grease fire, kitchen fire, how to

How To Start A Fire In Your Kitchen

Generally speaking, “How to start a fire in your kitchen” is not a positive title to start a food column with, but it’s ratings week- do what will get you noticed!  Now that I have your attention and probably my insurance agents as well as the fire chief, I will try and keep this simple…

Fire, fire, burning bright

I was multitasking (talking on the phone, cooking, and scanning FB) and I decided I wanted hash browns for supper.  So I grabbed a skillet and some vegetable oil.  Poured the vegetable oil in and turned on the burner and put a lid on the skillet.  Simple enough, but I have been known to take simplicity to complicated levels frustrating my parents, teachers and my husband.

After what only seemed like a moment, well maybe several moments strung together, I pulled out my hash browns and laid them on the counter.  Looking down at the covered skillet I was surprised to see what looked like smoke inside the skillet.  Weird!?  Lifting the lid off the skillet,  I set the lid on the counter next to the stove, looked back to the skillet just in time to see it IGNITE! BOOF!

Stunned, my mouth dropped open and I said to myself “I think you found the flash point of vegetable oil!  DO. SOMETHING. QUICK!”  The best I could muster was to yell “HELP Brad!” and grab the skillet handle and take it off the stove.                     

Stop Drop and Roll

As I was moving away from the stove the flames were growing higher and higher (fire loves oxygen). Brad wasn’t answering my calls for help, so “Flight or Fright” kicked in and I quickly made the decision to put the skillet into the sink. First I thought I should have opened the patio door and threw it outside, but the rising flames convinced me otherwise. Now that the skillet was in the sink my mind gave me two options: water or smother.

At first, my instinct was to want to put water on it, but I quickly remembered the demonstration I had seen of what happens when you add water to an oil fire (thank you Ms. Arverson! My high school, chemistry class teacher). Then as quickly as I thought of that I remembered that this type of fire was needing to be smothered. So I grabbed a dish towel, got it soaking wet and threw it on top of the oil bonfire in the skillet.

At this point Brad comes storming into the kitchen, a fashion complexity to be sure. He was all business on top and at-home- casual on the bottom. I am sure he thought I was trying out some new cool recipe like bananas foster, or a baked Alaska flambe. But to his great disappointment, NOPE! This was just your average, run of the mill, supper time flash point fire. I think every couple needs to have a good skillet fire just to test the merits of their relationship.

How do you manage to do this kind of stuff?

Brad backs me away from the decreasing flames and makes sure the skillet is completely covered by the wet dish towel. Seeing that the flames are extinguished, I let out a sigh of relief. Brad, with a very serious look, says “So, just what were you doing?” To which I replied, ” I thought I would find the flash point of vegetable oil?” Unimpressed he rolled his eyes and surveyed the damage.

My favorite fry pan had some serious scorch marks on the inside and outside of the pan. The sink sustained some scorch marks also. I was relieved that I didn’t get burned and that the flames didn’t start anything else on fire.

Some handy tips

I found a great article online by Rikki Roehrich, a FireRescue1 contributor. Rikki reports that

” Cooking causes over 160,000 home structure fires, annually, and is considered the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. Of the 160,000 annual cooking fires, two-thirds (66 percent) started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. Often, these fires are ignited by grease.” He also listed a few tips which I will share with you now.

IF A GREASE FIRE STARTS:

  1. Cover the flames with a metal lid or cookie sheet. Leave the cover on until it has cooled.
  2. Turn off the heat source. 
  3. If it’s small and manageable, pour baking soda or salt on it to smother the fire.
  4. As a last resort, spray the fire with a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher.
  5. Do not try to extinguish the fire with water.
  6. Do not attempt to move the pot or pan outside. 

After that theatrical cooking segment, I decided that we would have instant potatoes, which were much less dramatic in their production. All’s well that ends well.

Michele

P.S. And There’s More: Mandy’s Kitchen Fire Story

Finally, My jelly was made… I began melting down some paraffin in a saucepan on the stove. Read more…

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Amish People In Rural Wisconsin

Part of living in rural Wisconsin was experiencing the Amish people.  It was not uncommon to hear the “clipity-clop” of the Amish horse and buggy coming into town.  They did their banking in town, their farming business with the feed mill, as well as purchasing their grocery needs from Friesland Foods.

As a little girl, I couldn’t wait till I heard them come into town.  My ears were tuned to the sound of the buggy wheels and the horse’s hooves hitting the asphalt.  I would launch from the house to the edge of the yard and look toward downtown.  If I was lucky, the horse and buggy would be parked by the store.  They always parked the buggy by the nearest light pole.

a horse is a horse of course, of course

I learned from experience you didn’t come upon a horse without calmly announcing your presence.  Amish buggy horses have blinders on, so they can only see straight ahead.  I always made sure to start talking to them as I picked grass on the lawns nearby and then I would feed them grass.  And on occasion, I would sneak them a sugar cube.

