Tepache: A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache: Fermented Pineapple Drink

Aldi often has fresh pineapples on sale for $1 or $1.29 each. Being the nerd and foodie that I am, I once weighed a pineapple after I’d cut off the top and rind and all the inedible bits to find out how much edible fruit was in a typical pineapple. It weighed right around two pounds, which makes the cost of the fruit on a sale pineapple 50 to 65 cents a pound.

Since my rule of thumb is that any food $1 a pound or less qualifies as cheap food, and I’m especially happy when I find basic, healthy food like fruit, veggies and meat in that price range, I began to make a habit of buying a pineapple or two whenever they went on sale.

However, despite that fact that I knew it was a screaming deal anyway, I started to wonder about all the parts of the pineapple I was throwing away. It seemed like rather a lot of waste. Wasn’t there any use for pineapple rinds?

Turns out , there is a use for them. Google turned up this recipe for tepache, a fermented mexican drink made from pineapple rinds, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Traditionally, tepache is mixed with beer, but on it’s own it seems to have a very low to non-existent alcohol content (depending somewhat, of course, on just how long  you ferment it). We’ve used in rum based cocktails a couple of times, but we also just drink it straight as a kind of pineapple soda or use it as a smoothie base.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s fruit based, probiotic, contains cinnamon which is good for your immune system and blood sugar response, and you can adjust the sugar content down for a more tart, less sweet drink if the turbinado sugar disturbs your healthy food sensibilities.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I’ve said in other recipes occasionally, this isn’t one of those foods that we discovered and decided we had to keep it on hand all the time. It’s a nice change of pace, and it tastes good (and yes, it’s husband approved), but it’s not something I often find myself craving.

Tepache

1-2 cups turbinado sugar (1 cup for a tart drink, 2 cups for a sweet drink)

12 cups water

1 pineapple

cinnamon and ginger to taste (1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger)

optional: clove and/or nutmeg to taste

Put the turbinado sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Rinse the pineapple lightly, but don’t scrub too hard, or use cleaners–you don’t want to remove the natural yeasts that start the fermentation process. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, then cut off the peels (see video for more detailed instructions in cutting up your pineapple). Save the pineapple fruit for another use. (If desired, when  you cut up the fruit you can add the core to the tepache.

Put the peels in a large bowl or crock suitable for fermenting. Sprinkle with spices. Pour in sugar/water mixture and ten more cups of water. Cover peels with a small plate to keep them submerged.

Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside to ferment for 3-5 days. It should be bubbly and a bit foamy like this when it’s ready to referigerate:

tepache foamRemove the peels and pour the tepache into a jug or jar. Cap tightly and refrigerate for two to three days until fizzy. (You can also drink it right away if you don’t care about carbonating it.)

Chocolate Butter Mints

chocolate butter mints

The front mint is coated in cocoa powder, which is totally a valid serving option, and also a valid photographic

option for those with minimal photography skills trying to make chocolate look edible in a picture.

 So, as I may have mentioned before, I have the kind of metabolism that runs well on proteins and fats. Unlike my carb metabolizing husband, I’m not that thrilled with being given random pieces of bread, but I could eat sour cream by the spoonful and have been known to lick off butter wrappers before I throw them away.

Enter this recipe for a socially acceptable way to eat butter. It looks like candy and tastes like chocolate, but has all the satisfying healthy fats of eating pats of butter. If you were so inclined, you could use half coconut oil to increase the types of healthy fats in this candy. Because my husband’s digestion strenuously objects to coconut oil I haven’t tried this yet, but I might in the future, as my metabolism and energy levels highly approve of coconut oil.

Now, even with straight butter, when my husband first tasted these he said they were good, but a little too much like eating butter for him to really love them. However, he found himself regularly snitching them as they sat in the fridge, so either he as over thinking it as first, or they grew on him rapidly.

The first batch I made was lighter on both the honey and the cocoa powder (probably 2 TBSP of honey and 1 heaping TBSP of cocoa, but of course, I didn’t actually measure). I preferred the lighter sweetness of the first batch for snacking, but for the full blown dessert experience the second batch (with 4 TBSP of honey and 2 heaping TBSP of cocoa) was amazing.

