Tasty Asian-Style Plum Sauce for Dipping or Stir-Frys

This year we were fortunate enough to receive 200 lb of Italian plums from my parents. 200 lb! What to do with 200 lb of plums! With 3 large dehydrators working 24/7, 12 quarts of plums canned, frozen plums, plum jam… I was searching for another recipe to use up some plums before they went bad. A reader suggested plum sauce, and I found a great recipe in the Bernardin (Ball) Home Canning Recipe Book. I made some alterations though, based on ingredients I had and flavors I liked. The result was a fantastic sweet and sour dipping sauce that is perfect for stir-fries, egg rolls, chicken fingers and more!

This recipe has been adapted from the Bernardin Home Canning recipe book.

 

Asian-Style Plum Sauce
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Asian, American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 half-pint jars
 
A simple and delicious Asian-style dipping sauce made with fresh Italian plums that is great on stir-frys, or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or chicken fingers etc.
Ingredients
  • 4 pounds plums, pitted and chopped. (about 10 cups)
  • 2 cups brown organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup white organic cane sugar
  • ¾ cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 tbsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (adjust to desired spiciness)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except plums in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add plums and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until desired consistency, stirring frequently.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend ingredients until sauce is uniform in texture.
  5. Pour into prepared ½ pint canning jars, wipe rims clean, and add prepared lids and rings, according to manufacturer's instructions.
  6. Hot water bath can for 20 minutes.

How to Make Kombucha Tea: A Fermented Probiotic Beverage

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with tea, sugar and water, using a SCOBY (Or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to start the fermentation process. It is naturally carbonated, has a sweet and sour taste, and a low alcohol content. [Read more...]

Probably originating in Manchuria, kombucha is just another way a beverage was preserved without the relatively new invention of refrigeration. Food preservation, in the past, consisted mainly of dehydration, candying, salting and fermenting.  Without the modern convenience of refrigeration it was challenging to store food and beverages, and so fermentation was often used for beverages.

SCOBY:  The SCOBY is similar in some ways to a MOTHER in apple cider vinegar.  A scoby is best acquired from another person who makes kombucha.  Once it is placed in the tea, it feeds on the sugar and ferments the tea.  The SCOBY culture produces a bacteria that ferments the yeast, also from the SCOBY.  This increases the acidity which keeps the alcohol content minimal.  It is the acid and the mild alcohol content that inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria or mold.  When brewing your kombucha, the SCOBY will make a second SCOBY.  You will have one to give away to a friend, or to start a double batch with.  You can also just throw it out (although if you are like me you will become oddly attached to the thing as if it were alive). The chickens like it too!

Where To Find A SCOBY: Your best bet is to get one from a friend or acquaintance.  You can often find them advertised on craigslist.  Some people have had success making them from a bottle of original GTs Kombucha, which is a commercially prepared kombucha purchased at many health food stores.  You can also find them on Etsy and they can be shipped by mail.

Health Claims: Kombucha contains active enzymes and amino acids.  This means it may be good for the intestines by providing it with beneficial probiotics.  Others have made more specific health claims which haven’t been scientifically proven, so you can do your own research on that matter.

Alcohol Content: Kombucha is undeniably alcoholic.  That said, the acidity keeps the alcohol content from being over 1% and in many cases in only about 0.5%. (Similar to a dealcoholized beer.)

How to make Kombucha:

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 L (Quarts) Water
  • 1 cup white sugar (I use organic white cane sugar)
  • 8 black tea bags
  • 1 SCOBY in 2 cups of kombucha

