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 to a paste consistency in a food processor. This paste has a sticky, thick gooey consistency. Sprinkle in the salt. 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

 

We don't have affiliate links or make money from our posts here at FermentWorks. We share what we think is truly fun, unique, or interesting. Thanks for visiting!

Make *KIMCHI* The Video

Formidable Vegetable Sound System's new single, 'KIMCHI' (from their forthcoming kids' permaculture album 'Grow Do It') is out on August 19 and can be downloaded here.

We are pretty excited to post this video clip and interview with Charlie Mgee of Formidable Vegetable Sound System a music group with fun antique-beats and a fantastic message!

FermentWorks:  It sounds like you grew up with an unusual childhood. Did food play a part in defining you? Did you grow up with fermentation? (Until recently that alone would be grounds for middle school social suicide—a fermenting crock on the counter. For me (Kirsten), it was being sent to school with garlicky hummus sandwiches that sent the garlic odor wafting from my desk through the classroom. It was the early eighties in rural Arizona...)

Charlie Mgee: I actually didn't discover fermentation until my mid twenties! The only fermentation I remember as a child was my Dad forgetting about the apple juice and opening it up a month later to find it had turned into cider. (We didn't have refrigeration, so this happened on more than one occasion.) I thought it was gross and actually had a bit of food paranoia growing up. Discovering fermentation certainly changed that!

FK: Formidable Vegetable immediately struck us as sounding like fermented vegetable and for some people a fermented vegetable is a formidable thing indeed—daunting, disturbing, and frightening—though that is changing quickly. We are curious how the name Formidable Vegetable Sound System came about?

CM: Haha! I've often considered changing our name to the "Fermentable Vegetable"! I came up with the band name pretty much on the spot as we were getting on stage for the first time and the MC wanted to know what to call us. It was just a random concoction of words that I blurted out! Seems to have stuck, though.

FK: Why kimchi? How does FVSS see kimchi as a fun solution to our toughest challenges?

CM: I see the production and preservation of our own healthy foods (fermented and otherwise), grown and prepared in our own homes as an incredibly fun and rewarding solution to some of the challenges we face globally. For instance, we'd reduce carbon emissions by making our own kimchi from locally grown produce instead of importing it pre-made from Korea or elsewhere. If people ate more fermented foods, the general health and wellbeing of the population would most likely improve, which could take a lot of pressure off the health system! On a deeper level, (and anyone who has ever fermented anything may have experienced this) there is some kind of profound, intangible meaning you get out of connecting with your food by inoculating it with the local, indigenous strains of bacteria and yeast and then consuming these into your body. I see it as a way to sort of become 'native' to any place where you live by literally 'eating the culture'! Also, it's just yum! There are just so many benefits from this simple food!

FK: It looks like you guys had so much fun with this song and the video. We would love to hear the backstory on how a kimchi how to song came about?

CM: After touring the world in 2013 with our first album, Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual (link: http://music.formidablevegetable.com.au/album/permaculture-a-rhymers-manual-2 ), I decided to write an album for kids that would encourage them to grow and eat healthy food. You might think it a challenge to get a 4 year old to eat kimchi, but I'm happy to say that it can, and has been done! One of the ways to get kids to eat good food is to make it super fun, and maybe even a bit silly - which is exactly what we did with the Kimchi song! Getting covered from head to toe in radish, chilli and fish-sauce on a stinking hot Australian midsummers day is not the most comfortable experience, but the result was hilarious! Suffer for your art, I say!

FK: On the serious side FVSS has a real mission through “pounding sustainability deep into our consciousness in the funkiest way possible.” It is great to see a positive spin on getting the ideas of sustainability that in FVSS’s case are rooted in permaculture principles. (Christopher is trained in permaculture and we have a food forest on our farm.) Where do you see it all going?

CM: I'm really excited to explore the kids' show idea a bit further, so we're looking to do a heap more in that area. After playing mostly adult festivals for three years and somewhat 'preaching to the converted', I realised that the people who most need to know this stuff are the kids! Permaculture has some incredibly helpful solutions to solving problems of climate change and energy-descent that would no-doubt be of great use to kids growing up in these uncertain times. I really feel like it's our obligation to empower them as much as we can to take care of the planet and other people better than we have!