Usually, I waited long enough and an Amish man or woman would come out.  They always had time for small talk.  These horses were not the pets that I had imagined.  Horses were an important part of their everyday life and worked hard bringing the Amish folk around their community and beyond.

Dressed for success

Photo Credit: emailamyd

Always the same color scheme of grays, blues, browns, purples for clothes. Denim pants with suspenders and a colored shirt for the gentleman and boys and polyester tops and skirt bottoms with black tights and black shoes for the women.  Most everything was pinned on with straight pins. The fun part was seeing the little babies and toddlers in their Amish garb, bonnets, and straw hats. Very cute!  Younger children were always barefooted till it began to freeze and then shoes were put on.

The Amish are a very tight community.  Each Amish community has it’s own Bishop.  The Bishop is the spiritual leader for the community and also sets the tone for what “technologies” the community can participate in.  Any baptized male members are eligible for the Bishop position.  Members are voted upon for nominations, then they become a candidate and finally lots are drawn.  The bishops’ position is a very heavy spiritual responsibility and most consider it a relief to have not drawn the lot.

My favorite Amish store to go to was Mischlers Country Store.  All sorts of Amish brand food as well as homegrown produce, eggs and a large variety of bulk foods like flour, sugar, spices and more.  A late fall Saturday afternoon was my favorite time to go shop.  I enjoyed the many skylights, the soft lamplight lining the shopping aisles, along with the soft murmurs of the broken German the Amish girls spoke as they worked.

this ain’t your mama’s amish

Photo Credit: JoeKeim

I got an eye-opener the last time I stopped in the Lilac Woodshop.  I was walking around enjoying all the handcrafted furniture (some hand built right there and other pieces from Indiana). As I approached the desk the Amish owner looked up from his (wait for it…) laptop computer. WHAT!!?? Rewind… Yep, I saw that right.  He had a laptop computer and was telling me he was working on building his website. ! Don’t look now, but he also has a Facebook page.

In light of all this “English” (they refer to us non-Amish as the “English”) allowances he had, I decided to snoop around for electric lights and indoor plumbing.  I found the indoor bathroom (yahoo!) but was unable to find electrical outlets.  Somehow he must power his laptop… this would be fun to question the Amish owner.  But Brad was with me that day and could sense my curiosity, so he began herding me towards to door before I could begin my fifty questions with the owner.

I have a beautiful rocking chair made of hickory from “The Old Mr. Miller” who did a great job of crafting rocking chairs.  Mr. Miller also built beautiful bed sets and dining tables.  There are several families that have greenhouses, and an Amish bakery.  Some of the ladies offered (for a fee) an Amish tour of their home complete with an Amish home-cooked meal followed by a showing of the local ladies quilts.

If you ever get the chance to be out in Columbia County Wisconsin (same county Wisconsin Dells is in) be sure to wheel your way over to the Pardeeville/Dalton area.  Take a step back in time and enjoy a simpler way of life- the Amish way.

 

Michele

 

Cool! We got featured on a link-up

 

”Mary-andering

My Heritage Cooking Crash Course Adventure

 

Recently I stumbled upon a cooking class called “Heritage Cooking Crash Course“.  The words “crash course” got my attention.  What Dutch girl wouldn’t want an element of danger to spice up her otherwise “Dutchy” way of life?  So, kicking off my wooden clogs I grabbed a mug of tea-milk, some olie bollen and with one click of the mouse, I was the thirty-third HCCC member and my E-material was electronically winging its way to my email box. YES!  I could feel the danger already.

my house on the prairie

First I had to do a little bit of registering and confirming.   Then I had to set up a password so that I could get into the online class and begin. With all my “ducks in a row”  I entered the class and signed up for the super- secret Facebook HCCC community page. Pretty quick and simple.

The Heritage Cooking Crash Course teaches you the old pioneer and homesteaders ways of cooking and baking.  One of the slogans was ” Cook LIke Ma Ingalls”.  That brought me right back to the “Little House on the Prairie” episode with Ma Ingalls stirring some stew in a cast iron pot over the fire in their fireplace.  This was sure to be down-home goodness, and open flames to boot!

