Such a beautiful term, isn’t it? Mother of vinegar, that strange mat you find in raw vinegar.
Heat processing prevents formation of a vinegar mother, so be pleased if you find one in yours.
The presence of the Mother confirms that your vinegar is active and alive with beneficial properties.
Mother of vinegar is created by the conversion of alcohol to acetic acid.
It is basically a mat of cellulose, composed primarily of (friendly, beneficial) bacteria.
I was prompted to show you my (teeny, tiny) mother out of pride!
This is my first time making apple cider vinegar, and I am so very happy it’s working.
My mother is small, but I am sure she’ll keep going.
I stir my vinegar every few days, the process benefits from the addition of oxygen, but I am gentle, and do try not to break up the mother too much.
Technically, it doesn’t matter, it will reform.
I think I just like looking at it…
’till next time
Let me just start this by saying, if anyone ever offers you quinces, take them. Say “yes, please.” Grab them, and think later.
These precious autumnal fruits, related to the pear, and the apple, are not all that readily available commercially, and most seem to come from old established trees, dotted around the suburbs and countryside.
The quince has a long gastronomic history. Quite probably originating in Asia Minor, it grew long, long before apples graced the planet.
The quince, and it’s desirability is documented in the cultural history of both the Greeks and Romans.
Okay, so someone gave you a bag of quinces, and you’re a little hesitant about preparing them? Don’t be, they are easy to cook, beautiful to taste, versatile, and freeze well.
When preparing your quince, there’s a couple of things, you want to keep foremost in your mind.
You will have to add sugar, maybe even a lot of sugar. The beautiful quince is astringent, and lip puckeringly tart. If you are trying to avoid added sugar, for whatever reason, then bad news I’m afraid. The quince, like rhubarb, needs sugar to make it palatable.
Think pear, or apple, if you’re wondering what to do with your cooked fruit. Any dish, sweet or savoury that uses apple or pear, well, quince will nestle in there beautifully.
On the flip side, when you think about cooking quinces, think turnip. Old turnip…The quince has quite a hard, woody/spongy texture that requires long, slow cooking to bring out it’s best features.
Think, and cook patiently, and slowly, and you will be rewarded with a special prize, slices of tender fruits, pink, and sweetly fragrant.
First peel and core your fruit. This is best achieved on a board, with a cloth underneath to keep it from slipping around.
Have ready a bowl of cold water, to which you have added the juice of a lemon. The fruit must go into this acidulated water as soon as it is peeled. The quince, like the apple, will go brown if exposed to air.
Gather, and sharpen your favourite knife. As mentioned, this is a tough fruit, and a blunt, or flimsy knife just makes for frustrating, potentially dangerous preparation.
They can be peeled using a vegetable peeler. See what suits you best. Paring knife or swivel peeler.
Cut into segments, peel and core. Pop them into the lemon water.
OK, two basic methods of cooking your quince are possible here. The first one involves simply stewing your fruit in a sugar syrup, much as you would for stewed apple. A lid is recommended.
The second option utilises the slow, gentle heat of the oven. Again, a sugar syrup is used and the fruit is covered with foil, or a lid.
In a pan, make a sugar syrup. To around 1 cup of water, add 1/2-1 cup of sugar (sweetness is subjective. You can start with less, and taste as you go)
Add your drained quince pieces.
The fruit is brought to the boil, and then the heat is reduced to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally if you are using the stove top. The generous amount of sugar used can cause the fruit to stick. Just be gentle so as not to crush or break up the fruit too much.
In my experience, cooking usually takes around 1 and 1/2 hours. The longer you cook the quince, the more she develops the beautiful, characteristic pinkness, that can range the spectrum from rosy blush to claret.
If you like, you can happily gild this fragrant lily. Spices and fruits that complement the quince include:
lemon or orange peel
Australian bush spices like aniseed myrtle, or strawberry gum
Honey, to replace some, or all of the sugar is also delectable.
Please! Don’t throw away your luscious syrup, when your quinces are cooked. It makes a beautiful addition to mocktails, cocktails, and champagne.
Use your cooked fruit, as you would stewed apple or pear: crumbles, pies, with Greek yoghurt, or on porridge or cereal.
Stewed quince freezes well, and can be stored, in a covered container, in the fridge, for about a week.
If you feel like being more adventurous, find yourself a recipe for quince paste, or quince jelly/jam – very special indeed.