FK: We invite you to share your fermentation story. Where did it begin? What is your best flavor invention? And because one always has to ask—any epic fermentation fails?

CH: Kimchi is where it all began for me. After a friend gave me a jar she'd made, but could no longer stomach, due to her being pregnant, I was hooked! I have this wild theory that fermented food also inoculates your brain, leaving you craving more, so I was on a mission to try out as many different styles as possible after that. My favourite invented flavour I think was a berry kombucha I made once using flavoured herbal teabags... It tasted like healthy, probiotic soda! There have been oh-so-many epic kimchi fails! On entering a festival in Canada, we were given a warning that they weren't letting any glass into the campground, so I frantically jumped into the back of the van and stashed all of my nicely-bubbling jars of kimchi into my rolled-up futon mattress to hide them from security. We got them in, but on going to bed that night, I discovered to my dismay that they'd exploded all over the place, leaving me with the pungent odour of kimchi juice to lull me to sleep for the next few weeks on the road!
 

Grow Do It will be out on September 2 here!

Fermenting Finger Limes

Finger limes FermentWorks

This might feel like an esoteric post as first question is likely—what are finger limes? And in all honesty it is a bit esoteric but I do want you to look out for these limes if you love to experiment with fermentation flavor. Australian finger limes are just starting to show up in US markets and are often described as lime caviar, which is a surprisingly accurate description and exactly what makes them an exciting ferment ingredient.

When squeezed little tapioca like pearls (or caviar like fish eggs) spill out of the lime. Whenyou bite into them the erupt little bursts of limey goodness. They stay whole through fermentation so the lime isn't lost in the acidity developed by the lactobacillus. This means the ferment is double as exciting in flavor. There is the wonderful funky acidity of the now fermented vegetable combined with extra lime flavor pops.

I love simple fermented red onion relish and thought this would be the perfect medium for trying out these limes. This little experiment did not disappoint—one red onion, 3 finger limes, a pinch of salt and time. I haven't developed this into a specific recipe but it really was that simple. So if you happen upon a curious little collection of citrus like I did pick a few up and play with your food. 

Notice the little lime baubles in this Fermented Finger Lime Relish

Notice the little lime baubles in this Fermented Finger Lime Relish

 

 

 

 

 

More Fermented Vegetable Recipes Means More Fun

These are all posts Kirsten has written for Mother Earth News. We wanted to make sure you had access to more great recipes from FermentWorks. Click on the photos to link.

From Left to Right: Foraging for Ferments :: A Universal Recipe, Kale Fermentation Tips and Kale Kimchi, Turmeric Leak Cracked Pepper Kraut, Growing Gochugaru Pepper, Fermented Garlic Scapes, Universal Pickled Peppers, Fermenting Beets, Radish Kimchi, Fermented Nettle Pesto, Fermenting Garlic Mustard, a look at air locks (a project with Hatchlab.net), and Green Cherry Tomato Pickles.

Enjoy!

Lacto Fermentation Tools: Silicone Lid Liners

Silicone lid liners are a game changer for mason jar fermentation. These lid liners by Mason Jar Lifestyle are a great new find. There are two places that I like to use these liners, one is the intended use—as a liner.  They prevent corrosion to your metal lids from salt and acid. We have even used them without the lid, clamped down by the ring. They also fit under Ball plastic storage caps, making them leak-proof.

Avoid corroded lids and messy plastic (that clearly didn't work) with silicone lid liners.

Avoid corroded lids and messy plastic (that clearly didn't work) with silicone lid liners.

But…

How I really like to use them is to use them is on fermented pastes, or other barely moist ferments, as a ‘ferment cartouche’. What? Isn’t a cartouche the Egyptian oval that encloses the name of royalty? It is, but in cooking terms it is a round piece of parchment paper placed on the surface of food, often under a saucepan lid to reduce evaporation. In the case of fermented pastes, we use a cartouche on the surface of the ferment to reduce evaporation as well as air exposure. It can take many forms:

·       A cabbage leaf, grape leaf, horseradish leaf, or other vegetable leaf

·       A circular piece of parchment paper cut to fit the surface of your ferment

·       A piece of plastic cut from a ziplock bag (more inert than plastic wrap)

·       A small circle of silicone—enter the silicone liner (note: While touted as more more inert than plastic the jury is still out on whether silicone is truly inert.)

Here at FermentWorks we don’t have affiliate sponsors or advertisers. We do however get offers now and again from folks hoping that we we will review their product. Since we do not profit from our reviews they are our honest opinions. Often these offers come with giveaway samples which we are happy to share with our readers. We have a nice little jar fermentation kit from Mason Jar Lifestyle with 2-packs of lid liners, a fermenting weight, air-lock lid, and decorative lid.

Mason Jar lifestyle silicone liners - Ferment.works post

Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home by Gianaclis Caldwell

Fromage Blanc made from Gianaclis's new book in a class here at our farm. The students had a grand time decorating the cheeses with flowers and herbs from the garden.

Fromage Blanc made from Gianaclis's new book in a class here at our farm. The students had a grand time decorating the cheeses with flowers and herbs from the garden.

Before vegetables there was cheese—at least when it comes to big fermenting projects on our homestead. Well, that is not totally true—let me back up a moment. We fermented a bit of sauerkraut in a crock early on, but the full on “let’s do this!” commitment came later. In the meanwhile, I spent many years teaching myself cheesemaking.

The year was 1999 and I had my “Little House” fantasy. Just like Ma, I would pull perfect cheeses from the press while my wide-eyed children gazed in wonder at the awesomeness. Making your own cheese—romantic right? Imagine unwrapping a cheesecloth-swathed bundle to reveal the perfect creamy dense alchemy that took place in the pot between the milk, rennet and bacteria.

I, of course, had no clue how to make cheese. And believe me the reality is that without proper guidance this nuanced process can quickly go from dream to frustration.  At the time, there were no local folks making cheese, neither old-timers nor back-to-the-landers. There were no classes at the extension and there was only one book for the beginning home cheesemaker.

The one and only how-to book gave recipes and instructions but it was not instructional. I followed along but did not learn. And when things went wrong I had no clue why, and therefore had no idea how to fix it or make sure it didn’t happen again. My determination to create our homespun life outweighed the frustrations—or was it the milk literally kept flowing?  Meanwhile, cheesemaking was becoming a thing. I bought each new book and gleaned a little more knowledge from each and slowly taught myself.

So when I read, and I mean read every page, of Gianaclis Caldwell’s new book Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home, I kept wishing that this was the book I started with.

Gianaclis expertly guides the fledgling cheesemaker through the craft in an accessible manner. Gianaclis’s writing and presentation is clear and informative.  She begins with understanding the ingredients and the tools, making it clear that you can make cheeses without all of the expensive equipment, and explains the options. In other words this book makes this culinary art accessible!

This user-friendly approach takes the reader through a progression of the process, unlike some that are too scientific, overwhelming, and hardly accessible. Others don’t move the reader beyond dabbling in vinegar cheeses and other unripened fresh cheeses. Mastering Basic Cheesemaking is different and it is as the title suggests—Fun!

Each of the cheeses is set up as a lesson; each type of cheese is designed to build skill, confidence, and knowledge. Gianaclis includes what is happening with the milk as it acidifies with each of the cheeses so that the new cheesemaker is learning the craft. The first cheeses are simple with acidification happening through added acids such as vinegar. Then it’s on to cultured soft cheeses, fresh cheeses, semi-firm cheeses and finally aged hard cheeses. Each lesson outlines what you will need, gives the process in a nutshell, then the step-by-step instruction and perhaps the most useful detail—a recap and trouble-shooting.  With all the reassuring instruction you will not stare at your aged Gouda, so beautiful on the outside and then upon opening, full of small holes and splits. Instead you will know what happened, whether it is safe to eat, and how to not make that mistake again.

I see this book as becoming the new classic in beginning cheesemaking. You won’t be disappointed in Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home.

Fermented Golden Beet Salad

Fermented Sweet and Sour Golden Beet Salad at FermentistasKitchen

In the last year or so, we have been experimenting with texture and how it affects the flavor of fermentation. We want to offer this recipe as an example of how this plays out with beets. Fermented beets are delicious and can be intense due to the high sugar content of the beetroot. Often beets are grated into krauts—mixed with cabbage to help cut the intense syrupy brine. Over the last few months I have been working with beets that I slice finely on a microplane slicer or mandolin. (It is important that they are paper thin as if the slices are to thick the beets will be tough—like eating raw beets.) The advantage of slicing the beets is a salad like consistency without the thick brine. 

