Fear and Fermenting in Washington Heights - Sauerkraut

by Stacy Yoshioka


Sauerkraut is not something I think of making or even eating on a regular basis.  It's something that I reserve in my mind for Oktoberfest or those random days I find myself in a German restaurant and order it because it's the only thing I know how to pronounce.  Honestly, I think I decided to make it because my CSA gave me a head of cabbage and I'm not a big cabbage eater but in retrospect I think I am secretly hoping that it comes out just right and reminds me of the month I spent with my Dad in Germany when I was 12 and he introduced me to German hotdogs or bratwurst.

The good news is that it has to ferment for up to 10 days so I have the time to search for the perfect bratwurst to serve with it.  I even have time to make some home made mustard to go with it!  The bad news?  I have to let it ferment on my counter in the open air for up to 10 days!  How in the world am I going resist the temptation to chuck it in the garbage when it starts to stink like.....well......cabbage?  I try to keep a very clean kitchen and the idea of allowing something to ferment on my counter to encourage the growth of bacteria is seriously freaking me out!

I guess I just need to keep in mind that the bacteria I am encouraging are ones that will ultimately add to the good bacteria in the gut that aid in digestion, immunity and general well being.  Here goes!

Day 1 : 3 lbs of shredded cabbage, 1 1/2 heaping Tbsp of Kosher salt and 1/3 c caraway seeds.  Mash with your hands, potato masher or rolling pin.

Day 1 : 3 lbs of shredded cabbage, 1 1/2 heaping Tbsp of Kosher salt and 1/3 c caraway seeds.  Mash with your hands, potato masher or rolling pin.

Day 1 : One head of cabbage, some salt and some caraway seeds all mashed together in a big mixing bowl.  Liquids are pressed out and the wet shredded cabbage mixture is pressed down in a pot with a plate and my handy panini press (which BTW, I have never pressed a panini with).  Now all I have to do is get over the fear of growing bacteria in my food on my counter for up to 10 days!

Day 2 : Not enough liquid was pressed out in the 24 hours since I started so I added salt water (prescribed by the book's author) to cover the cabbage and left it to sit on my counter.  It's starting to smell like fermenting cabbage.  I'm a little scared.

Day 3 : Just tasted it and it still tastes like cabbage albeit salty and has the consistency of coleslaw.  The fermentation smell is not as bad and a little vinegar-y.  The water released from the cabbage and added on day 2 is a little brown and bubbles are popping up here and there.  My husband is getting wary of the stinky cabbage fermenting on the counter.  If this fails I will never hear the end of it!

 

Day 1 : Place in a large wide mouthed vessel, press down with a plate and weight.  Cover with a clean dish towel. and allow ti sit in a cool spot in the kitchen.  Let the fermenting begin!

Day 1 : Place in a large wide mouthed vessel, press down with a plate and weight.  Cover with a clean dish towel. and allow ti sit in a cool spot in the kitchen.  Let the fermenting begin!

Day 7 : It's finally starting to smell and taste like sauerkraut!  Thank you food gods!  I think I'm going to let it ferment for another couple of days since it still tastes more like cabbage than kraut right now but I'm glad it's starting to come around!

10 Days Later - Sauerkraut!

10 Days Later - Sauerkraut!

Days 8-10: THE WAITING GAME.  Thank God for a busy schedule!  I just let it sit and only checked to be sure it was still submerged in liquid.  I have to admit, when I finally tasted the finished product I was surprised!  While it didn't taste quite like Germany circa 1987 or '88 with my Dad it did come in a pretty close second and tasted great with the farm fresh bratwurst I ordered from my CSA's monthly "extras" order.  Now on to the sweet and spicy mustard!

 ....with farm fresh bratwurst!

 ....with farm fresh bratwurst!


There's Vodka In There? - Vanilla Extract

by Stacy Yoshioka


DIY project #2 Vanilla Extract! 

1 cup cheap vodka, 3 withered and used vanilla beans. Steep for 3 weeks or more shaking daily to combine.  Vanilla extract is ready when it is a nice brown color and smells like vanilla.

1 cup cheap vodka, 3 withered and used vanilla beans. Steep for 3 weeks or more shaking daily to combine.  Vanilla extract is ready when it is a nice brown color and smells like vanilla.

