Category Archives: preserving

lacto-fermented condiments

Be Prepared To Make Condiments

Preparedness is a big topic these days and many people are looking at purchasing packages of food that are good for long term storage. The biggest challenge with pre-made prepared foods is all of the chemicals and additives that are in them. Of course, making a list of foods to have on hand for those times when you need it is important. But when you’re putting that list together consider skipping the condiments.

Making condiments

I’m not saying don’t have condiments on hand. However, I do believe it’s better to know how to make your own condiments. This way you’ll have them on hand fresh and tasty, plus you’ll avoid all the negative ingredients found in many condiments. And truthfully even those without too many harmful additives don’t last that long. By knowing how to make your own condiments and having a few simple, easy to store ingredients on hand you’ll always have delicious, nourishing condiments available.

You’ll need to remember that when fermented the condiments may have a slight bubble to them or may seem to separate slightly. They may also have a slightly tangy smell. Do not eat them if they are fuzzy, discolored, or smell really bad/moldy.  If you’ve done it right, this should not happen.

Needed ingredients

When making lacto-fermented condiments you start with a basic condiment recipe. Then you add some sort of liquid that helps with the fermentation process.  The two best options are whey, the liquid that’s left over from making yogurt, or the liquid you have when you make homemade sauerkraut.  You often have quite a bit of either of these left over after making the item. You can store it in a jar in the fridge until you need to use it to make recipes like these condiments below.

Lacto-fermented Ketchup
  1. 6-ounces organic tomato paste (one small can)
  2. ½ c. whey (strained from yogurt or made from starter)
  3. 1-2 tablespoons whey
  4. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (raw & unfiltered)
  5. 1 tablespoon honey
  6. 2 teaspoons molasses
  7. ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  8. ½  teaspoon onion powder
  9. ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  10. generous pinch each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
  1. Blend all ingredients (except 1-2 T. whey) together in a food processor until well combined
  2. Place in a jar and top with 1-2 tablespoons of whey to cover completely
  3. Cover jar and let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days
  4. After fermenting store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy


Quick and Easy BBQ Sauce
  1. 1 cup ketchup (see above)
  2. 2 tablespoons mustard (see below)
  3. ½ cup honey
  4. 1 ½ tablespoons molasses
  5. ½ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan and heat gently until just under a boil
  2. Remove from heat, cool and jar
  3. Store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Lacto-fermented Mustard
  1. ½ cup mustard seeds
  2. ½ cup sauerkraut brine (leftover/filtered from live kraut)
  3. 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (raw & unfiltered)
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1 tablespoon honey
  6. ½ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor
  2. Place in a jar, cover, and let sit at room temperature 1-2 days
  3. Store in the refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy


Lacto-fermented Mayonnaise
  1. 1 egg
  2. 1 cup olive oil, divided
  3. 11⁄2 teaspoons mustard powder
  4. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar and a few fresh tarragon leaves)
  6. 1 tablespoon whey
  1. Place the egg, 1⁄4 cup oil, mustard, and salt into a container
  2. Blend well. (A stick blender is the best tool for this.)
  3. When well blended, drizzle in another 1⁄4 cup olive oil and blend well again.
  4. Add the tarragon vinegar; blend well
  5. Slowly add the remaining olive oil and blend well
  6. Gentle blend in whey until completely incorporated
  7. Place in a jar, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours
  8. Store in refrigerator
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Olive Oil Dressing/Marinade
  1. 3 cups organic extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/4 Cup  apple cider vinegar  (raw & unfiltered)
  3. 3 tablespoons dry oregano
  4. 2 tablespoon dry basil
  5. 2 tablespoons dry parsley
  6. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  7. 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  1. Blend well in a blender
  2. Store in the refrigerator
  1. Add ½ cup mayonnaise to make a creamy dressing
  2. Add ¼ cup mustard and substitute 1 clove fresh garlic for the dried
  3. Add ½ cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon paprika and substitute red wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar to make a Catalina dressing
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Strawberry Jam Ingredients

Strawberries are fresh and in season right now.  And there’s nothing like a ripe, fragrant, delicious strawberry to make your tastebuds sing.  It also means that this is the perfect time of year to consider making your own strawberry jam.  To illustrate this point I’ve done a quick run down on several brands of strawberry jam available at my local grocery store.

