Monday, November 30, 2009

Lavender Ridge Farms

Texas is massive. Texans love food. And I think it's so massive that it's nearly impossible to keep track of it all. And I think there's so much food, it's not very easy to eat it all.  So since I will be in Texas for a little while, I've decided to explore the parts I never have before. And all the food that follows.

My first destination was Gainseville, Texas. Here I found Lavender Ridge Farms, a pick-your-own farm that grows lavender, herbs, geraniums, and vegetables all for the picking. 

Lavender season begins in May, so the 2-acre crop field was a little scarce. But no problem- we still got to enjoy a bit of lavender here and there.  Lavender bushes grow best in wide open and sunny flat fields. Texas is a pretty great place to grow it, as it tends to keep dry most of the year.

These shrubby plants were a lot larger than I thought they would be. (Also a bit empty because of the  time of year.) Either way, they smelled wonderful and one bush was the perfect amount for drying.  

This is how:
Lay your stalks out on a sieve or tray. Make sure that the stalks do not touch one another. This is ensure no moisture is retained between the stalks, or transferred from one to the other.
Place the tray in a cool shady area. You want to avoid the sun so the drying time is drawn out.
Also, lift your tray a few inches above the ground. This will allow an air current  to blow underneath and remove excess moisture.
It's also really important to bring in your stalks before a dew or mist settles. Basically, you want to avoid moisture any way you can.
Once dry, your lavender will have a greyish-blue color. Beauty.

So Lavender can be used for many many things. Not just pillows and sachets. (I'm not so into sachets...) Here are some things you can use them for. (Use them!)
  •  Get your hands on some oil of lavender and rub it on your temples or wrist to ease nervousness, light-headedness, flatulence, spasms, and even colic. (Another popular way to take it is 1-4 drops on a spoon of sugar.)
  • A few drops of essence of lavender can be mixed into a hot foot-bath to relieve fatigue.
  • It can also be applied to the source to relieve toothaches and sprains.
  • Try rubbing some oil on your temple to relieve a nervous headache, or slight episodes of depression. 
  • In France, lavender oil is a household fixture. It's often used to treat bruises, bites, and minor aches and pains. 
  • Lavender oil is also used as an embalming agent in some places. (Don't do this one.)
So enjoy the lavender info. Back with more Texas action so soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sauerkraut (my love) ((Dedicated to my Grandmother))

Two Things:
First: I love sauerkraut. Really love to eat it. A world without sauerkraut is a world without love.  I love love. Second: I just got my hands on a book I've been looking for - Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Oh this book makes me so happy. If you're into making your own ferments or sprouting or culturing, really look out for this book. It definitely  reignited my excitement about fooding. And I think I really needed to be reignited. (It's know.) 
Combining 1 &2: I made sauerkraut. A dear friend and I tried to make it a bit ago, but somehow it exploded and smelled like wet hot feet. We didn't want to eat it. We didn't want to go near it. And by the way, sauerkraut is too easy to make. (How did we go wrong?)
Either way, I tried to make it again. And taking tips from the book, I think I made a batch no where near feet. Hot, wet, or otherwise.
What you'll need:
Roughly Two Heads of Cabbage
Salt (sea or kosher)
Big crock or vat or container
Plate to fit inside container
Heavy weight

 I decided to use a red and a green cabbage, to make a pinkish kraut. But honestly you can use any kind you'd like. Shred or chop- either thick or thin. I used a wacky shredder from the 70's so my shred came out very/too thin. No problem.
As you shred the cabbage, place it in a large bowl and add a good amount of course salt: kosher or sea. For both heads of cabbage, I used about 5 tablespoons of salt. But I didn't measure, I just added salt as I shredded.
Next, put your cabbage, a couple hand fulls at a time, into the container. And then you punch. And press. And pound the cabbage. This (along with the salt) brings the moisture out and creates the brine your sauerkraut will live in. Don't worry if this doesn't create a ton of liquid yet, this will come in time. Once all the cabbage is in,  place your plate directly on top of the cabbage.  On top of this plate, place your weight to ensure your cabbage in under a lot of pressure. (The more pressure, the more liquid, the more fermentation.) Most recipes agree that a gallon jug full of liquid works best. This is what I used, as yes, it works beautifully.

And so it's done. Sauerkraut is being created. Cover your concoction with a cloth or towel to keep flies and dirt out and let it ferment in a cool, dry part of your house. You'll want to check your kraut every day or so to make sure the liquid is covering the plate.  If you find that your cabbage hasn't produced enough on its own within the first 24 hours, you can help: add one tablespoon salt to one cup of water and mix until dissolved. Add this to your cabbage. Add more as needed until your plate is covered in brine.
You'll want to check your kraut periodically to make sure everything looks fine. If water has dissolved, add more salt water.  Wait one week to a month. ( I know, its terrible. A month.)