Thursday, December 29, 2011


While researching ways to make sauerkraut, I came across a compelling book by Sandor Katz.  In his book Wild Fermentation, he espouses the health benefits of fermented foods.  He claims that the beneficial bacteria in these "ferments," as he calls them, are highly beneficial for our digestion and for the absorption of vital nutrients from our food.  I encourage you to read his book.
My sauerkraut was such a raving success that I became inspired to make some kimchi.  Kimchi is a cabbage pickle that is a mainstay in the Korean diet.  Besides its probiotic qualities, it is also loaded with vitamin C.

This recipe is adapted from the one in Wild Fermentation. Kimchi is crunchy and delicious and we eat it at almost every meal.
To make one quart, you will need:

sea salt
1 pound napa cabbage (also called Chinese Cabbage)
1 daikon radish
2 carrots
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger root
1 chili pepper if you so choose (I chose not to)

Begin by slicing the napa as thin as possible, and placing it in a large bowl.

We use napa rather than conventional cabbage, because the napa has a thinner leaf, giving a lighter texture to the finished product. 

This is a daikon radish that I purchased at my local food co-op.
It was grown right here in Northeastern Connecticut.
(Sorry about the ruler, it's the only one I could find.)
You can see that the radish is a hefty 13 inches long!

Use a box grater to grate the daikon radish.   A root vegetable such as this reaches deep into the earth to provide you with minerals and nutrients. 
Grate the carrots and mix the radish and carrots into the cabbage. I find that it's easier to mix the vegetables in the large bowl than in the crock itself.

Mix a brine of 4 cups (1 liter) water and 4 Tablespoons (60 milliliters) salt. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Place the brine and the vegetables in a crock or food-grade plastic bucket.

Cover with a plate and add a clean jar of water to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine for several hours, until soft, or overnight. 
Drain the brine off the vegetables, reserving the brine.

Now chop your onion and garlic very fine and grate the ginger root with a spice grater. 

If you have a mortar and pestle, you can grind the aromatics together in that.  Having none, I mashed the onions, garlic, artichoke, and ginger with a fork.
Add the spice mixture to the drained vegetables, and mix well. 

Pack into one or two quart sized jars. Tamp down firmly so the brine rises to cover the vegetable mix and all air is squeezed out of cabbage mix.  If necessary, add some of the reserved brine so the vegetables are well covered.

Use a smaller jar or a small plastic bag filled with brine to press down on the vegetables, keeping them under the brine and away from contact with the air.  

Allow the kimchi to ferment in a warm place for up to a week,
checking every day:
  • Remove any foam that forms.
  • Taste the kimchi to see if it is to your liking. 
  • Keep tamping it down to be sure no air bubbles are in there. 
  • Be sure veggies are well covered with brine. 
When the ferment has reached the desired tanginess, remove the smaller jar or baggie and replace with a conventional lid. Store the kimchi in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.  Enjoy as a condiment with meals, or pack right into a sandwich or wrap!

Monday, December 12, 2011


I love the name of these spicy little cookies.  Translated from the German, it means "pepper nuts." There is in fact PEPPER in the cookies, but there are many other spices as well, and the flavor is akin to gingerbread.

The texture is chewy when they are freshly made.  But tradition holds that the flavor intensifies if you bake them two weeks before Christmas and store them in an airtight tin.  That's where the second part of the name comes from, for they also become denser.  And hard as rocks. Excuse me: hard as nuts. They're only as hard as NUTS.

Trust me they are well worth the wait.  They aren't all THAT hard, they're full of good things, (honey, molasses, candied orange peel,) and they are easy to make.

These beautiful golden nuggets are chopped candied orange peel, from organic oranges, found at my local food co-op!  The perfect find for this baking project. 
You will be doing a great favor to yourself and the planet to seek out a local honey producer.

Plan on 15 minutes to mix the dough, 2 hours to let it chill, and another 20 minutes to get them rolled and baked. (Chill overnight if that's more convenient for you.)