Looking over the course I noted 10 modules (classes).  Each one had their own video which you could follow along with and watch Jill Winger make: a sourdough starter, sourdough bread, homemade pie crust, sauerkraut, homemade sausages, how to pressure cook, water bath canning and much more.  All great skills any gal worth her salt in the kitchen should learn.  As a quick side note, should you want to take the course just click on this affiliate link and it will direct you toward class information and registration, and you can also buy the materials directly from this link.  Just so you are aware I do receive a small commission from anyone who signs up for the course. Thank you in advance.  It helps with upkeep on our MandyandMichele blog.

Baking like a pioneer

I had been looking at sourdough starter recipes since last summer.  I read various blogs and copied recipes but never quite committed to trying it until now.  Jill Winger, the founder of The Prairie Homestead and The Heritage Cooking Crash Course is your guide.  She is a no-fuss kind of gal, simply dressed standing in her very own farm kitchen.  You feel like your sitting at her kitchen table watching her work while you get to drink coffee and enjoy the presentation.  Jill uses simple terms, explains her techniques and then demonstrates them.  It’s that simple.

Jill weaves her everyday homesteader life into her cooking.  She relies heavily on her families own homestead products of meat, eggs, vegetables, and grains.  Jill loves homesteading and encourages others to try this simple nostalgic way of life and cooking.  Living like a homesteader may not be for you, but cooking like one may be just what the doctor ordered.

module #2

From the get-go, you will appreciate the fact that you have lifetime access to these courses.  You can skip around the modules as one module doesn’t build off the other.  Along with this course, as I mentioned above, you can join the secret Facebook HCCC page and ask questions of fellow classmates and Jill -this is a nice feature.

I decided to start off with Module #2 which featured Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter and Sourdough bread baking.  I enjoyed the fact you didn’t need fancy cooking/baking products.  Jill has a list of what is needed for the module, but she also helps you to make adaptations in case you don’t have exactly what she uses.

Making the sourdough starter was a bit challenging.  I drew comfort from the fact that I was not alone in the failures of the pursuit as I read several postings of others who were frustrated over not getting a culture started.  But after two, 7 day long attempts, I struck wild yeast gold. Finally it cultured!

Sourdough cultures like to grow where it’s warm, dark and somewhat humid.  I tried starting a culture on the counter by the refrigerator and when that failed, I put a one up above the fireplace and finally it took off.  You can bet I was pretty excited when I looked into the jar to find it had grown.  All frothy bubbly and looking yeast happy, I proudly showed the culture to my husband.  I took pictures and posted on Facebook, and then sent texts to my sister and girlfriends.

I was one proud yeasty momma.  Before I knew it, I had eight cultures going -I had this down!   But my house and refrigerator could take no more of my mothering.  So I did my best to find good homes for them on Facebook and through phone calls.

Good thing I didn’t have this talent for making babies because that could have gotten way out of hand! Kind of like “The Old Women Who Lived In A Shoe”. Yikes!

Into the oven, you go

Now that I had cultures, I needed to use them.  So I set to work with my first sourdough bread.  I was a smashing success.  There was no interference by any barn cat, which if you have read my other articles, seems to be problematic.  The recipe is very simple. raises overnight while you sleep and bakes in a dutch oven. By mid-day, I had a lovely loaf of sourdough.  It was definitely delicious.  I went on to bake sourdough blueberry muffins, sourdough crackers, and sourdough pancakes.  All fun and delicious.

Sourdough is a great addition to your diet.  Because of the fermentation process, it is easier to digest the gluten as well as keeping your glycemic index low.  For those of us getting older this is a win-win.  Hope this inspires you to try the Heritage Cooking Crash Course and culturing your own sourdough starter!

 

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime Picnic Sack Lunch

Ah, summer!  We have all been patiently waiting for spring to show up, much less summer.  But I thought it would be good to bring some summer thoughts into our head.  One of the good things about living in my childhood town Friesland was its smallness( population 300, think Leota but a tad bigger).  I could bike all over town and pretty much be only be about 5 minutes from my house.

Round, Round Get Around, I get Around

I liked how safe I felt biking around, walking around, or just hanging uptown by the Band Concert Wagon (I will explain this in a post this summer).  Friendly folks who watched out for you and then the folks who tattled on you when you did wrong or THOUGHT you were doing wrong.  But, that’s how small towns go, and for good or bad it was all part of the experience.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer was to pack a sack lunch, grab a friend and go biking around town to find a spot to picnic. In order for one to really call it a picnic you needed your sack to have a can of pop (pop is translated to soda in Minnesotan), I liked RC Cola at the time, so my lunch would contain one can RC.  Then( and this was the SUPER important part) I would have to have a good dessert.

