Punk Domestics's blog

Win a FARMcurious Fermentation Set!

Win a FARMcurious Fermentation Set, found on PunkDomestics.com

I owe a debt of gratitude to Nicole Easterday of FARMcurious. Aside from being a good friend and loyal colleague, she's inspired me to get ever deeper into the world of fermentation. An avid bacteria farmer herself, she took her passion to market by creating a handy dandy and inexpensive fermentation kit that works with standard wide-mouth mason jars, perfect for small-batch fermenting. Now, with her guidance and the ease of use of these kits, I've always got a thing or ten burbling away in my back room.

The principle is simple: Put your brined food in the jar, screw on the lid, and pop on the water-filled airlock. As CO2 is released, it burps out of the airlock, which in turn prevents oxygen (not to mention particulates, molds and other unwanted bugaboos) from pushing into the jar. Go check out the fermenting set page on FARMcurious to learn more about it. While there, if you feel compelled to do some holiday gift shopping, knock yourself out! In fact, use the code punkdom on checkout for 10% off anything in the store. (If you get a gift or two for yourself, I won't judge.) Then, check out the fermentation kit support page, and see just how easy it is to use these nifty kits.

At two for just $27.95, they're considerably cheaper than other kits on the market, but you know what else is cheap? Free!

I want you to experience the wonder of small-batch home fermentation, and lucky for you, FARMcurious is giving a set away. You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

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Gift Guide: Best DIY Books of 2015

The field of excellent DIY and preserving books marches on this year, continuing the trend from 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Many of these authors are colleagues and contemporaries, as well as contributors to the Punk Domestics community. This year's big trend appears to be books that integrate food preservation with everyday cookery. Here's a handful of favorites, ranging from the broad to the specific. (Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.com from which I may derive a nominal amount of revenue.)

The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss
The force behind Northwest Edible Life's debut book is a great resource for anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process.

The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila
An expansion on her 2012 book, The Homemade Pantry, Chernila's latest is a meditation on making the kitchen a sane and sensible place from which inspiration flows naturally. There's plenty of preserving in there, but it all ties into a holistic, integrated approach to cooking.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, found on PunkDomestics.comBrown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
Simple Bites' blogger has come out with a work that's not just a cookbook; it's a lifebook. It's equal parts Laura Ingalls Wilder and Martha Stewart.

The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman, found on PunkDomestics.com The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman
The successful homestead goes beyond the garden. This follow-up to the hugely successful The Backyard Homestead closes the gap between field and table, with a 360º view of all manner of preparing, preserving, and cooking pretty much everything.

The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee, found on PunkDomestics.com The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee
From the classics to the more outlandish, Bronee dishes up 101 small-batch recipes for canning preserves, pickles and condiments to enhance meals all year long.

The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
The South's most esteemed chef focuses on ultra-seasonal fare, with oodles of inspiration for fresh fruits and vegetables, including plenty of ideas for preserving and fermentation. Read my inteview with Chef Acheson.

Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, found on PunkDomestics.comPreserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Japan has a unique preserving culture all its own, using things as commonplace as salt to make cured plums known as umeboshi to vegetables fermented in miso or soy lees. With her perspective living on a Japanese farm, Hachisu provides insight and inspiration into this most fascinating culture.

Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer, found on PunkDomestics.comFerment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer
Longtime Punk Domestics contributor Amanda Feifer of Phickle flexes her fermentation muscles, offering up a kaleidoscopic array of ways to turn your veggies into probiotic pickles.

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher
Unsatisfied with synthetic enzymes and starters, David Asher sought to make cheese in the traditional way, with natural ingredients, following the principles of Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation. From simple kefir to sophisticated cheese aged in jars, this book is a revelation. Read my interview with David Asher.

Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Strernman Rule, found on PunkDomestics.comYogurt Culture by Cheryl Strernman Rule
Rule delves into the rich and diverse ways yogurt can be used in the kitchen, offering 115 recipes that incorporate it. Of course it makes a fantastic base for soups and sauces, but it also makes baked goods tender, like in a orange and olive oil cake. It also has lucid instructions on how to make your own yogurt, with some good insight on a few different methods for incubation.

Jerky Everything by Pamela Braun, found on PunkDomestics.comJerky Everything by Pamela Braun
While it may seem like a narrow topic, jerky has many faces and flavors, and this book lays out quite a lot of them, drawing from a panoply of global flavors. Mexican, Thai, Korean, Cajun and other influences that pepper the recipes.