Here's How:
In a large bowl, whisk two eggs
add and beat in:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey

In a second bowl combine these dry ingredients:
4 cups unbleached flour
1 cup organic sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix in 1/2 cup very finely chopped candied orange peel or other dried fruit. Be sure your spices are well incorporated into the flour mix before adding the orange peel, because the orange peel is very sticky.  Carefully stir the peel into the dry mix, making sure the pieces don't clump together, but are evenly distributed throughout the mix.

Now combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.  Mixture will appear a bit dry and crumbly, but don't worry, this will change when you form the cookies with your warm hands. For now, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Then preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (165degrees C.)

Roll dough into little balls slightly bigger than acorns and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about an inch apart. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then use a spatula to move cookies to cool on a cooling rack.

When cookies are cool, use tongs or chopsticks to roll them in confectioner's sugar. 
Pack into a decorative tin, using wax paper as a barrier so the cookies don't actually touch the tin.

Cookies are also just fine without the sugar, if that's more to your liking.  And they are great to eat right away, if they don't all happen to fit into that tin.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Butternut Pie

Sorry food blog, I've been neglecting you...Thanksgiving and Open Studios and all...

But here you go.  The butternuts have been baked and made into a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful, decorative pie, and enough left over for butternut burritos!

To bake squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for one hour.  Poke with a fork to be sure all parts are done.  (The hollowed out part cooks faster.) 

Here you see the squash after baking.  I've turned them over with a fork and a potholder.  They are steaming hot and need to cool before you can scoop out the flesh.  Cooking them upside down keeps them from drying out, but in this type of pan (cheap) they will pick up an off color (!) from the metal if you don't turn them over right away
Once the squash has cooled, use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Puree by mashing with a potato masher until no large lumps remain.

Measure out two cups of squash for the pie, and save the rest for other cooking projects.
To make a 10 inch pie you will need:
a 10" unbaked pie shell, chilled
scraps of pie dough to make leaves and cat
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup half and half
2 cups butternut puree

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Cut out leaves and/or a cat, dog or pumpkin from pie dough scraps if you have them.
Put them in the oven to bake for 10 to 12 minutes while you prepare the pie filling.
Whisk eggs in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add spices, molasses, half and half and whisk again.
Stir in butternut puree and stir till well mixed.
Pour filling into crust and bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.
Filling shoud look "set," and an inserted butterknife should come out clean.
If pie is not done, cook for another 10 minutes and test again.
Allow to cool before adding the pie crust decor and serving.
Recipe by Martha Stewart.  Cut-out cat by Jessanne Collins.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bread Pudding

A great way to use up crusts and other bits and pieces at the end of the bread bag...just store them in the freezer until you have enough to make this pudding!


4 cups diced somewhat stale bread
3 cups milk
3 medium eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup raisins

To do:

Butter a 2 quart casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.

Scald the milk and then allow to cool.

Put the egg whites in a small bowl and set aside.

Stir sugar into the egg-milk mixture, and add the lemon juice, vanilla, lemon zest, and cardamom. Stir until soft and creamy.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the bread and blend lightly with a fork. Set aside to soak for five minutes.

Beat the egg whites till they form soft peaks. Fold gently into bread mixture.

Pour into casserole dish and bake 40 minutes.

This is a yummy treat...full of protein calcium, other good things. Ideal for dessert, an after school snack, or reheated for  breakfast!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Freezing Leeks

It's mid-November, and here in here in Connecticut that means the ground will soon be frozen, so it's time to harvest the rest of the leeks and get them into the freezer. This is a very simple process.

Chop your leeks into medallions about one eighth of an inch thick.
 I freeze them in one quart freezer bags.  They are thin enough that they freeze quickly in the bag and don't need to be flash frozen on a cookie sheet.
It's a good idea to double bag the leeks to prevent their smell from permeating the freezer.

