Vanilla Paste, Extract, Mylk & Meal…

photo 1This is a very frugal recipe where you dont waste a single vanilla seed and really make the most out of this gorgeous, and pricey, spice. Vanilla beans are the stamen of a particular orchid and so it makes sense why they are so prized. Like saffron you can really tell the real from the fake and this set of recipes lets you enjoy these beans to their full potential.

Vanilla Extravaganza

Vanilla Paste and Extract
12 vanilla beans
1 bottle of brandy
½ cup of ‘sweetner’
– honey, maple, rice malt syrup, coconut nectar etc
 
Spiced Hazelnut Mylk and Meal
1/2 cup hazel nuts (or nut of choice)
dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground allspice or a clove
 
Snip the ends of the vanilla beans into a bowl then chop the beans into 1cm pieces directly into your food processor. I use a Thermomix. Blend on high (speed 10) until the beans are as broken down as your processor can get them. Add half the bottle of brandy and the sweetner.
 
You can omit the brandy in the paste and just use 1 cup of sweetener if you prefer. It wont last as long though and as I use both in cooking the brandy should cook out. Plus you don’t use much.
 
Blend on high for 1-2 minutes then scrape down and repeat (Thermy speed 10 for 1 minute and repeat).
 
Scrape your paste into a clean jar and pop all the tips of your beans into your half full brandy bottle.
 
The paste is ready to use right away and the extract needs a few weeks to infuse.
 
Now DON’T WASH your blender. Once scraped out make your mylk.
 
Soak the hazelnuts overnight to activate if you have time, otherwise cover with boiling water and soak for 10 minutes. Strain and blend with the spices and 1 cup of water for 1-2 minutes. The more water the more milk but the thinner it will be. (thermy speed 10 for 1 minute). You can easily double or triple the amount of nuts/spices/water for more mylk and meal.
 
Strain through a ‘nut milk bag’ or a clean tea towel and save the meal for making cookies. Use both within a few days or freeze the meal to use later. I keep a container in the freeze and top with any nut meal I get from making nut mylks until I have enough for a cake. However this is very special vanilla-spiced meal so its great to use for a batch of cookies all on its own. Recipe for those later!
 

Enjoy!

The paste extract make great gifts portioned down into smaller jars or bottles and the cookies are very yummy with a coffee made with your spiced mylk! I know santa is going to enjoy a nice plate of cookies with chilled spiced mylk in a few days 😉

 

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Quick Pickles – probiotic ferments 101 part 2

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So we have had an introduction to probiotic ferments and pickles, we have looked at instant pickles and now lets look at quick pickles – ferments which take just a few days and pack a probiotic punch!

The basics of pickling veggies in a jar are having the right brine and equipment. It’s not hard, and its not expensive. You can do your first ferments in a regular glass jar with a screw top that you ‘almost seal’. But, I would highly recommend investing in a few inexpensive but good quality ‘Fido’ brand jars. They have a rubber seal, swing top and are perfect for pickling. Just pack, brine and leave!

Ok so to the brine. You need a 1-3% saline solution. You can add a ‘starter’ if you like but it’s not necessary. I use either a little brine from a previous pickle or a splash of apple cider vinegar or even some when from yoghurt (only a good quality, no sugar added one like Meredith Dairy Ewe’s milk yoghurt).

To make your brine just use 1 Tbsp of pure salt (a good quality sea salt or celtic salt, no a free flowing one with preservatives) per 1 Litre of water. Filtered water is best but only if you have a filter. I put the salt in a half litre pyrex jug and pour over a little boiling water. Stir to dissolve then top to 500mls, pour into a larger jug and top with another 500 to make 1L.

sea salt spoon

 

Now to your veggies. You can ferment just about anything. A few of my favourites are dilly beans, ginger-turmeric carrot chips, oregano tomatoes, salsa and bread and butter pickles (technically they are an instant pickle that uses vinegar but its a more complex process so I’m putting them in with quick not instant 😉

 

A few notes before starting:

Don’t open the jar while fermenting, and don’t shake it.