But first, dessert

Photo Credit: EME

Most mothers frown on dessert being the most important part of lunch.  But desserts have secret powers, and every kid knows it.  It gave you status and the power to negotiate for something even better in someone else’s lunch.  It’s just like Donald Trump’s book “Art of the Deal”.  Sometimes you have to walk away to get what you really want. You know, play hard to get and then go in for the kill!

My favorite dessert was Hostess Ding Dongs.  I can still feel the thin foil that each chocolate puck of goodness gently wrapped around.   Slowly peeling the foil off was also part of the fun.  I loved to reveal the chocolate cover over the chocolate cake with the delicious white creme middle. YUM!  To others, it may have been a foil hockey puck, but to me, it was Hostess heaven!  Personally, my parents should have bought stock in Hostess, but that ship has sailed.

Of course, one’s lunch must contain a sandwich.  This could be a p.b.j., a bologna sandwich, good ole ham, and cheese, but NEVER, NEVER cold roast beef.  Refer to my article on  Cold Roast Beef Sandwich.

X marks the spot

We were not terribly fussy about where to picnic.  In fact, we would (not too often but occasionally) indiscriminately claim someones front porch as our picnic spot, and without permission just sit on their front porch and talk and eat.  Some major hangouts were the Friesland Elementary playground (the giant merry-go-round was fun, spin and eat your lunch), someone’s backyard in a makeshift tent,  down at the railroad tracks by the boys’ fort, the Katsma boys big tree house, or on the Band Concert Wagon.                                                                            Photo Credit: Clkr-Vector-Free-Images

I am sure we surprised a person or two with a group of young girls sitting on their front porch.  Can’t remember anyone ever saying “no”, but we sort of saw ourselves as having an eminent domain- there wasn’t much you could do to stop us.  Like a roaming band of raccoons, looking to eat and then leave.  We were good though and that probably saved us from being ousted.

Feltcha with a black heart

One property you never, ever stepped foot on was Feltcha’s.   Feltcha was an old Dutch lady who lived along and she was mean.  Feltcha had to have had some extrasensory detection for busy body kids roaming the town.  She carried a broom every time she stepped out of her house and she meant business.  “Feltcha with a black heart”.  That’s literally how she was known in town, and the adults knew her as that also.  Feltcha and her encounters with us will require an article or two, so stay tuned.  She was what little children saw in their nightmares.

The best part after finding a spot to picnic was settling in to eat and checking out what everyone brought in their lunch. After a thorough inspection of each attendee, lunch negotiations began and participants did their best negotiating.   Once you were finished with your “deal”, then chatter would start about what happened at our houses and Friesland “goings-on”.  Things like: how much money you had to go to Band Concert, who had the fastest bike,  who’s mom was mad at them, who was going to the swimming pool in Randolph and so on, were all hot topics of discussion. It’s too bad we don’t have more kids biking around making random stops on peoples front porches to picnic.  The late ’70s- it was just a different time, different attitudes and a different culture.

Heading home

Photo Credit: Open Clipart Vectors

As with most things in life, all good things come to an end.  If your mom said you could go picnic then you could about bet there were chores to be done and that required you to come home.  I guess that was the trade-off- you got to picnic but now you can work.  I also think it was a check-in of sorts to make sure you were alive, especially if you went down to the tracks.  The train generally came through between 11:30 am and 12 noon, so if you had said you’d be at the tracks your mom was on alert.

Hope my mom isn’t reading this but…  I remember my brother and the Katsma boys hitching a ride to the bridge on the Caboose of the train.  That’s another story for a different time.  Whatever the case, it was fun.  Fun to be free and safe to bike, hang out and eat and just be a kid.  No TV, cell phones or video games- just plain old kid fun… and I really miss it.

Maybe we all need to make better use of our local park and picnic. Spend more time looking into faces instead of screens.  Talking to each other instead of texting.  Who cares if you don’t have a “picnic” looking lunch?  Just grab a bunch of stuff and go. Sometimes spur of the moment is just what the doctor ordered.

Michele

P.S. Always be Ready For a Picnic

The best way to start going on spur of the moment picnics is to have a picnic basket stocked and ready to go. Check out these through our affiliate links. We’ll receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. Our profits help keep this site going. Thanks



yummy fruits

How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

STORAGE WARS

I don’t know about you, but my biggest challenge as the cook is to keep my produce from spoiling.  Produce isn’t cheap and like all thrifty Dutch housewives, we like to get good use out of what we buy.  Too many times in frustration, I have had to throw out fruits or vegetables.  It has become an all-out-battle and I have dubbed it “Storage Wars“.