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Remove from heat.
  2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add 8 tea bags.
  4. Allow to cool until tea is room temperature (several hours)
  5. Remove tea bags.
  6. Pour tea into a large, glass (not metal!) jar.  A large pickle jar is perfect.
  7. Dump SCOBY and kombucha into the tea (only at room temperature!).
  8. Cover with cheese cloth and hold cloth tight with an elastic band.
  9. Place in a cool, dark location for 7 -10 days.
  10. After 7 days, taste the tea.  If you would like it more sour (which would mean less sugar content) let sit longer.  If you are happy with the flavour, remove SCOBY, separate the new SCOBY from the old, and store both in 2 cups each of kombucha in the fridge, covered with cheese cloth, or start a new brew.  Be sure to reserve 2 cups of kombucha with the scoby for your next brew.
  11. You can strain the kombucha if you wish to remove the strands and lumps.  I usually do.  Pour into bottles and cap tightly.  You can use mason jars.  Cap tightly.
  12. Let sit on the counter in the same cool, dark location, for 2-4 days.  This is a second fermentation, and an anaerobic one, so the alcohol content may increase during this process.  This will also increase the carbonation content.
  13. When you have finished the second fermentation, place bottles in the fridge.   This effectively stops the fermentation process and your tea is ready to drink!  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The SCOBY will store in the fridge for several weeks before it starts to break down.
  • When you choose your tea, make sure it is black tea, WITH caffeine.  It won’t work without caffeine.
  • DO NOT USE EARL GREY TEA!  The tanins in it may destroy the SCOBY.
  • You can substitute several of the bags with a flavored tea or a green tea, but make sure your main tea is black tea (for example, English Breakfast).
  • You can add fruit juice, fruit, ginger, herbs and more to your second ferment (when you bottle it).  Play around with it!
  • When choosing bottles, look for ones that can be capped tightly.  You can use mason jars if necessary.  The ideal bottles are home-brew style bottles with reusable caps that clamp down.  Find them at U-brew stores.
  • The longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more vinegary it gets, and the less sugar content it will have.  Go by taste!
  • When you place your SCOBY in the tea for the first time it may float.  It may sink.  It may line up vertically in the jar.  That’s ok!  Let it do what it wants to do.  The new SCOBY will form on the top of the jar.  You will then peel them apart if they are attached.
  • A healthy SCOBY is thick and peach colored.  An unhealthy SCOBY is thin, frayed looking, darker in color and looks…. sick.  It may still make a new SCOBY but it needs to be fed!
  • If your SCOBY or your brew ever shows mold on it discard it.  You have an imbalance of yeast and bacteria somehow.
  • Don’t mistake your newly forming SCOBY for mold on the top!  It will be whitish and thicker in some spots than others.  Over time it will get thicker and form a new SCOBY on top.  If you are uncertain, just wait a few days and you’ll know for sure.  Also, your brew should smell a bit fermented but not moldy.

This post has been shared on From The Farm Blog Hop.

 

 

 

Best Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe Ever!

Mayonnaise is a staple in a North American refrigerator. It finishes a sandwich, adds to a salad, and provides a tasty dip for vegetables. It can be transformed into a dressing, whipped into devilled eggs, and slathered on salmon. And it can also contain preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup, transfats, and GMOs. It is also often sold in plastic jars which may or may not be leaching toxins into the product. Yum. Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to make.

With basic ingredients such as egg yolks, oil, salt, mustard and a bit of sugar, you can easily make up a batch that will last for several weeks in your fridge. The hardest part of making mayonnaise is getting it to emulsify. Normally, oil and water don’t combine, but we can force a combination with the use of egg yolks and this makes a creamy sauce. The first few times I tried to make it I made an oily, separated mess. That’s because each recipe I read about told me to use a blender. I have discovered the secret of easily making it emulsify and now I am going to share it with you.

The key to any emulsification is (lack of) speed. TAKE YOUR TIME! When you are adding the oil to your mixture, do it REALLLLLLLLLY slowly. A very slow, steady stream is key. Now here we go!

