04 February 2017

Fire on the Mountain Tonic, the Natural Flu Shot

This post was originally on my other blog... www.aprepperspantryjournal.blogspot.com, but since this is cold and flu season, and some of the readers of this blog don't follow my other blog I thought I would repost it here. There has been news of a new outbreak of  bird flu, that has been causing deaths not only in birds, but cats and then humans... so with the possibility of a new flu  being on the loose, it is important to protect yourself before the flu strain reaches the USA. Since this strain is new, there is no pharma synthesized flu shot to protect you from it or other new strains of flu that will come down the pike. 

I don't take flu shots...  Someday I will write a post on why, but for today I just want to talk about what I do instead of introducing heavy metals,(Thimerosal/ethyl mercury) and live (although "weakened"), virus into my system. There are natural ways to make it through cold and flu season without succumbing to every bug that is being passed around the office and lurking on every shopping cart handle.

To start with, it is important to be diligent to thoroughly and frequently wash your hands when in public places. Keep your hands away from your face and your fingers out of your mouth. Use a non alcohol based hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands. I use lemon essential oil that I keep in a key fob case with 7 other essential oils. I just drop a drop or two on my hands and rub them together front and back. Then I breathe deeply from the bottle to get the lemon vapors up into my nostrils. Lemon will kill many pesky germs on contact and is much safer to use than the alcohol based sanitizers. Be mindful that there are a lot of people who take no precautions when they are sick, don't cover their mouth with their forearm instead of their hands when they cough or sneeze, come to work with a fever, sneezing and coughing, go shopping and touch shopping carts with hands that they just sneezed into, eat out and use their germ infested hands to serve themselves from the salad bar or drink dispenser.... all while spreading the wealth of their illness with everyone who may come in contact with them or things that they have touched. So whenever possible, avoid public eating and other potential harvest fields of germs like public bathrooms. I know it isn't possible to avoid all public contact, especially if you work in a place that wants you to show up for work, sick or not... but taking precautions like hand washing and avoiding what contact you can with the public at large will cut your risks of infection down a lot.

 Besides exercising diligent germ fighting hygiene measures, there are some very effective proactive natural medicine routines that you can use to fight off illness. All of my family has their own bottle of Thieves, (Young Living, good but very pricey), or in our case 4x, (Secrets of Eden, it is the same thing as Thieves but a lot more affordable). We take it a couple times a day proactively, and use it more frequently if we are in public or feel like we are coming down with something. We have a infuser for our car that plugs into the cigarette lighter. We keep either 4x or lemon essential oils going in the car infuser so we are breathing it into our nostrils and into our lungs where it can kill bacteria that we may breathe in while in public. I also brush my teeth with it, using a drop or two on my tooth brush along with my home made toothpaste, or a drop or two in the water receptacle of my Waterpik. This kills germs as well as promotes good oral health. 

While practicing health hygiene and using essential oils to stave off infection is effective, we go one step further and our version of a flu shot... Fire tonic. This tonic is a powerful tool against flu virus' and bacterial infection. Unlike the
flu shot which is made in a lab using live virus or virus byproducts, and stabilized with heavy metals like ethyl mercury, Fire Tonic is made in your kitchen, using fresh, living. organic (where possible), ingredients. The flu shot  must be administered by a "medical professional", where you can take the Fire Tonic at home with no co pay. I will warn you that it takes some getting used to, but the benefits far outweigh its fiery personality. There are many recipes for tonic out there, but for the most part, the basic ingredients are the same, raw organic apple cider vinegar with mother, (from now on referred to as ACVM), horseradish, ginger, garlic and hot peppers. My recipe takes things a step further, to bring in some other germ fighting immune strengthening components. This tonic is taken daily, a shot glass full as soon as the tummy is ready for it. Once you get used to the fiery jolt, you will start to look forward to your daily "shot", and will enjoy the mood elevating, endorphin buzz you will get from it...

There are two basic ways to make this tonic, one is to put the fresh ingredients together in a blender, put the blended ingredients in a 1/2 gallon jar and let it steep in ACVM for several weeks. Then strain and press all the ingredients through cheesecloth, to derive the fiery liquid gold. The other way is to arrange the ingredients in a jar, add water and salt and let it ferment naturally for 4 weeks, then strain, press and bottle. Each has its own virtues, the ACVM has many health benefits, and the fermentation of the other adds much needed probiotic bacteria to the mix. Either one is effective against virus and bacterial infections. I have decided that for my family, it is best to make both. The vinegar based tonic stores for the long term, very well, the fermented tonic requires refrigeration, or if not refrigerated, to be used up in a week or two after full fermentation ceases, so when possible we use the fermented version daily and keep the vinegar version on hand for times when we don't have the fermented version available and for longer term storage.

In my recipes I use these basic tonic ingredients:

Horseradish- which is full of vitamin C and B complex, minerals, potassium, calcium, iron and enzymes. It prevents scurvy, is an expectorant, can treat tonsillitis, and is a natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many respiratory ailments. It can kill the bacteria that causes bronchitis, strengthens the heart, increases resistance to cancer, is a powerful antioxidant and detoxifies the liver to eliminate carcinogens. 


Ginger- a natural blood thinner, reduces cholesterol, lowers fever, is sedative and antibacterial, anti-fungal, and settles the stomach and soothes intestinal distress. Contains gingerol a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. May reduce muscle pain and soreness. Lowers blood sugar levels and improves heart health. Improves brain function and may guard against brain degradation and dementia. Reduces menstrual pain. The substance called 6-gingerol aids in the prevention of some kinds of cancer, (pancreatic, colon, breast and ovarian cancer, testing and research continues).


Onion-A potent diuretic, it is antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, it is an effective expectorant, making it useful for use colds, flu and persistent coughs, Onions are rich in quercetin, which has been shown to prevent heart disease, by stopping cholesterol from attaching to arterial walls and prevents blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots.