It’s interesting to hear what other people have tried in their preservation battles.  Let’s get down to the reason why fruits and vegetables rot.  Put on your thinking caps and brainy looking glasses, because we’re about to get some produce education. Continue reading

Hostess Honey Bun Saved The Day

My mother had had enough. She was sick of me and my brother fighting, and not getting ready for school. So without delay, she launched down the hallway to our rooms. The determined pounding of her feet let us know her last nerve had been frayed and we were on her “list”.

Photo Credit Free-Photos

A quick side note. I had a very active imagination as a child. I loved to read books late into the night. In fact, I positioned my bed right up against the door to my room. This way I could lean out of my bed and catch the nightlight from the hallway! HA! And, I could hear if anyone approached from either way. If I did hear someone, then I could stealthily slide my book under the top cover and feign sleep. The next paragraphs are dedicated to my childhood imagination, groomed by years of the late night reading.

Today there was no hiding! We did not have Mary Poppins making her way up the hall, no sir! This was a Momster (mom and monster)! A sleep-deprived infant toting toddler dragging mother, who was about to channel her inner ugly mother and my brother and I were public enemy number one.

If I Have To Tell You One More Time

Photo Credit Free-Photos

She stood between our rooms, her eyes darting back and forth between me and my brother, me and my brother. With teeth gritted, eyebrows raise she said “GET. DRESSED.” “GET. YOUR. SCHOOL BOOKS.” “PUT. ON. YOUR. COATS. AND GET. TO THE BUS!” The “get’s” had their g’s and t’s emphasized, and the s’s had serpentine tones. This exchange assertively delivered while burping my infant sister and assuring my toddler brother that his breakfast was coming.

If smoke could have rolled up from underneath mom it would have. As well as the gates of Hades open wide to receive the world’s most bickering brother-sister duo.

As quickly as she appeared, she had gone back down the hallway. Cooing to my infant sister with my little brother scurrying alongside. I glanced again to see the gate of Hades close and the smoke retreat back with it.  Phew!

I thought of asking if a breakfast invitation was included before our departure, but thought better of it.  Frantically I grabbed my clothes and put them on, tied my shoes and began fretting that I was going to miss breakfast.  I NEVER missed breakfast.  This was a first for breakfast withholding punishment.

This is the part where you leave

My brother finished dressing and met me in the hall.  I whispered that we should not worry about the ceremony of brushing teeth.  He was in total agreement, he hated brushing teeth.  So we walked together to the kitchen where mom was busy with breakfast for my younger brother.

A quick glance from her told us she was not budging.  There was no invite to the breakfast table.  With a sweep of her hand, she told us to get out and get to the bus.  We hesitated knowing it was Wednesday.  On Wednesdays, she always gave us 50 cents before leaving the house so we could buy a treat at the store on the way home after school.

Mom made no further eye contact.  So with slumped shoulders and lowered heads, we walked into the foyer and grabbed our coats.  As I reached for the doorknob and glanced at the ledge by the door I spied our money for treats.  OH JOY!  Wait… how was this possible?  She must have left us money before our rivalry ruckus.  A little light of heaven shown upon us at that moment.

We greedily grabbed our money and made our way out the door, down the street, and to the store.  Walking up to the goodie shelf we scanned them for something breakfast like, and there it was.  The Hostess Honey Bun.  A taste of Hostess baked delight.  This was a small, cinnamon type roll with a good coating of frosting immortalized on top.  We knew we struck gold.

Glancing at the clock in the store we knew we had about two minutes to skedaddle or we would miss the bus. We paid the clerk and quickly made our way out the door.  A short stop at the trash can to remove the cellophane wrapper was all that stood between us and breakfast. We bit into the Honey Bun and relished every bite.  Between bites, my brother and I discussed our luck in having our treat money waiting by the door.

Lesson learned

The ride on the bus to school went fairly well.  The delicious, but sugary Honey Bun left us thirsty.  By the time we arrived at school we both made a bee-line for the bubbler (that’s Wisconsin talk for water fountain we can discuss this regional term some other time) and drank like camels.  We parted company and headed for our classrooms.

The ride home on the bus was uneventful, perhaps more reflective than anything.   I started feeling really guilty about ruining her day with our bickering.  My mom was a busy mom.  She basically had two families.  My brother and I were born in 1971 and 1972.  Then she took a 9-year hiatus.  Second thought… I would say she had a TOTAL lapse of memory and found herself right back at square one with additions in 1979 and 1980.  After that, she made sure the production line was shut down permanently.

