Garden Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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Cool and refreshing mint chocolate chip ice cream!

My love affair with ice cream goes way back. Sometimes on Sundays my Grandparents would pack my brother and I up in the car and take us ‘over the bridge’ to an ice cream parlor that had all the toppings under the hood of an old red ’57 Chevy (aptly named ‘The Ice Cream Machine’).  I stared in wonder as they ate ‘weird’ flavors like pistachio, coffee, or butter pecan.  I mean why wouldn’t they be eating the bubble gum filled variety with sprinkles, gummy bears, and chocolate???  Despite a long love affair with ice cream, let me say I’m not a huge fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream…pistachio, yes. Brown sugar ice cream, yes. Even beet lemon (it’s good, I swear!), yes. Mint chocolate chip, meh. Why then, you ask, would one go through all the trouble of making fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream?  Simply, a massive overload of mint springing forth from the garden and a guilty conscience for throwing it away.  Well that, and a little boredom and a bit of time on my hands.  Then there’s the challenge of homemade ice cream in itself.  When a batch of homemade ice cream turns out really good, it’s like The Culinary Gods have shined down upon you. Sometimes I’m so happy with myself after a batch turns out good that I’m almost too proud to eat it. Then common sense kicks in. So, you could also say I was up for the challenge.

Now, those that know me know I don’t really jive with processed food. So, why the light corn syrup? Well, there’s some molecular chemistry involved and it basically has to do with how the ice cream freezes–the corn syrup prevents the ice cream from getting all crunchy from ice crystals.  Yes, it doesn’t go with my ‘no processed food’ philosophy, but frankly, you’re not dining on this stuff all that often, so it’s not a deal breaker for me. You can make your own corn syrup if you’ve got a vat of corn and some serious time and patience, but I have to draw the line somewhere!  You can try other techniques, like using a corn starch slurry or using honey or other emulsifiers, but this seems to work the best for ice cream in a home machine.

Don’t be daunted, it’s pretty easy and you’ll be glad you did it once you take a bite!  It’s not like the stuff from the store–all fluorescent green and mint-extract flavored. It’s a creamy, herbal-mint with just the right amount of chocolate.  You can certainly taste the nature in it! As much as I generally scan right over mint chocolate chip ice cream in the store–this one makes me take a bit of a pause!

 

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups packed fresh mint leaves
  • 10 large egg yolks, whipped
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, melted (Lindt Dark Chocolate with a Hint of Sea Salt used here)
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Fresh mint leaves are a must!

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Heating the leaves in the milk releases the oils.

Place milk, sugar, light corn syrup, 2 cups of cream, salt, and mint leaves in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until steaming, stirring occasionally to prevent curdling.  After it’s good and steamy, put a lid on your pan and let it steep off of the heat for about an hour or so.

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The mint has released all of it’s flavorful oils.

After steeping, pour through a fine mesh strainer  while pressing down on the leaves to release more oils (a bouillon strainer works wonders!). If you get a few little leaf bits in there, don’t worry–it’s homemade! Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and reheat.  Very slowly pour about 1/2 of the hot milk mixture over the egg yolks while constantly whisking to prevent cooking the egg yolks. Combine the hot milk and hot milk-egg mixture in the saucepan and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

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Cool the ice cream batter by mixing back into the last cup of heavy shipping cream.

Pour this mixture into the last 1 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Let cool and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top, pressing into the surface.

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Chill the batter with a piece of plastic wrap pressed into the surface to prevent the ‘skin’ from ruining your texture.

Chill overnight.

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Freeze the batter in 2 batches (drizzling chocolate in between) in a home ice cream machine according to directions.

Place 1/2 of  batter in home ice cream machine and freeze according to machine directions.

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Preparing for layering of chocolate–this makes the chips!

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Making the chips!

Place frist half in flat container and drizzle 1/2 of melted chocolate over the top. Put the lid on and place in freezer. Run the second half of the batter according to machine directions. Layer on top of first batch and drizzle second half of chocolate over the top. Place lid and freeze until firm.

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Summer on a spoon!

Homemade ice cream freezes harder than store bought because we don’t whip tons of air into it (arrrghhhhh–you’re paying for air?!?!?!?), so you may have to let it sit out for 10 minutes or so before scooping. All this may seem like a bit of work–but seriously, it’s summer on a spoon and you know exactly what’s in it (no Incredible Hulk colored ice cream for me!).

Try it, I promise you’ll love it!

**Note: Monkeying with sugar and fat content can alter the texture**

Boiled Peanut Hummus

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Boiled peanuts….ahhhh a Southern favorite.  I can literally eat them until my mouth is pruned up and I wake the next morning to swollen fingers.  I can’t drive by the little roadside boiled peanut carts without stopping to get some. It is truly an addiction. So, what better way to enjoy boiled peanuts than the ‘lazy man’s’ way? Yep, blend ’em all up with a few additions and forgo the peeling and picking all together.  All you need is a chip, some pita bread, veggies, or a spoon and you’re golden. You can even spread a little on sandwiches or wraps!  This particular recipe lets the boiled peanut flavor shine, but additions found in other hummus preparations would work too.  And don’t fret, you can use prepared boiled peanuts and soak them in a bit of cool, clean water after shelled to reduce the salinity.

Boiled Peanut Hummus

  • 2 pounds of boiled peanuts, shelled
  • 2 TBSP tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup neutral flavored oil
  • Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon (depending on taste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onions for garnish

**If you can’t find tahini, make your own by blending roasted sesame seeds with a bit of flavor-neutral oil in a food processor until you get a smooth paste.

 

Shell your peanuts.  If your peanuts have been boiled with salt, soak them in clean, cool water for 5-10 minutes to reduce the salinity to your liking.

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Shell your boiled peanuts.

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If using prepared boiled peanuts, soak the shelled peanuts to reduce the salinity.

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Rinse and drain your soaked peanuts.

Drain. Place all ingredients, except the oil in a food processor.

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Add all ingredients, except the oil, to the food processor.

Pulse to begin breaking down the peanuts and mixing the ingredients. After a few pulses, begin adding your oil a little at a time. Continue pulsing. Add enough oil and blend long enough so the peanuts form a smooth paste.  Add less or more oil depending on your preference.

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Pulse, adding oil a little at a time, until you reach a paste of your desired consistency (thicker for using as a spread and a little thinner for a dip so you can scoop it up without breaking your ‘dipper’.

Top with sliced green onions. Enjoy!

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Dig in! All the boiled peanut flavor without the work!

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Scoop up your boiled peanut hummus with chips (taro and yucca chips are great!), pita, vegetables, or use as a spread.

NOTE:  If you find after sitting a bit your boiled peanut hummus separates a little, just stir or add a little heavy whipping cream and stir.

Pickled Collard Stems

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Pickled collard stems. “What the h-e-double hockey sticks is that?” probably comes to mind first, quickly followed by “How does one go about pickling said collard stem?”. Luckily I’ve trudged ahead through trial and error and therefore, have those answers for you. These little pickled delights can be addicting. They can be substituted for celery in a Bloody Mary, used to scoop up some jalapeno pimento cheese, or even chopped up and used in place of relish. You can pickle them whole or slice them on the bias. Even better news? They’re made from a part of the collard you normally pitch. Now that’s my kind o’ recycling. Let’s get to it.

Pickled Collard Stems

1 gallon glass container with lid
Stems from 2 bunches of collards, trimmed to 1 inch shorter than glass jar
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves

1 TBSP dried jalapenos (can use fresh)
1 gallon filtered water
3/4 cup pickling salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

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Dried peppercorns

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Dried jalapenos (can use fresh)

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Bay leaves

Pack jar tightly with stems, onions, and spices. Bring water, salt, and vinegar to a low boil. Remove brine from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

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Submerging stems in brine with spices; Make sure everything is covered and place a fermentation weight or other heavy object on top to keep everything below the brine line (I have a bowl that fits just right!).

Pour brine over veggies, making sure brine covers everything. Place a fermentation weight (or a rigged up one like I do) over the top to prevent as much contact between the air and the brine surface. If you have a fermentation crock, bust that thing out and put it to use. Let your container sit at room temperature for 3-5 days, until your spears have the saltiness, flavor, and crunchiness you like.