Hot Peppers- contain capsicum which supports the immune system. It also acts as a natural decongestant and has warming properties that alleviate chills. It has anti- inflammatory and analgesic properties which make it a useful pain killer. Helps treat cancer, peptic ulcer, menopausal problems, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Relives the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Is good for the skin and treats psoriasis.




Raw Apple Cider Vinegar- is a natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, is great for digestion, detoxifying, lowers blood sugar levels. It can help with weight loss by promoting satiety and lowering glucose and insulin levels. Helps reduce blood pressure. Has been observed to reduce the size of cancerous tumors and can kill cancer cells. It can cut down on  nighttime leg cramps, (an indication of a potassium deficiency), When coupled with honey, apple cider vinegar helps relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis pain in part is caused by metabolic waste that is stored in the connective tissue, the pectin, acetic acid and mallic acid in ACVM absorbs toxins and helps to flush them from the body. It alkalinizes the body and clears out acid crystal build up in the joints. It is a great source of the nutrient potassium, which is often in low levels in RA patients.


And I add to the basic ingredients:

Turmeric root-  An effective anti-inflammatory. Low level inflammation is in large part responsible for almost all chronic illness, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's, and other degenerative and auto-immune conditions. Curcumin is the substance within turmeric root which has most of the medicinal properties. Curcumin reduces inflammation at the molecular level. It is an antioxidant, so it eliminates free radicals and stimulates the body to increase production it's own antioxidant enzymes. It improves brain function by boosting BDNF, the body's neurotrophic factor, thus improving brain function and lowering the risk of brain disease.The molecular changes caused by cucurmin prevent cancerous cells from forming, having an affect on active cancer as well as preventing the division of cancerous cells. Curcumin can cross the blood brain barrier, a rare attribute, and is able to interrupt the progression of Alzheimer's and help the brain to heal. Arthritis, in some cases is more effectively treated with curcumin than with pharmaceuticals. It has a profound affect on depression, actually proving more effective in clinical studies than Prozac for alleviating the symptoms of depression. It does this by boosting the BDNF levels and increasing the body's ability to produce it's own serotonin and dopamine. It is hard for the body to absorb turmeric, but with the addition of piperzine, a substance found in black pepper corns, the absorption rate can be improved by 2000%. so turmeric should always be used in combination with black pepper. Do not use if pregnant!! Can cause uterine contractions.

Lemon-Although lemon is acidic outside the body once it is in the digestive tract it becomes alkaline. So lemon is a good ph balancer for the blood. Lemon is high in vitamin C, increasing the immune system's ability to fight off infection. It increases the production of bile aiding in digestion efficiency and dissolves uric acid which causes joint pain and is a component of some kinds of kidney stones. It can aid increase the body's ability to burn fat. Helps to maintain eye health. Detoxifies kidneys and liver.

Rosemary-Is a powerful detoxifier and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Rosemary contains rosmarinic, a compound that improves blood circulation, increasing the flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain. This improves concentration, alertness and promotes relaxation. It is anti-microbial. Rosemary contains components that fortify the immune system. It stimulates the adrenals, providing more energy while it elevates mood and calms nerves. Inhibits the growth of bacteria like e. coli. Protects the lungs from irritation and inflammation from environmental toxins.

Black Pepper- It is useful in fighting the common cold, constipation, indigestion, anemia, impotency, muscular strains, dental disease, pyorrhea (a dental disease), diarrhea, and heart disease. It contains manganese, iron, potassium, vitamin-C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber. Black pepper is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent. It aids in digestion by increasing the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, will detox the body by promoting sweating and urination. The outer shell of the pepper corn breaks down fat cells so that they are more easily accessed by the body , thus aiding in natural weight loss. So be sure to use whole pepper corns, cracked with a blender or mortar and pestle, to gain all the benefits that black pepper has to offer. But most importantly, it is necessary to use turmeric and black pepper in combination so that the body can take up the health benefits of turmeric. Without using black pepper with turmeric most of the healing properties of the turmeric pass through the body without being absorbed.




All ingredients that can be organic should be... I know that it is hard to find some of these ingredients in organic.


Fire on the Mountain Tonic # One

(Fermented)

Ingredients


2 cups of habanero peppers, 
split, (for those who are able to take the heat)or 3 cups of jalapenos, cut into 1/4" rings. If using jalapenos, then omit the next ingredient in the list, they are added to this amount for a total of the required peppers.
1 cup fresh jalapeno, cut into 1/4" rings
6 whole bulbs of garlic, cut in half through the equator, reserve two halves to be kept intact break apart the rest and bruise/mash with the flat edge of a knife. (No need to peel the cloves)
12 inches of fresh horseradish root, Scrub with a brush but do not peel, cut into 1/2" cubes 
1 large hand of fresh ginger, or enough ginger root to equal 2 cups sliced ginger, washed and sliced into 1/4" thick slices. Do not peel.
1 cup sliced turmeric root, (10-12 rhizomes of fresh turmeric)
1/4 cup black peppercorns, bruised and cracked in a mortar and pestle or given a quick whirlin a bullet blender, you don't want it powdered just bruised and cracked.
1 large onion, root end and tip end cut off, loose skin removed, (leave the rest of the skin on), then cut into thin slices
2- 6" sprigs of rosemary
4  1/4" slices of lemon, (wash lemon well before slicing)
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 capsule of probiotic acidophilis, (optional)
Purified water to fill jar

Equipment

Apron
Sharp knife
Mandolin with slicing blade, optional but makes things more uniform and goes faster
1 half gallon Mason jar

4 oz. mason jar
Plastic wide mouth Mason jar lid (can be found at Walmart in the canning section, or purchased on Amazon,com), or a piece of plastic wrap and a two part metal Mason jar lid, ( *Due the fact that metal that is not stainless steel can taint the fermentation process, it is necessary to use a plastic lid or put a piece of plastic wrap between the rim of the jar and the two part wide mouth mason jar lid.)
Glass craft beads to fill the 4 0z. jar Mortar and pestle or bullet-type blender
Plastic sandwich bag Nitrile or latex gloves
8"square pyrex dish or comparable sized plastic container with 1 inch sides
Strainer
Funnel
16x16" square of cheese cloth
Quart sized Mason Jar or two or glass bottle with tight fitting lid that will hold the volume of rendered liquid Wipeable,impermeable tablecloth

Instructions

Cover your work surface with wipeable tablecloth. Why? Well, the turmeric root will stain whatever it touches and it will not come out. Don the apron and make sure to put on your nitrile/latex gloves. If you have sensitive skin, double glove your hands.

Sterilize both 1/2 gallon and 4 oz.jar by pouring boiling water to the brim and leave sitting until cool enough to handle. Pour off water and dry jar with a fresh, clean towel. Lay the 1/2 gallon jar on its side and place lemon slices around the walls of jar on 3 sides, then take a couple of handfuls of horseradish cubes and place them in the jar to hold lemon slices to the sides. Set jar upright and place last slice on the forth wall of the jar. Place remaining horseradish in the jar. Then put in a layer of turmeric root, and then the onions. Place two halves of garlic bulbs, cut side out against the side of the jar on opposite walls of the jar, on the other two walls place the rosemary sprigs, then back fill with a layer of ginger, then jalapeno slices, and habaneros (if using), topping off with the layer of freshly cracked black pepper and the garlic. Press down on the veggie in the jar firmly.

Dissolve the salt in 2 cups of water, pour into the jar and then fill the jar the rest of the way with water to just cover the top of the veggies. The veggie and water level should come to just below where the neck of the jar begins to taper in some, (This will leave you room to put the smaller 4 oz. jar and glass weights in.)


Take the plastic sandwich bag and place it over the mouth of the 1/2 gallon mason jar, with fingers press down gently, arranging the plastic bag so that it is in contact with the entire surface of the vegetables.


 Take the 4 oz. jar filled with glass beads and place it in the mouth of the jar, on top of the plastic bag.


 Place 1/2 gallon jar in a casserole dish or in the sink then press down on the smaller jar, some liquid will flow out of the 1/2 gallon jar, (which is why it is in a casserole dish or in the sink). Take plastic lid that fits a wide mouth Mason Jar  and put it on the 1/2 gal. jar and screw down tight. If the lid won't go on, it may be necessary to take the 4 oz. jar out and press the veggies down harder to make room for the weight jar, (some fluid is sure to go over the edges so make sure the 1/2  gal. jar is on the plate or in the sink) , then replace the weight and screw plastic lid on firmly.  Invert the jar once or twice to dislodge air bubbles and look to make sure the veggies are completely submerged. If not, take the lid off, the weight jar and sandwich bag out and top off with a little water. replace, sandwich bag weight and lid, then invert again.

At this point, place the 1/2 gallon jar in a casserole dish or other plastic container to catch any liquid that might bubble out of the jar during the fermentation process and place out of the way, in a quiet corner of the kitchen counter. Invert at least twice a day for the first week, then once a day for the next 6 weeks. 


At the end of the fermentation pour off the liquid from the veggies into a bowl and place the veggies in the blender. Pulse until the veggies are well broken up, but not a puree.


 Pour the veggies and liquid back in the 1/2 gallon jar or into a bowl or other receptical that can hold it all if you are using the 1/2 jar as the storage container, and place a strainer lined with a layer of cheese cloth in the bowl that held the liquid previously. Stir the contents of the jar well and then slowly pour through cheese cloth, a little at a time. When the liquid level begins to approach the bottom of the strainer, stop and pour liquid off into the storage bottle. Continue to pour off and decant until the jar is empty.


There will be solids left in the cheese cloth that still have liquid in them, so using a pair of latex gloves, (remember there are hot peppers in this mix and they will burn the skin on bare hands), gather up the corners of the cheese cloth and twist them together until they begin to apply pressure to the contents of of the cheese cloth, then gently twist and squeeze the  cheese cloth "bag" until no more liquid will drip out.


Deposit the contents of the cheesecloth into the compost container and set the cloth aside on a plate or in a bowl to be dealt with later.

Once all the liquid is squeezed out and in the storage container, cap it tightly and store in the refrigerator.

* Note about clean up...Carefully rinse the cheesecloth, being sure not to get the residue left in the cheese cloth on your skin, clothing or stainable surfaces. and then submerse in a pan of hot soapy water, leave to soak for a couple of hours and then with latex gloves,  hand wash cloth and hang dry. Reserve this cheese cloth for this particular process since the turmeric will permanently stain it and no matter how often you wash it, the pepper oils will linger in the cloth fibers.

 To use: 

Measure 1 - 1 1/2 ozs. in a shot glass,( a good place to start, but eventually you want to be up to 2 oz. per dose), and drink in 6 oz. of water, add a little honey if necessary to get it down, (or do what I do and just throw it back it one mouthful and swallow...not recommended for the uninitiated or faint of heart...), and oh yea... best taken on a full stomach.... This tonic will cure what ails you and will keep your immune system strong so that you don't catch every bug that is floating around out there. How does the old saying go...? "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger..." Really, I am not trying to scare you off... this stuff is great for your immune system and will strengthen you, protect and heal you from so many ailments it is worth the effort to make it and acquire a tolerance to it's fiery nature, but you will need to take it slow and build up to the recommended dose. Drink it mixed with as much water as necessary to make it comfortable for you, but you want to get the whole dose down, so don't put it in so much water that you don't get it finished.

Fire on the Mountain Tonic # Two

Ingredients


2 64 oz. bottles of organic apple cider vinegar with mother, 
(Braggs make a very good one, but it is expensive. I have found a very acceptable option at Sam's, Nature's Intent organic apple cider vinegar with mother. It is much more affordable and I can't taste a difference. The important part is that it is organic, raw and has "mother" in it, which is a collection of living organisms composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids, which turns alcohol into acetic acid with the help of oxygen from the air).

2 cups of habanero peppers, split, (for those who are able to take the heat)or 3 cups of jalapenos, cut into 1/4" rings. If using jalapenos, then omit the next ingredient in the list, they are added to this amount for a total of the required peppers.
1 cup fresh jalapeno, cut into 1/4" rings
6 whole bulbs of garlic, cut in half through the equator,reserve two halves to be kept intact break apart the rest and bruise/mash with the flat edge of a knife. (No need to peel the cloves)
12 inches of fresh horseradish root, Scrub with a brush but do not peel, cut into 1/2" cubes 
1 large hand of fresh ginger, or enough ginger root to equal 2 cups sliced ginger, washed and sliced into 1/4" thick slices. Do not peel.
1 1/2-2 cups sliced turmeric root, (12-15 or so rhizomes of fresh turmeric)
1/4 cup black peppercorns, bruised and cracked in a mortar and pestle or given a quick whirl in a bullet blender, you don't want it powdered just bruised and cracked.
1 large onion, root end and tip end cut off, loose skin removed, (leave the rest of the skin on), then cut into thin slices
2- 6" sprigs of rosemary
4 1/4" slices of lemon,(wash lemon well before slicing)
1/4 tsp. salt


Equipment

Apron
Sharp knife
Mandolin with slicing blade, optional but makes things more uniform and goes faster
2 half gallon Mason jars

2  4 oz. mason jar
2 Plastic wide mouth Mason jar lid (can be found at Walmart in the canning section, or purchased on Amazon,com), or a piece of plastic wrap and a two part metal Mason jar lid, ( *Due the fact that metal that is not stainless steel can taint the fermentation process, it is necessary to use a plastic lid or put a piece of plastic wrap between the rim of the jar and the two part wide mouth mason jar lid.)
Nitrile or latex gloves
9x13" pyrex dish or comparable sized plastic container with 1 inch sides
Strainer
16x16" square cheesecloth
Funnel
12x16" or larger piece of cheese cloth
1/2 gallon mason Jar or glass bottle with tight fitting lid that will hold the final volume of liquidWipeable, impermeable tablecloth

Instructions

Cover your work surface with wipeable tablecloth. Why? Well, the turmeric root will stain whatever it touches and it will not come out. Don the apron and make sure to put on your nitrile/latex gloves. If you have sensitive skin, double glove your hands. 

Sterilize all jars by pouring boiling water to the brim and leave sitting until cool enough to handle. Pour off water and dry jar with a fresh, clean towel. 

Place all ingredients except for the lemon slices in a blender in batches and blend with just enough vinegar to get things moving in the blender. Divide the blended ingredients equally between the two 1/2 gallon Mason jars and drop 2 lemon slices in each jar. Fill to the top with the apple cider vinegar.


 Cover tightly with the plastic lids or with a piece of plastic wrap and the two part mason jar lids. Place in a tray or on a plate so that anything that might leak out drips on the tray and not your counter top. Place in a quiet part of your counter top where you will see it and remember to invert the jars twice a day for a week and then once a day for 4-6 weeks. 

When ready, extract the tonic using the technique in the recipe above. Decant into storage container, just make sure that the tonic will fill the container leaving as little airspace as possible, to prevent any oxidization. This tonic is shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated, although it does go down better if it is cold. Since this tonic takes awhile to make, (6 weeks), and will last indefinitely. It is a good idea to double or triple the recipe, to make sure you have plenty on hand and don't have to make it very often.


To use: 

Measure 1 - 1 1/2 ozs. in a shot glass,(a good place to start, but eventually you want to be up to 2 oz. per dose), and drink in 6 oz. of water, add a little honey if necessary to get it down, (or do what I do and just throw it back it one mouthful and swallow...not recommended for the uninitiated or faint of heart...), and oh yeah... best taken on a full stomach.... This tonic will cure what ails you and will keep your immune system strong so that you don't catch every bug that is floating around out there. How does the old saying go...? "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger..." Really, I am not trying to scare you off... this stuff is great for your immune system and will strengthen you,  protect and heal you from so many ailments it is worth the effort to make it and acquire a tolerance to it's fiery nature, but  you will need to take it slow and build up to the recommended dose. Drink it mixed with as much water as necessary to make it comfortable for you, but you want to get the whole dose down, so don't put it in so much water that you don't get it finished.



A note or two, A recipe and some serving ideas:

Virgin Mary
3 stalks celery including the leaves, plus extra for serving
several dashes Worchestershire sauce, * vegans be aware Worchestershire has anchovies in it!! There are brands of vegan Worchestershire that can be purchased your local natural food/gourmet store.
1/8 tsp. or less to taste, celery seed
2 limes, juiced
48 oz. good quality tomato juice
Blend together all ingredients and store in a closed container in the fridge. For each beverage to be made, measure out 6-8 oz. of Virgin Mary blend and add 1 1/2 - 2 oz. shot of Fire on the Mountain Tonic. Stir well and enjoy with a celery stick swizzle stick.  If you have had a particularly hard day, throw in a shot of good quality vodka, and have a Bloody Mary instead, relax and enjoy the burn!

Just a few other ways to get your tonic dose in...(besides just gripping the counter and throwing it down... wheezing and gasping until the burn stops... (just kidding... kinda...).