Seriously, vanilla extract is made from soaking old withered vanilla beans in vodka!  Who knew?  We've had a bottle of cheap vodka leftover from a party in our liquor cabinet for way too long and while I kept saying we would make penne a la vodka I still haven't gotten around to it so when I saw that all I needed to do to make vanilla extract was to take some old withered vanilla beans and soak them in vodka I ran to the store, got some cute bottles, researched a vanilla bean supplier (since spending $10 for a single bean at the grocery store is insane) and finally cracked open that big bottle of vodka.  Now all I have to do is shake it every day and wait 3 weeks until it is ready to use.  My husband still can't believe that vanilla extract is as simple as that and every day since I've filled the bottle he shakes it for me to help with the steeping process and declares, "I had no idea there was vodka in there!"

Once my big bag of beans arrives I think I might make a bunch of bottles and steep them for months and give them away as gifts.

Shoot.....now you all know what you are getting for Xmas!

 


I Hear Its Not That Hard to Make Cheese - Ricotta

by Stacy Yoshioka


DIY project #1 ricotta cheese!

Strain through a fine sieve and a double layer of damp cheesecloth.  Homemade ricotta cheese!

Strain through a fine sieve and a double layer of damp cheesecloth.  Homemade ricotta cheese!

So here goes, DIY project #1 from The Homemade Pantry 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making, ricotta cheese!!!!

I hear it's not that hard to make cheese.  I heard right!  I'm not a big ricotta eater, neither is my mom, but over the past few years I have grown a love of the creamy cheese on toasts topped with grilled peach slices at a summer BBQ or drizzled with a touch of sea salt and honey.  This time I decided it was time for a Sunday lasagna (recipe also in the book) and what better way to start my project than making my ricotta from scratch?  I followed the recipe from start to finish and I think it's pretty delicious.  I did drain in a bit longer than the book specified since I like a less watery cheese and I wanted something with a little more texture in my lasagna.  I did taste it before it went in, and have to admit, it was pretty damn good.

1/2 gal milk, 1/2 c heavy cream, juice from 2 lemons, a heavy bottom pot and a thermometer.

1/2 gal milk, 1/2 c heavy cream, juice from 2 lemons, a heavy bottom pot and a thermometer.

Heat milk over low flame to 175 degrees (about 50 min) then raise the flame to med-high to bring milk to 205 degrees (about 5 min).  Milk should look like it's just about to erupt but NOT boil.

Heat milk over low flame to 175 degrees (about 50 min) then raise the flame to med-high to bring milk to 205 degrees (about 5 min).  Milk should look like it's just about to erupt but NOT boil.

Since it was Sunday, I went to the farmer's market after my morning workout and found some low heat pasteurized milk and heavy cream.  (It's not legal to sell unpasteurized raw milk in NYC or I would have done it completely raw which I hear is the best.)  I found a farmer who said he and his father have used his milk to make cheese with great results. That was enough for me so I bought a half gallon of whole milk and a pint of heavy cream but not before chatting him up and determining that his cows were all grass fed and humanely treated in the milking process.  I think he was happy to have someone willing to chat with him in the frigid wind and after a promise of bringing my glass bottle back for my $1.50 deposit and a sample of my ricotta if I have any leftover along with a promise that he would bring me some of his father's cheese, I was on my way. 

I ran over to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients I needed for lasagna along with the 2 lemons I would need to separate the curds from the whey in my milk and cream and headed home.  About an hour after I arrived home, I had ricotta cheese!

RECIPE

1/2 GAL MILK

1/2 C HEAVY CREAM (optional)

1/3 C LEMON JUICE (about 2 lemons)

Pour milk, cream and lemon juice in a heavy bottom pot.  Mix to combine and attach thermometer.  Place pot over low heat and bring temp up to 175 degrees (about 50 min) stirring once or twice.  Raise flame to med-high and bring temp to 205 degrees (about 3-5 min) without stirring.  Milk should look like it's about to erupt but NOT boil.  The solids on the top are curds and the liquid is whey.  Remove from heat and allow to stand for 10 min.  Set a sieve with a double layer of cheese cloth over a bowl and spoon curds in to the sieve.  Allow to drain for 10 min (I let mine drain about 20 min so it was a more solid cheese).  Sprinkle with salt if you like your ricotta a bit saltier.