Hopping off the bus we made the trek back home.  My brother and I walked into the house somewhat cautiously but were greeted by our mom with a warm smile.  We even got a hug.  When she asked how our morning went I stated ( I was the reporter/informer) that because she had left us money on the ledge by the door, for an after-school treat, we simply did the reverse and treated ourselves to a Honey Bun breakfast instead.  To which she raised her eyebrows and just said “Mmm.”  I was never really sure what her “Mmm” meant.  I’d like to think the “Momster” got a guilty conscious about sending her children off with no food.  A Friesland Hansel and Gretel, if you would.  So she left us the money to ease her conscious.

Just in case all this talk of Honey Bun has you hungry, they still make them!  I have yet to find a local store who has them, but you can ask your local grocer if they are able to order them or  Amazon.com has them available also.

 

Michele

 

Water Kefir a Culture of Good, Part 2

Here we are!  Part 2 of water kefir and I can’t wait to share the rest of the fun information.  We left off with me closing out the water kefir article with a history of water kefir, as well as the benefits of drinking water kefir.  Today we will finish up with water kefir production education.   I will direct you as to where to purchase water kefir grains.  You will receive my phone number to call me day or night with burning water kefir questions- umm… NO!  Ha, that was just a little test to see if you’re on reading autopilot.  Good thing you caught that.  I knew my readers are sharp people.  But seriously, I will tell you where you can get the swing bottles and materials for brewing and storing your water kefir.  As well as tips and tricks.

water kefir

Amazon Is Your Friend

Here is a list of items you will need:

  1. Water kefir grains
  2. HIC, Nylon mesh strainer 4 inch
  3. Swing top glass bottles 16oz 
  4. 17-inch long bottle brush
  5. Organic Sugar or Brown Sugar (I have used either, good results for both)
  6. Water filtering pitcher (at Amazon) Pur or Zero water (or Walmart)
  7.  Gallon size jars, 2- I use old olive jars (I really like olives)
  8. Wooden or plastic stirring spoon (NEVER USE METAL! It will kill the kefir grains)
  9.  Paper towel and  large rubber band
  10.  4 cup glass measuring bowl
  11.  Funnel

Being computer savvy will aid you in your water kefir pursuits.  Let’s start with going to Amazon.com.  If you don’t have an account, you will need to set one up- phone a friend if this is beyond you.  Once you have set up your account you can look up water kefir grains in the Amazon search bar, but you are specifically looking for 1/4 cup Live Organic Water Kefir Grains (Tibicos) Natural probiotics by Florida Sun Kefir.

Homemade Water Kefir

Go ahead and add one to your cart.  You will receive 1/4 cup of water kefir grains, a 4×6 brewing bag (this is for flavoring your water with cut-up fresh or dried fruit), a business card from Florida Sun Kefir and a handy directions card. (NOTE: these water kefir grains are sensitive to cold, they are lovers of warmth.  Unless your regional temperature is above 25 F, I would wait to order them, especially if you have an outdoor mailbox).  Florida Sun Kefir has 4.6 stars out of 5.  They are very prompt with sending out the order and always answer my questions about water kefir.  They also will provide you with a website you can go to, to download a water kefir tutorial pdf.

Next item on your list to get is the swing top glass bottles 16oz., these are for the carbonating and storage of the water kefir.  Then you will need a 4-inch nylon mesh strainer, this aids in the straining of your kefir grains from the kefir water brew.  A 17-inch bottle brush if you do not have one.  The rest of the items, brown sugar, plastic/wood stirring spoon, brown sugar or organic, gallon size jars,  paper towel, and rubber band, should all be common items in your home.

Water Kefir 101

You just got a notification that your water kefir grains have arrived!  Your heart is pounding as you rush to the mailbox.  Grabbing the package like an NFL quarterback grabbing a football, you tuck and run making it in record time to your kitchen.  Everything is set up and ready to go in the kitchen.  Carefully you open the package and remove the little container of water kefir grains.  Aww… those little grains are so cute and they smell yeasty (that’s good!).  They look like little globs of jelly, all bouncy and looking happy.

You begin by warming 4 cups of filtered or spring water.

  • IMPORTANT: Not using spring water or filtered water will aid in draining them of important nutrients.  Adding the organic sugar or brown sugar to the warm water you stir the water with a plastic or wooden spoon to help dissolve the sugar.
  •  IMPORTANT:  The sugar MUST BE DISSOLVED completely.  If not, the whole sugar grain will actually make the kefir grains sick and eventually die. NEVER NEVER use a metal spoon to stir your water and sugar

With the sugar dissolved and water at room temperature, you pour it into the gallon size glass container.  Following that, take the water kefir grains and gently drop them into the glass jar with brown sugar water.  The grains will peacefully settle to the bottom.  Take a paper towel and place it over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will prevent dust and debris from falling into your water kefir brew as it ferments.  Next, place the jar in a warm room (70-85 F, 76 F is the sweet spot) out of direct sunlight.