Mix a shot of tonic in with an individual serving of salsa and eat with chips.
Add to salad dressing for a taco salad, or top your tacos with a blend of tonic and salsa
Add to a rice dish once it is not piping hot from the pot. 
Add to non-mayonnaise based cole slaw or cucumber salad

*Note#1- Since the whole idea behind this tonic is to consume the raw, living, fresh juice of the vegetables full of vitamins an enzymes, cooking with the tonic would defeat the purpose, so if you are adding this tonic to a food preparation, make sure the tonic is not cooked.
**Note #2- While there is an initial burn when consuming the tonic, at first their may also be a burn on the way out... uh... how do I say this delicately... have you every hear of Mexican Heart Burn?? Anyway, the burn that you may experience initially when going #2 will stop once your body is used to the tonic.

08 October 2016

My New Stack!t Herb Dryer

The gardens are still lush, pretty and producing. I hate to cut things back, but the season is winding down and it is time to start cutting the herb garden back and preserving the harvest. Some things like tarragon are just now starting to put on blooms, so I will leave them for a little while longer, but the garlic chive seed heads, bay leaf and lemon verbena need to be harvested now.

Both lemon verbena and bay leaf are tropicals and need to be brought inside before a cold snap takes them. The garlic chive seed heads need to be cut now so that I can let them dry in a place where they will not drop their seeds before I can collect them.

While I was at Prepper Camp this year I purchased a nifty net hanging food dryer. It is called a Stack!t. It is great for drying herbs and other leafy things that my Excaliber blows around too much. The net sides and shelves allow good air circulation, and the zippered access doors make it easy to add or remove one kind of herb while not disturbing the rest. But the best thing about the Stack!t is that it can be hung by either end. There are D-rings and hanging straps on both ends, so you can collapse the whole unit, herbs and all and invert it, then hang it again from the other end. This way you can turn the herbs without handling them. Love it!!The only drawback is that Skittles thinks it is a toy for her and she bats it around and scales the sides like she is rock climbing... (bad kitty...).

Since Hurricane Matthew was on its way, there was a potential for the winds and rain to ruin some of
my harvests, so I have been cutting things back and drying all week. Yesterday the breeze was high, but the air was dry, so I hung the Stack!t from the eave of the house and let the breeze help do the drying. I brought the dryer in before the rains started yesterday evening. Today the dryer is hanging in the sitting room, snug and dry out of the rain. The lemongrass blades are already dry, but the bay leaves and the garlic chive seed heads will still be drying for a few days.

All in all I am very happy with my purchase. It is great for herbs and other leafy things, but I wouldn't recommend it for wet things like apple slices since it is fabric and would absorb the liquid and become sticky. The Stack!t has a nice storage case that can be hung on a hook or on a hanger in the closet. But here at Heart's Ease Cottage the Stack!t will be employed full time drying my medicinal herbs and culinary herbs until the frost comes!




01 October 2016

A Sabbath Walk Around Heart's Ease Cottage

Sabbath is a lovely time to stroll through the gardens and soak in all that is going on there. The east side gardens have grown to rain forest proportions. I almost feel like I need to break out my machete to get past the lemongrass planters on the veranda, but in truth I wouldn't touch a thing.


 I love all the lush growth, the late season exuberance lifts my spirits and I try to spend as much time as I can out in the gardens. Before long frost will take all my flowers and I will have to hold on to the memory of their bright blooms all through the colorless cold months ahead. But for now I will soak it all in and enjoy. The tarragon is getting ready to bloom. The late season wild asters add an ethereal shade of blue to the back of the herb garden. Both the rosemary and bay laurel are reasserting themselves now that the Black Eyed Susan flower seed heads are being cut out.


             Soon it will be time to cut and dry the garlic chive seed heads so that I can save the seed.

   
   The night blooming jasmine has finished blooming for the year and has begun to climb the chimney. I will cut it back soon so that we don't catch the vines on fire when we start using the chimney for the year. The bay laurel, (left side in the background), is 5 feet tall. It is a tropical so I need to take it inside before the first frost. I will cut the top 3 feet of branches, harvest the bay leaves and dry them, that will leave me with a plant that I can take indoors. I will also divide the lemongrass, harvesting about half of it and cutting the rest back to a more manageable size, since it is also a tropical and will live indoors for the winter.


The espaliered Granny Smith Apple tree needs to be cut back for the season so that the new fruiting spurs develop close to the lateral branches.Our Turkey fig has completely blocked the path to the three month pantry, I have cut it back already but it just put out more growth and there are figs on the branches so I will wait until the figs are ripe to remove the offending branches. Until then I will just push my way through when I need to get to the pantry! Skittles is making sure she gets in a s many of the photos as possible...


  At this stage in the season, the summer vegetable garden is winding down, the tomatoes are mostly done and many of the beds have been cleared for the fall garden. Our volunteer pumpkin has be allowed to run amok on the empty beds while we get the seedlings going for the fall crops. I have harvested and cured many pumpkins already this year. Several have been cooked and frozen or dehydrated into pumpkin leathers. We have given some away and we still have some growing out in the garden. I guess it is a good thing we use a lot of pumpkin!


As the pumpkins begin to ripen I prop them on a pot to keep the roly polys from eating into the bottom of the pumpkins. Once the neck dries and the vines die back I will cut the stems and put them in a sheltered place with good air circulation to cure for a week or two so that they will keep for use during the winter. A the moment, the vines are still putting on flowers and growing more pumpkins, some of the later pumpkins will probably not get ripe before the frost, and eventually we will need to clear the beds so that we can put in the late fall garden, but for now I will leave them and hope they will finish off before I need to pull up the vines.


A pumpkin blossom decorates the comfrey plant. Da has made me permanent beds for my medicinal herbs so soon the comfrey plants will be moved to their permanent bed now that the weather is cool enough for transplanting.