I mentioned in the video that I use Young Living brand peppermint oil, and while I’m not going to fangirl over it, there is an important point to be made about the quality of essential oils. There are some substances labeled as essential oils which are extracted by chemicals, diluted with other substances or otherwise carelessly and fraudulently handled, and those are completely UNSAFE to use, especially internally. I can’t say that I’ve researched every single oil company out there, but I can say that I believe Young Living to make a completely safe, high quality oil. Please make sure you do your research before choosing a brand of essential oil, to make sure you’re confident in the safety of what you’re using.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Butter, raw cocoa, raw honey, and sea salt. Can you say superfoods?

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

With the small proviso that if you’re a carb person these are just ‘good’, as a non-carb person I proclaim these butter mints to be completely amazing.

Chocolate Butter Mints

1 cup butter, softened

6-8 drops peppermint essential oil (Young Living oils are intense–you may need more if you’re using another brand)

2-4 TBSP honey

1-2 TBSP cocoa (feel free to make them heaping TBSP)

pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients in mixer and blend, or blend by hand with a fork. Make bite sized mints by squeezing through a pastry bag, ziploc bag with the corner cut off, or by dropping small spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm.

(I bet these would easier to handle if you rolled the mixture into a small log, refrigerated it for an hour or so, and then sliced off bite sized chunks. I haven’t tried this  method yet, but it would probably be tidier than anything I’ve tried so far.)

Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade chocolate syrup on top of whipped cream on top of hot chocolate,in my favorite mug, which was a Christmas present from one of my nieces.

Everyone should have a chocolate syrup recipe in their arsenal. If you make homemade vanilla ice cream, you don’t want to have put store bought syrup full of nasty chemicals and corn syrup all over it, do you? And certainly you’d rather make chocolate milk out of your organic raw milk by adding homemade honey sweetened chocolate syrup, wouldn’t you? Especially if if doesn’t taste like honey? And that’s not even mentioning the decadence of adding squirt of homemade chocolate syrup to a cup of coffee with cream and a bit of coconut oil melted in, or the fact that it’s worth eating by the spoonful.

What I really love about this chocolate syrup recipe is that every ingredient is actively good for you.

The butter gives you healthy fats.

The cocoa gives you antioxidants, and if it’s raw it also provides magnesium and other minerals (hello, superfood!).

The raw honey is anti bacterial and contains a range of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and as a bonus, if it’s local honey it helps prevent allergies by essentially ‘vaccinating’ you to the local pollens.

The raw milk also contains good enzymes and, of course, the commonly know range of nutrients such as calcium.

The sea salt contains many minerals.

Even the vanilla has compounds that reduce stress and inflammation and may even increase mental performance.

I have to admit, you’re not going to eat this chocolate syrup in large enough quantities to get your daily calcium out of it, (at least, I don’t think you are… but it is pretty good stuff, so maybe I shouldn’t make such a sweeping statement) but the point is, there’s good stuff instead of bad stuff.

This recipe was based on Sally Fallon’s carob sauce recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I made a few changes, first because carob should never be used as a chocolate substitute, and second because I rarely have cream on hand. (No worries, I increased the amount of butter to compensate for the lack of cream.)

I’m sure God had a good reason for making carob, and it must have good uses all it’s own, but it’s really hard to discover those uses when everyone wants to pretend it tastes like chocolate. This is exactly the sort of ‘healthy’ philosophy I’m opposed to here on this blog. A lot of people seem to think that if tastes good, if must be bad for you.

I once heard a lecture with the great premise that foods ‘by God’ are good and foods ‘by man’ are bad for you. So, fruits and vegetables are good for you, but chemical food additives are bad for you. Except that coffee was on the ‘foods by man’ list with no explanation as to what made it unnatural other than an assumption that it must be bad for you, so it had to go on that list. Now, I do happen to believe that coffee was designed as a boost for when you need extra or unusual amounts of energy, and constantly seeking that boost (daily or several times a day) will eventually wear out your adrenal glands. However, that is no excuse for claiming it’s evil and bad for you across the board. My point in all that being, of course chocolate is good for you! There are now studies come out that verify this, but we really could have guessed this to start with.

People stress too much. People just need to chill and eat more chocolate. (And have no guilt in occasionally eating that chocolate in the form of a mocha latte.)

For some reason, this recipe tastes good and chocolaty despite being honey sweetened. I’ve tried making homemade chocolate  with honey it tastes weird. (Agave works better.) But in this syrup the honey taste is hidden enough that even my husband likes it. We really need to do a side by side taste test with this syrup and store bought chocolate syrup, because I bet this also deserves the title of better than store bought, but I can’t officially vouch for it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy As covered above, every ingredient in this chocolate syrup is good for you.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy Complete, 100% yumminess.