Once frozen you will be ably to shake out just the amount you need. You may just have to give the bag a gentle smack.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ginger Blondies

During the four days and nights without power due to the October snowstorm, I became obsessed with ginger cookies. After making the hermits, I set out to perfect a ginger blondie recipe. 

Did I mention the snowstorm?  I became obsessed not only with ginger, but also cinnamon and cloves.  All three are considered to be herbal stimulants, "activating the inner vitality of the body through nourishment, warmth, and circulation."  (This is a quote from herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, in her publication,
"The Science and Art of Herbology.")

Unlike harsher stimulants such as caffeine, these spices don't give a speedy lift followed by a crash. Rather, it is a slow, steady building of the body's inner resources for staying healthy. Perfect for this time of year as cold and flu season approaches!
3 cups flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch cloves

2 large eggs
7/8 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 cup organic sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13" pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs till light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil, molasses,sugar and vanilla.

Stir in the chips and nuts. 

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool before cutting into squares. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hermit Cookies

Healthful cookies to have on hand for Halloween! (or anytime!)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
7/8 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup date pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease two cookie sheets.
Use wire whisk to beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Add oil, sugar, and molasses, and whisk again.
In a medium bowl, combine flours with baking soda, salt, and spices.
Add to sugar mixture and mix well.
Stir in nuts and date pieces.
Roll into balls the size of walnuts and place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes 3 dozen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Planting Garlic

Cool weather is here in New England.  Time to plant daffodils and garlic.  I mention the daffodil, because, if you're familiar with the life cycle of the daffodil, that will help you understand the timing for the different elements of garlic culture.  Since the garlic is planted in the fall and not harvested till mid-July, you need to plan to put it where you can work around it in your garden bed in the spring. 
So let's begin with the garden plan.  Like most things in the vegetable garden, garlic likes full sun and rich, friable, well drained soil.  Having a plan on paper is a good way of keeping track from year to year of the locations of various plantings.  Rotation of crops is one of the cornerstones of organic growing and effective rotation requires a blueprint for the future based on an accurate record of the past.

The next step is to lay out the bed.  Our beds are four feet wide, and allow for four rows, spaced twelve inches apart. 

But before laying out your rows, it's a good idea to soften the soil by double-digging it or by using a broadfork.  This is to break up the compaction of the subsoil. 

A good broadfork can be purchased at Johnny's Selected Seeds,
 but we had this one fabricated by a local blacksmith.  Our soil is very rocky.  Even this tough fork has been back to the shop for repairs!
Once you have softened your soil and raked it out smooth, draw shallow trenches in the soil 12 inches apart. Poke 2 inch deep holes every 4 inches.

Next, tuck a clove into each hole, basal end down.  One half pound of garlic cloves should plant 100 row feet.
Here you see the "basal plate" of the clove, which goes downward when planted.  The roots will grow from this base, while the leaves will shoot up from the pointy end of the clove.
Use a rake to fill the holes, and then add 5 - 6 inches of straw mulch. 
We've added a chicken wire cage as protection from marauding deer.

Here at Full Circle Farm, we grow two types of stiffneck garlic, "Red Chec," and "German Extra Hardy."  Stiffneck garlic varieties are generally considered to be more flavorful than softneck varieties, and are thus more popular with
home growers and gourmet restaurants. 
I hope you are inspired to plant even a small patch of garlic.  Its health benefits are widely recognized.  And you can never have too much.  Because its flavor is superior to grocery store garlic, it is always a welcome gift for friends and family.  When we harvest more than we need for the year for ourselves and friends, our local food co-op is always happy to purchase whatever we can supply.

And you can save out part of your harvest for next year's "seed!"