NOTE : The cloudy liquid left after draining is whey and is high in nutrients and protein and can be used in place of milk or water in some baking recipes.  It can also be used in place of water or stock for soups.  


New Adventures in DIY

by Stacy Yoshioka


Transient

I got a great book for Xmas from my Secret Santa coworker called The Homemade Pantry, 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila. I admit, I requested it. We used the website www.elfster.com that selected our "Secret Santa" anonymously and allowed us to create wish lists, so after seeing another coworker request it, I totally cheated and stole the idea. Ironically, we both received a copy of the book. In a tribute to Julia Powell, author of Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (2005) and the inspiration for the film Julie and Julia, I have decided to spend a good chunk of the next 101 Sundays to making something from scratch and blogging about it.

My husband of course thinks I'm a lunatic but I think he secretly is excited for the prospect of homemade ricotta cheese and other goodies this book seems to promise.  I've already read it from cover to cover and I'll be honest, I'm excited as hell to get started albeit nervous about sauerkraut which I have all the ingredients for right now but has to ferment on my countertop for up to 10 days!  Fear and fermenting aside, the author does have some things in her book that I already do regularly and I'm curious to see how her recipes stack up next to mine.

So now my NYC kitchen is ready for the challenge and every Sunday I promise to create, experiment and hopefully, successfully re-create each of these recipes for your reading and viewing pleasure.  I'm sure there will be some mishaps and I'm sure there will be some triumphs but over all there should be a better understanding of how to control what you consume by making everyday things that you would normally buy.

"If we are to become people who make butter, we might have to shift the way we see ourselves a bit.  We might have to get in to adventurous spirit and unearth our own curiosity about where our food comes from.  We might have to make a colossal mess of the kitchen.  And we might have to slow down, at least long enough to knead a loaf of bread before the day begins." - Alana Chernila


Strange Little Mistakes

by Stacy Yoshioka


You know those restaurants that combine 2 seemingly strange and unrelated ingredients and it turns out to be great? I often wonder if those were discovered by accident or if they were just having a mad scientist moment and consciously put things together that don't seem to have any correlation in the hopes of creating a "monster" that happens to taste good rather than runs out to destroy cities.

Transient

I recently had an "oops" moment turn in to something quite tasty one morning when making lunch.  I was reheating what I thought was rice that was in the fridge and decided to throw some shiso furikake on it before I heated it up.  For those of you who do not know, furikae is an amazing little condiment that is put on rice and can contain seaweed, sesame seeds, dried fish, dried wasabi, dried pickled plums, salt, you name it, it can be in it.  Shiso, for those of you who do not know is perilla, the beefsteak plant or Japanese basil.  It's bitter to some but I find it delicious!  My "oops" moment was the moment I took a bite and realized I was NOT eating rice.  Turns out, I had actually taken leftover plain unsweetened oatmeal that Mike had made for breakfast and mistook it for rice.

Oddly enough, it tasted great!  Something about it being a grain must have made it mix with the furikake as if it was rice.  Who knew?  Now to determine if there is some health benefit in eating savory oatmeal.....


Everyone Deserves a Cheat Day

by Stacy Yoshioka


After a long hiatus and a new website later we're back and what better way to celebrate the new site than with some good food and a little blog about how it's ok to indulge once in a while?

For those of you who got here via my fitness blog, you know that a cheat day is very important to keep you on track, reward you after a job well done and just keep your sanity in a world where we create so many rules that we can drive ourselves insane. For those of you here looking for the "fitness person's method of cheating" you're in luck. I'm going to share with you my rules behind cheating so as to not overindulge which we all know is the easiest thing to do.

The rules are actually very simple. In reality, there is only one rule. If you are going to cheat, you must do it from scratch. Simple enough, you need to plan out your cheat day, you need to still use those clean ingredients free of additives and chemicals and you need to put the same effort in to making that pizza, ice cream, cookies, etc that you would in to creating those heathy meals you work so hard on at home. The reward? You end up feeling a sense of accomplishment after making these indulgences from scratch and because of how much prep and time it takes you will be less inclined to make it and eat it as often as if you were going to a fast food chain and eating it everyday.

"If we're not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn't settle for junk food." - Sally Edwards
Ironman Triathlete winner 1981 Silver and 1982 (Oct) Bronze

Transient