One last thing dear reader. Say, you took those fruits that were offered to you, got them home, and it all seems like just too much hard work…
Get out your prettiest, most favourite bowl and tip the quinces into it.
They look so beautiful, and their musky-sweet, indefinable fragrance will fill your home, and soothe your senses.
I did speak about the anecdotal, and the substantiated benefits of apple cider vinegar in my first post (see the link below) but, what is it that keeps me drinking it?
I’ve never been tempted to drink vinegar before this year. Who drinks vinegar? It’s sour…
Me. That’s who. I drink raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar everyday. I am not going to pretend that I particularly like the flavour, but it is tolerable mixed with raw honey, warm water and lemon juice. I’ve settled on once a day, just before my evening meal, and I just chug-a-lug it down in one go.
Dear reader, I can’t pretend to you that I know for certain, but my intuition tells me that it has offered me very definite health benefits.
I’m not a health zealot by any stretch of the imagination :) But, when something works, well, you go with it.
Stage 2 of making my own apple cider vinegar was easy. I’ll outline the steps:
Wash and sterilise a smaller jar than your original. As you can see from the photo, there is a degree of natural evaporation, and the apples themselves account for a considerable amount of volume in the starter jar.
Using a sterilised dish cloth, piece of muslin, or a paper coffee filter, strain your starter mix into the smaller sterilised jar.
I squeezed all the liquid out of the apples before discarding them. Doing this does add more sediment, and will contribute to a cloudier mix, but, that’s ok.
Cover with another material that will allow oxygen into the liquid. Oxygen, at this stage is necessary for the complete conversion of alcohol into vinegar. I used a layer of paper towel, and some string.
Label and date.
Place in a dark, temperature stable spot for another 3-4 weeks, stirring every couple of days. The stirring introduces further oxygen.
Not really a recipe, just an opportunity to say “hi!”, I hope you’re all well and happy.
My daughter came over today. She needed her mummy… Yes, she’s caught a cold, and was after food, cable TV, and TLC – in that order :)
Mama fed her :chicken salad and kimchi, and “medicated” her :hot lemon and honey.
She helped herself to my bed, and the television.
As long back as I can remember, hot lemon has been a family standard for anyone with a cold.
I will share that my own mother has an aversion to overly sweet things, so I guess her personal preference dictated that, growing up, our lemon drink was lip puckeringly tart.
Mummy also had an unwavering belief in the magical powers of Milk of Magnesia. A tbsp of that chalky concoction was supposed to cure you of anything amiss in your tummy and downstairs cupboards…
Well, according to Mum, anyway. She dolloped it out, left, right, and centre, and each of her bewildered children soon learned to think long and hard before squeaking, “I’ve got a tummy ache.”
I’ve digressed dear reader. My point is, It says something doesn’t it, when a home remedy stands the test of time?
Hopefully, Milk of Magnesia has been banned, but long may hot lemon and honey live on!
Here are my takes on why this tried and trusted go to remains a firm favourite for many.
It’s soothing. For starters, someone making you something special when you’re ill, is good for the spirit. The warmness calms and soothes too.
Tart, refreshing lemon cuts through the fug of the ill mouth, when sometimes nothing is tempting.
Lemons deliver vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals.
The water itself rehydrates the frail body, gently but thoroughly.
Honey is soothing and can calm a sore throat.
The sweet taste tempts and satisfies a jaded palate.
Raw honey also offers nutrition and sugars for energy.
It felt so good to be able to offer my child love and care while she was feeling unwell.
Bless her for giving me that opportunity.
’till next time
It seems an easy process, making your own apple cider vinegar.
You ferment apples in water, and, as I chose to do, some added sugar (honey).
You cover your container with a permeable cover, and wait until it ferments and turns into alcoholic apple cider. This is supposed to take around 2-3 weeks.
The apples are strained out of the mix, and then the liquid is put aside once again, and we wait for the alcohol to convert into acetic acid, which then gives us what we recognise as vinegar. I believe that the percentage of acetic acid in homemade vinegars is variable, but usually comes in at 3-6%.
Because the levels of this acid may be lower than is needed to safely preserve foods, homemade vinegar is not recommended when making pickles and chutneys.
So, while our homemade apple cider vinegar is not suitable for preserving, it is most definitely a powerhouse of beneficial properties.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dietary focus tends to be on my diagnosed insulin resistance.