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar (you can use apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar but the taste will change subtly)
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (or my homemade mustard)
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (Optional. I use organic cane sugar. With sugar it tastes more like Miracle Whip )
  • 1.5 c. neutral-flavored oil (I use grapeseed)

Directions:

  1. Combine eggs, vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar in a wide mouth mason jar.
  2. Using an emersion blender, combine ingredients well.
  3. SLOWLY and steadily pour oil into the jar while blending continuously. Move blender up and down a bit, and around the jar constantly, while pouring the oil in. An extra set of hands to hold the jar is helpful but not vital. Pour the oil so slowly that it will take several minutes to complete. Once about 3/4 of the oil has slowly been added you will start to feel the mixture emulsifying, or thickening.
  4. Continue to mix until oil is completely emulsified.
  5. Store in refrigerator for up to several weeks.

Note:

This product contains raw eggs so make sure your eggs are from a good source, and keep product refrigerated.

This post has been linked to From The Farm Blog Hop #40, Waste Not, Want Not Wednesdays #35Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #80, and Fat Tuesday July 9th.

Homemade Gluten-Free Yellow Mustard Recipe

Most people like mustard.  We love it in sandwiches, or mixed with honey to make a dip.  I have even added a shot of it to macaroni and cheese casseroles.  I love it but I refuse to buy it anymore for several reasons.  The first reason (which is why I finally got around to making it) is that it is generally sold in plastic bottles.  Even the organic mustard I have purchased is in plastic bottles.  As most of you know I avoid food stored in plastic or cans (lined with plastic) since the plastic has been proven to leach toxic chemicals into the food.  The second reason I won’t buy it anymore is because it is ridiculously easy to make.  It takes 15 minutes (and a few days to mellow), and uses simple, all natural ingredients.  This recipe has great flavour and tastes much like French’s mustard, an old favorite.  It is so simple I challenge you to get out of your chair and make it right now.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons dry ground mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. arrowroot powder (optional, or replace with white flour, used as a thickener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of paprika

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Whisk to combine.
  2. Heat until boiling.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced to the thickness you would like it.  Stir frequently.
  3. Store in jar in fridge for up to a month.  For a more mellow mustard, allow to sit for a few days to become less hot.

Notes:

  • Mustard is hot when first made.  Let is sit for a few days and it will lose much of its heat.
  • Makes about 1 cup.

Recipe was adapted from Serious Eats: Sauced: Yellow Mustard.

This recipe has been shared on Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday blog hop.

Washing My Hair With Baking Soda

*UPDATE!  After 2.5 years of washing my hair with this method, I have since found something I like even better, and is just as easy!  Check it out here!  Homemade Shampoo With Rye Flour: All Natural Pro-V for Thick, Shiny, Healthy Hair!

I wash my hair with baking soda and I rinse it with apple cider vinegar.  I won’t call it No Poo because abbreviations have always annoyed me.  But I thought I would share my experience because every other green blogger and their dog has shared their experience.  Actually, my dog uses it too.

Why, why oh WHY would I do such a crazy thing?  Good question.  And I have good answers.  Do you know what is in your shampoo?  I mean, REALLY know?  Years ago I used Pantene Pro V.  Here is the ingredient list.

Water, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Cetyl Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, Disodium EDTA, PEG-7M, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Whoa whoa whoa!  What?  I am good with water.  Everything else is a chemical.  I am putting THAT on my hair and expecting it to look natural and healthy?   Look ANY of those ingredients up on the safer cosmetics database  and see which ones ARE NOT carcinogenic or at best, an irritant.  Seriously.

OK, so you can use an all natural shampoo.  They are great.  And you know what?  Once I started using a TRULY all natural shampoo my dry, itchy psoriasis on my scalp that I have been plagued with most of my life, disappeared, never to return again.  But those natural shampoos are PRICEY.  And I still am not entirely sure about all those ingredients.

What if you could wash your hair using 1 ingredient?  And actually get better results than these shampoos?  Frizzies disappear.  Dry ends go away.  All are replaced with healthy, shiny, NATURAL hair.  I mean it because I have experienced it.   Now back to where I left off.