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Let ’em sit until the have the taste, saltiness, and crunch you like (mine sat for 4 days)!

When they reach that point, trade your weight for a lid and place the whole container in the fridge. Your pickled stems will last several weeks (if you don’t gobble them up first!).

Spicy and Bright Nut and Seed Mix

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Spicy and bright nut and seed mix…too tasty!

I’ve got nothin’. No story behind this one. No fun facts. Just nuts. Seeds. Spice. And it’s gooooood.  the citric acid powder lends a tartness and brightness kin to lemon juice without all the sogginess (it can be found amongst cheese-making supplies online). You can make the nut and seed mix without it, but I personally think the mix is much better with it.  Be careful, a little goes a LONG way!  Do monkey with the heat by adding more or less ancho or cayenne–the heat is a great contrast to the brightness offered by the citric acid powder. Make a big batch…you’ll find yourself sneaking into the kitchen to refill that snack bowl!

Spicy Nut and Seed Mix

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1-2 pinches cayenne powder
2-3 pinches citric acid powder
Salt to taste

Toast your almonds, seeds, and coconut flakes in a wee bit of coconut oil (this will help the spices stick).  Toss with all spices and sprinkle with citric acid powder and salt to taste.  It’s that simple!

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Toast your nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes. Don’t be afraid to try different nuts or seeds (except walnuts–they’re just plain nasty!).

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Coat well with seasonings and snack away!

Asparagus is here!

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Asparagus and Proscuitto

Wee little asparagus spears poking up at the first of Spring!

I’ve been waiting patiently.  Veerrryyy patiently. For 3 years. Yes, threeeee years. And it’s finally arrived…asparagus! I planted it on a whim three (did I say three yet?) years ago just to see if I could grow it, and hallelujah, it’s arrived.  You have to wait three years to harvest spears, so this year is an exciting year!  In fact, I almost three a party just because Spring has arrived and the wee little spears have made their debut.

Now, some would argue they don’t like asparagus. I’d argue they haven’t had it cooked right.  By that I mean it’s not supposed to be army green.  Yes, asparagus and good ol’ fatty hollandaise is spectacular, but holy moly, asparagus in prosciutto is The Bomb. And to top it off, it’s super easy.  And people will think you have created culinary magic when they eat it. Wiiiiinnnn!

Asparagus in Proscuitto

  • 1 bunch asparagus, cleaned of fibrous ends
  • 1 pack high quality proscuitto
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup aged shredded Asiago cheese
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Optional: 2 poached eggs per serving (makes a great brunch with a salad, or a great breakfast!)..check out the eggs from Wishbone Heritage Farms!

 

Wash and clean asparagus of woody ends (the whiteish-purple end that doesn’t bend so easily). Dry by rolling between 2 paper towels. Coat with 1 TBSP olive oil and cracked pepper to taste. Wrap 2-3 asparagus with 1/2 slice of prosciutto. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle each group of spears with a little bit of cheese (about 1-2 tsp).  Roast until just tender and prosciutto starts to crisp on the edges, about 15 minutes.

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Prosciutto wrapped asparagus ready for the oven!

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Crispy prosciutto and al dente asparagus. De-e-lightful!

While asparagus is cooking, heat water for poaching eggs. After asparagus is done, remove from oven to cool. While asparagus is cooling, poach optional eggs while asparagus is cooling.

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Yeah…there is seriously no better breakfast!

Dig in my friend!…And consider growing your own!

Radicchio…Taming that Bitter Bite!

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Purple Cabbage? Nope! Radicchio–your new friend!

I can in no way take credit for dreaming up charred radicchio.  I had it at Trattoria Lucca when my buddy Mike made reservations for a family-style meal.  It was superb and I set out to making some of my own.

Most may know radicchio as the little chunks of bitter, purple lettucey-cabbage-like stuff in bagged lettuce mixes.  You know, the one you pick out and scoot to the edge of your plate in a pile while not-so-subtly scrunching up your nose. Yeah, that stuff. In whole form, it looks like miniature, purple-white striated heads of cabbage. Don’t scrunch up your nose too much though, it really is quite the powerhouse of a vegetable.  It contains a sedative/analgesic compound and flavonoid antioxidants.  And like other chicories (think endive), radicchio contains inulin which helps to regulate blood sugar. And, hey, if that doesn’t sell ya, it can also help control intestinal parasites! Woot! Woot!