A few notes before we start:

Strawberries are one of the Dirty Dozen.  This is a list put together by the Environmental Working Group which notes the top 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides.  In the case of strawberries it’s overwhelming.  Just last year the USDA examined pesticide levels in food and strawberries were found to contain a wide variety of fumigants which were linked to developmental problems in children, cancer, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, and even some which were toxic to honeybees.  All of this adds up to make it vitally important that we choose organic strawberries.

As with any jar, the lid most likely contains BPA.  Heat, pressure, and food contact are some of the ways that BPA can be transferred to the food.  It’s nearly impossible to avoid.

When looking at labels I deliberately did not choose those jars which contained artificial sweeteners.  I believe these to be so toxic to the body that no one should eat them.  Ever.  So it did not make sense to include them in this post.  I do want to point out, however, that there were just as many jars that contained artificial sweeteners as there were jars without.

Strawberry jam is easy to make at home and I’ve included a recipe at the end of the article.   Canning itself is a simple, albeit hot and humid, process.  When I teach canning classes I often teach how to make strawberry jam because it’s so easy.  After learning how to make it, invariably, the students say, “Is that it?  That’s so easy.”  Yes it is.  If you have a good source of clean strawberries near you, consider making your own jam.

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Homemade Strawberry Jam

This very simple recipe comes from The Ball Blue Book.  My copy is rather old, tattered, and stained.  But the recipes are still delicious.  This is a great book to start with if you’re just learning about making jams, jellies, pickles, and chutneys.  There’s a host of good recipes in this book.

It is important when using this recipe to measure the amount of strawberries first and then crush.  If you do it the other way you will make a delicious strawberry sauce but it won’t set.  If you have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries try to get some which still have the white tips on them.  I find that these help to make it set better.

It’s also important to use evaporated cane juice crystals and not sucanat.  I’m assuming that it’s because of the higher mineral content, but I have not had success using sucanat in canning and I refuse to use white sugar because it’s so bad for us.

2 quarts strawberries, crushed
6 cups sugar

Combine berries and sugar in a large sauce pot.
Bring slowly to a boil stirring until sugar dissolves.
Cook rapidly until thick, about 40 minutes.
As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Adjust caps.
Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Yield: about 4 pints.

Canning…not That Kind

Recently I was invited to a canning event where I could learn about dry pack canning.  It was loud, fascinating, fun, and definitely a bit of work.

We assembled in the early evening at the warehouse.  We were instructed on the different stations on the assembly line and how to operate the machine (for those who were doing that).  We then all trooped over to the sinks to wash our hands and put on nets (two for the guys with beards), gloves and aprons.  Next we lined up in our spots along two different assembly lines.

The responsibilities were:

  1. opening the large containers that the dry goods were in
  2. filling the #10 cans almost to the top
  3. adding an oxygen absorber for long term storage
  4. running the machine to seal the lid
  5. labeling the cans
  6. checking the inventory
  7. boxing the cans. 

My spot was at the end of the line and my responsibilities went something like this:

  • write the date on the label
  • put the label on a can
  • check inventory to see how many of that particular can goes in a box
  • put the cans in the box
  • label the box
  • do it again

While the canner was running it was very loud in the warehouse and all conversation either stopped or was limited to the person standing next to you.  Otherwise it was not too noisy.  Although there was an occasional lull in the process as one part or another of the line got backed up, we spent a fairly solid couple of hours processing dry food.  While it was obvious that many of the others had done this before, they were very supportive of those of us who were new to the process.  Overall we still managed to be quite an efficient team and the lines moved along fairly smoothly.