Sweet, Sour and Spicy Beet Salad

Yield: About a quart

Heat Index: 1

The heat level is entirely dependent on the fresh pepper that you use—for a higher heat use Fresnos, jalapeños or equivalent choice. You can use red beets for this recipe but they tend to takeover the color and the flavor of the ferment.

2 large golden beets, sliced thinly

¼ pound fresh red pimento peppers, chopped finely

2 tablespoons goldenberries

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

2 tablespoons candied ginger, sliced

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 teaspoon salt

Prepare the golden beets and peppers. Sprinkle in the salt the mixture should become moist right as soon as you start massaging everything together. Press the mixture into your favorite fermentation vessel. Follow the instructions that come with that vessel. Otherwise choose a jar that is just the right size for your ferment.  Press the mixture into the jar. When you have pressed the beet mixture into the jar, releasing any air pockets, press a Ziplock bag against the surface, fill the bag with water to weight, and close the bag.

Put this in a corner of the kitchen to cure. Watch for air pockets forming in the ferment. If you see air pockets remove the bag, or open the lid, and press the ferment back down. If the lid starts to bubble up, simply open the lid for a moment to “burp” the ferment.

Allow to ferment for 10 – 21 days. Usually you will know it is ready when you see the colors of the ferment mute, you also might see the cloudiness develop in the brine. There is a pleasing acidic smell to the ferment. It will taste pickl-y and may also have a bit of an effervescent zing.  Allow to ferment longer for more sour and punch. When it is ready tighten the lids, then store in the fridge. This ferment will keep, refrigerated for 10 – 12 months.

 

Fermented Valentine! Chocolate Cranberry Mole

Fermented Chocolate Cranberrry Mole

If you are looking for something new and crazy, a bit spicy, a bit sweet, but complete with requisite Valentine’s chocolate, look no further—it is time for saying love with a fermented valentine.

Love your sweetie—love their guts!

Chocolate Cranberry Mole

Yield: About 1½ pints

4 cups (1 pound) fresh cranberries

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cup dried unsweetened cherries (or increase dried cranberries)

5 tablespoons (2 ounces) pasilla chile powder

2¼ teaspoons cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup fresh orange juice

Process all of the ingredients to a paste consistency in a food processor. Sprinkle in the salt, since the cell walls of the ingredients are already broken down the paste will become moist right away. However, this type of ferment will not look juicy, instead it will be drier than you think is possible. Press the paste into your favorite fermentation vessel. Follow the instructions that come with that vessel. Otherwise choose a jar that is just the right size for your paste. 

Press the mixture into the jar, there won’t be an obvious brine; when you have pressed the paste into the jar releasing any air pockets, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, again without trapping any air. Screw a lid tightly on the jar.

Put this in a corner of the kitchen to cure. Watch for air pockets forming in the paste. If you see them open the lid and press the paste back down. If the lid starts to bubble up, simply open the lid for a moment to “burp” the ferment.

Allow to ferment for 7–10 days. You will know it is ready when the cranberries have a delightful lemony flavor and all the elements have mingled together.

Keep a small round of plastic or wax paper directly on top of the paste to prevent evaporation and contamination. Tighten the lids, then store in the fridge. This ferment will keep refrigerated for 12 months.

Fermenting Carrots 3 Ways

These three easy carrot ferments (no crock, no cabbage) are delicious. The demonstrate how fermented vegetable flavor magic can be changed simply by changing the chop. How you treat your veggies can give you a completely different end result. This video and accompanying blog post shares an example of this action. These recipes use different ingredients but we encourage you to use the Carrot Salad ingredients in the grated krautstyle ferment or the Carrot Kraut ingredients sliced like the salad to see what a difference chop can make.


Make Gochujang :: Recipe for Traditional Gochujang and Quick Gochujang

Traditional Gochujang from Fermentistas Kitchen

Gochujang is a velvety, deep-red, rich Korean fermented hot pepper paste. It has a wonderful mix of sweet and hot, sour and salty. This paste is showing up in all manner of recipes (almost like it’s the new Sriracha or something.)

It is, however, a commitment to make in the traditional authentic sense (three months for one thing.) We have experimented quite a bit this last fall with the process and with recipes we have found in our research.  We were surprised that it was hard to find definitive recipes. We did learn that all Korean households used to make their own but now very few do. We shared some pictures of the process on Instagram and soon our in-box had a number of requests for the recipe; unfortunately with the long fermentation time, we couldn’t really say what was great and what was not (and a few were not so good). Finally the “results” are in and we found the following two recipes to be quite delicious.

We based the first (traditional) recipe on the recipe by Emily Kim from her book Maangachi’s Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook, which incidentally has some wonderful ferments and recipes. We first used her blog recipe before the book was available and our adjustments came from her original blog recipe. Perhaps our biggest adjustment in all the traditional recipes that we tried was to significantly reduce the salt. The final flavor of this paste still has the important salty flavor element along with the rich sweet heat.

The second recipe is one we just came up with as we wanted to find away to make a gochujang-like flavor paste without the long-term extra credit fermenting project. We wanted something that would help folks make a natural no-additive fermented paste that doesn’t take as long or need a bunch of difficult to procure ingredients. This paste is quite complex and delicious despite being a “cheater’s gochujang”.

Note about Korean hot pepper powder: the commercially available powders ferment beautifully. The English translations on the labels can be off or confusing. Some are quite sweet and mild, while other powders in your kimchi will make your head sweat. If you are at an Asian market or on-line shopping for flakes,  “maewoon gochugaru” means very hot, spicy, pepper flakes, and “deolmaewoon gochugaru” means milder. Try to find powders without added sugars or other additives, though most of the plain ones still contain a bit of salt. Here is a link to growing your own Korean kimchi peppers.

Traditional Gochujang

Yield: about ½ gallon

8 cups water

2 cups barley malt powder*

5 cups sweet rice flour, also called glutinous rice flour

1 cup fermented soy flour

6 cups Korean hot pepper powder see gochu (page 000), not flakes (gochujangyong gochugaru)

3 cups brown rice syrup

¾ cup salt

Mix the barley malt and warm water in a saucepan with a whisk, you want the water warm to the touch, about 100° F. Whisk in the rice flour. Allow to sit two hours.

Return pot to stove and cook at medium low heat until reduced by a third, about 1 to 2 hours. Stir regularly—this wants to stick to the bottom of the pot. Let this cool completely.

Stir in the fermented soy flour, hot pepper powder, rice syrup and salt. Mix until thoroughly mixed. It will be shiny and creamy.

Transfer to gallon jar, onggi pot, or your favorite fermenting vessel.  Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Place the lid on jar or crock. Keep it at room temperature in a sunny window. On sunny days remove the lid and allow some sunlight to shine through the cheesecloth onto the ferment. In mid summer or in a hot climate move it to a cooler location in the afternoons. (Note: We have made it in the winter when the sunlight is minimal and have still had a delicious ferment.)

Ferment for 3 months. Transfer to the refrigerator to store.

* Barley malt powder: Malt is the key word here—it means that the barley has gone through a soaking and drying process that converts the starches into sugars. If you can find the kind that is labeled diastatic which has been soaked long enough to get the enzymes that break down the starches. Be careful though as some labeled as such contain dextrose and even wheat—not sure why. The takeaway is read your labels to get the pure product you are looking for. It can be found in Asian stores under the Korean name yeotgireum.

*Fermented soy flour: in an Asian store the Korean name is meju garu. We could not find it locally and had trouble finding a fermented soy flour so we used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Soy Flour which worked well.

 “I-don’t-want-to-wait-3-months” Quick Gochujang

Yield: about 1 pint

2 cups water

3 tablespoons rice flour

3 tablespoons salt

1¼ – 1¾ cups Korean hot pepper powder see gochu (page 000), not flakes (gochujangyong gochugaru)

Add after 2 weeks of fermentation:

2 – 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup

Whisk the rice flour and salt int the water and then add the gochu powered. Mix until you have a smooth even consistency.

Follow the instructions for the type of fermentation vessel you are using. Press the paste into your fermentation vessel. If using the simple jar method select a mason jar that is sized appropriately to the amount of mash. Place the mash inside the jar leaving about 3 inches of airspace. Tighten lid. Set on your counter for 14 days.