Stabilizing blood sugar levels in an effort to optimise and regulate insulin function is my personal quest.
Science has also concluded that an accumulation of belly fat can often occur when there is metabolic disturbance created by blood sugar instability. Managing and stabilizing blood sugar levels has become the goal of many people with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and pre-diabetic tendencies.
This is what this resource has to say about the role of apple cider vinegar in the management of blood sugar.
“Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugars, either in the context of insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin.
However, elevated blood sugar can also be a problem in people who don’t have diabetes… it is believed to be a major cause of ageing and various chronic diseases.
So, pretty much everyone should benefit from keeping their blood sugar levels stable.
The most effective (and healthiest) way to do that is to avoid refined carbs and sugar, but apple cider vinegar may also have a powerful effect.
Vinegar has been shown to have numerous benefits for insulin function and blood sugar levels:
Improves insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by 19-34% and significantly lowers blood glucose and insulin responses (7).
Reduces blood sugar by 34% when eating 50 grams of white bread (8).
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime can reduce fasting blood sugars by 4% (9).
Numerous other studies, in both rats and humans, show that vinegar can increase insulin sensitivity and significantly lower blood sugar responses during meals.
For these reasons, vinegar can be useful for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those who want to keep their blood sugar levels low to normal for other reasons.
If you’re currently taking blood sugar lowering medications, then check with your doctor before increasing your intake of apple cider vinegar.
Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar has shown great promise in improving insulin sensitivity and helping to lower blood sugar responses after meals.”
HERE is another resource that offers both substantiated, and anecdotal uses for apple cider vinegar. Let me tell you, it’s a popular supplement to many people’s diet, and lifestyle: culinary, around the house, and body and bath- apple cider vinegar has A LOT of supporters.
Let me finish by giving you a step-by step description of the method I have uses to start my own batch.
Wash and sterilise a large glass jar. Mine is I guess, around 1.5litres capacity.
Thoroughly wash enough organic apples to 3/4 fill your jar. You can use a mix of apples, but include some sweet ones, the sugars are required for the process.
Chop each apple into smallish pieces ( have a look at my photo)
Mix 1/2 cup of raw honey with about a cup of filtered water, and try and get it as dissolved as you can. It doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t dissolve too well. A day or so, and nature takes care of that.
Tip the honey water over the apples and then fill up the jar with fresh, cold filtered water.
Give it a good stir, and then put something over the apples so that they remain submerged in the water. Very important this: apples not covered will go mouldy, and you will have to throw everything out and start again. Equally important NOT to create an air-tight seal with your jar/bowl cover. The mix needs oxygen for the process.
Now cover the top with a permeable cover, such as a paper towel, or clean dishcloth. Secure with string, or a rubber band.
Put aside. Try to avoid putting the jar anywhere where there are huge temperature fluctuations.
Stir a couple of times each day.
My mix started fermenting today, and it’s day 5. It smells sweet, and mildly alcoholic.So, now I just let mother nature do her thing, and wait another 2 weeks or so, stirring and watching every day.
I’ll be sure to let you know when I start the next step of this fascinating process. I can’t wait!
Bursting with fibre, healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants, this is a smoothie guaranteed to satisfy.
Chia’s great, isn’t it? You can add it to a smoothie, or make a gorgeous little pudding, and revel in the fact that this tiny seed is delivering fantastic amounts of protein, fibre and healthy fats. If we want to classify a superfood as one that delivers maximum nutrients, for minimum calories, then yes, chia seeds rate.
Chia seeds also have the benefit of offering satiety; that feeling of satisfaction in the mind and tummy, that prevents us all from overeating, in the search for that (sometimes) elusive feeling complete after we’ve eaten.
Dragonfruit. Looks gorgeous doesn’t it? Like the kind of fruit an imaginative mind would dream up.
The exquisite beauty of the dragonfruit, unfortunately does not translate to flavour. If I was being kind, I would describe the taste as “mild”, maybe “unassertive.” Quite frankly, it’s bland, and a lot of it’s interest, culinary wise comes from it’s extraordinary good lucks, it’s versatility, texture, and the fruit’s solid nutritional profile.
I was lucky enough to buy a fruiting dragonfruit from our local, Sunday market. It is, by all accounts, a low maintenance, fast growing member of the cactus family, that clings to a support by way of aerial roots.