Opening it will destroy the anaerobic environment you have created. What happens is the skin of your veggies has good bacteria on them. They grow in the water while bad bacteria are inhibited by the salt. They fart and bubble and drive out all the air (thats why your jar has to be able to let air out which the rubber seal of a Fido jar allows). You now have an airless, pressurised environment in your jar and the good bacteria thrive and multiply. If you open it before its finished fermenting you let air in and bad bacteria breed. Once its finished when you open it it will ‘pop’ a little and the liquid may even fizz. Once its refrigerated you can open and close it as much as you like and so long as you use clean utensils to retrieve your pickles they will keep for months in the fridge.

Shaking it will might make your veggies float, especially something like tightly packed dilly beans, then some might stick out of the brine. However, if they are not tightly packed (like sliced carrots), you can swirl the jar a little to make floating ones sink.

I recommend using organic veggies.

Give them a quick wash in water (no soap or anything) then use. No need to dry, they are going to get very wet soon. If using conventional you can wash them in water with a little apple cider vinegar as this counteracts many of the pesticides.

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Here are the recipes!

 

Basic Brine (1.7% saline solution)
This basic brine is for most of your pickling needs. 1 Tbsp of fine sea salt weighs about 1.7 grams making it 1.7% of 1 Litre of water. Its half way between the 1-3% you need for a brine and its dead easy! The brine tastes salty now, but once your vege pickle in it it will taste tart, or slightly sour. This natural probiotic tartness is what all the dead pickles on supermarket shelves are trying to mimic with cheap vinegar and sugar.

1 Tbsp natural salt*
1 Litre filtered water
optional starter: 1 Tbsp brine from previous pickle, or whey from unsweetened real yoghurt or live organic apple cider vinegar

Dissolve the salt in a small amount of boiling water then top with water to 1L. Add your starter if using. Done.

*Natural Salt: a fine sea salt, celtic or macrobiotic salt, pink Himalayan or Aussie lake salt. Nothing too expensive, something you should be using as everyday cooking and table salt anyway.

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Strong Brine (2.5% saline solution)
Sometimes you want a stronger brine, to keep the crunch of certain veggies. This is a stronger brine solution for just that.

1 1/2 Tbsp natural salt*
1 Litre filtered water
optional starter: 1 Tbsp brine from previous pickle, or whey from unsweetened real yoghurt or live organic apple cider vinegar

Dissolve the salt in a small amount of boiling water then top with water to 1L. Add your starter if using. Done.
Sweet and Sour Brine
This is for pickles like bread and butter pickles or in the next chapter for a longer, slower pickled onions or garlic. The sweet-sour-salty brine gives you a more ‘store-bough’ pickled taste.

Filtered water
Natural salt
Live organic apple cider vinegar
Raw honey
Pickling spices (dill seeds, fennel seeds, yellow and brown mustard seeds, peppercorns, or others you fancy)

For a really big jar of pickles I use half to 1 teaspoon of each of the spices. Bring about a half cup of water to the boil with the whole spices in. Simmer for a few minutes then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for up to an hour.

Add 1 Tbsp salt per litre of water and vinegar and honey to taste. You can make it half vinegar and half brine if you like with just a touch of honey or you can make it mostly brine with just a sour tang from the vinegar balanced by a dash of honey. It depends what you like and what you are pickling.

Note: if using for bread and butter pickles omit the salt as you will be salting the veggies.

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Dilly Beans
My mom makes these and now I cannot have beans unless they have dill. I prefer to use fresh dill, but if your in a real pickle you can use dry. I love a good pickle pun 😛

Fido or other jar to pack into
Green beans to ¾ fill jar
Fresh or dried dill
Basic brine to cover

Top and tail your beans and pack into your jar. I lay my jar on the side so all the beans can go in one direction. Pack to below the ‘shoulder’ of your jar as you need to be able to cover with brine and leave some ‘headspace’ in the jar.

Add a few sprigs of fresh dill as you pack. I am rather generous, I add half a bunch. I use the stalk half of the bunch and eat the pickled stalks along with the dill infused beans. If using dry dill use between 1 teaspoon for mild to a tablespoon for a very strong flavour.

Once your jar is well packed top with brine to cover. Make sure you leave enough air in the jar. You should have the veggies just below the shoulder and the brine covering them by about 1cm to just at the shoulder.

Leave covered from light in a warm spot for 2-5 days. In the heat of summer 2 days on the bench under a tea towel is sufficient. In winter up to 5 days is good.

These simple pickled beans are great with a picnic lunch, used as crudities to dip into pate or used in salads or even just like you would serve steamed beans (dont cook though) as a side with grilled meats or fish or a roast.