A dew covered Black Swallowtail caterpillar is munching away on the parsley. I plant about 50 parsley plants every year so that there is enough for juicing and for sharing with the butterfly caterpillars. I do have to inspect the parsley I harvest for juicing very carefully, so I don't end up running caterpillars through the juicer.


Well, Skittles and I wish you well and thank you for coming to stroll the gardens with us! Have a great day!

16 March 2016

It's Not Too Late for a Spring Garden

Our normal gardening schedule was completely thrown off when we had to move out of the house and take up residence in the garden, due to black mold that was caused by water damage in the kitchen. With all the tasks that come with a major construction project,  Much to my dismay,  I did not have the time or the brain cells to plan and plant a garden. So we did not have our fall garden or an early winter garden, late winter garden or an early spring garden to speak of... just the stalwart chard and kale plants that have been growing continuously for the last 3 years, (I will write a post about them another time). But if I have anything to do with it, I will have a spring garden!

We have some seedlings growing under lights, for the rest I swallowed deep and bought seedlings for plants I knew there would not be time to grow from seed, (we normally grow almost all of our plants from seed under lights in our walk-in closet). Since we depend on the green leafy veggies like kale and chard for juicing, they have first dibs on the seed starting shelves. Tomorrow I will take the kale seedlings out from under lights, re-pot them and set them out on the deck to grow another week or two before we plant them out in the garden. Then I will be able to squeeze in a few flats of lettuce and oriental greens before I have to turn the growing shelves over to the tomatoes and peppers that must be started soon if I want them to be transplant size by late April/ early May.

Normally by this time of year my cabbages are the size of my head and I am gearing up to ferment sauerkraut, (we ferment rather than pickle sauerkraut), and dehydrate cabbage for use later. But this year I am just now getting my seedlings set out. I am not really worried though, it is not too late for a spring garden, I just had to select varieties that mature early, so that they will be ready to harvest and the beds will be empty when it is time to plant out the warm weather crops in May.



Most years I plant Dutch Flat cabbages for sauerkraut and Jersey Wakefield and January King for fresh eating and dehydrating. The Dutch Flat cabbage, makes on average a 12 pound head, takes 90-105 days to mature and likes to spread out so they need a 36" spacing between plants. This year since I need a short season variety, I am planting Stonehead, a medium 3-4 lb. dense cabbage, that matures in 50 days. They can be planted about 20" apart so I can just have one bed of cabbages, and if they are a little late finishing off, I will still have room in other beds to get my warm weather crops in the ground. I will miss my dutch flat cabbages though, you can make a lot of kraut with a 12 pound cabbage!

It was perfect gardening weather yesterday. It was slightly overcast, there was a nice breeze and it was about 75 degrees. I got several flats of seeds planted and got my cabbage plants in the ground.
When planting out cabbages, I use a technique that I learned in 1978 from John Seymour's book , The Self-Sufficient Gardener , (see my review of this book here). I make up a bucket of thin mud and add a handful or two of pulverized garden lime, (not the pelletized kind that you lime the lawn with), and stir it up well. Then when I have the hole dug and the my home made organic fertilizer at the bottom of the hole, I dip the root ball of the cabbage plant in the lime/mud slurry. put the plant in the hole. It is important that cabbage roots are in good contact with the soil so I press down firmly around the base of the plants until there is a depression all around the stem of the cabbage.

I use the mud /lime slurry for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that cabbages appreciate a little extra lime since they grow best with soil ph between 6.5 and 7.5. The second and probably most important reason is that the higher ph will deter club root, a disease that not only damages your cabbages, but also will infect the soil and will continue to be a problem for years to come. We use this technique every year as well as rotating our crops so that disease and pests don't have a chance to build up in the soil.


Once the cabbages are in the ground, I water them deeply and then scatter an organic slug bait round the plants. I use Gardens Alive, Escar-Go! It is very effective and will not harm pets or beneficials. I spotted a cabbage looper moth while I was planting the cabbages so it is time to break out the butterfly net and once the cabbages have a chance to settle in I will spray them with BT (bacillus thuringiensis, known by label as Dipel, I can usually find it at Lowe's but if not just follow the link). It is an organic biological pesticide, that will take care of any caterpillars that may pop up on the cabbages and kale. Bt is really great! It won't harm pets or flying beneficials, (although it will kill butterfly caterpillars if you spray it on plants that they feed on like dill, and parsley, but I don't spray anything but the cabbages and blue kale, so my butterfly caterpillars are safe, but look out cabbage looper moth caterpillars!). About 50 days from now we will have lots of cabbages to make into tasty, healthy, naturally fermented sauerkraut... Yum!

Skittles our little rescue kitty is "helping" me with my garden chores.

Tomorrow I will be transplanting seedlings, starting more seeds and planting some herbs that I bought today. It has been lovely weather so I am looking forward to being outside! Have a great day!

**Oh and just an note... any words that are this blue color in a post are links to either more information, where to buy something or another post that I have written on the subject. So be sure to go back and follow the links when you are finished reading the post!


14 November 2015

Oi-Sobagi- Korean Fermented Cucumber Kimchee

My last post was about eating fermented foods for health and to help reverse the affects of the Standard American Diet, (also known as S.A.D), so I thought I would share my tutorial  on making one of my favorite fermented foods, Oi-Sobagi.

I ran across a video on youtube.com last year, made by Maangchi, who specializes in Korean foods. Her video is very thorough and made it easy for me to give fermented cucumber kimchee a try, but her recipe isn't vegan, and she recommends eating it fresh, with just a side thought about fermenting it. So I have developed my vegan naturally fermented version of Oi Sobagi that I eat practically every day.

The initial process is a little time consuming, but the end result is well worth the effort!