The items that we canned were:  rolled oats, rice, macaroni, dried apples, black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, non-instant milk powder, dried carrots, and dried onions.  I was fascinated to learn that the shelf life for these dry good in this type of can is quite long.  Some of these foods, because they are so dry, and with the use of an oxygen absorber, can last for up to 30 years in the can.

Many people use these dry goods as part of their pantry system, rotating the cans through as needed.  Instead of purchasing their dry goods in bags or boxes, they purchase them in cans which are vermin proof and watertight.  Other people purchase these items as a part of an emergency food storage system.

It was work, but it was also fun.  I had the opportunity to chat with a number of the people there and really enjoyed our conversations.  I also learned something new that I hadn’t known before.  Maybe next time I can run the canner.


Raspberry Vinegar

Raspberries are coming in to season.  Their fragrant luscious aroma greets me every time I walk into the produce section of my local grocery store.  And their plump juicy red fruit temps me.  I love raspberries and truly miss the raspberry bed I had in Connecticut.  It was stocked with four different varieties each bearing at a different time pretty much ensuring a summer full of fresh flavorful berries.

Sadly the drought here in Texas has done a number to my fruit bushes.  The trees seem to be holding their own but the elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and goji berries are all shriveled and I’m not sure they’re going to make it.

Raspberries are such a wonderful fruit because not only are they tasty, they’re so versatile.  They go great in fruit salads, eaten fresh, baked into scones or crumbles, on top of oatmeal, in a smoothie, the list goes on.  Plus a little as one half a cup provides 4 g. of fiber, over 25% of your daily value for vitamin C and just over 20% of your daily value for manganese. One of my favorite, extravagant ways to use raspberries is to make a raspberry vinegar.  This way I can enjoy that fragrant summer flavor all year long.

This is my favorite recipe using raspberries from Fancy Pantry which is one of my best-loved preserving cookbooks.

Red Raspberry Vinegar
  1. 8 C. raspberries, cleaned, rinsed and drained
  2. 3 C. white wine vinegar
  1. The recipe calls for the raspberries to be used in two portions.  You can freeze 4 C. for later.
  2. Crush 4 C. raspberries and place them in a sterilized, heatproof 2 quart jar
  3. Add vinegar and and cover the jar
  4. set the jar in a deep saucepan and fill with water to come halfway up the jar
  5. set over medium heat and bring the water to a boil
  6. Reduce the heat and keep the water simmering for 20 minutes
  7. Remove the jar and set aside, uncovered to cool the contents
  8. When cool, add a lid to the jar and set it aside
  9. Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks
  10. Strain the jar to remove old raspberries, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
  11. Crush 4 C. raspberries and pour infused vinegar over them
  12. Repeat the scalding as done above
  13. Let the vinegar rest for two weeks, shaking every day
  14. Strain the vinegar discarding the fruit, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
  15. Line a funnel with an unbleached coffee filter and place in a sterilized bottle
  16. Filter the vinegar into the bottle
  17. Cap or cork the bottle and store in a cool dark pantry
  1. The vinegar may develop sediment as it stands, this is okay but the vinegar can be re-filtered if you wish
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Gotta Get Grapes

Concord Grapes | photo: grongar

Warning….rant ahead.  I’m so aggravated I cannot even tell you.  This morning I went to the grocery store for a few items.  One of them was grape jelly, requested by my daughter.  It’s her favorite flavor.  Since we’ve moved away from Connecticut we no longer have the same access to wild grapes so I’m no longer making grape jelly.  The grapes that I’ve managed to find here in Texas have, for the last two years, been very thick skinned and dry due to the lack of rain so no grapes there either.  I did plant grapes in my garden but they’re table grapes not jelly grapes so I’m not sure they’d work well.