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Ginger-Turmeric Carrot Chips
Not only is the lovely flavour and colour of the carrots enhanced and preserved with the use of ginger and turmeric. But both are great for immunity and inflammation. Adding black peppercorns supercharges the turmeric and increases its bioavailability tremendously.

Fido or other jar to pack into
Sliced carrots to ¾ fill jar
Fresh ginger and turmeric
A few peppercorns
Basic brine to cover

Thinly slice your carrots on the diagonal so you get lovely thin ‘chips’. Pack into a jar with sliced turmeric and ginger and a few peppercorns. You need about 1cm of turmeric and ginger for every 4-6 carrots.

Once your jar is well packed to below the ‘shoulder’  top with brine to cover. Make sure you leave enough air in the jar. You should have the veggies just below the shoulder and the brine covering them by about 1cm to just at the shoulder.

Leave covered from light in a warm spot for 2-5 days. In the heat of summer 2 days on the bench under a tea towel is sufficient. In winter up to 5 days is good.

These are great with tuna dip or as a side dish with just about anything. Probiotic, full of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory!

 

Oregano Tomatoes
Use these in salads and summer gazpacho soups or dips.

Fido or other jar to pack into
Cherry tomatoes or roma tomatoes
Fresh oregano
A few peppercorns
Basic brine to cover

Simply pack your jar to below the shoulder with tomatoes and oregano with a few peppercorns them fill with brine.

Make sure you leave enough air in the jar. You should have the veggies just below the shoulder and the brine covering them by about 1cm to just at the shoulder.

Leave covered from light in a warm spot for 2-5 days. In the heat of summer 2 days on the bench under a tea towel is sufficient. In winter up to 5 days is good.

These tomatoes have a lovely tang to them once pickled and they do get some of the oregano flavour infused into them. Yummy as a side with a crustless quiche or frittata.

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Salsa Salsa Salsa
This we eat on EVERYTHING. Its great on eggs, of course with Mexican Cauli-Rice or in guacamole. Its great to dip or spoon right out the jar into your mouth if you need a kick! Also has been used to make bloody mary’s and its amazing on fresh oysters or steamed fish, chicken or veggies.

Fido or other jar to pack into
Tomatoes
Capsicums
Chilli (optional I recommend fresh jalapeno)
Red onion
Coriander
Tomato paste (optional)
Salt
Brine from a previous ferment or apple cider vinegar

So the basic of this is just chopped tomatoes and salt in a jar fermented. I like the texture the capsicum adds, the thickness the tomato paste adds and the lovely mild piquancy the red onion adds. I love chilli so add that and I love coriander too. But, its entirely up to you what you add. You could add a whole host of Mexican spices like cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and smokey ancho chilli.  My mom adds garlic, but I don’t like that. You could add lime and mango…mmm ok you get it!

The trickiest part of this is getting the right amount of ingredients. So you want your ingredients in 1kilo measurements to make the salting easy (1 Tbsp per kilo). But you also want just enough to fill your jar/s. However, don’t panic if some is left over, rather than overfilling your jar just keep that extra in the fridge as fresh salsa to use right away, remember its going to be a few days till your salsa ferments!

How I make mine is to use my Thermomix to weigh 1kilo of vege at a time and add 1 Tbsp of salt, blend on speed 4-6 depending how chunky I feel like making it then pouring it into the jar. You can use any blender to do it this way. Blend 1 kilo at a time (including herbs etc) with the 1 tablespoon of salt to make your salsa into a basic brine itself.

Once your jar/s are filled to the shoulder pour over a little brine from a previous ferment you might have in the fridge or a little apple cider vinegar (1-2 Tbsp). This just protects the top layer while it starts fermenting.

Leave covered from light in a warm spot for 2-5 days. In the heat of summer 2 days on the bench under a tea towel is sufficient. In winter up to 5 days is good.

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Bread and Butter Pickles
These are fantastic. I first had them when staying with a friends mom in the country and we did have them on bread with butter, lots of cups of tea and hard work digging the potato fields. They are especially nice in a salad with salmon or goats cheese kind of as the dressing, or with pate or boiled eggs.

Fido or other jar to pack into
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced white onion
Sweet and Sour Brine

Thinly slice your cucumber and onion and sprinkle with salt. Leave in a colander or sieve for an hour to drain then squeeze well. Meanwhile make your sweet and sour brine as it needs to cool.

