Tips for Fermenting Pumpkins and other Winter Squash

You can make delicious fermented condiments with winter squash. You might ask why ferment winter squash? It keeps so well. The main reason is it is delicious and sometimes, if you’ve had an abundant harvest, you are sick of eating squash soup.

Way back, fermenting winter squash was one of our first forays moving beyond cabbage and basic kraut. Our neighbors grew beautiful blue Hubbard squash for seed. The organically grown seeds were the crop and the thick wall of rich flesh that surrounded the seed was the waste. We had our small farm-to-kraut company at the time and didn’t want to see all that organic food go to waste. So, we took buckets and buckets of cracked squash home and began to trial methods and flavors to ferment it.

We learned immediately placing cubes in a salt water brine and pickling them was not the way to go, which didn’t keep us from fermenting the whole jack-o-lantern this year. (As an aside here is a fun history of the pumpkin's roll in history and fairy tales. Including a mention of the pilgrims fermenting this squash into a pumpkin libation.)

While it might be too late for you to ferment your own jack-o-lantern this year, it is not too late in the season to ferment some winter squash.

Tips for making your own fermented squash recipe:

  •    For best results, choose winter meaty varieties of squash with the drier sweeter flesh—think Kobucha, Hubbard, Butternut. The lighter yellow, wetter flesh like pie/jack-o-lantern pumpkins and Delicata work but will leave you with a softer, wetter ferment.
  •    You can mix shredded squash with cabbage for a squash kraut.
  •    You can slice squash in thin slices and combine with other thinly sliced veggies.
  •    Dry brine for best results. This means using the salt that you add to the thinly-sliced or grated vegetable to get the brine, not adding brine made with salt and water. We like to use a 1.5%–2% salt ratio by vegetable weight for fermenting squash. This means for 3 – 3 ½ pounds of squash you will use a tablespoon of fine salt. In warmer climates, you may even have to boost up that ratio a little bit more. *Remember salt helps control the ferment, it helps keep the crisp and slows down the fermentation in warm weather.
  •    Use smoky, warm, and earthy spices—chipotle, turmeric, ginger—to compliment your creation.

Here’s a simple chutney to get your creative ideas flowing. If you make something wonderful we love to hear about it. Share on the comments or post on Instagram and tag us

Squash Chutney

Makes a quart

4 cups shredded winter squash

1–2 tablespoons salt

½ cup raisins

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tablespoon sweet curry powder

½ cup shredded carrot (optional)

Process in the usual way taking care to make sure the squash is submerged. Allow to ferment for one to three weeks. It is done when you smell that wonderful pickle acidity. You can store refrigerated for 6–8 months—if you don’t eat it first.




Fermenting pumpkins and other winter squash

Postcards from the Bay Area


It's Santa Cruz after all. This is more of Christopher's dream ride than the Dodge Charger we have been zipping around in.


At a most beautiful shop in Oakland, Preserved, teaching all-things-peppers to a great group. 


Full house at the Sacramento Public Library today, the staff at the Arden Dimick branch did a great job reaching out to the community.


A whole lot of habaneros got chopped tonight at the class by FarmCurious.


You may have heard of on-air personalities requesting odd foods before they go on - who would have guessed Kirsten demands to boxes of Krispy Kremes with extra sprinkles? ;)


Omnivore Books is just what you imagine an intimate bookstore that focuses upon food would be and more. Plus, just outside the door the largest guard chicken we have come across...


Teaching spicy in a spice shop? Like a kid in a candy store for us - so many incredible flavors wafting about at the Oakland Spice Shop

Postcards from Colorado


On a morning filled with a lot of late-breaking bad news came 3 minutes about something good, filmed by a hummingbird with a gopro strapped to its chest I think.

 Big thanks to Mara Rose of Hatch Lab for pulling this beautiful event together. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Big thanks to Mara Rose of Hatch Lab for pulling this beautiful event together. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

 A huge thanks to Marcus McCauley of McCauley Family Farms for hosting us. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

A huge thanks to Marcus McCauley of McCauley Family Farms for hosting us. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Prepping for class

Mounds of Rhubarb await the start of the day.

Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Rhubarb chop in class

You can spot a professional chef in class by his or her chop...

Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Many hands making light work of a beautiful ferment.

Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Lunch spread

It was as good as it looks.

Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

 Proud maker of a very nice Rhubarb Kimchi. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Proud maker of a very nice Rhubarb Kimchi. Photo credit to Gillian Pierce and Hatch Lab

Postcards from Corvallis & Portland & Hood River


Trying to hide the panic and go with it...


Powell's is planning on moving a lot of Fiery Ferments! 


Multnomah Falls is amazing. You just stand there mesmerized by water falling over 600 feet. Kirsten and I were last here 19 or so years ago and agree that the trail is much steeper. Okay, just Christopher believes this to be true.


We stayed at the Cascade Locks on the mighty Columbia river. At first we were disappointed that Hood River had no rooms available but then, as is often the case with us, we fell in love with yet another place and its inhabitants. This is Kirsten in a tree, which happens more often than many people realize.


It feels like coming home to be back in a farmers market stall, greeting people and inviting them in to taste fermented foods, sometimes for their first time. The difference of course is we are selling books, not ferments. Samples have always been free...


Getting ready for the morning at the farmers market with Jenny and Muir from Waucoma Bookstore on a beautiful Saturday in Hood River Oregon.

Postcards from Yakima & Bellingham & Seattle


Historic art deco in Yakima on a post-demo stroll about town. Nice way to wrap up the Seattle portion of our book tour...


A first on this tour - a demo in the wild of sorts. It was a beautiful evening in Yakima outside Inklings Bookshop to talk ferments. Waiting for people to arrive is always the toughest part.


You know when you are in the Pacific Northwest when a Sasquatch makes the list of animals to avoid feeding on the trail.

Snoqualmie Falls was a great stop on our way from Bellingham to Yakima today. So incredible and so beautiful.


After a great evening with an engaged group at Village Books we took a long walk along the bay in Bellingham. This town has seduced us several times, such a beautiful place.


It is always a good sign when the bookstore you are going to speak at has something like this embedded in their walls for all to see. Here is to freedom wherever you call home.


We enjoyed getting to know an engaged group at a community-based bookstore. Photo courtesy of one of those engaged audience members, I am not sure what Kirsten was explaining but she had my attention. Still learning...


Writing you these postcards from the Seattle Public Library with this view. This building is amazingly beautiful, as is the city itself.


Living in the country we never get to have breakfast at a French cafe in the city. This morning we did, in a corner window table, pondering it all and what's ahead of us.


First night, figuring out our game together. It's been a while since we shared the stage but whatever I am saying it seems to be amusing Kirsten. So far so good.

Basic Fermented Pepper Mash Video

Fermented Hot Sauce starts with a fermented pepper mash. This technique is so simple and can be used with any type of pepper--blazing hot to softly mild--it is up to you!

It is also can be made in very small batches (say in a half-pint jar) or in a large-scale hot sauce plant. In this video we show you how to make a small batch. Here's a fun fact. A large producer makes pepper mash by crushing whole red chiles with a hammer mill and adding a 5 to 8 percent salt ratio (our mash ratio is much lower at about 2%). This mixture is then put into barrels. Traditional Louisiana-style sauce makers procure the charred white oak barrels previously used by Kentucky whiskey distillers. The barrels’ wooden lids are fastened with stainless steel hoops and blanketed with a thick layer of salt. Tiny holes in the lids allow CO2 to escape. The salt blanket hardens due to humidity and seals the barrel fully after the active fermentation process stops.

Check out our new YouTube channel.





Fermented Lemon Achar Video

We recently launched a YouTube channel to inspire you to make tasty ferments. These videos and recipes are quick, easy and we think fun! Check out this recipe for Fermented Lemon Achar (pickle relish in the Himalayan/Indian tradition). Preserved lemons are delicious, but this condiment takes them a step further — they are tart and spicy and just a bit creamy. This recipe is loosely based on a vinegar pickle recipe, Nimbu Ka Achar, by food writer Smita Chandra.

We have a lot of fun recipes planned for the next few months subscribe to the channel if you don't want to miss any.