  •  IMPORTANT:  Direct sunlight will KILL your kefir grains.

Sweet or Tart

With your jar of water kefir grains fermenting in the sugar water, you must decide if you want sweet kefir or tart kefir.  For sweet water kefir, you will ferment just one day.  For more tart (acidic) water kefir you will ferment for two days.  Before I continue on, let’s tackle the issue of alcohol percentage in water kefir.  According to an article, I read online from The  Water Kefir People,

“water kefir is classified as a non-alcoholic beverage” and “federal law classifies non-alcoholic beverage as having less than .5% ABV”.  

Obviously the longer you leave it to ferment, the more alcohol it will begin to contain.  Most people don’t ferment beyond two days.  I like my water kefir a bit more acidic, so I let it ferment two days.

Now that the water kefir has fermented, strain the grains and kefir water through the nylon strainer into a gallon size glass jar.

  • IMPORTANT:  NEVER use a metal strainer.  The metal will kill your kefir grains.

Set aside the nylon strainer with the water kefir grains and take the gallon jar with the water kefir brew and pour it into the swing top 16 oz glass bottle using a funnel. Fill the swing top bottle up to the shoulder (once 4 cup recipe will yield 2-16 oz swing bottles) and then take your fruit juice of choice (I like Welch’s Grape Juice) and fill it up to the neck, leaving “headroom” just like you would in canning.

Oh So Good

Place the two swing bottles on the cupboard counter for the carbonating or “second fermentation”  for 12 to 24 hours.  After which you will place them in the refrigerator to chill and then you may drink!  AH!  Tastes so good and good for you!

  • IMPORTANT:  BE VERY CAREFUL when opening the swing top bottles.  The carbonating can put lots of pressure in the bottle so take your bottle over the sink and slowly release the pressure by “burping” your bottle.  We have had many “eruptions” from super carbonated kefir brews.  Which require mopping the floor and wiping down the cupboards.

As you continue to build your confidence in water kefir brewing you can experiment with a variety of juices, adding fresh or dried fruit to the first fermentation, as well as different methods of brewing with just plain canning jars with plastic lids, or any glass jar that can be sealed without a metal lid.  It’s fun to have hobbies that are inexpensive, fun and beneficial to your health.

Let’s Wrap This Up

On occasion, you will notice that your water kefir brew isn’t very carbonated, or the taste is lackluster.  Should that be the case, you will need to give your water kefir grains a rest and feed them.  This is easily done by hard boiling two eggs.  Remove the eggs from the shell, and take the shells and place them in a gallon glass jar with water kefir grains and the sugar water.  This is the same sugar water you would make to start your brew.  Let them feed in a warm, shady place for a day or two.  Then strain the grains from the water and pick out the eggshells.  Then proceed as normal and resume your usual brewing routine.

If you have to go out of town be sure to feed your water kefir grains.  Make up the normal sugar water for brewing and add that to a glass jar with your kefir grains into the refrigerator.  Then upon your return revive them with the feeding of eggshells and resume your normal brewing routine.  Please note that as you brew with your grains they will grow.  So keep in mind that you may no longer have a 1/4 cup of kefir grains- this will affect your recipe.  If your grains grow you’ll need to separate them and share the love of water kefir with your friends.  Just like the Amish Friendship Bread starter!

Lastly, sometimes your kefir grains just “die out” so from time to time you’ll need to reorder a new batch of grains.  That’s it my friends!  As always, here is to good food, good friends and a good life.

Michele

Water Kefir A Culture Of Good

if you don’t know where to start, go back to the beginning

While on vacation in Grapevine, Texas, our friends the Vande Zande’s introduced us to water kefir.  At first, we were a bit hesitant.  So I put the Vande Zande’s through a question decathlon.  By the time I ran out of questions to ask, Char had given us each a shot of the kefir water in a small glass.  Staring at the water kefir while I rotated the glass around, I inquired as to what flavor we were drinking and she said she made white grape and mango.  We were given white grape.  So taking one last look at Brad (he knows my ingestion of fermented products has very small margins), I lifted my glass and drank it down.

At first, the fizziness took me by surprise.  The bubbles danced on my tongue and the flavor of white grape really came through.  Delicious!  It was nice and cool and that felt wonderful after an 88-degree day walking around Waco, Texas.  It did not have the “alcohol” aftertaste that I thought would occur.  In fact, there really wasn’t an alcohol taste.  The fermentation duration was short, therefore it had not yet reached a stage of possessing intoxicating elements.  Lastly, I was waiting to see if my stomach would concur and moments later… happy stomach!   As you grow more mature, one becomes a bit hesitant in trying new stuff that might upset the delicate balance of your intestinal life. As all good hostesses, she awaited my analysis.