Now pack your jar with squeezed out cucumber and onion and then fill with brine to just cover.

I dont ferment these on the bench, I just pop them in the fridge to use in a day or two once all the flavours combine. The live apple cider vinegar makes these probiotic and tangy, which is why its important when making your sweet and sour brine to firstly, not add salt as the vege are salted, and to add the vinegar and honey only once its cool to keep it alive.

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For more pickled and fermented foods see the next post: slow pickles and the last one to come will be Sweet Pickles! Yup why not ferment your own soda pop or sweet and sour pineapple… mmmm

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Above is sweet fermented cherrie kvass as a drink and as icy poles. Probiotic and delicious.

Instant Pickles – probiotic ferments 101 part 1

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Instant pickles

Instant pickles are one of my favourite. They are fast, fresh and liven up any salad or dish. Typically I only instant-pickle red onion or radish. It takes away that ‘bite’, mellows the flavour, makes the onion or reddish blush a brillliant pink and is very impressive scattered through a salad. Also works with daikon and other radishes, white onion (with a slice of beetroot if you want it pink), boiled beetroot to make it taste like canned beets, garlic, quick sweet chilli sauce or other ‘strong or bitey veggies’.
Pickled Pink Onions & Radishes
Very simply just slice red onions and/or red radishes into thin rounds or long slices.

Pack into a jar or bowl with a sprinkle of salt every cm or so of vege. Pour over a live vinegar like Apple Cider Vinegar and toss well. You need enough vinegar to really wet everything. You can cover completely or just toss a few times as it pickles.

Leave for at least 10 minutes (I know I said instant but make this first then get on with the rest of your salad and it will be done by the time you are). You can also leave it over night in the fridge and any leftovers will keep for ages (like a month) in the fridge.

Voila all the red in the skin of the radish or that little line or red on each ring of onion will turn the whole lot a brilliant bright pink and take the strong onion/radish flavour and turn it mellow. You get the benefits of a live probiotic vinegar with the probiotics in the onion.
You can now scatter your pickled vege over a green salad, an asian salad, into pho soup or on Mexican, Middle Eastern or other dishes. Don’t add any ‘vinegar’ to your salad, just dress with an oil as the pickled vege will act as the vinegary tang.

Don’t toss your pink vinegar, use it to make bright beautiful dressings. Just add a spoonful of dijon to a jar then equal parts vinegar and olive or macadamia oil and shake. Gorgeous on a simple green leaf salad (still probiotic too!).

You can also use lemon or lime juice in place of all or half the ACV for a more Asian flavour.

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‘Canned Beets’
Australias favorite tin is a tin of beetroot. I love tinned beets, well the flavour anyway. But I make my own.

Boil whole beetroots until tender (this takes longer but preserves the colour and nutrition). Cool and peel then slice.

Pack into a jar.

Make a mixture of salt (say 1 tsp), Apple Cider Vinegar (say 3-4 Tbsp) and raw honey (say 1 Tbsp). Adjust to get the perfect sweet-salty-sour profile. Pour over the beets. Leave for at least 10 minutes or keep in the fridge for up to a month if kept covered.

Don’t toss your pink vinegar, use it to make bright beautiful dressings. Just add a spoonful to some lovely sheeps milk or coconut yoghurt for a brilliant pink dipping sauce. Add some dill and you’ve got a lovely topping for borscht soup or grilled veggies.

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Sweet Chilli Sauce
Finely dice garlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric in equal quantities.

Put your diced spices into a jar and top to cover generously with a mix of half Apple Cider Vinegar and half lemon or lime juice.

Add salt and honey to taste. For example 1 clove of garlic I’d add a pinch of salt and half to 1 teaspoon of honey. Its up to you how sweet/salty you want it. The garlic taste will mellow over a few minutes so maybe wait to season.

You can also add finely dice coriander, a splash of fish sauce, some coconut aminos or other fancy stuff. But this is pretty nice.

Use as a dipping sauce or to make a really crunchy Asian slaw. A dressing with no oil will not wilt your veggies so you can just shred some green and or red cabbage finely and dress with your probiotic sweet chilli for a crunchy, flavourful salad to have with grilled meats or fish. Add more to your slaw to make it a meal on its own (bean shoots, carrot, capsicum etc).

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