What is a cultured food? “Cultured” essentially means fermented – the chemical process of breaking a complicated substance down into simpler parts, usually with the help of bacteria, yeasts or fungi. Some of the more common fermented foods are yogurt and sauerkraut.
There are many reasons to eat fermented foods. They improve digestion. Fermenting our foods before we eat them is like partially digesting them before we consume them. Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. Eating fermented food helps us to absorb the nutrients we’re consuming. Fermenting food helps us to preserve it for longer periods of time. Milk will go bad in the fridge but yogurt lasts a lot longer. Fermenting food often increases the flavor and is inexpensive.
You can purchase yogurt in the store, but did you know it is very easy to make at home? You don’t need any special equipment. You need milk and culture. I purchased my culture from www.cheesemaking.com. You don’t need to use raw milk, you just do not want to use the ultra pasteurized milk.
Here are the simple directions. Pour ½ gallon of cold milk into a heavy stainless pot for heating. Heat the milk to 185 degrees and then hold it there for 10-20 minutes.
This will prepare the whey proteins, which are largely responsible for the thickening of the yogurt body. Set the milk pot directly on the burner and begin heating with careful stirring to prevent the scorching of the milk. Cool the milk as quickly as possible to your target temperature for inoculating the yogurt (116 degrees F). When the milk reaches the proper temperature for inoculation, it is time to add the direct set yogurt culture. The culture will be a mix of Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus plus and probiotic additions the culture may contain.
Incubate the cultured milk for the required time. This can be done easily by pouring your cultured milk into containers and placing those containers inside an insulated cooler.
Pour warm water (116 degrees F) into the cooler so that your container lids are just an inch or so above the water line. This “water bath” will maintain the temperature so that the appropriate bacteria will thrive and populate.
Place the cover on the cooler. The time of incubation is about 8-10 hours for most yogurt cultures.
Place the yogurt in the refrigerator when the incubation is complete.
I inoculated my milk, poured it into glass jars and placed them into my cooler. I added the warm water, put the lid on the cooler and let it sit on the counter for 10 hours. Before going to bed I placed the yogurt in the fridge. In the morning I had two containers of plain yogurt ready to enjoy! I have always preferred flavored yogurt but I find this yogurt to be delicious. If you want, feel free to add fruit to flavor it yourself.
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I am not a big fan of leftovers – however, if I can combine leftovers together and make a new meal I am all for it. Several weeks ago I made a large batch of Lentil Soup. I put some aside in the freezer.
Last week I made a Sausage Lentil Casserole for dinner.
It was delicious. One of my favorite soups is to combine the leftover Sausage Lentil Casserole with some of the Lentil Soup.
Viola a new soup – Sausage Lentil Soup. Quick, easy and delicious and uses up two of the leftovers on hand! Serve with a salad and some bread and you have a perfect dinner.
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As I mentioned last week, I love lentils. This is a recipe that was passed along by my mother.
It’s a great recipe, simple, easy to make and freezes well. You can even use the left overs to make another soup which I will share next week.
Spanish Sausage and Lentils
1 pound small sausages sliced (can also use ground pork)
1 cup cooked lentils
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
Fry sausage until lightly browned and break into bite size pieces. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Brown lentils in remaining fat with onion, garlic and pepper.
Cook until onion is tender. Add tomatoes and sausage and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the oven at 325 for 25 minutes.
Delicious alone or served with rice. Makes about 4-5 servings.
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I love lentils just about any way you can eat them. During the colder months I enjoy this delicious lentil soup. It freezes well and I often use the soup as a basis to make other soups. It’s easy to make although you do need to allow time to cook the lentils! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
1 pound lentils
¼ pounds bacon, diced and cooked
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery and leaves
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped red pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar (optional)
¼ tsp thyme
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Thinly sliced scallions
Wash lentils and soak overnight in water to cover them.
Drain soaking water and place lentils in a large soup pot. Add 2 ½ quarts of water. Add bacon to pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 2 ½ hours. Add chopped vegetables, garlic, bay leaf, sugar and thyme to the pot.
Simmer for another 1 to 1 ½ hours.
If you prefer a smooth soup use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Remove bay leaf before pureeing. Heat butter and blend in flour. Add some of the hot soup mixture to the butter and then return to the soup, stir until thickened. Stir in lemon juice. Serve, sprinkling the sliced scallions as a garnish.
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We have good friends that live in North Carolina. As you might imagine we don’t see them very often but we have a wonderful time when we do get together. One thing we love about their friendship is that they love good food as much as we do. During one of our recipe exchanges they were gracious enough to share this delicious recipe with us.
I still have a few winter squash that need to be used to I used up a couple and made this for dinner. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Butternut Squash, Sausage, Apple and Onion Casserole with Goat Cheese
2 to 2.5 pounds of butternut or acorn squash
8 ounces breakfast sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium apple, diced
1 ½ Tbsp minced sage
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 ounces goat cheese (or your favorite crumbly white cheese such as feta, a mild blue or even a gouda, gruyere or parmesan)
Peel, cube, seed and roast squash in 425 oven till lightly browned–usually 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry up sausage, breaking up. Once done, remove sausage, leaving 1 T of fat in frying pan. Add diced onions and apples.
Put in 9×9 baking pan, top with crumbled cheese and bake 15 to 20 minutes @ 375 degrees.
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