“Well, what do you think?” said Char.

Both Brad and I gave the “thumbs up”.  For the rest of our stay there, we had water kefir with every meal.  It gave me a wonderful option to kick soda to the curb. So I set my mind to order some water kefir grains, poly mesh strainer and the “flipper” glass bottles for storing the water kefir in the instant I got home.

On your mark, get ready

First I would like to start you out with a brief history of water kefir.  Then we will talk about what it is made up of, what benefits there are in drinking water kefir and lastly how to start “brewing” your own water kefir.

You may be wondering how to pronounce kefir.  I have had found three pronunciations.  The first would be to say “keh-fear“, the second would be to say “key-fur” and lastly “keh-fur”.  There was even a poll out on the web on how to say kefir.  I consulted the Cambridge Dictionary (a go-to for those wanting more sophisticated phonics) and found that pronouncing it “keh-fear” seemed to hold weight in both British English and American English. Just delivering this phonetic quandary to you has frazzled me. So I will leave it to you and your regional dialect to decide how you shall pronounce it and what syllabic emphasis it should receive. Let’s move on to more fun and interesting things about water kefir.

get set and go!

Water kefir is a century old drink, whose origins are speculative and lacking documentation.  According to a youtube video by St. Michael’s Kefir, there are four possible areas where water kefir got its start.  These areas are Mexico, Caucasus ( the Caucasus is a mountain system in West  Asia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.) Tibet, and Japan.

Kefir requires sugar for its growth and production of the brew, so any centuries-old culture making water kefir needed to be near the tropics.   It was thought that after the conquest of Mexico the Spanish brought it back to Europe through the transatlantic trade.  In addition, European soldiers returning home from the Crimean war of 1850,  brought with them a drink similar to water kefir.   Regardless, water kefir has spread worldwide,  “splashing” onto the scene in the U.S. in 1853 by a Kentucky local. [Source: St. Michael’s Kefir, youtube]

animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

As you can see by my picture above, the kefir grains look like little jelly globs.  They are bouncy and slippery.  Once they hit the counter or have pressure applied to them, they easily split apart.  Kefir grains are just a happy group of bacteria and yeast living together.  Kefir goes by several other names like California Bees, Sea Rice, Water Crystals, Ginger Beer, and Tibicos.

Why would you want to drink kefir water?

Great question!  Water kefir is an excellent alternative to soda.  It provides you with gut loving probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.  Aiding you in digestion and keeping your intestinal life moving right along.

There are several things I like about kefir water.  First I like its fizzy pop feel.  I like the fact that it is a great probiotic to add to my diet and it is a great alternative to sugary and diet soda.  I have drunk kefir water right along with sandwiches, salads, meat and potatoes supper, as well as breakfast. My favorite flavor of kefir water is grape with apple coming in second.

I look forward to seeing you back here in two weeks.  We will go over where to get your kefir grains, the recipe for water kefir production, maintaining health grains, as well as helpful tips and tricks.

Michele

 

Have you tried water Kefir? What is your favorite flavor?

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Catastrophe Number Two

THAT DARN CAT!

That darn cat!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  If you read my articles faithfully, you would have read about my  “Kitchen Catastrophe” with brownies.  Well, as luck would have it, the cats have struck again.  This time they upped the game.  But before I can tell you the rest of the story, I have to take you on a short “rabbit trail” of storytelling sorts.

This is how it all began

I signed up late last year to take an online baking class( more on this later).  As part of the class, our instructor Tessa Arias from Handle the Heat has been sharing with her students baking products that she recommends.   One of her recommendations was to get a Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker.  I really like ice cream, so I jotted it down on my list of products to watch for on sale.

Continue reading

fruitcake

The Fruitcake

Fruitcake

I love fruitcake! But I am betting you don’t.  Well, today is the day dear reader.  I am going to change your mind about fruitcake.  Before you exit out of this blog article, just give me a chance to win you over.

 

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

We all have our stories to share about the dreaded fruitcake.  You know the kind, it comes in a decorative tin or wrapped neatly in some holiday plastic wrap.  The cover of the tin has some idyllic Christmas scene of a horse and sleigh with happy riders decked out in winter garb.  They are probably “happy” because they threw their fruitcake out of the sleigh two miles back or like Hansel and Gretel, chiseled pieces out and threw them out along their route to make their return easier.  Perhaps they used it to defend themselves from would-be sleigh robbers.  One good hit to the head and your down for the count! Continue reading