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We Got the BEET – Learning to love the unlovable

If your childhood was anything like mine, you also developed a healthy dislike for this much maligned root vegetable. For me, the road to loving beets has been a long one. My first exposure to them was less than positive. My mother used to serve these earthen tasting dark red disks directly from the can. They weren’t quite firm, but they weren’t quite soft either and they tasted like the bottom of a shoe. I protested loudly each time they appeared on my dinner plate. Just to prove my point I resorted to pushing them onto the floor and letting everyone see for themselves that even the dog wouldn’t eat them. For future reference to anybody considering this mode of communication using visual aids, I want you to know that the outcome was not good. If I remember correctly I went to bed early and with a sore bottom that evening.

Since I joined a CSA program about 15 years ago, beets were re-introduced to my life. I spent the first several years pretending like they didn’t really exist; often times giving them away, or leaving them in my refrigerator only to be found months later in a shriveled, moldy heap in the bottom of the crisper. About 10 years ago I decided that I would no longer waste these nutritious earth apples, and find a way to make them palatable. My first attempt was Beet Brownies. Looking back I am not sure what my motivation was here, because I don’t even like brownies! Maybe I was testing the math rule of two negatives make a positive, but I don’t even like math! Before the math geeks start to send hate mail, let me say this… I understand that math is necessary and all of the wonderful things that exist today, exist because of it, but math and I just don’t see eye to π. With that said, the brownie experiment was a huge fail.

My second attempt happened after I bought my first juicer. This was a HUGE success, as I could pretty much slip beets into all of my juice concoctions and enjoy it. I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. I went on to roasting them and eating them with a little bit of goat cheese and some vinegarette; sometimes on top of a salad made with beet greens, sometimes not, but I found that even this was too limiting for my tastes. I needed more options.

Shortly after I discovered the world of fermented foods through books like “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz, and added Beet Kvass to the list. This became my preferred method of consuming beets and will likely remain so. Beet Kvass is considered a cleansing tonic by many people. Being a skeptic doesn’t allow me to subscribe to this idea, but what I can suscribe to is this; it is packed with vitamins and gives me energy and that’s enough of an endorsement for me. If you haven’t tried Beet Kvass, I highly recommend that you do and you can see for yourself. Please do read up on it before jumping straight in to drinking two glasses daily, as there are some who report varying ill effects associated with too much too soon. I myself never had any problems and started with two glasses a day out of the gate. Now I look forward to getting beets in my CSA box, and have been known to buy them at the farmers market, just so I can make a batch of Kvass to drink. I have been experimenting using raw apple cider vinegar instead of whey to inoculate my kvass, but haven’t quite perfected the recipe. When I do, I will post it. Until then enjoy a few other recipes I like to prepare when I have these sweet little beauties available to me. They can’t be BEET! IMG_0344

Pickled Beets, enjoy alone, or on top of salads and sandwiches.

Beet Pickled Eggs, these are tasty all by themselves, as well as on salads, or a yummy twist on egg salad.IMG_0345

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Olive You – Turning enemies into friends… Edible friends

WARNING: this story contains puns that are not funny, or even remotely helpful. If you get them, great! If you get them and laugh, you are my hero.

Let me start by saying that I am severely allergic to olive trees & their pollen, but not olives. My feelings about olives were fairly neutral until about 7 years ago, when we moved into our current house and started a tiny backyard garden. This is when my relationship with olives turned bitter (rim shot). You see, our neighbor has an olive tree in their backyard. It didn’t occur to me to mind until I discovered that between the months of March and May (depending on the weather) I wanted to dig my eyeballs out of my skull and run the high pressure hose through my nose cavity so I could breath a little better. No big deal, right? Many people suffer from allergies, so why be a big crybaby about it? That’s why wonderful companies like Aventis and Alcon created pharmaceutical solutions to these everyday problems. Yay for science!

One solution I am still looking for is an easier, faster way to remove the hundreds of olives that drop into my garden every year. These little fruits, in the long run are probably beneficial in the way of soil nutrients, but they are messy and a total pain in the ass to clean up and if I don’t, the part that doesn’t immediately decompose screws with the structure of my soil. Now, some of you may be saying “what a pity,” (rim shot) but this year my husband brought in a mound of branches with ripe olives and said, “think you could do something with these?”

After I ran through some pretty creative ways to ensure that these little beauties came to a swift and violent end, I started my search on ways to home cure olives. I was surprised at how little information is out there on the subject, but ran across a tremendously helpful publication out of UC Davis on safe methods for home pickling. After all, could it be much worse than raking and hand picking them out of the raised beds?

While I haven’t tried and won’t try all of the curing methods in this document, because I tend to be a bit picky (rim shot) I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to try curing their own olives. I am too nervous about bacteria to try the water-cured method. I don’t even use soap with lye in it, so there is no way I would use it in my food preparation. I won’t try the salt-cured method because raisiny olives don’t sound appealing to me at all. Maybe that’s because I hate raisins, but that’s another story for another time.

What I can do is vouch for the brine-cured olives. It took about 6 months with nearly monthly refreshes on the brine, but now I have some delightfully flavored olives to snack on whenever my little heart desires. I used a couple of bay leaves and some garlic in my brine, and cured the olives in a one gallon glass jar, right on my kitchen counter. Feel free to get creative when using spices, but keep in mind the time investment when experimenting. Nothing will kill a blossoming interest (rim shot) in home curing olives like throwing an entire batch of olives away because the cumin, rosemary, chipotle spice mix didn’t taste as good as it sounded.

And that my friends, is how you turn a negative into a positive! So go out there and get the cure for what ails you (rim shot)!!!

Image by Skepclectic Mom

Image by Skepclectic Mom: The fruits of my labor!