Friday, September 17, 2010

Pumpkin Seed Ferment

This food is my favorite. I invented it while fermenting some other seeds and nuts and this by far was my favorite. I make it about once a month and have a hard time sharing it. Luckily, my husband doesn't like it. This process doesn't add microbes, the pumpkin seeds, if raw and untreated, come naturally gifted with their own lacto-bacillus, as does most of the food from the earth. This food is only for the really adventurous. Some of my seminar attendees say it is an acquired taste but with me it was love at first bite.

You will need...

  • about a pint (2 cups) of dried, raw, shelled, pumpkin seeds, or pepitas. Not roasted, salted or oiled....just RAW.

  • about 3 cups of pure water (chlorine-free)

  • 1 or more TBS ghee

  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Real Salt or other high mineral salt or some sprinkles of Eden brand Ume Plum Vinegar ( a huge condiment favorite of mine)

  • a food processor

The process is to combine the water and pumpkin seeds in a clean wide-mouth quart jar and cover with a cheese cloth or paper napkin.....something that can "breathe" and secure with an elastic. Set this on a kitchen counter at room temperature for 3 days.

This is the hard will bubble and stink! Yes, stink. The water activates the bacteria and they get all happy and start to ingest the sugars on the seeds and in the seeds and they stink. It is perfectly OK. My husband hates that smell and thinks something is dead. He tried to throw them out once when I wasn't home thinking one of my experiments had gone bad. And the first time I invented this, I thought so too but when I tasted it, wow! I loved it.

At 2 days you should see lots of bubbles and white foamy stuff on top. That's normal and the stink is normal too! Some seeds will be floating.

After 3 days, drain the seeds and rinse under tap water in a strainer. Immediately dump some in a processor with part of the ghee ( also at room temperature) and some salt and start processing. This is another hard part. I have to frequently stop the machine and with a spatula, push down the sides. My processor is kinda small and I use both hands lift it and shake it at the same time I am processing. Add more ghee if needed. It is a thick, textured paste when I think it is done. I scoop the light green paste and put it into a covered jar and put in cold storage. I don't eat it with anything, just by itself with a tiny spoon. It's an in between snack; a great treat with good fat for energy.

A variation of this idea is to just spread some of the rinsed and sticky seeds out on a plate and sprinkle with salt and let them dry. The flavor of the activated bacillus enhances the flavor of the seeds and with some salt is just delicious.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ghee; Clarified Butter

Clarified butter is just the oil, that rich, beautiful sweet smelling oil.....without the water and the proteins or milk solids. The picture above is from my basement storage; it has been there since the first of June this year and it has that creamy, opaque look.

When I dropped carbs and took on the diet of an O Gatherer, I also dropped the bad fats and restored to my diet good old butter. And as my yearly blood tests show, it doesn't raise my LDL cholesterol's at all and my good one, HDL is high.

My mother used butter when I was a child in the 50's and bacon fat. She kept the bacon fat on the back of the stove in a can and that's what she cooked with. But I remember her buying the first packages of margarine because as she was convinced that margarine was good and bacon fat/butter was bad. She like millions of other housewives bought into the then current campaign that the shortening companies were promoting; vegetable fat and hydrogenated vegetable fats were modern and superior food to the old natural fats. Having a "share" of the fat market wasn't enough so they found some likely "scientists" that loosely correlated heart disease and high blood cholesterol with animal or natural fats. If they could "demonize" the natural fats, then the public would buy more of their "unnatural fats" and they would get more of the market share. It worked. So for over 40 years, we have been using vegetable fats over natural and have paid the price with all kinds of health issues. Now, thank goodness and more thorough research, natural fats are in, butter is back and wouldn't Julia Child be happy.

I buy butter from all sources and especially when it is on sale and freeze it. This is perfectly OK but I want just the oil. Once I tasted Ghee, it was love at first bite! I have developed my own process by watching videos online. I put ghee into clean jars and the lids seal and I can keep it in my food storage for long periods. I make a batch ( 5-6 pounds) about every 4 months.

I want to share this idea because it is such a wonderful fat and makes everything; steamed vegetables, muffins, pancakes, toast, cooked cereal, sourdough bread, everything taste so much better. The picture below shows melted butter and some foam on top. The oil is not clear yet.

There are a number of processes for turning butter into ghee and I have tried two of them; one is the oven method and the other the one for this blog is stove top. For both you will need a large stainless steel pot. Mine holds 5-6 pounds of butter. You will also need a few clean glass jars with rubber lined lids and a large stainless steel wire mesh splatter catcher.

I set my oven to 325 degrees or 350. I put a paper towel over the pot and place the splatter catcher over that to hold it in place. It takes about an hour for the butter to melt down, separate and the water to boil off. Don't use a lid, the steam from the water will blow the lid off and splatter grease all over your oven. The paper towel with mesh screen holding it, will allow steam to escape and catch the grease splatters. I change the paper towel at least once during the hour. Check on it from time to time.

For stove top, I melt the butter and keep the tempt. around med. high. I use the mesh catcher, but again no lid. I am there to keep an eye on it and skim milk solids and salt off the top. Because the temp is lower on stove top, it takes about an hour and 20 minutes for the oil to clear and the solids to separate.
Skim some of the brown particles off the top of the ghee and use a small dipping tool and start pouring the hot oil into the jars. Secure the clean, dry lids and put aside to cool. The clear yellow color changes to creamy opaque when they cool and you should hear the pop sound of the lids sealing.

Clean, hot jars with warm, rubber lined lids should seal the clarified butter. These jars are then labeled and put downstairs in storage. From frozen storage to cool storage. I don't know how long they last....don't know what the shelf life is. So far, the longest I have kept a jar is 6 months in the basement and that ghee was perfect, no rancid, no mold....just perfect. A jar of ghee keeps on the counter at room temperature without molding, until it is gone....even in the summer. I prefer rendering ghee to keeping butter frozen because it saves room in the freezer for meats and other important items.

When you get most of the oil out of the pot, you should see some crusty, brown stuff at the bottom that looks like this. Once, I burned the ghee! It seemed like a flash, the oil turned brown...from golden to brown and I thought I had lost the whole batch. I let it cool and tasted it. Wow! was it good. It tasted like Carmel. I bottled it and we used it all. It added a really rich taste to everything. Only problem is, I don't trust the nutritional content of "burnt" or caramelized ghee. It tasted wonderful, but I wonder if the oil vitamins were lost or the nutritious fatty acids changed or corrupted. So, if it happens again, I will keep it, but it's not something I will plan to do.

The brown stuff at the bottom tastes good, salty and oily, but it is waste and I throw it away. If there is a little clear oil left over I pour it into a small container and use that first

This batch of 6 pounds of butter yielded 8 jars of ghee with a combined yield of approx. 75 ounces. I spent about $24. on this butter and got 8 jars of ghee. Purity Farms brand sells ghee in 11 or 10 ounce jars for about $1 an ounce or $9.99 a jar. I got my ghee for about $3.00 a jar. Not bad!