Tepache Time

Fermenting has intrigued me since childhood. Every fall, my parents used to shred countless heads of cabbage, by hand, enough to fill a rain barrel. They salted it, packed it in and kept it in the cold cellar. We had fresh sauerkraut “on demand” for the next year. It was great fun watching my nephews’ reactions as their grandpa removed the top layer of ferment “scum”  (“EWWWW!!!”) to reach the fresh sauerkraut below.  I make sauerkraut exactly the same way today, except in far smaller quantities. 

Now that we know how beneficial fermented foods are for gut health, I am experimenting with fermenting all sorts of other foods. 

The newest and most exciting thing I have stumbled upon is tepache (teh-PAH-chay) and the funny thing is, it’s not that new.  Tepache dates back to Pre-Columbian Mexico as a popular drink among the Nahua people. Originally, corn was the base of tepache but the contemporary recipe (tepache de piña) uses pineapple rind and core to make this drink. It’s totally fine to just cut up the whole pineapple as well, which is what I did in the batch pictured below.  In fact, there are countless variations on how to  make tepache – rules and recipes vary and that’s what makes it so fun experimenting.

HOW TO:

  • 1 whole ripe fresh pineapple, rinsed clean (organic is best if possible)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 to 6 cloves
  • 1 thumb ginger (optional)
  • 1 large cone of  Piloncillo ( Piloncillo, named “pylon” for its conical shape, is a raw form of pure cane sugar that is used in Mexican cooking. Alternatively, use 1 cup of brown sugar, rapadura, panela, jaggery or any variation of raw cane sugar).
  • ​16 cups of filtered water, or enough to cover the pineapple pieces

Cut off the crown and base of the pineapple and compost. Cut the rest up into slices and then triangles. Put the cut pieces of pineapple with rind into a 1-gallon glass jar or  container.

Add the sugar and spices and enough filtered water to cover.

Muddle, or stir it well with a wooden spoon.

Cover the glass container with cheesecloth or small dishtowel, holding it firm with an elastic.

Place on counter at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.

The timing of the fermentation depends on temperature and can take anywhere from 2 days in a warmer climate to a week or more to get to the bubbly refreshing drink stage. If left longer, it becomes an alcoholic beverage and if left longer still, pineapple vinegar.

I begin sampling once I see a thick layer of white foam on the top. The foam means it’s alive and fermenting. I sample by moving a bit of the foamy stuff with my spoon and testing the brew below.

It should taste light, bubbly and not too sweet. There may be a bit of a musty smell similar to an overripe pineapple,  but it should not be repulsive. I find it a bit smoother and tastier than kombucha.

Aiming for the “refreshing beverage” stage rather than hooch or vinegar, I strained this batch into jars after five days on the counter. A second ferment is possible – meaning once it is strained in the jars, you let it sit another day or two to get more bubbly. It’s important to “burp” the jars at least once a day to avoid explosions from the build-up of carbon dioxide. I used one mason jar and one jar with a clip top.

Once it tastes as you like it, it should be refrigerated, where it  keeps fermenting, but at a much slower pace.

Tepache tastes best very cold or over ice.

I’m sure it would also taste great in cocktails such as a piña colada.

¡Salud!

 

A is for autumn, apples and the air fryer

Not long ago my gas range went kaput and the budget being what it is, I decided to not replace it for a while. The barbecue carried me through the summer, along with an older toaster oven (which I have to watch carefully as it routinely sets off the smoke alarm) .  After hearing so many great things about them, I decided to try an air fryer. Crispy french fries with just a teaspoon of oil, or even with none? What’s not to love? 

I took the plunge with a Philips VIVA air fryer (Model HD9220C) from Costco that came with a bonus grill pan. I think they’re discontinuing this line which is why it was on sale, but it had great reviews. 

First try – fries of course. Fantastic. Lightly browned. More like baked than truly fried, but I prefer them this way rather than greasy. I’m sure if one added a bit of oil, they’d be crispier. The ones pictured here were air fried with NO oil at all. Really, the air fryer is just a tiny convection oven that is more energy-friendly and possibly quicker too. 

I have been having great fun experimenting with things to air fry. My last effort was breaded steamed cauliflower which came out very well. 

It’s fall now and apple season. As the weather cools and the leaves turn, bring on the comfort food and those wonderful smells: apples, nutmeg, cinnamon…crisps and cobblers. 

I thought I’d experiment with apples in the Air Fryer. First try apple chips – I just sliced up an apple, tossed with juice of half a small lemon, a tbsp of  coconut sugar and a tsp of cinnamon. Air fried at 200 C for 10 minutes. Tossed the slices and air fried 10 minutes more. These are really delicious – sort of a cross between a dehydrated apple slice and a baked apple. Would be lovely topped with a scoop of ice cream/ice dream. 

So why not a whole baked apple? 

 

WHAT I DID:

I cored two Mutsu apples but certainly select your favourite.

In a separate bowl I mixed 

2 tbsp rolled oats

1 tbsp coconut sugar (brown sugar would work as well)

Sprinkle of chopped walnuts

Sprinkle of craisins (or raisins)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

A few scrapes of fresh nutmeg or a tiny sprinkle

A scant sprinkle of salt

Approx 1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan spread (or coconut oil)

Mix this blend together until the oats seemed moist and want to clump and stuff the two cored apples. Place in Air Fryer at 175 for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on type of apple. It should be fork tender but still keep its shape. You can open the drawer and check with no consequences! The result is a tender, delicious baked apple with a crunchy, sweet topping. 

Happy Autumn and enjoy those freshly-picked apples!