Friday, July 24, 2015

Probiotics for Everyone On The Cheap.

So there I was stooging around Menard's the other day looking for something or other.

They've got a small bookshelf toward the back of the store, mostly on topics like how to rewire your cottage and lay tile , but there are a few devoted to humble pursuits such as canning and preserving foods.

My attention was drawn to one entitled "Preserving Everything" by Leda Meredith, and I'm giving you the ISBN because it's worth your while hunting it up. It is ISBN978-1-58157242-1.

The idea of doing things like this dovetails nicely with the subject of probiotics which we know are good things for the health of your innards, and the enduring subject of eating well on a modest budget which I've blogged about before.

There is a general consensus that probiotics are a good thing for keeping your GI tract shipshape, and many and varied are the commercials on teevee touting the benefits of this or that commercial product, all at a price that ranges from modest to inflated. I'm here to tell you that you can have the best of both worlds, lots of probiotics and good taste on a budget by the process of lactic acid fermentation.

The general process goes like this. A vegetable is washed, prepared and placed in a Mason jar along with a certain amount of kosher salt or sea salt in the form of brine or granules. Then, it is left alone as the salt kills off the "bad" bacteria and molds, and salt tolerant bacteria of the species lactobacillus establish themselves. In doing so, they release lactic acid which gives such pickled foods their piquant flavor.

The recipe for pepper sauce is as simple as it gets. A pint or so of chile peppers is chopped in a food processor and placed in a clean mason jar. The quart sizes like this are $11 a dozen at the hardware store, one of the last true bargains to be had, made right here at home in the United States.. Although sterilization is not particularly deemed necessary, I put them in a 200 degree oven for ten or fifteen minutes while I'm doing other things. It can't hurt.

So, a pint or so of red peppers-serranos or ripe jalapenos will do nicely, a source of non chlorinated water is mandatory, kosher or sea salt and you're ready. So mix up a teaspoon or so of kosher salt in a pint of water and make brine. Chop your chilies in a food processor, place them in the jar, and cover them to the top with your brine. Put a cap on it and stand back and admire your handiwork. Make sure, of course, that the brine covers the chiles or whatever else you've put in your Mason jar.

Keep an eye on it. If you get mold, dump it and start over. Safety first.

Of course there were no red peppers to be had, only red bell peppers and lots and lots of jalapenos. So I grabbed a bag full and a couple of reds and retired to the kitchen. I shreded one bell pepper for color and the rest of the jalapenos, packed then in a jar pushing down pretty hard topped it off with some garlic powder (all I had on hand), installed a water trap, and let them sit on the counter for three days.
The water trap is a one way valve that relieves pressure while not introducing oxygen into the jar like frequent openings will. It's also a good way of seeing how fermentation is progressing.

After about three or four days, you can take the product, run it through a blender and put it back in the jar and into the fridge. It matures slowly but I can tell you that it is a delicious addition to your table. I put some on a salad last night and I am thinking of smoking a brisket for my birthday and this will be part of it.

Total cost of materials was about two dollars (I had the water trap and the jars on hand), and I've got nearly a quart of a tasty chile relish or sauce or sambal. And plenty of probiotics.

It will separate a little but shaking it fixes that, and it's just evidence that it was home made without all the gums, modifiers, stabilizers, starches and colorants that you find in the commercial preparations in the grocery store.

My next project may be some green chile sauce.