7x11 inch Pyrex baking dish with tight fitting plastic lid or equivilent sized plastic food storage container with tight fitting lid.

2 lbs. cucumbers, (persian cukes or pickling cukes, but not the 8" smooth waxy skinned type, they will turn to sludge) 
Enough salt to rub on cukes, 1/4 cup or maybe more
1 cup buchu, (garlic chives I get from the oriental market), or bunch of green onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled 
1 large white onion, peeled, cut in half through the equator,1/2 slivered other put in reserve to be blended.
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup Korean hot pepper flakes, *note..regular red pepper flakes will not work with this!
1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup or agave
1 tbsp. tapioca flour, (unbleached white flour will do in a pinch, but is more starchy that tapioca flour which can be found at any Asian market Bob's Red Mill also carries it)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp hot sesame oil, (found on the International food aisle in most grocery stores)
1 heaping tbsp. dried wakame and 1 heaping tsp. dried Hijiki, soaked for 15 minutes then drained, (found in Asian market or at links below)
1/2 daikon Radish, matchsticked
1 capsule probiotic (optional, this recipe will ferment on its own, but it ferments slower and in warm weather there is more risk of it molding so I add probiotic for a quick ferment).
2" piece of ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp. salt

Split cucumbers lengthwise, stopping 1/2" from the stem end of the cucumber.  Do half-turn and split again. the cuke should fall open slightly when stood on its end.

 Sprinkle salt over each of the spears, making sure to get it into the center. Note this technique makes for a very attractive presentation, but if you just want to slice them in forths lengthwise it will be less time consuming, you just have to handle the cukes more carefully when turning and rinsing.

 Set aside.  Turn the cukes in the bowl moving the ones on the bottom to the top, every half hour for 2 hours.

  Meanwhile, with a mandoline, Spirooli or a sharp knife cut carrot and daikon into matchsticks.

 I use the Spirooli for the daikon,it makes quick work of the daikon and then you can cut the spirals into smaller 1-2 inch long pieces. 

 Cut the Buchu into 1 1/2-2 inch lengths, if using green onions split lengthwise and then cut into 1 1/2-2 inch long pieces.

Heat water, dissolve tapioca power until thin paste is made.  Place tapioca water, chili oil, half of wakami, (make sure wakame and Hijiki are soaked and drained before using!!), half of chili pepper flakes, ginger, 1/2 of white onion, and the garlic in the blender.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt, the agave or maple syrup, then add the capsule of probiotic and blend until a smooth paste. 


Wearing gloves to protect your hands from the chili oils, work chili paste, reserved chili flakes and the remaining wakame and the hijiki into the other vegetables,(carrots, daikon, onions slivers, green onions or buchu),then Mix thoroughly to cover all the vegetables with the chili paste mixture, set aside. 

After 2 hours, rinse cucumbers thoroughly using 3 rinses; drain and pat dry gently. 

When cucumbers are rinsed and drained, stuff each with the paste/vegetable mix; press firmly to close cucumber around stuffing somewhat, or if you chose to just cut the cukes in lengthwise quarters, make a layer of the cukes in dish and cover with  the vegetable/chili mixture.

 Place snugly together in container that seals tightly. Cover the surface of the cucumbers with plastic wrap to seal out air and press lightly to remove any air bubbles trapped between the cucumbers. put lid on container, making sure it is completely closed. Leave sitting out on counter to ferment for 2-4 days ( depending on how sour you like it. I let mine go 3-4 days, tasting every day starting at day 2 to see when it is the right degree of sour...it depends a lot on the temperature and each environment is different), removing lid twice a day to press gently on plastic wrap lining to remove air bubbles. Do not remove plastic wrap.When pressed, liquid should start to rise around the edges of the container. At the end of two days the Oi-Sobagi should smell appealingly sour, they are ready to eat at this point, but you may leave it up to 4 days to achieve your desired degree of tart.. Place container in fridge. 

Oi-Sobagi is delicious served with a small bowl of jasmine rice, or chopped and added to a dinner salad of mixed greens and other vegetables. I find that with the Oi-Sobagi on the salad no dressing is required, so it makes for a very lo-cal salad. It lasts for weeks on end in the fridge after being fermented... unless you are at my house... then it's days are numbered, since I just can't get enough of it!

Please don't be intimidated by the ingredient list, the ingredients are easily obtained from an Asian market or online, (I have made a list of links for then ingredients below). 


The Road to Health is Paved with Dietary Changes, Part One- Fermented Foods

In a recent post on www.aprepperspantryjournal.blogspot.com I mentioned the importance of incorporating naturally fermented foods into the diet. I thought that the subject was important enough to discuss here at length, so here I go...

The Standard American Diet, also known as  S.A.D., is fraught with dietary hazards. Americans love their meat and potatoes, white bread, simple carb snacks and soda. In moderation, some of those choices aren't a bad thing, but moderation is the key word... Unfortunately, much of the American diet is made up of these foods. Drive-thru hamburger or chicken sandwich dinners with fries and a soft drink are standard fare, (as evidenced by the number of florishing fast food restaurants), and a frightening amount of chicken fingers, hamburger, pizza and hot dogs are fed to American children. Even meals consumed at home are often made up primarily of processed foods, high in salt, simple carbs, sugar and fats but short on nutrients, enzymes and roughage.