Jerky Everything by Pamela Braun, found on PunkDomestics.comSalsas and Moles by Deborah Schneider
The California and Arizona chef opens the Mexican pantry for home cooks everywhere, and inspires the creation and use of these versatile sauces, like a classic mole negro.

Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han, found on PunkDomestics.com Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han
Han applies her forager's skills to finding the best ingredients for a variety of beverages, from healthful tisanes to syrups and shrubs, and extends them into craftful cocktails as well.

Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld, found on PunkDomestics.com Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld
Zijderveld explores the use of various teas as flavoring agents much as you would go spelunking in your spice drawer. By using different techniques, such as hot versus cold infusion, or grinding dry tea into a spice-like powder, she teases out different aspects of each tea to particular effect, such as in a sweet tea jelly.

Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen, found on PunkDomestics.com Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen
Whether you're a newbie to the home brewing scene or a seasoned brewer looking to up your game, Christensen demysifies the principles of home brewing and delivers simple, erudite tips to making the best beer you can.

Make Mead Like a Viking by Jereme Zimmerman, found on PunkDomestics.com Make Mead Like a Viking by Jereme Zimmerman
If you're looking to go really old school with your fermented beverages, follow the lead of "Appalachian Yeti Viking" Jereme Zimmerman to learn how to make one of the world's oldest beverages with natural ingredients and wild yeasts.

Good Food, Great Business by Susie Wyshak, found on PunkDomestics.com Good Food, Great Business by Susie Wyshak
A longtime avid fan of artisan food businesses, Wyshak became passionate about helping would-be businessespeople take those first and most important steps. She then distilled that information into an amazingly lucid and inspirational book. If you're interested in taking your craft food to market, start here.

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DIY Liqueurs for Holiday Gifting

Many people enjoy receiving a bottle of a nice liqueur as  a holiday gift. When it's handmade, it makes it both delicious and personal. Here's a bunch of our favorite DIY liqueurs perfect for gifting. 

Citric Liqueurs:

Limoncello, found on PunkDomestics.com
The classic lemon liqueur of southern Italy is a ray of sunshine during the dark winter months. It's easy to make, too.
Crema di Limoncello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Crema di Limoncello 
Or try this twist on the classic Italian lemon liqueur, with cream and vanilla. The cream mellows the sweetness and gives it a richer mouthfeel.
Arancello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Citrus liqueurs are not limited to lemon. Try it with oranges, be they standard navels or sanguine blood oranges.
Orange Liqueur, found on PunkDomestics.com
Orange Liqueur 
Triple sec, Gran Marnier, Cointreau ... try your hand at making orange liqueur at home, and give your margaritas a DIY zing.
Vin d'Orange, found on PunkDomestics.com
Vin d'Orange 
Vin d'Orange, a bitter liquor made with Seville oranges, is easy to prepare, requiring the mixing of a few ingredients and allowing it to sit for two weeks to allow the spices and orange zest to infuse the wine and vodka.
Whatevercello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Think outside the lemon box and make liqueurs from whatever citrus you like -- bergamots, grapefruits, pomelos, and kumquats all work great.
Grapefruit Bitters, found on PunkDomestics.com
Grapefruit Bitters 
Mix the natural bitterness of grapefruit with spices like pink peppercorn, cardamom or juniper to make an intriguing bitters that enhances many cocktails.

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The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss

The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, found on PunkDomestics.com

I've really enjoyed the trend in the DIY book space away from single-subject and into integrative lifestyle. Kate Payne's delightful duo of The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking and The Hip Girl's Guide to the Kitchen offer simple practices for a natural home. Cathy Barrow's Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry steps outside the basic preserving bible, with recipes in and out of the jar spanning the entire year. All have a permanent place on my bookshelf. 

But there's always room for one more. Blogger (and longtime Punk Domestics contributor) Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life enters the arena with a tour de force. Her debut book, The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, serves up a wealth of ideas for maintaining a wholesome, healthy lifestyle year round. 

The book kicks off with 100 pages of foundational techniques and practices that equip you with the skills you need, then subsequent sections are orgainzed by projects that can be done throughout the year, and then by specific season. Within each, Strauss has recipes and projects for preserving, cooking, and home and body care. 

All the projects are accessible, and indeed enticing. By arming you with some basic knowledge around the mechanics of which natural cleaning agents are good for what, she enables you to have fun with your DIY soaps and cleansers. She brings her chef's sensibility to thinking of recipes as guidelines, offering charts of variations on basic salad dressings, or a "choose-your-own-adventure granola." 

