Matthew Nistico

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since Nov 20, 2010
Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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Recent posts by Matthew Nistico

A lot of different opinions and theories in this thread!  I am sure that different soils do impart different flavors to crops.  I can also attest that some beats really do have subtly different flavors than others, which I assume to be a trait independent of where they're grown.  I really love golden beets, which I think have a milder flavor, though I admit my dedication to golden beets is more due to the fact they don't turn my hands, clothes, cutting board, and generally everything else purple during the processing! And the striped chioggia beets really are super sweet, as advertised.

I suspect, though, that the widely varying perception of beets might partly also be a symptom of the reality that not all humans taste the same way (just ask any cannibal, LOL!).  It isn't just a matter of opinion or individual preference; it is a well-established phenomenon that some people's taste buds are highly sensitive to certain chemical compounds that other people are either only slightly sensitive to or else completely blind to.  I have experienced it myself.  If this is the case with "dirty tasting" beets, then I suspect that nothing is going to much improve the situation for those who are biologically pre-disposed to sense whatever compound(s) beets contain that are the culprit.

Too bad for them, because I love beets!  And they're very good for you.  As I wrote above, I'd recommend trying different varieties, especially golden, that to me taste the least earthy.  But then again, I don't feel that ANY beets taste particularly of "dirt," so it's possible that my own perceptions and advice just aren't applicable to those people who do taste them that way.

Or just focus on the beet greens, which are also super yummy, and give the roots away or to the pigs and chickens.  Beet greens are a treat, with a delicate but distinct flavor extremely similar to Swiss chard (which is, after all, just a variety of beet bred for the tops instead of the roots).  I've seen lots of good recipes for beet greens, but usually like to keep it simple: sauteed in butter and served with a dash of salt and a squirt of lemon.  A good tip is to separate the larger stems from the greens when chopping them up, so that the stems can go into the pan first, as they take longer to cook; then add the greens at the end for just long enough to wilt them.

Okay, warning, tangent ahead:

Though I like to cook with golden beets and shred them raw on my salads, because they don't stain me, when brewing beet kvass I enjoy using dark red beets, because the resulting blood-colored drink just seems more fun to me than any lighter colored ferment would ; )  But kvass can sometimes be a bit too intensely beet tasting ...I shy away from saying "tastes like dirt," but I can almost see why some would think so.  I've arrived at brewing "hybrid kvass" instead, which is a tip I read online somewhere.  If my crock of kvass starts with, say, two large beets, then I also add a quarter head of shredded cabbage and half an onion in thin slices.  It isn't a precise recipe, but you should end up with maybe an equal volume of beet chunks and cabbage/onion slaw.  The resulting ferment has a taste much like kvass, but also sort of like kraut juice.  I find it quite appealing!  In particular, I crave it when I'm hungry but putting off a meal for a while longer; it just seems more hunger-satisfying than any drink should, probably because it's so salty.

A couple more beet kvass tips, tricks, and cheats...

1) If your kvass tastes a little weak, punch it up by slicing a garlic clove and soaking it either in the initial ferment or in the bottled drink.  But go easy!  It takes only a little garlic to turn the whole batch of kvass very distinctly garlicky tasting.

2) In my most recent batch, I washed the whole beats lightly in cold water before cutting them up, but did NOT peel them.  I figured the bacteria living on the skin could only help accelerate the fermentation.  And the end product was first-rate kvass, so I guess it worked.  Certainly didn't hurt any.

3) You can totally get a second soak out of your kvass solids.  After 3-5 days of fermentation, drain the kvass and refill the crock of solids with more distilled water and a little more salt (maybe half what you used on the first soak).  Give it another 3-5 days.  But beware that your second soak won't be as strong-tasting as the first.  I like to hold the first batch of kvass in the fridge, then mix it with the second, and bottle the result in order to even out the different intensities of the two soaks.  In my experience, a third soak ends up too weak to bother with.