  Eating the S.A.D is a recipe for health suicide. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, a suppressed immune systems, digestive issues, kidney and gall bladder problems, metabolism issues and obesity, are common ailments that are directly related to the poor American diet. We are one of the best fed nations in the world and we are literally slowly starving to death. Processed foods like white bread, sugar, soda and fried foods, are comprised of mostly simple carbs or fat, with little nutritional value, little or no roughage and far more calories than are reasonable to consume for the nutrition they provide. But worse than that is what actually happens in the gut (digestive system), when food that contain white flour,(which is mostly simple carbs and water insoluble gluten), highly processed foods and fats are consumed on a regular basis. The villi in the intestine become coated with the cloying, paste-like combination of water insoluable gluten and fat, impeding the absorption of vital nutrients. Over time this coating builds up on the walls of the intestines, acting as a tooth for other intestinal debris to cling to, so less and less nutrition can be absorbed, putrification ensues and toxins build up in the intestines causing inflammation. The lack of nutrient absorption causes the body to go into "starvation mode". In starvation mode the brain tells the body it is hungry, so the person eats, but due to the goop in the gut, little nutrition makes it to the blood stream, and the signal that the body needs food continues to be sent out. The person eats more but the body is still starving... This toxic, inflamed, starved environment is the root cause of gastrointestinal disease, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and a host of auto immune disorders that are running rampant among the U.S population, and not only in adults, but in children as well.

So what does any of this have to do with fermented foods? Well, the conversation is actually much larger than just the need for consuming naturally fermented foods. The conversation really needs to be about tossing the S.A.D and replacing it with a diet rich in fresh, living foods,complex carbohydrates and and clean proteins, as well as detoxing and cleansing the body, but fermented foods is a good place to start. The root of all illness is inflammation and the gastrointestinal tract, or the gut, is critical to overall health.  In order to reverse the life threatening effects of the S.A.D., beneficial bacteria must be introduced to the digestive tract. Naturally fermented foods are full of life. They are teeming with vital beneficial flora to help with digestion and gut health.  These bacteria promote health by stimulating the immune system, improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and inhibiting the growth of pathogens in the digestive tract, thus reducing disease causing inflammation. They create a hospitable environment for  the healing and restoration of the body's natural balance to begin.

Vegetable medley,  spiced beets, green cabbage sauerkraut
 with carrot, apple and caraway, sweet and hot daikon radishes,
and beet and red cabbage sauerkraut with allspice.
 These will provide our family with tasty, living foods, teeming
 with  vital probiotic bacteria.

While naturally fermented, unpasturized foods will by themselves not undo the all damage done by the S.A.D., it is a good place to start. There are many forms of fermented foods, raw
fermented sauerkraut, raw fermented vegetables, unpasteurized miso, and home made yogurt to name a few. Most store purchased versions of fermented foods are likely to be pasteurized which destroys the living bacteria thus defeating the purpose. If you want to make use of probiotic bacteria to improve your gastrointestinal health, you will probably need to make your own probiotic foods.

Why do I need to make my own fermented foods? Can't I just take a probiotic tablet and be done with it? Well...some is better than none. Probiotic capsules can help, but they are not able to stand up to the strength and strains of the real deal. While the numbers of bacteria in a probiotic capsule may sound dizzying, 50 billion+ living bacteria, it pales in comparison to the 10 Trillion bacteria in a serving of fermented sauerkraut. 1*Two oz.s of home fermented sauerkraut has more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules. Translated this means 16 ounce of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics."  It is not only the number of bacteria that counts though, it is also the kinds of bacteria that is important. Naturally fermented foods have as many as 28 different strains of beneficial bacteria, (numbering in the trillions per serving), depending on the kind of vegetable and the environment it was fermented in.  A medium grade probiotic cap will contain 5 strains of bacteria, while the top of the 2*line brands may contain 10 strains. Commercially produced yogurts are cultured with two strains of lacto bacilli.

  As with most things discussed on the internet, there are all kinds of numbers being bandied around and all kinds of discussions and debates on the web about the best way to introduce beneficial bacteria into the diet. I am not really interested in the arguments that float around the internet. I have tried to present substantiated info in what I write where it is possible, but what I live by and try to promote is to K.I.S.S, keep it simply sustainable. Creating your own fresh, wholesome fermented foods is both simple and sustainable. As long as you have fresh veggies, salt and a clean container you can ferment your own foods. As a bonus, fermented foods not only help populate your gut with a variety of beneficial bacteria to aid in gastrointestinal health, they will nourish your body with the nutrients, enzymes and fiber that are available in the vegetables themselves. You can't get nourishment or fiber from a probiotic capsule.

There is also the budgetary impact to consider, raw fermented foods are prohibitively expensive to buy in the store, if you can find them at all. Foods fermented at home cost no more than buying the ingredients for a side dish to a meal. The prep time for fermented foods are short, and once they have been through the fermentation process, will last for weeks (or months), in the fridge. At our home I keep a number of jars of fermented foods in the works, since we consume them daily and nothing is left in the fridge for long!

 If you are troubled by I.B.S., acid reflux, gas, bloating, diarrhea, obesity, metabolism issues, or any of a long list of auto immune disorders, like M.S., Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Crohn's, Fibromyalgia, Type 1 Diabetes and more, creating a healthy environment where beneficial bacteria can colonize is a good first step in restoring the body's natural balance and healing. If you are blessed with good health and have no physical issues, now is a good time to get ahead of the curve and establish the habit of eating fermented foods before you do have a problem.

If you are interested in learning how to make your own fermented sauerkraut, here are a couple of links to tutorials I have written on this blog.  Making Raw Sauerkraut and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut (scroll down some on the post to find the recipe). And here is my newest recipe, Oi-Sobagi, also known as cucumber kimchee.

  I will be writing a post a week for several weeks on The Road to Health. Moving away from the Standard American Diet, and beginning the journey to a diet designed to promote health. Please feel free to ask questions and comments are always welcome! Hope to see you again soon!

Resources:
http://articles.mercola.com/
http://agriculturesociety.com/healthy-living/all-probiotics-are-not-created-equal/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2168044/
1*A quote from Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician and best selling author of books on health.
2*https://labdoor.com/rankings/probiotics

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