 For more information on garlic varieties and production, see the book
"Growing Great Garlic" by Ron Engeland

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blueberry Pancakes

Sunday morning 9 AM phone call: our son is calling from his home in Boston to get Jack's pancake recipe.
Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition around here, usually with fresh or frozen blueberries.  
If you wish to use frozen blueberries, get them out of the freezer the night before.  Shake out one cup of berries and let them thaw overnight.
Here's the recipe:

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 and 1/2  cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder.
1 cup blueberries

(If  your baking powder has lumps, push thru a strainer or otherwise break them up.)

Beat the eggs, then add milk and oil and beat well.
Mix the dry ingrdients thoroughly.
Mix dry and wet ingredients together.  Stir in berries.

Heat your griddle.  It's ready when a drop of water flicked on it jumps and sputters and is gone. Lightly oil the griddle.

Ladle batter onto the griddle, and cook 2 - 3 minutes on the first side, until bubbles form, but before they pop.

Flip and cook about 2 minutes on second side.

Serve with organic butter and real maple syrup.  Smiles all around.


Saturday, October 8, 2011


This year we had a good crop of Storage #4 Cabbage.  We started these cabbages from seed in the greenhouse on April 9th and put them out on June 2nd.  We put a thin row cover over the plants to keep the cabbage moths out of them.  We kept this protective cover on all summer.

In the past we've made lacto-fermented sauerkraut in quart jars, but this year we're making it in a five gallon crock.  Here's how:

Remove the outer leaves and any damaged portions from firm, mature heads of cabbage.  Wash them off and allow to drain.  We use modified laundry baskets for this purpose.  They have holes drilled in the bottom so water can drain out.

Cut cabbage into halves and quarters and remove core.  Shred with a box shredder or use a sharp knife to cut into shreds or chunks.  Ours is pretty chunky.
Place in a large bowl as you chop it.
We use a baby scale to weigh out 5 pounds of cabbage.

 Recipes vary as to how much salt to sprinkle on the cabbage to draw out the moisture that creates the brine in which the cabbage will ferment.  We decided on two teaspoons per pound, so we added 10 teaspoons to our 5 pounds.  Then we stirred the salt in well and let the cabbage sit until it looked wet and shiny.
Next pack an even layer of cabbage into your crock, about two inches thick.

 Tamp it down with your fist or a sturdy kitchen implement.  We use a sturdy little glass vase.  The tamping packs the kraut tight and helps force the water out of the cabbage.  Keep adding cabbage in two inch layers, tamping them down as you go.

I'm not sure if this photo conveys this, but the sides and bottom of this vase are very thick:
thicker than a canning jar, for instance.
 Once all of your cabbage is packed in, tamp it down and let it rest until you can see the level of liquid is up to the top of the cabbage.*
Place a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with a jar full of water.  This will continue to force water out of the cabbage and keep it submerged under the brine.

Cover the crock with a clean dish towel to keep the dust and flies out.  A room temperature of 68 - 72 degrees is best for fermenting cabbage.  Check the kraut every day or two.  The volume reduces as fermentation proceeds.  As a result of contact with air, sometimes mold will appear on the surface. Skim this off as best you can with a spoon. (Don't worry if you can't get it all - this is just a surface phenomenon and your kraut is safely under the anaerobic protection of the brine.)  Rinse off the plate and the weight before returning them to the crock.
The kraut will be tangy in just a few days.  You can scoop out a jarful to keep in the fridge for easy consumption as soon as you like.  Just be sure to repack the kraut carefully: make sure the kraut is packed tightly in the crock, the surface level, and the dish and weight are clean.

*Some cabbage, especially if it is old, contains less water.  In this case, the level of brine may not be visible by the time you need to move on to other projects.  Go ahead and cover with the plate and weight and dish towel.  Press down on the weight.  Repeat every hour or so, until the brine rises up to the plate.  If the brine is not up to the plate by the next day, make up a brine solution of 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water. Add enough of this salt water to bring the level of brine up to the plate.    

Enjoy your sauerkraut: the taste and the benefit to your digestion that comes with adding lacto-fermented foods to your diet. 

References for this posting are:
WIld Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz