I’ve been wanting to venture into the world of fermented tonics, but just couldn’t seem to find the time or the gumption to do it. This week’s challenge to cook something new (to me) was just the push I needed. I thought I’d start with a real lemon tonic recipe because the kids arrive today and Anwen LOVES anything lemon.
I thought I’d share a little bit about why homemade tonics are a good thing, but here’s a quick summary: yum.
The benefits of fermented beverages
Tonics are a fermented food, and fermented foods infuse the gut with lactobacilli and lactic acid and provide an array of enzymes and nourishing minerals. Tonics are also more more hydrating and thirst-quenching than even water—and definitely all round better than the carbonated drinks you buy in the store. Traditionally they were valued for their medicinal qualities, including the ability to relieve intestinal problems and constipation, promote lactation, strengthen the sick and promote overall well-being and stamina. Taken with meals, tonics promote digestion; taken after physical labor, they replace lost mineral ions in a way that renews rather than depletes the body’s reserves. However, you don’t want to drink them like water. A little goes a long way with fermented beverages. For the average adult, four to six ounces a day is good. Children can take less. and a child would need even less at one time. Keep that in mind, because this lemon tonic recipe is so good, you’ll want to drink much, much more!
Notes about this lemon tonic recipe
One of the things I love about fermented foods is how unpredictable they are. This goes for the tonics as well as the vegetables. The size of the lemons you use, what kind of lemons, what kind of sugar, the humidity in your house…all of these influence the final product. I also love the fact you can’t really get it wrong…you just get it different. So keep making this tonic and have fun!
Recipe: Lemon Tonic
Summary: Refreshing and rejuvenating super drink
- 2 cups of lemon juice (about of 10 lemons)
- 3/4 cup sugar or sucanat
- 1 cup of whey
- 4 quarts of filtered water
- gallon size jar (or two and half quart jars)
- Make a simple sugar with the sugar/sucanat and 1 cup of water. Add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan and gently heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Add the simple sugar and lemon juice to the jar (or jars) and fill about 3/4 full with filtered water.
- Add the whey (make sure the liquid is at room temp so that you don’t kill any of the enzymes in the whey).
- Cover tightly and let sit on the counter for 3-5 days. (The longer it sits, the less sugar in the final product; we like ours tart, so it stays out 5 days).
- Store in the fridge and drink 4-6 ounces per day.
You can add about 1 tsp of molasses to the sugar before dissolving to add extra minerals and make a slightly sweeter taste. This can be very tart. Add a couple drops of stevia if it is too tart for you! Use a glass jar with a glass or metal top.
You can use lemons or limes, or a mixture of both
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Copyright © Susan Rose.
So, I’ve become obsessed with foraging for acorns. A few weeks ago, I harvested my first batch to make acorn flour. I chose to make the flour because I wanted to make an acorn honey cake, a recipe from Hunter Angler Gardner Cook. A cake seemed like a good first acorn based food to try.
I thought Thanksgiving would be the best day to try it out. I haven’t seen it documented, but I wouldn’t be surprised if acorn honey cake was served at the first Thanksgiving. Maybe.
I was amazed at how light and fluffy it turned out, mostly because I was expecting it to be really dry (that was the warning from the website). And the taste is so interesting. It kind of looks and tastes like gingerbread, although there is no ginger in it. The taste may be in part due to the olive oil. I’ve never baked with olive oil, and almost switched it out with grape seed oil. But I decided to stay true to the recipe, and am glad I did.
The verdict in our house: acorn honey cake is worth the effort. I think it’s going to become a new Thanksgiving tradition for me.
Recipe: Acorn Honey Cake
Summary: A tasty, very Virginia cake
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup acorn
- 1/2 cup call-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of sea salt
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup palm sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- Butter for greasing pan
- Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the flours, baking soda and powder, and salt in a bowl.
- Beat the egg yolks, oil, honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar together until it looks like caramel. Mix in the dry ingredients.
- In another bowl, add the egg whites and just a pinch of salt and beat into soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat a bit more, so the whites are reaching the firm peak stage.
- Fold the egg whites into the dough a little at a time gently.
- Pour the dough into the springform pan. Using a rubber spatula flatten out the top and place in the oven as fast as you can.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, watch for burning.
- Remove from the oven, let rest 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
- When the cake has cooled for 15-20 minutes, dust with the confectioner’s sugar.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)
Copyright © Susan Rose.
When I started eating more local foods and growing much of my own produce, I really didn’t think I’d become a forager. But more and more, it seems like a cool idea. I live in Virginia, which is an incredibly abundant place. I was thinking on that this fall as the Burr Oak in my back yard incessantly pelted my roof with acorns. Then I thought, how does one go about making acorn flour? I didn’t even know if acorns were edible.
Well, acorns are edible and making acorn flour is really not all that difficult. Tedious. Time consuming. But not difficult.
I found instructions on how to do it on one of my favorite sites, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, along with some history on making acorn flour and its various uses. So, a week or so ago on a blustery Sunday, I grabbed a bucket and went out back to forage for some acorns. I have up within in minutes. The squirrels had done a very good job of eating the acorns. If I dug through the leaves I could find more, but it was musty, moldy work and I had another source. There are several trees in my neighborhood and two of them dump most of their acorns by the carport area. The leaves get collected, but the acorns nestle into the gravel. So, the dog and I scoured the neighborhood and had much better luck.
For my first forray into making acorn flour, I only collected about four cups of acorns. I wanted to test the process out before I really went wild.
Four cups of flour, nine days of leeching tannins, three hours of dehydrating, and one minute of processing later and I have about 3/4 cup of acorn flour. Thanksgiving morning I plan to turn that four into some acorn flour cakes!
Making acorn flour
So here is what you do:
First, collect the acorns. Look for holes in them. The ones with holes housed a little worm. They’re no good (and be prepared to encounter a few of the worms when your hulling them. It goes with the territory).
To get the nut meat out of the hull, I used a carpenter’s chisel. You could use a knife, but my hands are small and I had visions of losing a finger. Instead, I held the nut steady with some pliers and chiseled off the hull. Once I got in the swing of it, it was easy. I only encountered two worms, but both times they startled me. They kind of pop out as soon as you break the hull. They look like white fluff balls. Ick.
As you free the nuts, immediately put them in a bowl of water because they start oxidizing. This also begins the tedious tannins leeching process.
Once the nuts were done, I coarsely chopped them in my Vitamix. I decided to make flour my first time, rather than roasting the nuts. Acorns have a lot of tannins, so you have to leech them out. How long it takes depends on the variety of acorn. There are a couple of ways to do it, but everything I read said that if you’re making flour, you want to do a cold leeching (versus using boiling water). So, I put the nuts in a ball jar and filled it with water. Every morning for 9 days I changed the water until the water was nearly clear.
Once the tannins have been leeched, you need to dry the nuts. I used my dehydrator and it took about three hours. You can also use the lowest setting on your oven.
The last part was the easiest. I just put the dried nuts in the dry container of the vitamix and about one minute later I had acorn flour!
I’m insanely excited about making acorn flour honey cakes for Thanksgiving breakfast. And if they taste good, I’ll be wandering back over to the big oak tree and getting some more nuts!