. I cherish it a great deal.

One of our regular topics of discussion is what to do with all the food we get. When I say all the food…I mean crates of oranges, Boxes of peppers, dozens of bananas and more lettuce then can possibly be consumed before it goes bad! So, I’m blogging to help with some of those ideas. We are also starting a Facebook group where other ladies will be able to give their ideas so that we can encourage each other after we have carted all of our items home.

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One more thing I have to say before I start on this months food…I could NOT do any of this without Mike’s support! In this we are a total team. While I pick up the food he is gets the kids ready for the day and gets out kitchen ready to receive all the produce. Mike chops and cans right alongside me, and we laugh and argue about what to make. Mike loves the surprise of what comes each month…maybe more then I do! I am so thankful for my partner in crime.

Peppers!

This month we were blessed with an abundance of beautiful peppers! Red, green and even some smaller yellow ones. Beautiful! I made a few things with this months peppers. We currently do not have much space in our freezer, so I knew i couldn’t chop and freeze them. However, I did fill 2 gallon Ziplock bags with fajita fixings and played Tettris with the freezer.

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Next I chopped a bunch into small bits and layed them out on the dehydrator. I sort of mounded them…but it all worked out and the next day I filled a few jars with dried peppers that I will be able to toss into soups and other dishes. Peppers keep a great flavor when they are dehydrated.

The last thing I tried was a bit of an experiment. I chopped the peppers and blended them down into a pulp. I placed one of those fruit leather sheets in one of my dehydrator trays and poured the pepper pulp in. I dehydrated for a day. when the pulp was dry I crumbled it into my food processor and made a powder. Now I have peppers in the consistency of a seasoning powder. I will be able to use it to season many dishes and (I think) it may aid in the thickening of soup…but I haven’t tried that yet.

We made a number of other things this month as well, but the peppers were the processing highlight. I hope this helps and gives you some ideas if you ever find yourself with an abundance of peppers.

 

The Preservation of food Part 1: Lacto-fermented Carrot

A few months ago we started participating in a food share program called Feed My Sheep. Once a month I pack up the van with a bunch of laundry baskets and some dear friends and we drive about 45 minuets to a little country church to pick up a few shares of food, and lets be honest, a little mom sanity time!

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This program works for our family for a number of reasons.

  1. The food we get is mostly fresh produce and with a family that can not eat a lot of processed, prepackaged and glutenous foods this works great.
  2.  Mike is on board. We are a team on this one. It just wouldn’t work for me to cart the girls with and then have to come home and clean, chop and process all that food with out his help. Just one more example of how amazing my husband is!
  3. The processing…The food we receive from this program is usually past its prime or a bit unsightly, and it often needs to be eaten or processed relatively quickly. We have been able to make use of most of the food because I have learned how to preserve food in a variety of helpful ways.

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This post on lacto-fermentation will be the fist of a series on food preservation focused around the items we receive from Feed my Sheep as well as from the abundance of our garden. If you keep a garden you know there comes a time when you are racking your brain for another way to use those zucchinis or, if you live in MN, the frost comes before all of your tomatoes have ripened….what on earth are you going to do with a gallon bucket of green tomatoes? Well, I have a few ideas that I am happy to share with you.

The last time we picked up a few shares of food we received a laundry basket full of organic carrots. They are beautiful! Amazing and crisp, but what do you do with 20+ bags of carrots? Some will be used for soups and broth as well as every day munchies, but that amounts to 1/3 at most, so fermenting it is. Carrots can also be blanched and frozen or fully canned, but my family LOVES ‘spicy carrots’ as the girls have named them and I am long over due for a batch (or 5).

If you are still reading I promise I’m getting to the actual work of fermenting the carrots, but I am sure some people are a bit curious about what lacto-fermentation is. Just about every time I talk about it someone asks a really good question, so let me direct you to This link for a bit more clarity. It is worth the read and Cultures for Health is a wonderful page to explore. There are more recipe ideas there as well. Now on to my carrot project!

Lacto Carrots

Items you will need

  • Jars with Lids
  • Filtered Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ginger root (if desired)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Dill (if desired)
  • Cabbage Leaves

Directions

  1. Choose your jars/ lids and make sure they are clean. I use mason Jars mostly quart sized and then pint sized for the extra carrot bits.
  2. Clean and prep your carrots. I just scrubbed mine well, but you may also peel them if you desire to. cut them into sticks and trim them so that there is about 1-2 inches of head room in your jar. (you are going to want that space later)
  3. 1-2 Tbs of sea salt in each jar.
  4. 1/2-1 clove of slightly crushed garlic per jar
  5. A few sprigs of dill and (or) a bit of peeled ginger root slightly crushed in each jar. This just totally depends on your personal taste. you can omit this step if you do not like  (or have) ginger or dill.
  6. At this point you are ready to pack your jars. place the carrot sticks in the jars vertically as tightly as possible.
  7. Pour water into your jars covering the sticks while still leaving some head space.
  8. Place a cabbage leaf on top of your carrot sticks but below the water. The leaf helps to keep everything submerged so make sure it is snug. It is important to keep everything below the waterline. I have made these carrots without the cabbage, but it is helpful for peace of mind.
  9. The jars should sit at room temperature to culture for a few days until your carrots reach a flavor that you are happy with. **Burp your jars at least 1-2 times a day **  Gasses are expelled during this time so you don’t want an explosion. This is where you will be thankful for that head space. It is not uncommon to have an overflow while you burp your jars so watch them carefully.
  10. Move your jars to cold storage. we keep ours in the basement. With lacto-fermented foods you will KNOW if something has spoiled so there is little danger of harm from the food going bad. We typically keep our ferments for about 6 months.

That’s about it for the Lacto-fermented carrots that we make. I do just want to make a note that when it comes to food preservation make sure to do your research! I have come to the methods I use after lots of time on web pages and with book that I trust. There are years of trial and error that have gone into this process for me…don’t let this page be your only resource and don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work the first time. Try it again…and tweak ideas (where safety permits) to make them your own.

 

Happy Preserving!

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