I will warn you, radicchio by itself can be bitter. However, grilling and charring help mellow its natural bitterness.  Adding some vinegar, a tad of sweetness, some fat, and a bit of lemon juice further round out that bitterness and turn it into a tasty treat.

So, hey, don’t just eat it to protect yourself from intestinal parasites—eat it ’cause it’s tasty!

Charred Radicchio

  • 1 TBSP Oil for searing (use your rendered duck fat, or beef tallow!)
  • 2 heads of radicchio, quartered (keep the little stump on so it doesn’t fall apart)
  • 2 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed and minced finely
  • Plenty of cracked black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp honey or sugar of choice (you can leave this out, but may need more lemon juice on the back end)
  • 6 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked but not crispy (or better yet, 6 slices porchetta)
  • 2 TBSP shredded Asiago
  • 1 TBSP chopped parsley or celery leaves
  • About 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (more or less to taste–it helps reduce any bitterness that may be left)
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Wedge your radicchio, removing any extra core and leaving on the little ‘nub’ where the root was so it doesn’t fall apart when cooking.  

Heat oil of choice in skillet (cast iron preferred) until just below smoke point. While the oil is heating, mix the vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, black pepper, salt, and honey together.

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Coat it up!

Coat the radicchio quarters in the mixture.  When the oil is good and hot, place the quarters on their side in the oil with some room in between. You may have to do more than one batch.  Cook on each side until slightly charred. The goal is to have the edges charred, the outer part a bit wilted, and the interior al dente.As soon as the first edge is charred, turn and repeat on all sides.

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Char on all sides to reduce radicchio’s natural bitterness.

Remove to a plate and spoon the remainder of the marinade over all of the wedges. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice (if it’s still too bitter for you, add more lemon–it brightens things up and mellows the bitter).

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Save the leftover marinade to spoon over the top when you’re done charring–don’t forget your bacon (or porchetta)!

Sprinkle with the cheese and chopped celery or parsley leaves. Top with bacon, cut into slices (or porchetta on the side).

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From bitter and ostracized to the side of the plate to center stage. Super tasty and super good for you!

Dig in! Make sure to get a bite of bacon or porchetta with each bite!

Who Says Salad Can’t be for Breakfast?

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I’ve heard of folks bellying up to a bowl of salad for breakfast just to pack in those vital nutrients first thing in the morning. And to tell you the truth, I thought they were crazzzzy. I mean, the word breakfast conjures up thoughts of creamy grits, crispy bacon, and fried eggs. Or maybe you’re a stack o’ pancakes lover. Or perhaps a big ol’ plate of biscuits and sausage gravy. Yeah, me too. Until I (or rather, my pants) decided it was time to cut out the carbs. Well, if you’re like me, this little salad gets you your breakfast fix AND packs in some salad greens. Not to mention it’s pretty darn tasty, too!

  • a couple of handfuls of salad greens, arugula was used here
  • 1 soft-boiled egg
  • 4 or so ounces of pulled pork (substitute bacon or Canadian ham if you’d like)
  • handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 TBSP (or more if you like) of bacon jam
  • 1 tsp bacon fat
  • 1 TBSP apple cider, champagne, or rose vinegar (or try kombucha)
  • 2 TBSP diced onions
  • 1/2 clove garlic, mashed and minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Heat a pot of salted water over medium high heat until just bubbling. Add your egg gently. Put on the top and let it sit for 5 minutes for a runny yolk, and six minutes for a firmer, but not ‘done’ yolk. You can fry the egg to your liking or use a boiled egg too. When done, run under cool water and gently peel.

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Soft boil your egg…The Hubs did a little art work on the eggs, so I had an extra bit of fun doing this one up!

While the egg is doing its thing, heat the bacon fat in a nonstick skillet. Add the onions and garlic and saute until just tender. Add the bacon jam, red pepper flakes, and vinegar. Stir to combine. Add a tiny bit of water if it’s not the right consistency to coat the greens easily.