My frustration?  NOT ONE SINGLE jar of grape jelly at the grocery store came without HFCS.  Several even had HFCS as the number one ingredient.  Seriously?  That number one ingredient means that the majority of the jelly isn’t even grapes, it’s HFCS.  That is insane.  First of all grape jelly is incredible easy to make.  Grapes are very high in pectin.  Throw them together with a little water, the right amount of sugar, heat to the correct temperature and voila! Grape jelly.  Even more upsetting to me is the fact that many of the grape jellies at the grocery store come with artificial flavorings.  I’m not exactly sure why as to my mind grapes have a pretty distinctive taste all their own.

Needless to say I did not buy any grape jelly (luckily she also likes orange marmalade so that’s what she got) and I’m going to have to work a little harder to find a good source of either muscadines or concord grapes to start making my own jelly again.

For those who have access to good grapes for jelly making here’s a great recipe from the book Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother’s Kitchen.  In the interest of full disclosure I’ll tell you that this book was written by my mom.  I’m not recommending it because she wrote it (honestly).  It really is one of my favorite canning/preserving books and my first go-to when I’m looking to make something.    To get all of the great commentary, hints and tips you’ll have to get the book, but here’s the recipe:

Grape Jelly

10 C. or more Concord grapes (approximately 8 lbs.)
1 apple (optional)
2 C. water

  1. Wash the Concord grapes.
  2. Cut the apple into quarters — peel, core, and all — then chop coarsely.  Set aside.
  3. Put a couple of cups of grapes int a large stainless-steel pot, then crush them with a potato masher of the bottom of a clean glass jar.  this provides a small amount of juice and prevents scorching.
  4. Add the water.
  5. Add the cut-up apple.
  6. Heat the fruit mixture slowly to the boiling point, reduce the heat, and simmer until the seeds come free from the pulp.
  7. Line a large colander with several layers of damp cotton cheesecloth.  Set the colander over a large pot or bowl and carefully pour the grapes and liquid into it.  Allow the free-run juice to drip through the cheesecloth.  You may also use a chinois or jelly bag.  Do not press down on the fruit.
  8. Measure the free-run juice.  Process into jelly 4 cups of juice at a time – a smaller batch means the jell point is reached more quickly, resulting in better flavor.
  9. Taste a little bit of the juice.  For every 1 cup of reasonably sweet grape juice, measure out 2/3 cup of sugar.  If you used a greater percentage of under-ripe grapes and the juice is on the tart side, you can use 3 or 3 1/2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice.
  10. Bring juice to a boil then add the sugar.  Boil to the jell point.
  11. Fill and process prepared jars.

Food And Money

The USDA is predicting an increase in all foods for 2011; depending on the item it is expected to range from 2% for things like sugars and cereals to as high as 5.5% for dairy products.  If you are interested you can see the chart here.  Part of the increase is due to the higher costs for corn and soybeans.  Remember, it’s a cycle, what we eat needs to eat.  I actually anticipate that the costs for meat will be much higher than currently predicted due to more people deciding to purchase meat and dairy that is organic to avoid the GMO contamination of corn and soy.  These are two of the most heavily GMO crops but our government doesn’t identify that so the only way to avoid it is to purchase organic.

There are a number of ways that you can save money on your food bill in the upcoming year:

Plant a vegetable garden.  Using your space for edible gardening can be attractive and save you food dollar costs.  During both World Wars Victory Gardens were planted in every yard and public park all across the United States.  It’s a concept that I think many people are rediscovering.

 Even if you buy a tomato plant at the garden center and plant it in a pot you will still get far more produce than if you purchase your tomatoes at the grocery store.  And believe me, they’ll taste better.  We’ve just re-arranged our side yard and brought in a load of organic dirt, working on creating a better vegetable garden.  We’ve also put in herbs and a few fruits in the yard.  

Here are a couple of books that I think are great for backyard vegetable gardening

Mel Bartholomew is the authority on getting the most out of the smallest space. If you have any gardening space available, even just one square foot, you’d be amazed at what you can grow.

Rosalind Creasy shows you how to incorporate beauty and function in your garden by making your landscape edible.

