Thursday, September 25, 2014

The fermented salsa was just opened up to try out.  That was the best salsa I have ever had in my life!  We just devoured a little more than 1/4 a gallon in one sitting -- no one could stop eating it up.  Our daughter never eats salsa and she couldn't stop either.  It was made from all the worst tomatoes left in the garden and half were still green.  I might make more today, this batch was only a 4 or 5 day ferment at about 65-68 degrees.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fermented Pickles Tutorial

***Update:  I have now opened some pickle jars that are about 2 months old (not counting fermentation time).  These pickles are quartered and the centers where the seeds are were mushy.  The taste is great but the texture is not nearly as crispy as the more fresh pickles.  I have read that adding something with strong tannin's will help preserve the crispness of the pickles -- also fermenting them at a lower temp 65ish degrees helps.  Next time I ferment pickles that may sit around a while I will be adding 1-2 bags of black tea to the brine.  I will let you all know if that works when I do it. Here is a list of foods rich in tannin's

Update #2: I take back what I said above.  I opened another jar of pickles today.  This jar is older than the one above that I mentioned were soggy.  These pickles are FANTASTIC, the best I have ever had.  The flavored pulled from the variety of fresh herbs were great  -- and they are very crisp.  I don't think any of the herbs I added are loaded with tannin's.  I think the problem with the soggy pickles were just the cucumbers themselves, they were too big.  The cucumbers in this latest jar I opened are about half the size, and held up perfectly.  I'll fill you in if anything changes, but I am not convinced tannin is necessary for a crisp fermented pickle. 


Harvest season is wrapping up and we've needed to preserve some of our gardens goodness.  I'm not a big fan of current canning trends as it destroys most nutrients through excessive heat to prevent it from rotting.  As I walk around in grocery stores it's like walking through a graveyard for food.  Even the produce section has become somewhat of an abomination.  It's almost like we are living in a digital world now, pictures of food but the food is gone.  Our soils are being depleted of micro nutrients and loaded with the known macro nutrients to force growth.  The taste is horrendous compared to the local organic produce I can find and our garden.

Here are some fun articles somewhat related:
Most and least chemical-laden produce
On the isles the food is overly refined and many micro nutrients are thrown aside.  Then they often bleach or treat with other chemicals to clean the food!  After that they "enrich" it, because it has nothing left.  The enrichment adds known micro nutrients that our body's need like vitamin D.  Although, if you go outside for 15 minutes or so your skin will produce the best vitamin D your body can get!  Other vitamins can be obtained through fruits and vegetables and other whole foods.  

Most supermarkets across the united states have a lot of food that used to help aid digestion (now we are supposed to buy pills for that).  Now we have a fake representation of such foods that have been killed with excessive heat.  Sauerkraut is hard to find raw -- I can only find it at one place near my house.  Most sauerkraut you find at the grocery store has been pasteurized and all it's helpful micro nutrients killed.  Pickles used to be made through a fermentation and aging process.  Now it's made by pouring vinegar in a jar of cucumbers and boiled to death.  Many foods were fermented and would help digest the other foods we eat.  Mustard, ketchup, pickles,  sauerkraut and sour milk products.  All of this had a reason years back.  Now with current "safety" measures put up by our centralized powers we have fake representations of these food.  No wonder we have such high rates of disease related to the digestive process. 63 million people in the united states are known to have chronic constipation!  I'm not a doctor, but I would guess it's from the horrible food we eat.  Even when we try to eat healthy by eating our vegetables and fruits they can be fairly weak in the micro nutrients and soaked in chemicals.

More fermented foods vs probiotic pills

Check out this article for some neat digestive problem statistics for the USA CLICK ME

It's fairly depressing to me.  But,  I'm so glad we have "North Country Marketplace & Salvage" near our house in Colebrook NH.  They sell from the great local farmers around here.  Gardening is a big thing up around here and people have given us some of their excess.  We have a pretty small garden, but it supplies quite a bit of food -- I really want to expand over time to supply most of our food.

Enough ranting, lets get onto the point of all of this.  How to ferment cucumbers to make a real nutritious pickle loaded with probiotics!  I will later put up my method for sauerkraut.

If this is your first time treating yourself to a true fermented pickle you may need time to acquire the taste, but give it a chance.  I have given tastes to many people and everyone has liked the pickles! They sure don't taste like the pickles you buy at the grocery store (they are much better imo).

Step 1:  Gather your cucumbers and equipment.  You will want to clean the dirt off of your cucumbers (or other vegies).  Also do a pretty nice job at cleaning whatever you are going to ferment in, to decrease the risk of contamination.  I do a minimalist approach to my fermenting.  There are all sorts of fancy equipment you can use to decrease chances of contamination or make it less maintenance.  If I started failing a lot with botched batches I would probably make a bubbler similar to this person's. (source)


  • Large enough canning jar to fit your cucumbers
  • Knife if you want to cut them up
  • Cucumbers
  • Sea salt or canning salt (make sure its 100% salt - no anti clumping agents)
  • Clean water

Step 2:  I will slice thin rounds for sandwiches any of the large cucumbers.  I will quarter or eighth my medium-sized cucumbers.  I will keep the small cucumbers whole.  You can do what you like, this is just my preference.

Step 3:  Make your brine.  Depending on how you do this you can do it the day before or hours before.  I do a ratio of 3 cups water to 1.5 tbs of salt with great results.  If your water is terrible you can go with distilled water or boil it for 5 to 10 minutes.  If your water is great then just warm it up and dissolve your salt and set aside for use later.  For these large 1/2 gallon jars I need about 3 cups of water with 1.5 tbs per jar.

Step 4:  Load up any extra goods you plan to have in your pickles.  The pickles in this tutorial are loaded with sage, basil, dill, oregano, and thyme.  I have done them with nothing but brine (salt-water) and cucumbers,  I have done them with garlic and brine.  I have done them with jalapeno peppers, garlic...  You really can't go wrong, put things in you love and you will probably enjoy the end result.

Step 5:  Load the cucumbers till it's as stuffed as you can get with about an inch gap at the top.  With pickles I will wedge one large cucumber at the top to keep the contents below submerged in the brine. Once it's full you will pour your brine until you have about a 1/2 inch gap at the top for it to expand.  Make sure your brine is down to about room temperature.

Step 6:  At this point you put the lid on firm, but don't crank down extremely tight.  Ideal temps I have found to be 58-68 degrees.  If it gets much warmer it ferments a lot faster and the pickles seem to be a bit mushier.  Also if they are fermenting very quickly you will need to "burp" them 2x a day.  At a cooler temp you can burp them once every day or two.  

To burp them all you need to do is open the lid.  If it has been very active open it over the sink as it can overflow just like a shaken up soda bottle.  If it fills up to the top pour some out so there is a half inch gap.  If the water level runs too low add more water (I just add water, but many people add more brine).  The activity will slow down dramatically over 1-2 weeks.  Once it seems about done tighten your lid down and stop burping.  The CO2 from fermentation will keep the gross molds from growing up top, but if you ignore it completely it could blow your bottle up.  That's why I don't crank down on the lid at the beginning, I have had some leak all over my table when the temps were too high and the fermentation activity was going crazy.  When it is too hot I ferment in my basement to keep that from happening -- cooler fermenting also helps make a crispier pickle, like I mentioned above.

Step 7:  Storage or eat them up! Once the activity has halted and you stop burping them, you can store them for further aging in a cool dark area for months.  Some people have even stored them for years!  I eat them far too fast for them to store that long.  Once I open mine I put them in the fridge.  I know people who do not but the taste alters fairly quickly left at room temps and I'm not a big fan.  I like to eat fermented pickles or sauerkraut along with most every meal.  They go great with sandwiches, rice, eggs, lentils, beans, salads and much more. 

Bonus Material

I am fermenting all my green tomatoes and some salsa for a fun try as well.  Here are some pictures, I'll let you know how they turn out!  We had a heavy frost and I had to gather up all the last bits of the garden that aren't tolerant to frost..  I really hope these fermented green tomatoes are great.  If so I'll grow a lot more next year.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Buy 3 of one kind of soap and get the 4th free!

Buy 3 of one kind of soap and get the 4th free!  This is our current promotion going on -- stock up on your favorite soaps!  We have also fully updated our inventory besides "Chocolate Covered Roses".  Everything is cured and ready to go.  Just a heads up, we are very low on "Chocolate Covered Roses" and due to a back-order of one ingredient this may run out.  Hopefully we will have it fully restored before the holidays.  We apologize in advance if this wonderful bar runs out.

Thanks for your interest in the tutorial last week; we had a lot of activity from it.  We will do more tutorials in the future so stay tuned.  Thanks for the reviews on our website, thanks for the social network activity, thanks for the purchases!  Without all of you, this would not be possible.

The last shampoo bar was a success!  It is by far the best shampoo bar we have tried, made by us or other companies.  Although it is great, we really think we can improve it further still.  More experiments will be done this month and we will go from there.  It did not feel like you were using soap on your hair -- it felt like amazing shampoo.  Most shampoo bars require an acid wash to really feel nice, and this did not.  We are really on to something here.  We will keep you updated with more progress.  We really cannot wait to put this out for you to try, but want it to be a true fully developed gem beforehand.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tutorial: Jewelweed water and oil extract

**Note:  For external use only!**
**Also note:  I am still in the learning phase of all of this -- Follow this at your own risk.**

This week has been a fun one.  This is going to be a step by step tutorial on how to make a water and oil concentration of this specimen.  Jewelweed grows wild around here (Northern New Hampshire) and we have a good amount of it growing in our yard.  We want to extract its awesomeness so we can use it over the next year even while it's out of season!  What this plant is used for is beyond the scope of this tutorial; look elsewhere if you need ideas for its implementation.  We plan on using it only as a colorant and cosmetic application on future projects.  We also will use it for personal use regularly.  On to the extract process!

Step 1 (and possibly the most important step!):  Identification of the plant is very important in any wild plant extracts.  You don't want to poison yourself with a look-a-like!  I am unaware of any poisoned mimics of the spotted jewelweed but the pale jewelweed (impatiens pallida) does look similar.  The biggest difference in the two is the flower.  If it is a very light green or white flower you have the wrong plant.  I don't think you will be satisfied at all if you are extracting the pale jewelweed.

Notice the orange/deep yellow main flower and darker orange spots.  This is the spotted jewelweed and what we have local.  The younger flowers have much less deep orange from what I have noticed. Also notice the distinct leaf shape; with it's sharp edges as it climbs to a peak.  Another thing to note is its stem - it looks very segmented as it climbs to its next tier with bulges.

Step 2: Harvesting the plant is fun to me and more satisfying than buying plant material.  The most important part of this is make sure you aren't pulling up other plants along with your jewelweed.  I have sections where it is very easy and I can cut the base of 10+ plants at a time.  Other sections I have to nearly hand pick one plant at a time.  Make sure you get rid of anything you don't want in the mix.  Harvesting after they have created their seed pods is nice for propagation.  If the pods are ready, just shake them around and they will explode seeds all over the ground for future harvest!

Step 3: Cut up the harvested goods to an appropriate size for the pot you plan on cooking it in.  I cut mine to about 5-8 inches in length.  I use a machete for this, but you can use whatever you have available that can get through plants.  I set my harvest on the grass and hack at it till it's to a usable length.  If you cant get through it in one swipe, rotate and hack again.  Make sure you have a nice sharp blade to make this a breeze. 

Step 3:  Cleaning is the next step, and although I don't find it "fun" I find it satisfying.  I do a triple rinse outside with the garden hose.  Don't fill whatever you carry your plant matter in too full!  You need enough space to agitate it all within the water.  What I do is fill the bucket about 60% full of jewelweed and bring the waterline near the top.  After the water is in I rotate and shake all of the plant bits to get rid of dirt and bugs.  After you have filled your container with water and shaken your plants around a bit, empty all of the water.  When I have done this 3 times I bring it inside for the next step!