Best of all, Strauss' voice is engaging and witty, never haughty. Take, for example, her chipper top tips for food preservation, which helpfully frame the mindset and make preserving easy, practical, and most of all fun. What could be a daunting stack of projects comes off a fun to-do list. For anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process, this is a fantastic resource indeed. 

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Many Ways to Preserve Cranberries

No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.

Cranberry Sauce, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cranberry Sauce
The homemade stuff is invariably better than what you buy on the shelf. But if you must have the ridges from the can, then make yours in an empty can to complete the effect. (Image via Food in Jars)
Cranberry Conserve, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cranberry Conserve
Leave it chunky, plus maybe add the hearrty crunch of nuts, for a conserve that adds tooth to the classic sauce. (Image via Stephanie the Recipe Renovator)

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Jerky Everything: Review and Giveaway

Jerky Everything, found on PunkDomestics.com

I'm a late comer to jerky. It's not something I ate growing up, and the 16 or so years I spent as a vegetarian were not conducive to jerky consumption. Lately, though, I've become fascinated with it, so when my friend Pamela Braun told me she was working on a book that was all about jerky, my interest was piqued. 

While it may seem like a narrow topic, actually jerky has many faces and flavors, and Jerky Everything lays out quite a lot of them. Beef is the gold standard, of course, and the book has dozens of variations on it drawing from a panoply of global flavors. Mexican, Thai, Korean, Cajun and other influences pepper the recipes. But there's also plenty of pork, poultry, seafood, and even a bunch of pretty out-there game options like alligator, boar, and even yak. She's thrown in some fruits and veggies for good measure as well. 

Braun's tone is informal yet informative. In the opening section, she lays out an erudite explanation of why jerky is safe to make at home, provided you take certain precautions. While the material is very technical and could come off as wonky, she makes it approachable and understandable. So bust out your dehydrator (or just turn on the oven), and make some delicious dried meat with Pamela Braun's deft guidance. 

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Several Things to Do With Green Tomatoes

As the days shorten, those last tomatoes on the vine may stubbornly stay green. But that doesn't mean they're not good eating. Here's seven ways to preserve those green tomatoes.

Pickled Green Tomatoes, found on PunkDomestics.com
Pickled Green Tomatoes
Keep 'em crisp and make 'em zingy and tangy. Pickled green tomatoes make the most of the unripe fruit. (Image via Garden of Eating.)
Green Tomato Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Green Tomato Salsa
Spicy and tangy, green tomato salsa brings a dose of summer in the colder months. (Image via Jane's Adventures in Dinner.)
Green Tomato Chutney, found on PunkDomestics.com
Green Tomato Chutney
Chunky, spicy, sweet-tart chutney elevates your greenies to new dimensions. Great with meats, or alongside spicy foods. (Image via Married ...With Dinner.)

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Conquering the Quixotic Quince

Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.

Canned Quinces, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cutting a Quince
Quince are tough customers. Before you lop off a finger trying to chop into one, be sure to check out this video from What Julia Ate. Your digits will thank you.
Canned Quince in  Syrup, found on PunkDomestics.com
Canned Quince in Syrup
Canned slices of aromatic quince made all the more exotic with white wine or rose syrup will find their way into your holiday baking regimen.

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Eleven Ways to Put Up Pears

Cooler, crisp days and oblique light. Autumn is upon us, and with it the first fall fruit that comes to mind. Juicy, sweet pears are delicious and versatile. Here's almost a dozen ways to preserve the bounty of the season.

Canned Pears
Canned pears
Can those pears in syrup, infused with booze, spiked with ginger or redolent of aromatic tea. (Image via Snowflake Kitchen)
Pear Jam
Pear Jam
Naturally soft and succulent pears cook down to a beautifully delicate jam, especially nice with autumnal spices.

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Eight Ways to Preserve Grapes

Veraison is upon us, which means the grapes are coming into season. Here's eight ways to preserve grapes, from the traditional jelly to chutney, raisins and more. 

Grape Jelly
Grape Jelly
The ultimate taste of childhood, grape jelly captures the essence of the fruit. Stick it to Smucker's and make your own. (While you're at it, make your own peanut butter, too.)
Grape Jam
Grape Jam
Less fussy than jelly, grape jam burst with the juicy flavor of grapes, especially if you have access to wild fruit.

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