Category Archives: fermentation

Pickled Turnips


Made from an excess amount of turnips in the garden, some garlic, wild onion, salt, and water.
I chopped the turnips thinly, packed them in a mason jar, throwing in some chopped garlic and wild onion greens for every inch or so of turnips, adding a sprinkle of salt over each layer as well. When the turnips were an inch or so below the top of the jar, I poured water mixed with a pinch of salt over the entire thing, until the turnips were submerged. Then I covered it loosely with a lid, and left to sit under my bed.

I made a smaller jar with ginger instead of the garlic and onions. It took longer to ferment, but was really delicious.

Fermentation time: almost two weeks, or until tasty.


Ginger Bug

A ginger bug is a sweet thing to have around the house. Apart from having a great name and looking cute, it makes delicious drinks like ginger ale or ginger beer. Apparently you can use it to start bunches of other tasty sodas as well. The bug is very easy to make, so if you like any of those drinks and have a few free minutes, there is no excuse not to have one! All you have to do is mix water, sugar, and chopped ginger root, and keep feeding it more ginger and sugar for a few days. I got this recipe from A Life Unprocessed, which has a nice, detailed explanation of how to do it.

Well or spring water
Fresh ginger root
Sugar (unprocessed is best, but you can use plain white sugar and just add molasses every so often)

-Put 2 cups warm water into a jar and add 1 tbs chopped ginger root, skin included, and 1 tbs sugar. Cover with a cloth or folded paper towel and let sit in a warm place. Stir twice a day.
-Every day after, feed it 1tsp chopped ginger, 1 tsp sugar, and stir twice. It is ready to use when it is very bubbly on top. It should have a nice gingery smell to it too :)

Use it for homemade fermented drinks and enjoy!

Vanilla Extract, hard core

A cheaper way to get your vanilla extract was introduced to me by a wwoofing host in Tennessee. She reached up into her cupboard to proudly haul down a handle of vodka with a vanilla bean sitting in it. She said it cost her 5 bucks, instead of the 10 she’d have spent on a quarter of that amount at the farmers’ market. And if you buy vanilla flavored vodka, you’re half-way there! She let it sit for a few weeks, bringing it down to shake every day or so.

Sourdough Bread

This is a new bread recipe I am trying out from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking (a fantastic cook book by the way, my absolute favorite!). The process takes two days, and you need to already have a sourdough starter made. This is the first time we are using our new starter :)

Making the sponge
2 cups sourdough starter
2 cups Luke warm spring water
4 cups flour ( recipe says bread flour, but we are using spelt)

-Put sourdough in a large bowl (Don’t worry if this uses all the starter you have, this recipe will replace it later on). Add 1cup water and 2 cups flour. Mix until incorporated, but don’t over do it.

20130308-095612.jpg It should bubble nicely :)

-Cover tightly and let sit in a warmish place for 10-12 hrs (overnight is good).

20130308-095715.jpg I’m a nut about saving plastic, so use saved bags instead of plastic wrap.

20130308-224205.jpg Should be even more nice and bubbly when done!

-Add another cup of warmish water and 2 cups flour. I used white bread flour because we’re low on spelt. Make sure the container is big enough for it to rise. Cover and let sit 5-6 hours. ***after it has risen, make sure to take out two cups of dough and keep in a jar as your starter for the next bread you make***

Side note on rising time for sourdough: rising time is more of a suggestion of minimum time. My house is colder than the average persons, so my dough always takes longer to rise. Also, the suggested rising time may not work with your schedule, so don’t be afraid to let it sit longer. I often let dough sit much longer than it needs to and do the next step when I have time. For example, for this bread, I let it sit overnight again instead of 5-6 hours because I mixed it before going to bed. Also, later in this recipe you are supposed to let it sit 20 min, well I let it sit two hours because I left the house to go get some groceries, and was hungry when I got back so I made some food (delicious spelt pancakes by the way, I’ll put the recipe up:) ). With sourdough, the longer you let it sit, the more sour and flavorful it becomes. However, it can become too sour. One time I kept not having time to bake, so I let it sit two days longer than it should… now that was some sour bread. But some people may like it like that :)

Mixing The Bread Dough
3/4 cup warm water
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbs wheat germ
1 tbs rye flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

-After saving 2 cups for your sourdough, mix in all these ingredients but the salt and let sit for 20 min.