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Warm Bacon Jam Dressing. Yes, please!

Throw the greens in a bowl, toss with the dressing (do this only when your egg is done as the dressing is warm and will wilt the greens slightly). Pile on your pork, egg, and tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Now go ‘Get Your Salad On’ for breakfast!

And just like that you have a ‘breakfast salad’ that will get you started on the right foot. Or hey, eat it for lunch or dinner. If Salad doesn’t mind switching to breakfast, I’m sure Bacon and Eggs don’t mind hanging out with your for dinner!

Brewing Kombucha–or, “What the Hell is that?!”

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Home-brewed kombucha. Part mystery, part tasty, part science.

Grumpy Kevin and I fell down the fermentation rabbit hole after our first batch of sauerkraut. Then came fermented beets, ginger, pickles, eggs, vinegar, and kimchi.  And now we’ve arrived at Kombucha, or fermented sweet tea.  On further contemplation it seems pretty logical to ferment sweet tea in the South.  After all, have you seen some of the weird things we eat??

Now there’s a lot of hype, myth, and confusion about Kombucha. Some say it’s from Russia, others from China. There are claims that it will ‘cure what ails ya’ and others claim it can kill you. Generally when such extremes are shouted from the mountaintops, I do a little investigating prior to jumping in headlong. So, I scoured the interwebs, reviewed several books on fermentation (previously read), checked out any evidence in medical journals (none), talked to buddies that were already brewing it, and reviewed a write-up by the CDC. What I determined for myself is pretty much what I learned in my Anthropological studies–cultures have been doing these things ‘for-evah’ in conditions much less clean than most kitchens and yet the folks are still alive. Now, one tool in their arsenal that we generally don’t have is a massive cultural legacy handed down from one generation to another on how to do this.  What does that mean?  Proceed with caution, common sense, and moderation.

**Note:  Kombucha is brewed in the presence of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).  You can get these from friends (make sure you know their brewing practices) or order online from a reputable seller.  These are live bacteria and yeast that must be cared for properly (no chemicals, no metal, etc.).  For your safety and own knowledge I highly suggest doing some reading before you go down the Kombucha Road–no site contains all of the info in one place.**

Basic Kombucha Recipe

  • 1 SCOBY plus 2 cups of starter tea (or use unpasteurized, non-flavored store-bought kombucha)
  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 1 cup white sugar (necessary; will be used up in fermentation)
  • 8 bags black tea (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)
  • Choice of fruit or other flavorings for a second fermentation
  • Large stockpot
  • 4-6 quart jars with lids
  • Butter muslin, tea towels, or other breathable cloth
  • Twine or large rubber band

Obtain a SCOBY.  Ask your more ‘crunchy’ friends if they brew kombucha and ask if they have a SCOBY to spare. I got mine from my buddy, Jeff, after a conversation about the wonderful weirdness of fermenting.

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If you didn’t know better, you’d think SCOBYs were something out of a 1940s horror flick–not something you are actually trying to cultivate!

Make your tea. Make sure to use quality tea without pesticides or chemicals and no flavorings (think Earl Grey)–your SCOBY is a living thing and these will harm it.  In a non-reactive stockpot, boil your water.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea for 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely (too warm of a temperature and you’ll end up killing your SCOBY). Remove the bags when cooled, or strain the loose tea.  When completely cool, stir in the starter tea or store-bought kombucha.  Cover with cloth (I use butter muslin) and secure cloth tightly with twine or a rubber band.

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Kombucha in its element.  An ‘adult’ or ‘mother’ kombucha SCOBY and baby SCOBY forming on top.

Wait. Let the weird, gelatinous, SCOBY-blob do its thing in a room temperature spot out of direct sunlight for 5 to 30 days. Yes, that’s quite a spread. Start tasting at 5 days (clean equipment only) and stop when the flavor seems right to you. Grumpy Kevin and I are quite a fan of tart, so we ferment for 21 days at a temperature of about 70ish. The result is definitely tart–like an apple cider vinegar. We then send it though a second ferment with fruit or other flavorings for 5 to 7 days. During your ferments, use common sense and watch for things like green or black mold (the acidic environment should prevent this).  This is where your reading comes in since great granny isn’t giving out advice on kombucha brewing (at least not in the South).

