Erica Strauss

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since Mar 27, 2012
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Recent posts by Erica Strauss

Sharla Kew wrote:I went to Amazon to try to find the goofiest, tackiest yard art possible to suggest for the Silly 250, but instead I found this which I actually really really like.

That's gorgeous! I like this one too - very Rivendell!

8 years ago

Charles Kelm wrote:I expect to continue getting a couple of gallons a month (or more) of inexpensive ($2/gallon) raw milk. I have been making lemon cheese (just heating the milk to 100 degrees, adding a cup or so of lemon juice per gallon and hanging the curds in cheese cloth for a few hours. It's good, but a little boring. I'd like to make something more interesting, but not too terribly difficult in the future. Have you had any success with things a little more exotic than lemon cheese? Also, what are some ideas for using up the whey? I made some lacto-fermented pickles yesterday with a half-tablespoon per pint. I've made bread with the whey in lieu of water. Any other ideas?

Yeah, I'd say your next cheesemaking experiments should be pressed ricotta (ricotta salata), mozzarella and halloumi. You can make all of these without too many additional ingredients - you'll need rennet for the last two. The pressed ricotta is basically just a salted, firm version of your lemon cheese. You can press then brine that for something similar to feta. The mozz and halloumi and a bit more involved, but you shouldn't have a problem. There are quite a few good tutorials online.

For the whey, I do think that using it in bread dough, pizza dough and other savory baked goods instead of water is the whey to go (heh heh) for using up bunches of whey in a hurry. But you can also use the whey for soaking grains, beans and nuts. And while I've never done this, I've read about whey being used in soapmaking. Kinda like milk soap, but with just whey.

8 years ago

Emilie Thomas-Anderson wrote:Hi Erica! I was wondering what your suggestions might be for preserving Fuyu persimmons. My dad planted something like a dozen of these trees back when I was a kid, hoping I'd set up a roadside stand and sell them. (Which I never ended up doing, but heck, I probably should!) So we've always got TONS of them this time of year - way more than we could ever use! I've dried them, sliced, with great success, and have waited for them to get mushy like a Hachiya and frozen the pulp. Do you have other suggestions for using them up? Even a recipe beyond sliced-in-salad or baked-in-bread would be very appreciated. Thank you!

Ok, but can I start with my favorite simple winter sliced-in-salad type recipe first? If you eat meat, there is an air-dried cured beef called bresaola. What I love is to peel and slice your persimmon into wedges, and just kinda put these on a platter. And then drape very thin slices of the bresaola over the persimmon. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and maybe a few drops of sherry vinegar, but not too much. It's like melon and prosciutto, for for winter. If you want it more "salad-y" bitter or peppery greens like frisee or arugula are an excellent addition.

So beyond that, you can use the fuyu types while still crisp in almost any baked application that you'd use apples, either solo or blended with apple. Think persimmon tarts, crisps, cobblers, strudels - that kind of thing.

Persimmon can be used in chutneys, or pickled as a sweet-sour condiment that is great with duck, chicken or pork. I haven't done it, but if you let the persimmon get really soft you should be able to make a nice spiced persimmon butter. Look into how much acid you'd need to add if you are interested in canning that, or just freeze.
8 years ago
Congrats! That's a wonderful gift. This thread at TheKitchn has lots of ideas - check out the comments to see what appeals.

In general, I love quince with meat - lamb, pork, that kind of thing. Preserves are excellent. Try quince/apple fruit leather if you have a dehydrator. You can also boil the cores down for pectin for next year's jamming.
8 years ago

Dayna Williams wrote:Eeek, I'm so excited to see that your book is out, Erica...I'm a big fan of your blog. So, this question is coming from a relative newbie who grew up eating absolutely everything from Safeway grocery stores.

If you were just starting out (or if you could go back and redo), what would you focus on growing or producing first? I feel like a lot of people in the like...30 and under crowd grew up cooking Hot Pockets in the microwave and find the thought self-sufficiency to be completely overwhelming. So, if you were going to break it down into baby steps, what would you recommend starting with for people who want to change their lifestyle to be more sustainable?

Hi Dayna, thanks so much! I appreciate you reading.

So, I don't wanna go all Permie on ya, but the answer here depends. I know, I know! I'm sorry. But that's the truth.

Look, totally let go of this idea of self-sufficiency. That's not the goal. At least, I don't think it should be for probably 99% of folks. What do YOU value? That's the question. Let's take gardening as an example. I value really great food - I'm a cook, at my heart - so for me it's really important that food quality and flavor be excellent. Certain things are, to be blunt, not worth eating unless they are fresh - I mean REALLY fresh, like a few hours old. Snap peas come to mind. Snap peas at the store are a sad, sad thing. Cherry tomatoes are another. Strawberries. These are foods that I started growing right away because the culinary difference was huge to me.

These are not necessarily the choices I'd make if my goal was to be as calorically independant as possible. In that case, I'd grow potatoes and winter squash and almost nothing else. If my goal were to maximize the dollar per square foot equivalency of my garden, it would be baby root vegetables and baby greens and herbs and very little else.

So honestly, my suggestion is - don't "begin with the end in mind" at least, not REALLY. Because sometimes we can't even picture the end until we've begun and worked through a few seasons in our own garden or home, and if we try to it's just overwhelming. Begin with your VALUES in mind. What's most important to you? What do you care about? What most speaks to YOU? What's the payoff that will make it worth the effort to learn and occasionally stumble?