If you live in an apartment or don’t have access to a plot of ground you can consider container gardening.  Even one  reasonable size container can grow a lot of tomatoes and basil or peas and mint or…read the book.

And there seems to be an increase in folks growing food on rooftops and terraces.

If you shop at warehouse stores frequently the prices are good but the quantities are huge.  Don’t buy more than you need, after all 50 pounds of potatoes is a lot, especially in a family like ours with just three people in the house.  Just because the price per pound is low, if you wind up throwing out rotten potatoes (or anything else) you’ve just lost money.  If you really want the item consider saving money by asking family, friends and/or neighbors if they want to share these items with you.  This way you’ll both save money and there will be less waste.

And speaking of waste…

According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, Americans, on average, throw away half of their food.  Half!  That’s a mind-boggling concept.  Knowing, really knowing exactly what is in your pantry is a great start, learning how to be mindful of it is the next step.  Jonathan has a lot of great information on his blog to help you avoid food waste.  Don’t want to read the book (although I highly recommend it)?  There’s an app for that — yup, a company called UniByte has created an app to help you better manage your food purchases so you will waste less.

If you do wind up with food waste, and some of it is inevitable such as potato peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and the like, consider composting.  This is also environmentally friendly in that the food scraps become usable dirt instead of going to the landfill where they cannot be used to grow more food.  

A little off the beaten path but for those who have access, inclination, and a sharp eye there is always the idea of foraging.  According to my friend Merriweather it is important to remember a couple of key points:

1.  Know what you are foraging.  Many edibles have an inedible counterpart that looks almost the same.  He points out that these inedibles wind up in either the “kill your kid dead” or “keep you on the toilet sick” category so it’s important to be very sure of your identifications.

2.  Forage responsibly using appropriate tools to cut and dig rather than ripping and shredding.  This allows the plants to continue to grow and is the best way to forage.

3.  Make sure you have permission. Here in Texas, and probably elsewhere, plant rustling is against the law.  Getting a huge fine for public trespassing or theft is not going to help your grocery bill any.

While Merriweather sadly does not yet have a published book there are some great foraging books out there:




And last, but certainly not least, another way to save money at the grocery store is to learn to make your own.  One of my favorites is making my own granola which definitely saves money over the store-bought versions.  You can make your own pudding, soups, muffins, snacks, spice mixes, beverages, pickles, jams and much much more.  Currently I am fermenting kimchi on my kitchen counter, starting another batch of kefir and have just finished making another batch of bean sprouts.  These require very little hands on time and save quite a few dollars while providing healthful foods for my family.  Making your own has a number of benefits:

1.  It will save you money
2.  You will avoid extra packaging and commercial waste
3.  You will avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals (which you don’t need in your diet anyway)
4.  Often when you make your own you make smaller batches so you are less likely to waste it

So here’s to a new year, a new grocery budget, and new possibilities for your health.

Green Tomato Chutney

Green Tomatoes | Medved’ | Wikimedia Commons

QuantumVegan just harvested about fifty pounds of tomatoes.  That’s a LOT of tomatoes.

When we lived in Vermont that kind of a harvest was sure to mean we were getting green tomatoes.  The growing season is so short there tomatoes don’t always have time to ripen.  So you come up with lots of good ways to use green tomatoes.  There’s green tomato pie, green tomato salsa, the ubiquitous fried green tomatoes and more.

Luckily green tomatoes have lots of nutrition, as I posted before, including lycopene.  If you’re getting close to the end of your growing season and you’re looking at a large crop of green tomatoes, here’s my favorite way to use them up; green tomato chutney.  It goes very well with cheese and crackers, it is excellent with cold roast meats, delicious as a side to a spicy vegetarian lentil dish, it’s very versatile condiment to have in your pantry.