Help us launch Fiery Ferments!

Fiery Ferment Pre-sale Lauch

Here we are, finally! Only one month away from the release of our new book Fiery Ferments. For those of you who have been along with us on this journey you probably feel like us in that it has felt like a long time coming. It is quite a process from idea (fall 2014), to blank page (April 2015), to manuscript (Jan 2016) and then a beautiful, colorful book that is full of flavor (May 2017) and the book tour. (Please come say hi if we are coming to a venue near you! If not, keep reading…)

So this little timeline of hard work and burned tongues really comes to fruition on one day—the release date. It makes all the difference in the world to the future our little book if May 30 shines with sales because you see, pre-sales all land on that one day. All this to say pre-sales are really big deal to us. So we want to make it a really big deal for you too.

Now for those of you that think you don’t like hot, spicy food don’t turn away yet. It is full of every level of flavor and most recipes can even be dialed up or down depending on your palate.

Here’s what we have in mind.

Fan. Pre-order one copy of Fiery Ferments from anywhere you love to order books—your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Powells—it doesn’t matter.  Email us a picture of your receipt dated before May 30 (and this includes those of you who have already ordered a book) and we’ll email you a PDF we’ve created that includes three bonus recipes (not in the book and not available on the website).

Friends and Family.  (A chance to buy gifts early.) Pre-order 3 or more copies and we will mail you signed bookplates for each copy and of course the bonus recipes.

Fermentation Book Club. We have heard of folks who have had a fermentation book club around our first book. Everybody ferments a different recipe and then they swap—like a cook exchange but probiotic. If this sounds fun, we thought we could make it more fun. If you and a group of friends orders 5 or more copies we will set up a 30 minute Skype call with the whole group. We can chat about hot sauce, answer your questions, give a private demonstration on how to make hot sauce, tell bad jokes, really its up to the group. And you can see where this is going…plus the above incentives.

All bonus materials will be sent out the week of May 22.  Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel would be interested and most importantly, thank you. Your interest, your support, your successes keep us at it.

Peaking into the Fiery Ferments

You have heard about it and hopefully reserved yourself a copy. Now you can sneak  a peek at what will be arriving. Our publisher has just released a sneak peak which includes quite a bit of content. 

How about a Spicy Horseradish Mustard that you can be eating by the weekend? Chocolate-Cranberry Mole anyone? Went a bit overboard buying kimchi and looking for a new recipe? Kimchi-Stuffed Jalapeños could be just the thing to polish off a jar. Finally the Lemon Achar Roast Chicken will be tough since you don't have the recipe yet for the Lemon Achar but is great to look at and dream...

Fermentistas: Beware the Storage Cabbage!

 Dry, tough storage cabbage that doesn't easily release a juicy brine

Dry, tough storage cabbage that doesn't easily release a juicy brine

Let’s talk about fermenting storage cabbages. Last week I taught a hands-on class. I’d bought each student a beautiful small head of cabbage. Later, that evening during the demonstration portion of the class, I realized that the students would have to make their first ferment with rebellious cabbage.

Here’s the thing: as I stand in front of the impressionable new fermenters, I am often slicing, salting and then massaging a cabbage while talking. (No, I can’t pat my head and rub my belly at the same time but I can talk and build a jar of sauerkraut at the same time.) So it throws me off when I am massaging and telling the good people about brine and the cabbage refuses to give it up. I continue to talk as I am working harder and harder, smiling, trying to make it look effortless.

In this case, they were about to use the cabbages themselves so I stopped and said, “You guys are going to have fun with this cabbage; it’s a tough storage cabbage, you will want to make sure to take your time and slice it thinly.” (Which was a challenge as the venue had provided everyone with boning knives, but that is beside the point.) “The good news is, this is about as hard as making kraut will ever be, so it’s smooth sailing from here.”

Let me digress a moment to share a story about the first time I’d learned that storage cabbages can be a problem for fermenting. The lack of inherent moisture, the thick waxy leaves, all the qualities that keep these cabbages from rotting in storage are exactly what inhibit the fermentation, because what is fermentation if not controlled rot? In the following tale of a small sauerkraut company and the Storage No. 4 cabbage variety this lesson was learned—the hard way.

This small company I speak of operates with the triple bottom line and is exceedingly committed to supporting the local foodshed by using only local ingredients when in season. So when one of the local farmers came to the company with the idea to provide cabbages for a longer season by growing a keeper that was harvested in the fall and capable of surviving storage through the spring it seemed like a win-win situation. The kraut company would have local cabbage in the late winter and early spring for production. The farm would also extend its income stream. Done. Acres and acres were planted. The cabbages did what cabbages do and grew and grew. They were harvested and stored and eventually processed and set in fermenting barrels as needed to keep supplies fresh and abundant. When the first barrels were opened after three weeks, the cabbage had not yet fermented. At first this was strange but can happen so they closed the barrel and allowed more time. Eventually, after waiting for a few months they had to concede that this kraut wasn’t going to be good.

You are most likely to run into these cabbages in grocery stores in February, March, and into April when the winter cabbages are sold and the spring cabbages have not yet matured. It is hard to tell at first glance, and even upon deeper inspection it can be confusing. I admit, when I am out buying cabbage I look for crisp and fresh, not wilted, but I don’t even think about checking the head for signs of being a storage variety cabbage. And while I want you to know all about these varietals, this post is really about what to do when you find yourself with a tough cabbage—you may discover this when you are slicing through extremely dense interiors with thicker, waxier leaves, or later when you are squishing along and not seeing brine.

Tips for a successful ferment with a dry, coarse cabbage:

·      Slice as thinly as possible (breaking more cell walls)

·      Add salt, mix thoroughly, and allow to sit for a half hour before massaging (will break down the tough leaves and coax out moisture)

·      Make a mixed-veggie kraut instead of a plain, naked cabbage kraut (other veggies will bring their juice to the mix and help create enough brine to allow the microbes to do their job)

thin cabbage shreds for fermenting a dry cabbage
 Favorite veggies for a juicier kraut: Onions, shredded carrots, shredded beets, shredded turnips (these will give you a flavor the most consistent with a plain kraut), and other shredded root veggies. Pictured here is Curtido (recipe in   Fermented Vegetables  ) it is delicious and the many onions create a juicy brine.

Favorite veggies for a juicier kraut: Onions, shredded carrots, shredded beets, shredded turnips (these will give you a flavor the most consistent with a plain kraut), and other shredded root veggies. Pictured here is Curtido (recipe in Fermented Vegetables) it is delicious and the many onions create a juicy brine.

Ruby Red Sauerkraut

Making Ruby Kraut Ferment Works.jpeg

Why this kraut? Crimson and earthy, sweet and sour…what’s not to love?

The color alone makes it worth making, and not only because it looks good on the plate. You may have heard the term “eat the rainbow”, and this ferment pulls from the red and purple vegetables. The quick story is, veggies with these colors contain flavonoids, lycopene, vitamin C and folate which are all important for general health and more specifically heart health. Anthocyanin is also in the mix which is thought to help prevent aging, especially when it comes to memory and our brain, as it has twice as much antioxidant power as vitamin C.

Probably the best thing about this kraut is that it is delicious. It wants to be tucked into a simple grilled cheddar cheese sandwich or served alongside a warm, winter pot roast. It is also a friendly ferment for those who may be a little, shall we say, kraut adverse. This sauerkraut not only has a mellow sour but also a nice sweetness as a result of the cranberries.

Ruby Red Kraut

Makes about a quart and a half

1 small red cabbage (about 1 ½ - 2 pounds), shredded

1 large beet, grated

1 crisp tart apple, cored, quartered and sliced thin

3 tablespoons, fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon salt

Optional: 2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Prepare the cabbage: remove the coarse outer leaves, rinse a few unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water. With a stainless-steel knife, quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice with the knife or a mandolin, then transfer the cabbage to a large bowl. Prepare the beet and apple and add to cabbage along with the dried cranberries and optional caraway seeds.

Add a tablespoon of the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the veggies, then taste. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming. Add more salt if necessary. Quickly the cabbage will glisten and liquid will begin to pool. If you’ve put in a good effort and don’t see much brine in the bowl, let it stand, covered, for 45 minutes, then massage again.

Transfer the cabbage a portion at a time to a ½ gallon jar, a small crock, or the fermenting system of your choice. Press down on each portion with your fist or a tamper. You should see some brine on top of the cabbage when you press. Weight down with fermentation weights or a simple bag trick. Set aside, somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight for 10 - 14 days, or as long as 3 months - or until it achieves a flavor and sourness you enjoy.

The most important thing during the first few days is to make sure all the veggies are submerged and under the brine. Check daily in the beginning, pressing down as needed to allow the CO2 to escape and bring the brine back to the surface. Using a utensil, you can start to test the kraut in one week. You'll know it’s ready when:

·      You will be able to smell that pickle-y smell

·      It’s pleasingly sour-pickle-y tasting without the strong acidity of vinegar

·      The veggies have softened a bit but retain some crunch.

This kraut will keep refrigerated for 1 year.

Make Fermented Garlic Paste

Garlic Trials at Ferment Works

Fermented garlic is the ultimate in probiotic convenience food. No, really, if you spend a little time fermenting something you want it to be garlic. Full disclosure: fermenting garlic takes a bit of time—there is all the peeling! Please don’t stop reading though a) its so worth it and b) you’ve got this!

Think about those big jars of minced garlic that are steeped in citric acid that have a flat fresh flavor, not so with fermented garlic paste. This stuff is just as easy in that you can use garlic to your hearts desire at a moments notice. However, there is no comparison on flavor and the added bonus is its live and probiotic. I know, sounding a bit like a used car salesman, but I want you to try lacto fermenting garlic. We are totally addicted to the stuff. One more small advantage to fermented garlic is that somehow the way it is broken down takes away some of the part of garlic that lingers in your mouth and on your breath. You can get away with eating raw garlic without turning everyone away! (Garlic lovers—how cool is that?)

This post is to encourage you and to share a recipe for fermented garlic paste, but it is more fun than that. Last fall my farmer friend (and instigator) Mary, brought over 9 types of garlic. She grows seed garlic at Whistling Duck Farm. We did some trials to see how garlic changed with the different varieties. You can see some detailed results on a post I did for Mother Earth News . We used a pound of each variety to ferment in brine as whole clove pickle. And used another pound for fermented garlic paste. We did it all in one day to keep all the factors as even as possible, and for those of you doing the math—that was 18 pounds of garlic peeling!

One of the most fascinating parts of the experiment was seeing the distinguishing characteristics of a fresh variety of garlic might come out totally different when fermented. Fermenting brings out entirely new flavors—even within the same variety the whole clove ferment vs. the fermented paste can be very diverse. The first variance was that the jars all fermented at their own rate. A week in we had an array of colors among the pastes from unchanged to light pink and yellow yet after the fermentation period they all settled on a coppery orange color.  Some of the spiciest varieties mellowed out and some of the sweetest varieties took on some heat. The take away, though, is ferment your garlic—all varieties are good! (And for those of you reading this and sad that it is springtime and all the fresh cloves are past you can also ferment the scapes (the flower stem of garlic that is clipped in order to send more energy to the bulb.)

Garlic Paste

Yield: about 1 pint

6–8 heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and minced in a food processor

2 teaspoons salt

Process the garlic and the salt to a paste consistency in a food processor. This paste has a sticky, thick gooey consistency. You won’t see a release of brine, in fact you won’t really see a change. Don’t worry—it will work.

Top the ferment with a quart-sized ziplock bag. Press the plastic down onto the top of the ferment, and then fill it with water and seal. This will act as both follower and weight. Set aside out of direct sunlight in a cool spot (55 to 75°F), for 14 to 21 days.

While you monitor this ferment watch for air pockets. While there isn’t much lift action by the CO2 there is some, you will want to press down as needed. We have found that sometimes you can get a bitter, or even chemical flavor which seems to be a result of the trapped CO2 pockets. If you find this has happened stir the paste, press down, and allow it to ferment a few more days. It will right itself. If it still tastes bitter. Again stir the paste, this time place in fridge for a week and the undesirable flavor will dissipate.