Step 4:  This is really just a continuation of step 3, but I find it important.  After the 3x agitation outside I bring it inside for the final wash.  Put it in your strainer and shake it while cool water flows over it.  At this point you should have fully prepped and cleaned jewelweed. 

Step 5:  Cook your plant material to extract it's goodness.  You can either cook it in oil or water, but both are similar in process (I do both).  
  • Water extract:  I fill a pot overflowing with plant material and fill the pot about to the 85% full level with water.  Put the temperature to very low - on my stove I put it at 2.5 and let it slowly simmer for 2-3 hours.  You can speed the process up by bringing it up to a very slow boil and then bring the temp down drastically to simmer for 15-30 mins.  After this I let it sit off the heat for another 1-2 hours.  You can strain it before the sitting if you want to speed things up.
  • Oil extract:  I do the same thing as done with water.  The main difference is that I do this 2 times. I will cook down 1 batch of plant material, strain it and then reload it for a 2nd round! One small difference is I do a slightly lower temperature (2 on my stove).  You can choose any oil really but olive oil is what I have used and I may do a more saturated oil in the future (probably coconut oil).

Step 6:  Strain the plant matter from the liquids.  This step is simple.  It goes faster with water than oil.  I let the oil pot (top pic) sit on top for 5+ minutes before pulling the strainer off.  With water (bottom pic) it's quicker; I run it through the strainer then shake it down some to pull more liquid out.

Step 7:  Strain again!  This step may be redundant for some, but I like to do it.  I run it through a finer strainer.  If you are more hardcore than me you could run it through a cheesecloth after this fine strainer. *Top pic below is water extract and bottom below is oil.

Step 8:  Pour into jars!  This is a pretty straight forward step, you pour  your liquids into jars.  I let the liquids cool to room, or near-room, temperatures before pouring into the jars.  Notice on the oil (bottom pic) the far right jar has the separation of water/oil extract.  This is the jar I will use first and I will shake before each use to mix the oil and water parts.  Although the oil does not look like it has a lot dispersed within, it is full of jewelweed goods!  I am not educated enough (or have the equipment) to decipher what is water and what is oil soluble. But both water and oil extract work well.

When you are pouring the oil extract pour slowly and realize the water will be at the bottom.  If you have a large amount of oil you can easily keep the bulk of the oil water free.

Step 8:  I'm done teaching you things!  The last step is storage... If you plan to use it within the next 6-8 months just store it in the fridge.  If you need 8-16 months storage, throw it in the freezer! 

*Notes to help keep your jars from cracking in the freezer

Don't fill the jars too full or they will shatter (water expands as it freezes).  If they are bowed at the top like my jars are, leave 1-2 inches before that bow.  If the jars are straight necked jars they usually have a line about 1 inch from the top to not exceed for freezing.

Don't over-tighten the lids.

Don't have the jars touching each other while freezing.  After they are frozen they can be touching.

Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something!  A lot has been learned on our end exploring the possibilities of natural products and how to utilize them.  Stay tuned for more tutorials and the possibility of products using this awesome extract.  

Have a wonderful week!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Prepare for your next Drum Circle with the bars on sale this week.  Until 09/06/2014 we will have $2 off "Drum Circle", "Hippies and Oranges", and "Naked".  In the future we may combine Drum Circle and Hippies and Oranges because they are very similar.  If you love one over the other or have suggestions let us know.  Our thoughts are to combine the two with an increase in patchouli while slightly decreasing the orange.  If either of these are your favorite, please let us know your thoughts on this idea!

"Poppy Fields",  "Earthen Mint", "Sin Ye Mon" all cure up this week.  All of them are getting pretty low on inventory but none are sold out.  We timed that nicely.  We should have them all packaged by next week and updated inventory on the website.

Below are some images of the last "Valley of the Gods" batch!  We are already getting semi-low from the one that just cured.  We are hopefully prepared this time and won't run out.  Thanks again for your orders and love of the products.

Have a wonderful week.