Side note on how much flour to use: When following a recipe, always use your own judgement on how much flour to add. A friend of mine who is a great chef once explained to me that, depending on how your flour was stored and/or the dryness of your climate, flour can have different amounts of moisture. This means you may need more or less flour than the recipe calls for. This recipe called for 5 1/2 cups, but I added only 4 1/2 and thought that was plenty. The cookbook I am using does come from Ireland, a moist country to say the least, which means that bakers there can use a higher flour to water ratio and still have a moist dough.
Well, this is the reason i have come up with to explain the discrepancy. I also may have just made the dough wetter than it is intended to be. Just remember to be careful, don’t add all the flour at once.

-Sprinkle some flour onto a nice surface for kneading. Knead the salt into the dough and continue kneading for 15+ min. If it is sticking a lot, keep putting flour on the table, but don’t add too much (<1/2 cup total). I often just accept that the dough will stick to the surface and deal with it because I want to have a moist bread. If you do this, having a bench scraper or a knife to periodically get the dough off the counter and into a ball is very helpful. Also, cooling the dough makes it less stretchy and easier to work with.

20130309-143729.jpg a good test to see if you have developed enough gluten is to stretch a piece of dough and make a “window”. If light comes through without the dough tearing, you have probably kneaded enough. I learned this trick from Daniel Leader’s book Local Breads

20130309-144218.jpg at first the dough was very stretchy and sticky

20130309-144312.jpg I let the dough sit for a bit in a cool place, and it became much more manageable (actually, I discovered this because I forgot to add salt. It was already rising, so I got it down to knead the salt in, and it was much easier to deal with. The place I left it was obviously too cold, but it turned out to be a useful mistake:) )

-Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in it, cover it, and put it in a warm place to rise for 6-9 hours.


20130309-223722.jpg It rose beautifully! And this is all from the wild yeast in the sourdough starter, amazing!

-Punch down the dough and knead it a few times. Divide it in two equal pieces.
-Heavily! flour two bannetons (or two large bowls lined with a kitchen cloth). I had trouble with the dough sticking when I tried to take it out, so don’t skimp here. And the four makes the loaves look rustic :)
-Shape the dough into two round loaves. Put them into the bannetons/bowls with the smooth side of the loaf facing down. Dust the top with flour.

20130309-230031.jpg Shaped loaves ready to rise :)

-Put the bowls in large plastic bags and let rise in a cold room (or the fridge) overnight. The loaves should about double in volume.
-Check on the loaves. If they have risen enough, put them in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours to bring them back to room temperature before baking. If they are still a bit small, leave them in a warm place for longer.
-At least 30 min before baking, put a bread stone and cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to 450f.

20130310-192057.jpg one loaf ready to go in the oven! the other has to wait longer because the bread stone will only fit one loaf.

-Ease the dough onto a floured bakers peel (or some parchment paper) and make slashes on the top with a serrated knife. I only have room for one loaf on my baking stone, so I could only bake one at a time. Meanwhile, let the other rise longer. It will make it a bit more sour, but, having German roots, Rosie and I agreed that we like it better that way :)
-Slide ( to the best of your ability) the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven and pour 1 cup water into the cast iron pan. Immediately close the door to trap in the steam.
-Bake for 30-40 min depending on how high your bread rose (more time for thicker bread).
-Take out the bread and test if done by thumping on the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.
-Bake second loaf end enjoy the fruits of your labor!

20130310-193226.jpg slashed loaf on a bakers peel, ready to bake

20130310-193328.jpg and voila! It turned out beautifully!

20130310-193402.jpg the second loaf not so much… It had some trouble getting out of the bannetons, and sliding off the bakers peel onto the bread stone. That didn’t affect it’s deliciousness though!


20130310-195006.jpg eating it with almond butter, banana, and honey. Just like my momma taught me :) Mmmm, so yummy and so European ha ha

The second loaf had some trouble in the process (apart from its looks), so it rose for 4 hours longer and was considerably more sour, almost like a pure rye. Delicious to me! But maybe not for everyone…
The bread came out flatter than i hoped it would, which may have been because i added leas flour. I could also have not kneaded it long enough, but i don’t think that is the case. Any other ideas why? Anyways, I’ll just keep practicing and see if I can make it rise more!