Chocolate Syrup

1/2+1/3 cup butter (13 1/2 TBSP)

2/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably raw

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup milk

pinch of sea salt

1 TBSP vanilla

Melt butter over medium heat. Turn off heat and add all other ingredients.

Whisk 1-2 minutes until it begins to thicken and look shiny. Refrigerate until use. (The syrup actually turned out super thick after refrigeration, so it may need less whisking than I thought. I’ll update this post when I figure out how long to whisk for consistent results.

Variation: Increase butter to 1 cup and decrease milk to 1/2 a cup. When whisked until thick, pour into chocolate molds or a small baking pan and refrigerate. Eat as chocolates as they are, or use as the centers for truffles.

(Also, it’s just occurred to me that you could probably make an amazing peppermint chocolate syrup by adding a couple drops of peppermint essential oil.)

Be sure to watch for the moment at about 6′ 16″ in the video when I almost drip chocolate syrup on my laptop keyboard…

Cold Brewed Tea and Tea “Latte” Style Drinks

I know that most of you probably aren’t thinking, “Wow, I could use a nice tall glass of iced tea right now,” at this time of year. But the fact is, there are a lot of kinds of tea with really good health giving properties, and sometimes a variety of preparation methods helps to keep your enthusiasm from waning as you’re trying to drink tea regularly.

In particular, I find this method of brewing tea to make green tea a lot more palatable for me, and since green tea matches up point for point with many of my health problems and symptoms, I’ve figured I should really be trying to drink more of it. (Even if doesn’t taste all that great naturally.)

I discovered this method of brewing tea after trying Ree Drummond’s Perfect Iced Coffee. I figured if the method worked so well for coffee (and it does–you should try the coffee version too if you ever drink coffee) it should work for tea too.

Admittedly, unlike my homemade ketchup, this is not a healthy recipe that I constantly use and keep on hand. This is a ‘fun for changing up my normal routine’ kind of recipe that sees use when I feel like it. But, it’s kind of good to have an arsenal of healthy recipes that are fun and different too, instead of always having to turn to unhealthy recipes when you want a change from your normal routine.

I  use agave in this recipe. I’m not completely sold on agave’s healthiness. In fact, I’m sure it’s not as good for you as raw honey, and possibly not even as good for you as turbinado sugar. But it does have some attributes that make it handy for recipes like these, such as a more neutral flavor than honey, and an ability to dissolve easily into cold liquids. I’ve decided that for us, agave falls into that category of ‘eat lots of different kinds of foods, and it will probably all balance out’.

Yes, agave is high in fructose. It would probably be bad for you to eat it all the time. It might (or might not, depending on who you ask) be processed in such a way as removes all of it’s health benefits. Or, it might just be one of many options for a mostly natural sweetener that like everything else, has it’s pros and cons.

If you don’t want to use agave, you have a couple of options. for replacing it. You can make a simple syrup out of sugar (white or turbinado) and water. Or you can warm honey in a small amount of water until it dissolves easily into the water and stir that into the tea. Or, possibly, you could try blending honey into it in your blender or using an immersion blender and see how well that works.

The chai tea I used in the video really is the best chai I’ve ever had. It’s rooibos based, so it’s naturally caffeine free, and adapts well to various water temperatures and brewing times. (Meaning, if you tend to forget about your tea after you start brewing it and over brew it, this is the chai for you.)  If you’re interested in trying it, you can buy here from my friend Whitney’s Etsy shop.

I’ve made this recipe with both green tea and chai, and I also want to try this tea with spearmint and/or peppermint soon. I think it should work with any of your favorite teas.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Given the proviso about agave, I would definitely classify this as healthy. Tea and milk are both good for you, and you can adapt this the healthy sweetener of your choice if you’re willing to put a bit more work into it.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband enjoyed both the green tea and the chai tea versions of this drink I made, despite not usually being a fan of chai, and despite usually being skeptical of agave. I also enjoyed them both, despite not being a fan of green tea flavor, and being a huge fan of chai.

Cold Brewed Tea

1 tea bag or 1 TBSP loose leaf tea

1 quart cold water

This amount of tea makes a normal strength iced tea, or a very mild tea latte drink. If you want a stronger tea latte drink, double the amount of tea used.