Have some fun.  Second Ferment…or ‘wait again’.  Now you can have some fun with the flavor of your Kombucha.  Use ginger, lemon, orange, berries, other flavored teas, or herbs for a “second ferment”.  Gently remove your SCOBY (clean, vinegar-rinsed hands) and place it in a clean, vinegar-rinsed glass container. Don’t forget to save 2 cups of starter tea for your next batch.  Place a bit of fruit (no science here–maybe a half of a cup) in the bottom of your clean quart jars and fill them with kombucha, leaving an inch or so at the top.  Place your lids and set them out of direct sunlight on the counter. Wait 1-5 days for the carbonation to increase and flavors to develop, releasing the building CO2 daily.  After the taste is to your liking, strain the kombucha into quart jars, place lids, and put in the fridge. They will last several weeks.

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Carbonation from a second ferment.

Start up your next batch.  Follow the instructions again from the beginning to keep yourself stocked in kombucha. Otherwise keep the scoby and starter tea in a sealed glass container in the fridge until ready. We continuously brew kombucha, so I’ve not had to ‘put the SCOBY to rest’ yet. There are plenty of sites with info for doing this though.  If you’re super brave, you can try doing a second fermentation with sugars/fruit and/or other yeasts to purposefully increase the carbonation and alcohol content of your kombucha.  I have not done this…but it sounds like a good experiment (i.e. watch for that at a later date!).

This Ain’t Your Gran’ Momma’s Kale

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Creamed kale with mushrooms, onions, and Asiago…you’ve never had it so good! This ain’t your Gran’ Momma’s kale!

Oh The Mighty Kale. Everyone’s lovin’ it. And it’s everywhere. And it’s not always so tasty. I can certainly understand why some folks scrunch up their noses, curl their upper lip, and proceed to lambaste the very existence of kale. I too can conjure up those images of piles of soggy, stinky, greenish-black (think Charleston Green) kale that my cooking forebearers served up.  Yes, cooking kale can be a bit tricky but with a little practice you’ll be lovin’ it.  This recipe is pretty darn quick and simple and can be eaten as a side dish or you can add a bit more cheese and cream and serve it over pasta.  This also goes nicely with a grilled chicken breast or pork loin for those non-grain eaters.  For you ‘rooter-to-tooter’ eaters, roast up some marrow bones and serve this on the side or on top of the bones.  So come on now, close your eyes, take a big breath, and promise me you’ll give The Mighty Kale another try. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Creamed Kale with Sautéed Mushrooms, Onions, and Asiago

  • 1.5 pounds of kale (about 2 bunches), stems removed, blanched and drained
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced, cooked
  • 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 TBSP butter (raw or cultured if you have it)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (I’ve used allspice or mace in a pinch, but nutmeg is definitely the best choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Bacon, jowl bacon, or lardons

Remove the center stems, roughly chop, blanch, and drain your kale.  Cook your mushrooms to your liking (in a pan with a bit of room between each mushroom, flipping only once is ideal).  If you’re using a bacon product, cook it over medium heat until crisp, letting the fat render, and remove it to a paper towel to drain. Try not to eat all of it. Save the fat to saute your onions. If you’re not a pig lover (*gasp*) just use a few teaspoons of your favorite oil (roasted walnut is a nice choice).

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Cut down either side of the center stem to remove it–then roughly chop your kale.

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Blanch your kale—seriously, it looks (and tastes) so much more edible after blanching!

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Cook up your mushrooms…

Continuing over a medium heat, saute your onions in your choice of fat until translucent and tender.

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Let your onions become translucent.

Add your nutmeg to ‘bloom’ (big ol’ fancy talk for letting it heat a bit, allowing the aromatic oils to release).  Cook the nutmeg over medium heat, stirring, for about 30 seconds or so.  Heap in your kale.  Add the cream and cheese, stirring to coat. Cook until the cream has thickened, the cheese had incorporated, and your kale is tender.  This should take about 5 minutes or so.  The kale should still be a bit ‘toothy’, or have some body to it. Cook it a bit more if you’d like, but don’t overcook it or you’ll have a bitter mess!  Add the mushrooms, and the porky bits if you’re using them, and toss gently to mix them in with the kale and cream sauce.