This paste may float, leaving the brine below. This can be remedied one of two ways: open the lid slightly to “burp” the jar, reseal, and shake the jar to redistribute the contents. Or, open the jar, stir with a clean utensil and reseal. Test the ferment on day 14, though we like to let it go an extra week. It's ready when the flavors have mingled and there is an acidic vinegar-like quality to the flavor.

Stir in the brown rice syrup to taste. Allow to ferment for a few more days.

This ferment will keep, refrigerated for 12 months.

 

Five Ways To Make Sure You Will Not Go Wrong Fermenting Your Vegetables

A few of these ferments have some Kahm yeast on top--not to worry this is easily removed. The ferment underneath is fine! Tasty in fact!

A few of these ferments have some Kahm yeast on top--not to worry this is easily removed. The ferment underneath is fine! Tasty in fact!

All you have to remember is to salt and submerge. We like to tell people, “Sinking in brine conquers evil every time. 

1. Keep your ferment comfortable. If the temperature is too cold the bacteria cannot eat and multiply fast enough to acidify your vegetables properly. (It is this acidification that preserves—not the salt.) If it is too hot they may work to quickly to do a good job.

2. Watch for the air pockets building as the CO2 releases. If your ferment looks like a glass of champagne you know it is time to press down the vegetables so that the brine surrounds the vegetables again. 

3. It should smell. But make sure it is a pleasing smell, like vinegar and pickles, not rotten like compost or rotting potatoes.

4. Scum happens. Maybe you see something growing on top of your ferment. This is where the air and oxygen are mingling with your ferment. Sometimes this can cause yeast or even mold to grow. Don’t worry. Just take this top layer off and throw it into your compost pile. Everything under anaerobic brine is safe and delicious.

5. Sometimes you will feed the worms and not your family. If something went wrong and you have air-pockets and stink and scum and maybe even slime throughout, just throw it out.  You will know it is bad—there is no question, all of your senses will tell you so. Most importantly, don’t worry; we all have unsuccessful batches now and then.  If you do, it's okay—don’t be afraid to try again. 

 

What is a fermentation airlock and should I use one?

In fermentation an airlock is a set up that allows the carbon dioxide gas created as the bacteria break down the sugars and starches to escape the fermentation vessel, without letting new air into the environment.  There are many ways to achieve this airtight environment and it often involves a bit of water. The ceramic water-seal crocks were likely one of the first ways that humans figured out that a simple ring of water would trap the air.

Airlocks like the ones pictured above also use water as the seal. The carbon dioxide bubbles out through the water but the outside air can’t find a path back through the water and into the ferment. Simple ones like these have been used in alcohol ferments for years but as lactic acid fermentation has gained popularity many folks have adapted these to use on canning jars. (Spoiler alert: there is a giveaway for a set at the bottom of this post.)

These systems take most of the babysitting out of the curing time during the fermentation. We admit to setting ferments in their air lock topped jar and forgetting them—with delicious results. That said, its only fair that you know all ferments have a mind of their own (just like kids). So while you think they are safely sleeping in bed, they just might be under the covers reading ghost stories with a flashlight. Then they get scared and there is a whole lot of excitement…same with the microbes.

If your ferment is particularly active and your jar is particularly full this moving brine may just bubble right out of your ferment. When the ferment appears to be “making” brine what is really happening is it is expanding due to the trapped carbon dioxide. This movement in the brine is sometimes called a “heave” or a “surge.” Therefor weights are another important piece of the worry-free ferment as they help keep the veggies in place during the most active phases of fermentation. We have found out ferments are infinitely more successful if we manage the air pockets. Even if the oxygen is not present and the vessel is completely sealed in these pockets the flavor can have a bitter quality if they aren’t pressed down. This brings us back to using small weights or simply opening your ferment as needed to press the veggies back down under the brine (with a clean utensil) before sealing it up again for more fermentation.

So, the second part of the title—should you use an air lock? We hope we have given you some information to help you decide. Kirsten collaborated in December with Mara Rose of Hatchlab.net in reviewing four fermentation systems. In this project we reviewed the systems but also gave you a peak at the folks who designed them.