I love it! It looks other-worldly to me, and I can’t wait for the flowers to come – they are reported as being magnificent.
I took on of the fruits to make this morning’s smoothie. Don’t worry if you can’t access a dragonfruit, substitute a kiwi, the texture and nutritional profile are similar.
To serve 2
1/2 a dragonfruit, or 1 kiwi
around 1/2 cup rockmelon (cantaloupe)- I use frozen melon, it acts as my ice cube in the drink, I really prefer an ice-cold smoothie.
150ml coconut milk
1 tbsp. chia seeds – increase to 2, if desired
1 tbsp. coconut oil- increase to 2, if desired
1 dsp raw honey- increase, or omit, according to personal preference
The fruits in this smoothie are all high in fibre, even the pear is fibre rich, and it goes without saying, those fruits with tiny seeds, the dragonfruit, and the passionfruit, well, they bring a rich fibre source to your drink. Chia seeds add to this fibre extravaganza, with a respectable 10g, per 29g/1 ounce.
I do place quite a high emphasis on fibre in my diet. Not just for the cleansing, digestive properties, but also because fibre, and in particular, soluble fibre, has a regulatory effect on blood sugars. This is so helpful if you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or insulin resistant.
Soluble fibre also contributes to that desired feeling of satiety after eating. Satiety, and feeling satisfied after food has long been the bane of those people trying to lose weight.
Well, things have changed, and I can assure you, from personal experience that you absolutely DO NOT have to feel hungry, or pay some kind of dietary penance, be it self-inflicted, or delivered via the media, or elsewhere, in order to drop the weight you don’t want.
You are special, you are beautiful. Reflect that in your food choices; eat beautiful food, you deserve it.
I haven’t looked back since I started making my own vanilla extract.
The extract is pure, strong, and I enjoy the $$$ savings too.
Home extraction leaves one with a rather large supply of “spent” vanilla beans, and these were never going to be composted, or thrown to the chooks. The solution? Vanilla paste. It’s easy to make, tastes divine, and ensures the most efficient use of your precious vanilla: no waste, no fuss, much satisfaction.
Vanilla paste offers a concentrated form of vanilla in a semi-liquid, spoonable form.
Using beans left over from extraction, the vanillan concentration of your beans is considerably depleted, however, because you are going to utilise the entire bean, and not just the inside seeds, flavour is maximised, and I would estimate that 1teaspoon of your homemade vanilla paste will offer you the equivalent of the seeds from one vanilla pod.
Your homemade vanilla paste will tint your baking a light parchment colour, so please be aware of this when making , for example, white sponges’, or delicate pale custards and mousses.
Because our homemade vanilla paste contains the seed pod, as well as the seeds, the texture of the paste may be slightly coarser than the commercial brand of paste you are used to. I am not sure, but I imagine the commercial producers do also utilise the pod, but their production methods probably result in a more refined-in-texture product.
Having said that, the little food processor I used is a budget priced one, powerful enough, but nothing fabulous. If you are fortunate enough to be using one of the more powerful models of bullet-style blenders or processors, then I imagine you will achieve a perfectly lovely end result.
The texture of mine is fine for me, the little pod pieces really do not detract at all when I’ve used the paste in baking or smoothies.
To make your own vanilla paste, you will need:
Vanilla beans left over after making vanilla extract.
Karo Light Corn Syrup – NOT to be confused with high fructose corn syrup.
Small, sterilized jar to store the finished paste in.
Small food processor or blender.
The corn syrup adds the required liquid, and offers the viscosity required for suspension of the vanilla particles. The flavour is neutral, and it will not crystallise. You could use honey, but it will add flavour, and does not seem to offer as effective a blending medium as corn syrup does.
Here’s what you do:
Chop your spent vanilla beans using a knife or scissors. I chopped mine into pieces around 1/2cm. I snipped with scissors, directly into the processor bowl.
Start processing, adding 1tbsp at a time corn syrup. You want a spoonable paste that is slacker than jam, but a little thicker than honey.
The beans take up quite a bit of corn syrup. I estimate that, for my 20 beans, I ended up using around 180ml/ 3/4 cup of syrup.
Spoon into small sterilised jars and seal tightly.
I 3/4 filled 3 of the small jars in the first photo.
These do make thoughtful, much appreciated gifts for your baking friends.