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Startin’ to look tasty!

Now go to town! Pair it up with your favorite meat (beef, pork, and duck work very well). Or maybe you’ll like it with those marrow bones or over toast points with an over-easy fried egg.  Or–oh my gosh-with a ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich!  Now, go run call your Gran’ Momma and tell her you actually do love kale…as for me, I’m off to hunt down that ooey gooey grilled cheese to make friendly with my kale!

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What?! And you thought you didn’t like kale??

Perfect Mushrooms

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Yes, yes, I know.  Why is there a post on making the perfect mushroom? Same reason there’s a post on blanching vegetables. Ya can’t build a house without any bricks now can ya?  Proper blanching and making the perfect mushroom are  your bricks.  Trust me, once you eat a mushroom prepared this way you’ll have a hard time going back to those watery, limp ones.

The first key is to have dry mushrooms, so don’t wash them right before you’re going to cook them.  It’s much like trying to sear meat.  That beautiful brown ‘crust’ forms when the surface coming into contact with the pan is dry (I could go into some long chemistry chitty chat about what’s happening there, but I suspect you don’t care as long as the mushroom turns out delicious).  The second key to a perfect mushroom is to have a wide bottomed pan. The mushrooms don’t like to be crowded. You need a single layer with a little room in between each mushroom. Otherwise, the ‘shrooms end up steaming themselves and their neighbors.  Next up? Enough heat to draw moisture out of the mushroom and evaporate it as you cook them.  This translates to a medium heat on my stove top. Lastly, use good butter. Sure, you can use olive oil or any other heat tolerant oil, but you should at least try butter.  I marvel at how a pat of butter can transform the lowly fungi every time I make these.  Oh–and cook some extra ’cause you’re gonna eat ’em as you go!

  • Mushrooms, any kind, sliced
  • Oil of your preference…say yes to butter!  Start out with a couple of teaspoons and replenish as necessary if you are cooking up multiple pan batches.
  • Pan large enough to allow space between each mushroom in a single layer; Cook in multiple batches if necessary; Non-stick or a well-seasoned cast iron pan works best.
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Start out with dry mushrooms. I prefer mine sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Place the pan over medium heat and add pat of butter. Bring butter up to temp (watch for the foam to subside) and add mushrooms in a single layer with a little bit of space in between each one.  Now wait. Practice your patience. You should hear the mushrooms sizzling the whole time.  After several minutes the mushrooms will begin to release a little moisture in the form of amber beads of ‘mushroom sweat’ on their topsides.

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See those little beads of amber liquid starting to form? That’s what you’re looking for—that means you’re concentrating the flavor! Just about time to flip!

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Here’s another pic of the ‘mushroom sweat’…these guys are definitely ready to flip.

After each mushroom has offered up some little amber sweat beads, gently flip them. You’ll find the side that has been in contact with the pan is a beautiful caramel color.  This translates to super flavor.  You should be getting excited at this point and you might start trying to pick one out of the hot pan since they smell soooo goood.

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Hey now…look at that golden caramel color around the edges. That’s what you’re looking for. Let ’em wilt a minute or two and pull them off of the heat. Err on less cooking than more.

Cook them for a few minutes more until they just start to ‘wilt’ and look a bit darker brown (see below).  You want them to retain some firmness and not to get dried out. Err on the side of too short a cooking time versus too long. They will wilt a bit more once off of the heat.  You’re looking at about a 8-10 minute total time. Salt if necessary.

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Look at those beauties. Best ‘mushroomy’ mushroom you can get! And a great texture to boot. Dig in!

Now run forth and make Perfect Mushrooms for everyone you know.  Watch as their faces light up with amazement that they’ve never had a mushroom that tasted so good.  And for reals…try them with light puffy scrambled eggs and a bit o’ shredded cheese…eggs never met a better partner!

**If you’re adding these to a dish it’s best to cook them separately and then add in at an appropriate time so they retain both flavor and texture (i.e. close to the end).**