Congratulate yourself on a job well done! I know I am :)



What you need:

1 fresh cabbage (red are best*)
some salt (1-2 tsp)
a glass or wooden bowl
a pair or two of hands
a pinch of love

Step 1:
Cut the cabbage up, as thinly as possible


Step 2:
Put a handful or so of the cabbage in the bowl (wooden or glass, as a metal bowl will start some kind of strange chemical reaction with the kraut), sprinkling a few pinches of salt over the cabbage.


Step 3:
Get those hands in there, mashing and kneading the cabbage between your fingers. The goal is to squeeze juice out of the cabbage shreds, and should take about 10 minutes. (You can also let it sit for a bit after this to bring out more juice…)


It should start getting wet-ish and shiny, with juice trickling out when you squeeze a handful of the cabbage:


Keep adding the rest of the cabbage, a bit at a time. (This is where you add that bit of love, too.)

Step 3:
Pack the cabbage into a quart sized jar, pouring in all of the juice, and really packing it in as hard as you can, so that the juice fully covers the cabbage.


Leave at least 1 inch of space between the top of the jar and the kraut. If the kraut hasn’t produced enough juice to cover itself completely, you can add a bit of salt to spring water and pour that over the kraut instead. (I’ve found that if the cabbage isn’t juicing, it’s probably too old, and usually will go bad/moldy/rancid during fermentation. But it sometimes works out ok to pour a bit of spring water with a pinch of salt over the top of the shredded cabbage after you pack it in the jar, with enough salt water to fully cover the cabbage completely while leaving about an inch of space from the top of the kraut to the top of the jar.)
Next, cover your baby with a lid, loosely screwed on.


Place the baby sauerkraut in a dark place, wrapped in a washcloth or towel ( just in case the glass breaks, which has never happened to me, but better safe than sorry). Depending on the warmth in the room, it could take 1 to 3 weeks before it’s ready. I’ve found that, while it’s usually edible within a week, the flavor is worth the three week wait.
Once you pop it open, it’s best to store it in the fridge, but you can check on it once in a while to see how it’s getting on. It’s best to leave it be until it starts to bubble when you pick it up, and takes on a gold-ish color (or turns more maroon if it’s a red cabbage). I tend to open it after the first week to do a taste test as well, but most people tell you not to mess with it. (The less contact it has with air, the better.) On the other hand, sometimes it does only take about a week to ferment, so as long as you use a clean utensil to stick into your kraut, and cover it up as quickly as possible, it should be fine:)

Experimenting with sauerkraut is a blast! You can add carrots, kale, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, fennel, caraway, spices, onion, and a ton more… Caraway and dill add really nice touches, as does the love:)

*A note on cabbage differences I’ve found: red cabbage is less finicky than green and holds its crispness better. Most of the problemas I’ve had have been with green sauerkrauts, and the reds seem to have better luck and taste better (and are prettier). Maybe the answer is to not bother with trying to juice green cabbage, but just put salt water over the chopped cabbage and leave it at that.
This time, I worked with what I had, and it finished quite nicely! It took two weeks to ferment, and by the end, some hairy-looking tendrils were starting to have a little dance party on top of the kraut, so I decided its time was up. I skimmed off the little hairy things and threw the sauerkraut in the fridge. The sauerkraut tastes delicious, so no worries about the strange hairy dance going on:)
And here’s the finished sauerkraut:


Kombucha Baby, AKA Suzie Q


Meet Suzie Q, our little kombucha baby taken as a stow-away from the hills of Tennessee. She’s in hibernation at the moment, living under my bed, so is kind of shy. But here’s her creation story:

Kombucha Recipe:

For 1 quart water:
2 tsp black tea (5 bags for 3 quarts)
1/3 c sugar
1 mother/baby kombucha scobi (a chunk or layer of scobi from someone who has a kombucha started)
10% kombucha from the last batch
1 glass quart jar
1 breatheable cloth and hair tie

Boil water, add tea and sugar. Let sit till cool. Put your baby and the kombucha from her mother scobi into your jar with the cool sweet tea. Cover with cloth and hair tie and tuck her away in a dark, kind of warm spot to grow.
She’ll hibernate for 8-days to a month before she’s ready to drink.

I just use this recipe as a general guide, but don’t measure exactly.

Also, a note on tea types: I’ve seen herbal tea used, but in my experience, you need at least some caffeine in there to start things up. Green tea is fine, too.
And flavored black teas add delicious
flavors in.

So now you’ve met Suzie. I’ll bring her around again when she’s ready.