Put the tea bag, or spoonful of loose leaf tea into a quart jar. Cover with water, put lid on jar, and let sit for 18-24 hours. Remove tea bag or strain tea through mesh strainer. Refrigerate until use. You can drink this plain, sweetened as you would iced tea, or make the following tea latte out of it.

 

Tea “Latte”

1 quart brewed tea

1 quart milik

1/2 cup agave

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)

Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)

There are a few kifli recipes on the internet (and in some cases, kiefli recipes) but none I’ve found that are really like my great-grandmother’s kifli recipe. Wikipedia will tell you that a kifli is a essentially a dinner roll, with a possible sweet variation having a walnut filling. Wikipedia is confused.

A kifli is a crescent shaped pastry cookie with walnut and raisin filling, rolled in sugar and baked to tender perfection.

As with any good family recipe, handed down with incomplete written information, this recipe comes with a bit of a squabble attached as to the proper way to make it. Naturally, I will share with you in this post the true proper way to make kiflis, as passed down my my grandmother and whose accuracy in flavor is attested to by my father.

In my father’s childhood there would always be a crock full of these cookies at my great-grandmother’s house. (Edit: I was misremembering the stories: actually my great-grandmother also only made kiflis at Christmas time.) As they’re a bit labor intensive, we only make them at Christmas time, but they are probably the single most important Christmas food tradition in my family.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of making kiflis, please, make them according to the original recipe and do not try to healthify them. Healthy is not the point of these cookies. Flaky, tender pastry with filling is the point of these cookies. I made the mistake of using a healthier white flour when I made these in the video (flour with no wheat bran, but the wheat germ left in). They’re still good, but they taste a bit like a cross between a kifli and graham cracker, which is not ideal. (I actually meant to use plain white flour and forgot. Bad me.)

You may, however, use organic raisins in the filling if it makes you feel better.

Oh, and also the amounts I give you here are for half an original batch. It will still make many dozen kiflis and you try to make a full original batch you’ll end up with half the dough and filling sitting around in your fridge for weeks waiting for you to have time to finish using them up. If you do have leftover filling it’s quite good in muffins. If you have leftover scraps of dough you can sprinkle them with sugar and bake them (along the lines of pie crust cookies).

Healthiness rating: Not healthy

It could be argued that with walnuts and raisins in the filling it’s not as unhealthy as it could be, but if you’re even having that argument, you may be missing the point. It’s a Christmas cookie. Healthy is not the point. Live a little.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

Admittedly, raisins aren’t everyone’s thing, and my husband’s siblings don’t love these cookies. But my husband and I both like these cookies a lot, despite not normally being raisin people, so I see no reason to demote the kiflis yumminess status on that basis.

Kiflis (or Kiepfles or Kieffles or Kiefflis)

Dough

2 1/4 tsp yeast

1-2 TBSP cold milk

4-5 cups white flour

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

3 egg yolks

1 cup sour cream

Filling

2 cups walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup raisins

3 egg whites, beaten

Dissolve yeast in milk.

Work together the flour and butter with a fork, pastry blender or two knives, until the mixtures resembles coarse crumbs (such as for a pie crust). Make a hollow in the center of the flour mixture and put the yeast/milk mixture, egg yolks and sour cream. Mix. Knead for about five minutes until silky.

Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours.

The next day, start the filling. Finely chop the walnuts and mix with the rest of the filling ingredients. Cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or so, until the mixture is a golden to dark brown. If needed, add a splash of water to keep the filling from sticking to the pan or scorching.

Cut the dough in fourths and return three quarters of the dough to the fridge. Spread sugar on your counter and across the top of the dough, adding more as needed to keep it from sticking. Roll out the remaining quarter of the dough until it’s very thin–thicker than cardstock, but thinner than corrugated cardboard. (See the video for a visual of thin it should be.)

Cut dough into small squares (perhaps two and a quarter inches–experiment to see what size works well for you). Cut the squares diagonally to make triangles. Put a small amount of filling (perhaps half a teaspoon) on the long edge of the triangle opposite the point. Roll up the triangle toward the point. Bend into a crescent shape. Roll in sugar again.

Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned and cooked through but still soft. Remove from cookie sheet to cool.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

This is my third year making Christmas pudding. The first year I followed the traditional instructions to make it a month ahead so it can age for proper flavor. It went moldy.

The next year I decided to make it only a week or two ahead of time, and as an extra precaution, poured rum over it as a mold preventative. I served it with a simple brandy sauce (recipe below) and it was amazing.