This recipe is based on one from Fancy Pantry which appears to be out of print.   find it to be a good book with lots of wonderful recipes and well worth having.  But in the meantime here’s my version:

Green Tomato Chutney

4 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
4 pounds green apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 C. yellow onions, minced
2 C. raisins
3 cloves garlic minced
3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 1/2  C. raw apple cider vinegar
3 T. minced fresh ginger
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot mix together tomatoes, apples, onions, raisins, garlic, cane juice crystals, salt, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Continue to boil for approximately 30 minutes continuing to stir frequently.  The fruits will begin to soften and meld together.
Add the spices.
Boil for another 10-15 minutes until you reach the consistency you want.
Ladle into hot sterile jars and seal according to directions.
Bath for 10 minutes remove and let cool.

This recipe needs to settle to allow all of the flavors to come together.  Let it sit in a cool dark space for at least a month before opening.

Makes about 6 pints.

Making Homemade Jam

Josh wrote in and wondered, “We just made some strawberry jam. Best jelly I’ve ever had. Do you know if you have to use such a huge amount of sugar? The basic recipe we used was adamant not to adjust or the jam would not set properly.”

Strawberries are very low in pectin so you do need to add a fair amount of sugar to get them to set. If you use less sugar they will not set. You can try using some strawberries that are not fully ripe and still have the white tips but I have had hit-or-miss success with this method.

One way to vary the amount of sugar, especially if you are not using pectin, is to mix the strawberries with a higher pectin fruit such as apples, blackberries, crab apples, cranberries, gooseberries, grapes, or citrus peel.  This works for any low pectin fruit such as apricots, blueberries, peaches, pears, rhubarb, and raspberries.

If you are willing to use pectin you can use a commercial variety, and there are some low sugar ones out there, but another option is to make your own homemade pectin using apples or lemons. There are excellent directions in the book “Preserving Memories” by Judy Glattstein (who I confess is my mother and an excellent canner).

There are recipes that talk about using honey or other sweeteners but I find that most of them call for gelatin which I prefer not to use.

Green Tomatoes

I was recently visiting family in the Northeast where they have been hit badly by the tomato blight. All over the area farmers and home growers are ripping out plants and throwing them away because of the blight. Although cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes seem to hold up better they are certainly not immune.

When I went with my sister-in-law to her beautiful community garden plot everything appeared to be growing well. The garden was lush, greenly fragrant and productive, even the tomatoes looked good at first glance. But the blight had obviously damaged the plants and the fruit. As she began to pull out the plants I realized that many of the fruits were still unscathed. Remembering the years we lived in Vermont (which Shep Ogden, owner of Cook’s Garden, jokingly says should be referred to as the Green Tomato State) I knew that there was a lot we could do with the fruit. My sister-in-law agreed to give it a whirl and we began to hunt for all of the un-blighted fruit we could find.

After the patch was cleared and we headed back to the house with bags full of green tomatoes we began to search for recipes. There are so many things you can make with green tomatoes; more than just the familiar fried green tomatoes. We usually don’t use them because we are so conditioned to eating them when they are fully ripe. According to the USDA the nutritional profile of green and red tomatoes is almost the same. Green tomatoes have twice the vitamin C, more vitamin K, and more calcium. Red tomatoes have more vitamin A, E, and potassium. Apparently they have the same amount of lycopene and it is believed that the chlorophyll in the green tomatoes hides the red pigment which indicates a lycopene-rich food.

Our cooking and canning foray took two days (in part because we also canned zucchini, but that’s another story) and we made green tomato cake, green tomato pickles, green tomato salsa, and some really fabulous green tomato relish. Now when their family sits down in the middle of those cold New England winters they’ll still be able to have a jar of summer goodness on the table to enjoy.

Green tomatoes are versatile and can be made into pie (it’s delicious, trust me), pasta sauce, and all manner of preserved goods. While I’m not sure if the farmers in those states affected by the blight will be able to harvest and sell their green tomatoes I sure hope they do. And I hope that people realize just how tasty green tomatoes are. Who knows, it might start a new demand for green tomatoes.

photo courtesy of