I have been tempted to try this method of cleaning my hair for years but was scared off by the horror stories of gross, greasy, smelly hair.  Of course there were lots of success stories too.  But scalp smell is one smell I really dislike.  I also shied away from it because, well, it screams of “hippie” and I have always been concerned about what others think of me.  Funny thing is, I am a self-proclaimed “green” blogger, and all my friends see me as being “crunchy” so I don’t know what the problem is.  Washing my hair with baking soda is certainly a conversation stopper.  But I am good at those.   You should see the effect I have on potty training conversations when I talk about elimination communication ;).

So one day I ran out of shampoo.  I was using Green Beaver shampoo and conditioner, an all-natural brand made from organic, Canadian ingredients.  It worked well but was $10 a bottle.  And you know me… I like to know ALL the ingredients in my products.  This time when I ran out I took the plunge and brought out the baking soda.

1 Tbsp. baking soda dissolved into 1 cup of water.  I scrubbed it into my hair.  I rinsed it well.
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic) into 1 cup water.  I rinsed my hair with this as I would a conditioner and then I rinsed it well.

I smelled like apple cider vinegar.  I towel-dried and brushed my hair, shook out as much water as I could, and let it air dry.  It dried quickly (no oil from a conditioner) and felt smooth, shiny and CLEAN.  Like, really clean.  No greasy hair, no smell, no nothing.  The ACV smell disappeared after my hair dried.  My hair smelled like nothing.  Seriously.  I was thrilled!  I don’t know why I was surprised because I use baking soda to clean everything else, so why wouldn’t it clean my hair?

Things you need to know:

  • It doesn’t feel like shampoo.  It feels like water being poured onto your head.  And there is absolutely no lather because there is no soap.  Nevertheless, rub it  WELL into your scalp, for a few minutes, then let it sit a few minutes before fully and carefully rinsing.
  • ACV rinse does not feel like conditioner.  It feels like water.  So it isn’t thick and creamy, and is more challenging to spread into your hair.  Nevertheless it works well without adding oil to your hair.  Put it on, let it sit a few minutes, then rinse it off.
  • After your hair has been washed and rinsed it doesn’t feel like it does when it has been washed with shampoo and conditioned.  Wait until it is dry to give it a judgement.  My hair feels clean, smooth, shiny and healthy after it dries.
  • Many people take the plunge and decide that, after washing their hair with regular shampoo and stripping the natural oils out of their hair for their whole life, they will go one WEEK without washing.  Don’t do this.  Not only is it gross, but it is setting yourself up for failure.  Your oil glands are so used to producing excess amounts of oil to keep up with all the washing that your hair will get greasy quickly.  Rather than an all out attempt to force your scalp to immediately adjust, wash your hair again when you would normally do it, with baking soda.  Do this for a week or more until you are used to washing your hair with baking soda.  Then, once adjusted, stretch it by a day.  Do that until your hair has adjusted, and then repeat.  Or, just use baking soda to wash your hair whenever you want.  It is cheap, it is healthy, and you know all the ingredients in it, unlike your regular shampoo.
  • Every person is different and so oil production will be different.  Play with the amounts until you find what works for you.  If you find your hair is too oily increase the baking soda a bit.  If it is leaving your hair too dry decrease the baking soda.
  • Some people prefer to use the same amounts of lemon juice and water for a rinse, instead of ACV and water.  Your choice.  I find lemon drying.
  • Hair type will affect how this works too.  MANY people with very curly hair seem to love this method.  My hair isn’t curly.  It is long and straight but it works well for me.
  • I use this method to clean my children’s hair, and my dog’s hair.  My husband uses it too.  If it gets in children’s eyes it doesn’t hurt.  That alone beats regular shampoo!
  • Last of all, again, everyone is different.  This method may not work for you and that is fine.  There are lots of natural alternatives to regular shampoo for cleaning your hair.