Christmas pudding is very dense, like a hearty bread pudding. Lightly sweet, with dried fruit and spices, it has a good medley of rich flavors, but none of them overwhelming.

I used a white flour in this years pudding, but it’s one I got through Azure Standard with the wheat germ left in and only the bran removed. With the bran removed you have no pesky phytates to worry about, and a lot of the nutrition is still intact because of the wheat germ.

I used homemade bread crumbs this year. I save bread heels and overdone (but still not burnt) toast and other such odd bits of bread in a bag in the freezer, and just throw them in the food processor when I need bread crumbs. This means my bread crumbs were in about the same ratio of wheat to white as the bread we eat–mostly whole wheat, but with a bit of white thrown in here and there. In previous years I’ve used store bought panko bread crumbs.

The last two years I haven’t been able to find suet in our local grocery store and had to fall back on grated frozen butter. This year I wasn’t even going to try to look, but as I was poking through the meat on manager’s special I found beef suet  just sitting there for seventy-five cents. So I finally get to compare and see if it turns out better with suet! I have to say though, I didn’t notice any problems with using the butter instead.

To puree the orange, cut it in quarters, with the peel still on, and put the whole thing in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces of peel. Last year I used a whole lemon instead of a whole orange, but I didn’t happen to have lemons on hand this year.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I rate this as kinda healthy, because you can really make it as healthy as you want to depending the ingredients you choose (there’s very little innately unhealthy about the ingredients: dried fruit, spices, breadcrumbs that can be whole wheat, etc). But then, this is a Christmas pudding recipe. Healthy isn’t really the point.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

The brandy sauce tastes especially amazing, but the pudding is very good too. Let me put it this way: How good do you think it would have to be for me to decide it’s worth it to go through the bother of making and steaming a Christmas pudding every year?

Yep, it’s pretty good.

Christmas Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups bread crumbs

6 oz suet or 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter, grated

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup craisins

½ tbsp molasses

½ apple, peeled and grated

½ carrot, finely grated

1 orange, pureed

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp of ginger

1 egg

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Run hot water over a thin cotton dish towel (not terry cloth!). Wring out as much as possible. Sprinkle flour on cloth.

Dump mixture on to the flour in the middle of the cloth. Smooth mixture into as tight a ball as possible, then tie opposing corners of the cloth over the christmas pudding ball. Make it as snug as you can (you’ll probably have small divot in the bottom of your Christmas pudding from the knot), then tie the two remaining corners snugly.

The next step is to steam the pudding. I don’t have any fancy steaming equipment, so I’ve used a few different strategies over the years.

I’ve tied the longer ‘tails’ of the corners of the towel to my stockpot handles, suspending the pudding in the middle of the pot above the boiling water.

I’ve skipped the dishcloth altogether, packed the pudding mixture in the bottom of a 2 qt stainless steel bowl and boiled the whole thing, keeping the water level low enough that the water never got in the bowl. (This option  is nice for aging and reheating as it can just stay in the same bowl for that entire process.)

This year I set my mesh strainer in the top of my stock pot and put the pudding-tied-inside-a-towel  inside the mesh strainer, keeping the pudding out of the boiling water but still in the steam.

Whatever method you use, the pudding with need to cook for about 2 1/2 hours. When it’s done it should be one cohesive pudding and no longer crumbly.

When it’s cooled enough to handle, remove the pudding from the towel, poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and pour over it 2 TBSP of rum, slowly to give it time to soak in.

Put the pudding somewhere cool and dry to age for a week or two (or four if you’re a traditionalist).

To reheat the pudding, use any of the methods listed above for steaming the pudding, but only steam it for about an hour.

Pour brandy over the pudding and light it just before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

If you want to serve it for Christmas breakfast (which is not as scandalous as it sounds, because the alcohol is cooked off the pudding, even if you serve it flaming, and you can easily cook the alcohol off the brandy sauce as well, if desired) you may want to put it in a small bowl inside your slow cooker, put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and steam it overnight so it’s ready in the morning with no fuss.

Brandy Sauce

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups milk

3 TPSP sugar

1/4 cup brandy

(All these measurements are approximate, as I really just eyeballed measurements for a white sauce, then added sugar and brandy to taste)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Add sugar and wait for it to thicken. Remove from heat and add brandy. (If you prefer, add the brandy and cook for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol.)