4) Reuse those spent kvass solids!  Whether using pure beets or a hybrid mix as described above, I will save the drained solids when I'm done, grate the beet chunks, and incorporate the lot into my next batch of sauerkraut.  Bonus: depending on the color of your cabbage, the ratio of kvass-solids-to-cabbage you use, and how well drained those kvass beets were (one soak or two or three), you might just end up with neon pink sauerkraut.  I did once.  And who wouldn't want that?!  : )
2 days ago
I would love it if some of you could post here pictures of the incubators and fermenting containers that you have built and/or modified in order to perfect your tempeh-making operations!  Thanks in advance : )
2 days ago
It is my understanding - or I guess I should say my assumption just from handling a few blueberry transplants over the years - that most commercial cultivars are produced through rooted cuttings, as opposed to grafting.  If so, then this should assure that the side shoots we propagate through the technique advocated herein should grow true to type.

Somebody please confirm or correct me if this is not always so...
2 days ago

Steve Thorn wrote:I didn't realize that paw paws did that either until the other day, excited to hopefully get some paw paw children soon too. Mine hasn't made any yet, but it's about 8 feet tall now so I'm hoping it may be soon!

Oh yes, under the right circumstances, a lone paw paw tree will grow into a whole thicket of root-sucker clones.  But like you, I have a number of well-established paw paws, and none have yet done so.  Consequently, I couldn't say for sure what the "right circumstances" actually are  : (
2 days ago
Yes, thanks Jen very much!  I had always wondered about the old "float an egg" test.  I'd never heard it laid out in as much detail before, and I'd noticed that a lot of eggs that at least sorta float seemed still to be good, so I had wondered if that test was valid.

Always convenient to have pigs on your property!  The ultimate garbage recyclers.  Pigs or black soldier fly larvae.  Turn any unusable or undesirable food matter back into good usable protein and fat.
2 weeks ago

Chris Kott wrote:This one is on my list to make, hopefully in the coming season.

As a sidenote, my cousin Nicole Telkes was one of the three named in the recent lawsuit brought against them by Shire City Herbals. They won, keeping the term and recipe free for all to use.

You can read about it here.

Good for them!  I'd heard about this case.  Thanks for posting a link with the outcome, which is most reassuring.
3 weeks ago

Catherine Carney wrote:Regarding bamboo: there are species/cultivars of it that are winter hardy in my zone 5 climate--in fact people down the road have a patch. It's fast spreading, and I don't like to think about how invasive it will be if it escapes their cultivation. That said, it's also my understanding that the bamboo "fiber" we see for sale (or incorporated into finished items) isn't entirely a natural product, but created from bamboo pulp using a chemical process much like rayon is created. Perhaps someone here knows more.

Yes, as I understand it, just about any cloth you will find on the market today that comes from bamboo is going to be rayon.  Rayon is sort of halfway between natural and synthetic.  It uses a natural material: cellulose, in this case from bamboo, but could be from any other fast-growing tree or other cellulose source.  Yet the fiber is produced from that natural material in a lab.  The cellulose is completely dissolved in a chemical solvent, then extruded into a fiber.  So the end product is not made of any synthetic materials, yet it's made in a manner that could not be replicated without synthetic reagents.  The benefit of doing this is that you can tweak the process to create fibers that simulate the look and feel of just about any other fiber, including very expensive ones like silk.

I have read that some people have taken the bacterial process, called retting, that is used to turn flax fibers into linen, and adapted that process to use with bamboo.  This is very exciting, but I have no idea what products are actually on the market.  I'm sure that any such products will be significantly more expensive than bamboo rayon.

The OP mentioned that traditional linen is nice, but wears out quickly.  This is certainly the case: flax linen fibers will break after being folded a smaller number of times compared to wool, cotton, etc.  I am curious what durability bamboo linen might have?
4 weeks ago

Rebecca Norman wrote:Knit sweaters don't really seem to compact over time. Or so it seems to me. I wonder if stuffing a cushion with old knit sweaters might be more effective than loose wool?

Oh, now that is an interesting idea.  Something to keep in mind when cruising the thrift stores!
4 weeks ago
Oh, and you should post a pic of your prototype hand muff  : )  

If you have them, or if you attempt a second project of this kind, definitely post "before" pics of the woven (or knitted, or whatever) product, and "after" pics of the same piece as it comes out of the dryer.  That would surely be most illuminating.
4 weeks ago
I'm interested in this technique, particularly as it applies to pre-made items I might find somewhere, such as in a thrift store.  What % shrinkage do you count on when washing it to achieve the wet felting?  Does this vary depending on the type of wool, or the type of fabric?
4 weeks ago