Traditional Food Cheats

I have been doing traditional foods for a while now with my kids.  What that means is that we are eating in ways that people had been eating prior to the advent of processed foods.  There are TONS of recipes for things like bone broth/meat stock, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha, and others like rendering lard.   Of course, in a pinch, you can find these things online or in the store.  However my family goes through a lot of these things quickly, and it can get expensive.   But at the same time, making traditional food can be time consuming.  So I have begun to find shortcuts to making some of these things so that I don’t have to spend my entire day in the kitchen.  I will share how I make lard, kombucha and bone broth.

The one thing I make a lot is broth.  It is full of minerals and nutrients that our bodies require, plus the gelatin in broth is wonderful for healing the gut lining.  I am sure that the way I make it isn’t perfect, but it works for us.  You’ll need some bones with meat on them, cartilaginous ones, marrow bones, knuckle bones, neck bones, oxtail or split calves heels.  Alternatively, you can do several whole chicken carcasses from roasting a chicken along with a couple of chicken feet if you can get them.

Just cover the bones in a stock pot or crock pot (we do the crock pot) with clean filtered water and add a splash of apple cider vinegar.  You can add veggie scraps like carrots, celery, garlic, onion if you wish to make it more flavorful.  If you are just using it as a base for a soup that will have herbs added, you can do without.  Set it to simmer, and after about an hour, just scrape the funk off the top of the broth.  Let it go at least 2 and a half to three hours.  I let my broth go overnight (in the crock pot, not on the stove.  No fires allowed!)  to extract as many minerals as I can.  Some people say you can reuse the bones a couple of times if the bones are not chicken.  Chicken bones break down more quickly.  In any case, when your broth is done, strain it through a strainer with cheesecloth into jars.  You can even freeze the broth into cubes if you just want to add small amounts to your cooking.  Cool and refrigerate or freeze.

Now if you want to hear a very lazy way to do this, you can cook a whole chicken in the crock pot.  Put the bird in the pot and fill with filtered water about halfway up the chicken.  Add that splash of apple cider vinegar (like 1/4 cup) and season your bird how you like.  I roast it on low overnight, and in the morning, I turn it off.  Let it cool down a little and then take the bird and bones out and strain the broth.  It gels really well for me this way and it tastes delicious.  This is my favorite way to do it.  Get a pastured bird, cook it, and you have plenty of meat and broth.  I will freeze that carcass and do this enough times to get a few carcasses to make broth.  Of couse, you can mix together different types of bones, I just prefer the chicken broth.

Lard is my next easy task.  You can buy it at Fatworks, but it can be expensive, however it is very clean and pastured, which is how you want all of your fats to be (fat is where toxic pesticides and other chemicals reside.) Lard is amazing!  It is a monounsaturated fat like olive oil.  It’s more amenable to slightly higher temperatures, and you can bake with it.  Lard contains Vitamin D which is great for your immune system.   If you can get access to pork leaf fat from a farmer/farm-co op, you can render your own.  It comes in a sealed pack and is like a long intestine-shaped rope of fat.  You open it up and cut off any skin or meat that you find (though I have to say that I have skipped this step myself unless it is really obvious.)  Chop up the fat into chunks (some say 1/2″ cubes, but again, I have just done larger chunks to save time) and put into a deeper heavier bottomed pot.  Put in about 1/2 a cup of filtered water and turn to low flame.  You can also do this in the crock pot on low temperature.  I then occasionally stir it as the non fat portions sink to the bottom.  I have read that when all of those solids are on the bottom, that it is ready.  However I have personally drained out the fat that melted and continued to let the other solids melt down more as it seems to yield more fat that I thought.  That may or may not be correct, but it has never been harmful.  You can eat the solids, but I don’t.  Strain through cheesecloth into jars and let cool.  It will look yellowish while warm, but it will turn milky white.  If it smells a little piggy, that’s still okay to use.  You might want to use that for more savory dishes instead of baking with it.  The last time I did it, I was able to get about 40 ounces of lard for $8.  That is a steep decrease in price from when you purchase it online.  And it is stupid easy,especially how I make it.

As for Kombucha, I have to say that I learned how to both grow my own kombucha “mother” (scoby) and brew it at this site.  In fact, I am going to grow new ones as my scobies have gotten pretty old.  So I will be referring back to this site myself this weekend.  I will leave that link up for those who do not wish to purchase their scobies.  It was easy, take it from me, the lady who can’t make sauerkraut, which is also a ferment, to save her life!  But I will tell you how I reduce time to make kombucha.

Once you have your mother, set it aside.  Put a pot of about four cups of water (though it doesn’t matter really how much) on the stove.  Get that sucker to boiling and then turn it off.  Pour in 1 1/4 cup of organic sugar (regular is probably made from sugar beets, which are genetically modified….yuck!) and stir with a METAL spoon.   Get six bags of black tea (get a nice quality one that is organic if you can, though I have done conventional Lipton) and steep them in that water.  Go about your business for the day, and then come back to check it later.  If it is room temperature, go ahead and put that tea into a gallon jar and fill most of the way up with filtered water and stir.   (Leave room for your starter/original flavored kombucha that I will mention.) Put your scoby into the jar along with the starter that it was stored in.   If you don’t have any, you can buy a bottle of regular Kombucha (not flavored…get original flavor) and add that into the gallon jar.  Cover with a kitchen towel and store in a darker place.  If it’s hotter in the room, it will brew faster.  It can take anywhere from 10-21 days to brew depending upon if you want it sweeter or more vinegary.  You can dip a straw into the brew for a sample, place your finger on the top of the straw, and then take it out to taste from the bottom end of the straw.  That way you can get it how you like it.  Kombucha mothers grow “babies” ( they look like pancakes), which you can use to make more kombucha.  Store in a container in the fridge with enough brew to cover it and feed it.

I hope that these little cheats have been helpful to you.  They have made traditional eating much simpler for our family….and my kiddo loves her kombucha.  Lots of probiotics in that one!  And eggs in lard are divine!  Give it a try and see what you think!

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