That's the key thing. Answering that kind of thing is how you know where to begin. And please know that it's ok NOT to try to do it all. I mean, if you want to, by all means try everything, but don't feel like you MUST do everything yourself all the time - pick and choose what turns you on.
8 years ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:I'd love to hear an update, too! Also, how are your hugels ( producing--they're now over 3 years old!

The hugels have all been converted out of annual production and into perennials. They rock my f-ing world. In fact, as I rebuild "normal" raised beds, I make them secret hugels. Shhhhh - don't tell, there's wood buried under there.
8 years ago

nancy sutton wrote:Erica, how is the Dave Wilson style 'quartet planting' fruit production coming? Enough to supply your 'canning' needs? (I doubt it, but had to ask :) Any non-performers? It's been 4 yrs now... answer is probably too long for here, but a quick sum up? And a longer report on your blog? ox

Hi Nancy,
This is probably the most asked for update. It's hard to be enthused about writing an update because the answer is....I honestly think the jury is still out. If I compare the quartets to more traditional espaliers, I have more disease pressure in the quartets and less fruit production. My observation is the hard pruning, rather than encouraging "fruit bushes" just encourages massive leaf canopy growback. Fertility in this area of my garden is very high, so I think the trees can just pump out green mass almost without cost. It also increases the chance of mispruning - which I've done and chopped off next years crop - a few more times than I'd care to admit.

What also is REALLY obvious with this method is which varieties are dogs. I don't spray beyond a little DIY dormant oil, so if one tree is more prone to disease/insect attack, etc. it's really clear. One apple tree will be fine and the one literally growing in with it will be covered with spots. I've or 3 trees, as I recall....for under performance issues compared to their neighbor trees - I'm just not interesting in trees that need a lot of babying or a spray regimen.

But, what's important to remember is that this technique does not sell itself as a method for massive yields all at once, for canning. It's more about smaller qtys of fruit over a longer period of time. And as much as I'm complaining - the truth is, with the exception of two boxes of peaches and two of pears I purchased from a local farmer, yes, all the fruit I preserved this year was homegrown. And it was a MASSIVE year for early apples and plums. I think 8 half-gallon jars with dried plums, made something like $350 worth of dried fruit leather with apples, made 6 gallons of plum wine and 3 gallons plum cider...I mean it was a GOOD year for fruit. But, the majority of that did not come from the quartets. It came from stand alone, espalier, or our columnar trees.

So...honestly? Big meh on this technique so far. Next year if I'm not more impressed we will start culling/regrafting trees, most likely.
8 years ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:Erica (or anyone else)!

I’ve started making hair rinses with herbs like rosemary (for dandruff), horsetail (strengthening), chamomile (I read about it in your book, Erica!) and nasturtium (for hair growth) immersed in apple cider vinegar. Is this shelf stable? For how long?

Also, does the potency of the herb’s properties increase, decrease or stay the same over time?

Also, are the herbs more potent in a hair rinse tea made in water, or in vinegar?

I guess what I’m really asking is, how do I get the best “bang for my buck” from my herbs in terms of shelf-stability and potency.

Thank you so much!

Hi Nicole.

Yes, herbs in 100% vinegar are shelf stable. You should have no problem storing an herb vinegar for 3-6 months. If you refrigerate the vinegar, I'd expect an 8-12 month shelf life. Flavor extraction is highest after about 3 to 4 weeks. What you want to watch out for are signs of mold or fermentation - if you see anything like this, toss the infusion. These are very unlikely with well-dried herbs (and I mean here fresh herbs without any trace of moisture on them, not necessarily dehydrated herbs. Important safety note: the above does NOT apply to herbs infused in oil. Only vinegar.

It sounds like what you are asking about is more for body care though. Herbs infused in water will tend to mold or get icky faster than ones in vinegar. Vinegar is very good for haircare as an after shampooing rinse. I add citric acid to my hair rinse, but an herbal vinegar rinse is a great option too.
8 years ago

nancy sutton wrote:I know that Erica will get to your question, John, and I apologize for 'cutting in' here, but it brought to mind this book I found fascinating... including it's unusual preservation info... (and highly recommended by Steve Solomon

Thanks Nancy - that looks like a great suggestion.
8 years ago

John Saltveit wrote:Hi Erica,
I have lots of leafy greens at various times: horseradish leaves during the growing season, leeks during the winter and spring, shotweed cress in late winter, curly mallow in summer and fall, scorzonera in spring, that I would love to preserve for other times of the year. What are your favorite ways of preserving leafy greens to maintain texture, flavor and nutrition?
John S

Hi John, great question. I'll start with the caveat that anything I put the effort into preserving has to be worth it from a time perspective, and that means people in my family have to want to eat it whatever I've preserved out of season. And with two young kids, you can imagine that the more vital greens aren't always the first choice on the menu.

So for me personally, I try to eat many, many greens fresh, in season, and raw or lightly cooked. So - things like salads, sautees, soups and whatnot get made all year round with the greens that are available seasonally.

And honestly, since you are in PDX and do have the advantages of year round growing, I would advise that you start by eating as much as you can fresh when it is optimum for your climate.

So moving from that, I preserve my leafy greens, including herbs, in one of two ways. 1) drying on low temperature, and then making typically a kind of DIY "greens powder" that can be added to soups or smoothies. 2) freezing as a pesto, or pureed in a bit of olive oil. I really love herbal pestos, and they are very useful and versatile culinarily. In your situation, I would blend some of the more potent of these greens (like horseradish) with more mild greens like parsley for an herb paste. Add nuts if you like (OR hazelnuts are always amazing) and a bit of lemon to brighten the flavor. Then you can use that kind of paste year round with meat, beans, seafood or grains.
8 years ago