My hair is healthier than it has ever been.  I grow my hair for a year and a half and then chop off 8 inches to be donated through my hair dresser for wigs for children living with cancer.  Waiting a year and a half without a hair trim is asking a lot of my hair, but I am closing in on a year now, and my hair is healthier than it has ever been.  I praise the baking soda/ACV washing, the lack of harsh chemicals and the fact that I am now only washing my hair every 4 days (instead of every day).  The natural oil in my hair is keeping it shiny and healthy instead of being dry and brittle as it used to be without trimming it.

I would love to hear your experience!  Are you a believer?  Are you sceptical?  Are you on the fence like I was?  Or do you think I am stark raving mad?  That’s OK!  Let me know how it works for you.

This post has been linked up to The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival #4, Natural Parenting Group’s Monday Blog Hop, Homestead Helps Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #23.

Have You Lost Your Chemical-Conditioning? Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies.

This past year has been a real learning experience for me.  I thought I was eco-friendly before, buying all-natural cleaning supplies, natural shampoos and deodorants… and now, a year later, here I MAKING my own products.  So if I was green then, what am I now?  Good question.  I’d like to say sustainable.

For most of my life, if I ran out of dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, bathroom cleaner, deodorant, shampoo etc., life would go on hold until I ran to the store to buy some more.  It never crossed my mind that I should make it myself.  In fact, because of the chemicals used in most of these products, there is no way I COULD make them myself.  It wasn’t until I became aware of the dangers in those chemical-based products and started using all natural products, that I realised that these ingredients are actually ones I could get my hands on, and I could make myself. 

Talk about enlightening!  Talk about liberating!  Talk about sustainable!  I don’t actually HAVE to run to the store as soon as I run out of something.  I can actually make it myself, and chances are, I will even have the ingredients in my own kitchen or laundry room already!  The clouds have cleared.  I see the light. 

I have been cleaning for some time now with baking soda and vinegar-water.  They work perfectly.  They don’t kill every last bit of bacteria in the house but I am OK with that.  Bacteria isn’t always a bad thing.  But it did take me a while to let go of my 7th Generation cleaners and head to my cupboard for the baking soda.  Chemical conditioning, I call it. 

For a few months now I have been washing my hair with baking soda-water and rinsing with apple cider vinegar-water.  Fantastic results.  Chemical-free, cheap, safe and available.  I had read about doing it for literally YEARS but I couldn’t put down the shampoo bottle.  Because I was chemically-conditioned to  that chemicals work better.  But they don’t.  My hair is shinier, healthier, and much less dry than it has ever been in my entire life. 

Today I ran out of dishwasher detergent.  Today I looked up how to make my own.  Today I realised that I can easily make my own from ingredients I already have.  Salt.  Baking Soda.  Borax.  Vinegar. 

Next I ran out of laundry detergent.  I looked that up too and have discovered how to make my own.  I did pick up a few ingredients for this one… washing soda (cheap!!!) and pure glycerin soap (also cheap!).   And tomorrow, when I wake up, I am making my own laundry detergent. 

Up next will be deodorant.  I fell in love with an all-natural, baking soda-based locally-made deodorant that I picked up at a farmer’s market last summer.  It worked so well I bought some for my husband.  We put it to the test on hot summer days.  It worked perfectly for both of us.  No aluminium. No preservatives.  No color, or chemicals.  I could keep supporting the local supplier, but once I read the ingredients, I thought “I could make this!”  The ingredients are great and I already have them in my cupboards.  I can MAKE my own deodorant!

I feel as though a whole new world has been opened up before me.  What an opportunity!  I don’t need the chemicals.  I don’t need the preservatives.  I don’t need the beauty isle at the store.  I can make my own from basic ingredients that most stores carry.  And I can feel good about using the products because I can actually pronounce the ingredients.  My family is safe from unknown, harmful chemicals.  No longer do I have to buy the all natural but expensive supplies.  I can make my own.  Have you lost your chemical-conditioning yet?  Come try it with me!

This post has been linked to Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well #27Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #13Homesteading Trading Post Link Up and The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barnhop #48.