Cooking

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My sourdough starter kicked the bucket about a month ago… or, more accurately, I brought about its demise through sheer neglect. Still, not one member of the bread-eating family was prepared to say good-bye to fermented bread and just about that same time, with plenty of milk between Mabel and the goats, milk kefir was back up and running in our kitchen.

Milk kefir is probably my favorite fermented food, in case you hadn’t picked that up here on the blog or in Traditionally Fermented Foods. I use it for drinking, salad dressings, desserts, snacks, to ferment whole grains, and to sour breads. It is one of those foods that seem to really encourage gut health, energy, and nourishment so it has become a staple in our home when we are in milk.

So I started making kefir-soured tortillas and these lovely biscuits on a regular basis. They are flaky and tender, tangy and light, with just a bit of a crisp edge as one would want in a biscuit. I ferment them overnight, generally, but you can extend that to a full 24-hour fermentation if you prefer.

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In the morning I put on a kettle for coffee and the morning milking. I preheat the oven, hand Stewart the milk pail, and then start rolling out these biscuits right on the baking sheet. The biscuits are golden and flaky by the time the cow and goats are milked, the chickens out and fed, and the family gathered around the table. It is at this point I am dishing up homegrown eggs from a cast-iron skillet and sitting down to join them.

Somehow even though I’ve made these over a dozen times this past month, this family of mine still doesn’t seem to be growing tired of them. And the milk kefir appreciation continues…

Kefir-Soured Biscuits

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Ingredients

Directions

At least 12-24 hours before you wish to bake the biscuits, combine the kefir, bread flour, and softened butter or coconut oil in a medium bowl. Mix all ingredients just until roughly combined and the flour is moistened. Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking sheet generously.

Uncover the fermented dough and sprinkle over the salt and baking powder. Fold the dough over onto itself (and the salt and baking powder) several times, breaking up the dough and kneading until the salt and baking powder seem well distributed.

Transfer the dough right to the greased baking sheet and roll out to 1/2 – 3/4 inch thickness using a rolling pin. Cut the biscuits into squares using a knife or bench scraper or into rounds using a biscuit cutter or narrow-mouth canning ring. Gently gather up any scraps and form a few extra biscuits.

Move the pan to the oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until deeply golden on the bottom and brown and crisp around the edges. Allow to cool at least five minutes before serving.

For more easy-to-make naturally leavened breads, including a Sourdough Biscuit recipe that uses only sourdough starter as leavening, see Traditionally Fermented Foods.

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For some time we were eating gumbo several times a week, that spicy meaty stew served in seven rice-filled bowls. The bowls of okra were swiftly making meals and all was in balance… up until about three weeks ago.

That’s when the children collectively decided they were completely done with okra. It seems as though they may have had a meeting, the young girls finally convincing the hungry older brothers that enough was enough already. Joshua must not have been privy to such a meeting, and maybe didn’t even receive the memo afterward, because he still happily gobbles down this southern delicacy.

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So I was at a cross roads, so to speak. Continue with the gumbo in militant fashion or preserve the okra to spread throughout the year a little more. Because the black-eyed peas are simultaneously giving so generously and are in low regard among the young ones after perhaps one too many stir-fries, it made sense to start preserving the two in tandem.

These jars will be mixed into spiced meats and tomatoes, onions and celery when the frost comes and armfuls of firewood move into the house on a daily basis. Maybe by then the distance from the vegetables of the late August garden will be sufficient to happily warm empty bellies again. If not, perhaps the homegrown chicken broth will be just the sauce these vegetables need.

Either way they will get eaten, of that I am sure.

Canned Gumbo Vegetables

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Whenever I can vegetables of more than one variety, I consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation and simply follow the instructions for the vegetable that requires the most pressure and/or time. In this case, that is the okra.

I pick and clean the okra and black-eyed peas, several large harvest bowls being about enough for a canner load. I then snap the beans into 1″ pieces and slice the okra into 1/2 inch slices. These get raw packed into the jars and then covered with hot water, leaving headspace.

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I then process the jars at 15 lb of pressure for forty minutes in my pressure canner. Once the jars are cooled and the rings removed, they are tucked into cabinet shelves next to the canned squash and cucumber pickles from the early summer garden.

And what a joy it is to see those shelves filling up.