Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whet your appetite!

For the recipes, refer to the following links:

I wish I could just do my christmas shopping with a handsome budget and raid the malls! But I always have this deep urge to give out gifts that I personally make for very special friends and families. And so, I have decided to go all out with my gift-giving. This year will be our family’s Special Atchara (pickled green papaya), Sinamak Bisaya (spiced vinegar) and Mama’s Uyap (ginamos - prepared shrimp paste). I call it the "pampagana trio”.

Why the trio?

First of all, pickles, spiced vinegar and ginamos are popular filipino condiments. But did you know that these are also healthy for your diet? There are many different recipes out there, but each version has its own healthy benefits depending on the ingredients that goes into the recipe and the method used for pickling and preserving, whether fermented or packed with vinegar.

Second of all, The spices with which they are made are also healthy. For example, ginger and garlic, both of which are popular in pickles, they have the ability to regulate bacterial growth. Other spices also contain flavonoids, which is a healing addition to your diet. The Special Atchara is made of papaya and other vegetables, high in fiber which is necessary for digestive health and fighting cancer.

Third of all, the "trio" are made with vinegar. This healthy liquid has several positive properties in addition to its tangy taste. Vinegar is known to boost the immune system, ease digestive disorders, and can break down calcium deposits in a person's joints. In addition, vinegar is known to decrease high blood pressure, and help treat urinary infections. It is even said to re-mineralize your bones, balance your blood pH, and fight infection. Vinegar is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It inhibits the growth of the E.coli bacteria, and when used in conjunction with salt, which is common in pickling, the anti-bacterial properties are amplified.

My husband, one that always has either of these condiments with his meals emphasized that they should not be treated as main viand or side dish, but should be a preparation to enhance flavor or enjoyment to meals and dishes. Good point, hally!

The making of the amazing "trio” was tedious. I started with conceptualizing the idea from the food preparation down to the packaging. It was a family activity, every one participated. My husband helped with the documentation (taking of pictures) and provided for the budget of course! My eldest son, CJ, helped with pouring of the cooked mixture into clean glass containers. Jed, my second son helped with the labels and packaging. Daisy and Caila were hands on with the mixing and cooking the recipes.

Let me start off with the containers. I scouted around 3 local markets for recycled glass bottles and containers. The glass containers for the pickles were limited and so with the “long neck” bottles for my sinamak. The vendors make them into gas lamps, the reason for the short supply. They were pricey for a whooping five pesos each regardless of size! Well, at least they’re better than plastic. It's always wise to use glass containers for pickling and preserving food. If only I could store my used bottles in the house, I would if I have space. Otherwise, I sell to kids that buy them for only 50 cents each! I cleaned them thoroughly by soaking with mild detergent and disinfectant overnight. The next day, I discarded the soaking solution and submerged them in warm water so that the labels that are stuck on to the glass surface easily falls off. The trick is to buy one of those shredded iron scrubbers. I was careful to use rubber gloves when scrubbing off old labels and a baby bottle brush to reach very difficult corners. After they’re cleaned, I rinsed them three times and let it dry thoroughly.

Next is the exploration of the vinegar. The one that I used for the sinamak bisaya is a newly harvested coconut vinegar. The reason being is for the vinegar to age with the base mixture for best results. So last month, I ordered a few containers of the vinegar from my mother’s farm in San Carlos. On the other hand, the vinegar used for my Mama’s Uyap and Special Atchara is a local “very sour” fairly aged coconut vinegar bought at the local supermarket. Mind you, I have to screen and taste them first before purchasing volumes of it.
The choosing of the best ingredients is next. Libertad market has the freshest ingredients if we are talking vegetable components. They usually have new arrivals from Mt. Kanlaon and nearby farms every late afternoon.

The chopping, grating, and the mixing….. I could feel my fingers nimble while cutting up onions, garlic, ginger and langkawas. My hands and fingers, through the years has handled the sharp knife and chopping board and has become a specialist when it comes to chopping with dexterity. I taught my kids how to chop properly without risking the cuts.
The pouring of the mixture into the containers was the fastest in the process. I let the mixture cool off first before pouring them into the clean bottles and containers using an improvised funnel. Then, I seal the containers lined with wax paper, rinsed them again, pat them dry before putting on the labels. I finish them off with bonnets from the myriad of colorful "retazos" (scraps) during my quilting days, and a touch of christmas-y ribbons with gold trimmings.
The most exciting part, the labeling and the packaging. I was quite particular about the labels so I had to create my own designs using the Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. It’s a very nifty software and user-friendly too. You can do anything with graphics, pictures, clip-arts and images with it. My husband was my best critic when I was doing the lay-out....he has an eye for colors! They turned out to be just as nice!

The result…… tah duh! The great trio: Sinamak Bisaya, Special Atchara and Mama’s Uyap… a total of 173 bottles specially homemade for families and friends from my kitchen.

My hope and prayer that with these special homemade gifts, my family was able to impart some love from our home to yours this christmas.

Happy Holidays !!!!

With much love,

Bim, Jenny, CJ, Jed, Daisy and Kay


Ester said...

I like your amazing packaged trio, they are really nice gifts to give
and yet so practical. Are you not selling some of those?

Happy Holidays to you and your Family


Delightfully woman! said...

Hi Ester,

thanks for dropping by my blog. nope, I dont sell my products. I used to sell my baked cookies but going into food business is not my league. I bake and cook for friends and families instead.

Holiday cheers to you too!


daisy said...

hi mom, this is daisy. we ran out of uyap. can you make some more? bye