Test the ferment on day 14. It's ready when the garlic is milder than when it’s raw, and has a mild acidity.

Tighten the lid and store in the fridge. This ferment will keep refrigerated for a year, though you will use it up much sooner than that.




Meet Darra Goldstein, Editor-in-chief of CURED*

 Kyoto Pickles pictured in the first issue of  Cured  photo Akihito Yoshida

Kyoto Pickles pictured in the first issue of Cured photo Akihito Yoshida

There is a new magazine coming out—a visually evocative, sensually stimulating magazine. It is called CURED, and at its heart is food preservation—you know, the stuff we geek out about all the time. Its focus is  how humans have kept their food nutrient-rich, available and (hopefully) flavorful through the lean times, whether  for surviving the next season or for a long journey. Fermentation is a big player in this new publication’s look at these ancient techniques through science, art, culture and travel.

I want you to think about this for a moment because this is a milestone. We’ve hit a point where we have got a lush magazine (as in heavy paper and jaw dropping visuals) being launched by an established media company, Zero Point Zero Productions (who has given us Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Mind of a Chef) with a strong editor at the helm—Darra Goldstein. Darra is an award-winning cookbook author, world-renowned food scholar, and founding editor of Gastronomica.

 Darra Goldstein photo by Stefan Wettainen

Darra Goldstein photo by Stefan Wettainen

Recently, Christopher and I had the opportunity to talk with Darra in a delightful conversation that meandered through time periods. Darra effortlessly guided us from a late 19th century banished Russian nobleman who observed that “sour” foods kept the peasants healthy to the modern allure of the bright packaging of industrialized food juxtaposed with the rediscovery of these ancient techniques having a certain luxury associated with them.

After the New York Times article (about CURED's debut) was published, Darra’s inbox lit up with email from folks all over the country who told her about their regional fermentation groups. She said, “there is an interesting subculture that is no longer marginal; it is really out there. Preservation has become much more mainstream but there is still a lot more to discover, particularly about other traditions of fermentation throughout the world.”

From our conversation we got a sense that it is this discovery that moves Darra. She is excited by the opportunity with CURED to take the DIY movement to a deeper level by bringing to the table the stories behind our preserved foods. CURED will seek to choose foods that we may or may not still eat and ask, what is the culture that surrounds it? What is the lore? What are the exigencies? How were these things created?

So what do we have to look forward to? Darra shared a sampling of some of the voices that will be heard. "There will be a wonderful article by Moises Valasquez-Manoff looking at the gut microbiome and probiotics. He went through many studies to try to determine if there is quantifiable scientific evidence and," Darra said, "everything points to something pretty intriguing."

There will be articles exploring Asian fermentation such as Japanese Zukemono, and a profile piece on Los Angeles chef Kwang Uh, whose kitchen uses a strong dose of fermentation, and there will be a piece on persimmon vinegar (can't wait to see that myself) by Edward Lee.

We had to ask, will there be recipes? While CURED is not a recipe-driven publication it will have recipes. "Recipes," said Darra, "are an important part of the story. A recipe tells the story in a different format and is like a continuation of the narrative that precedes it." All of the recipes are tested in CURED’s test kitchen in NYC but that doesn’t mean they will all be the centerpiece of your next dinner party. In part because some may not conform to the modern palate and in part because as we all know, fermentation doesn’t always conform to a consistent recipe.

She shared a wonderful example of a recipe by food historian Charles Perry for a medieval Persian cheese. In ancient Bagdad, yogurt and salt were added to milk that was then left on the roof to cure in the summertime. It works perfectly in Los Angeles, where the humidity is low. On a rooftop in NYC the summer humidity causes this to behave quite differently. And at Darra’s home in rural Massachusetts where the humidity is lower it is different yet again—but that is the wonder and beauty of it of it all now isn’t it?

Head over to CURED and put your name on the list to find out when it can be ordered. We sure did!

*the first periodical to explore how age-old methods like charcuterie making, pickling, and fermenting inform the way we think about and consume food today


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