Thursday, March 22, 2012

Year of the Fermented Food

First things first. Pretty much everyone who knows me personally knows this by now so the world wide web may as well know too:
I'm pregnant!
Approximately half way through, too.
Here's a cute belly photo:
21 weeks, 2 days
You can use this as an excuse for my absence if you like (but in reality I'm just lazy about blogging.)  Now lets get on to the good stuff!

I hereby dub the year of our Lord two-thousand-and-twelve The Year of the Fermented Food. Let it be known through out the land that everyone should get on this fermented food bacteria probiotic bandwagon with me!

 I've always been pretty interested in getting good bacteria in my life but only recently has it occurred to me that I could make it... Sometime in January I made my first attempt at a naturally fermented batch of sauerkraut. Would you like to see a photo?

It wasn't successful, I'm sad to say. It was actually really gross. Like seriously nasty. It tasted like really salty old people...I told you it was gross.

 But I'm not one to give up easily; It was the beginning of many a fermented food experiment! And most of them have been successful!

Since that fateful day that I have revisited my sauerkraut desires, following this recipe/guide and this time I was quite pleased with the turn out.

That being a marvelous triumph I turned my hand to other naturally fermented things. When I say "naturally fermented" I mostly mean by use of wild yeast. Though I have turned to my bakers yeast when things seemed a little slow or inactive.

A little note on why: Fermented foods are crazy healthy and good for you. They fill your body with good bacteria that fight off the bad stuff. They improve digestion and keep your intestines flowing smoothly (sorry if that gives anyone a bad visual.)  Obviously, I want some of this goodness in my diet! It's easy to get a probiotic boost from things like storebought keifer or yogurt or even straight up "probiotic health supplement". But those kinds of things tend to be pricy, especially when you want to eat them up as much as I do. And while I could afford such things if I wanted to, it's times like these that cause me to wonder: "Could I make it at home for less than it costs to buy?" And the answer is generally Yes.

Which begs the question "Why buy when you can make!"

 Actually, that was an exclamation.

So, friends, that is what I did. A head of cabbage with the outer leaves intact, a tablespoon or so of salt and a little effort and waiting time and voila! Really healthy, teeming with good bacteria, very inexpensive and not to mention yummy sauerkraut! Tastes good and is good for you! And is cheap! It's a win, win, win.

So I mentioned that I've tried a few other things too. Let me tell you about them.

Have you heard of komboucha? Man is it good stuff. Basically, it's fermented sweet tea, but it's not very sweet once it's done fermenting. Because the yeast eats the sugar, and that's how it gets big and strong. It eats sugar so I don't have to! Wait...I like sugar. Nevermind....

The thing with komboucha is that you need a "mother" or a "scoby" to start your own process. Once you've got one, you can reuse it and reuse it, plus it procreates so you can give ones to friends. But where do you get one to start? Tee, hee. Oh the cleverness of me.

Actually, the cleverness of google searches. Or the cleverness of me to use google searching... Anyway....

First, I tried "where to get a komboucha scoby" and found places selling them: "I'll ship you a great komboucha scoby for the small price of $15.99 plus shipping!"  Uh huh, no thanks. I'm trying to save money here. Then I tried, "How to make a komboucha scoby" Ahhhh, much better. It did involve a monetary investment, but a much smaller one. And no shipping needed. Did you know that you can buy raw komboucha at healthfood stores? It's not quite a mother komboucha, but it has the potential to become one!

I went to natural foods store and found in their refrigerated section a 12 oz bottle of GT's raw komboucha, citrus flavoured for $3.50 (this is why I don't buy this stuff on a regular basis). Back at home, I brewed a couple cups of green tea, sweetened it about 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup and then let it cool to room temperature. I put it into a quart sized mason jar and proceeded to dump the entire contents of my bottle of komboucha into the jar. I covered it with a muslin cloth and rubberbanded it. Then I shoved it into a darkish corner of my kitchen (all corners of my kitchen are dark, actually.) and left it for about 10 days. Depending on the coolness of your house, the time can vary.  When I checked back, there it was: a slimy skin about half a centimeter thick floating on the top of my jar. Yum. My own scoby.

I'm currently working on my first real batch of komboucha, I kind of don't know what I'm doing. Just following various tutorials on the internet. You too, can do this.... If you want. But I would recommend finding someone who knows what they're doing and has done it multiple times to learn from.  Here's a pic of my experimentation:
Note the scoby slime on top, which I accidentally disrupted while trying to get a photo
I'll let you know how it turns out in a couple weeks. Komboucha brewing is similar to beer brewing. It has a primary fermentation in the carboy (or in this case, the half gallon pitcher) and then a second fermentation in the bottle, where you add a bit of sugar in some form to prime it. Course, there's lots of differences too. Komboucha likes and needs lots of oxygen to stay alive, and for priming "sugar" most people use fruit juice, while beer needs to be kept in a completely airtight environment while it ferments and then needs some real, simple sugar (such as corn sugar) to get that secondary fermentation carbonation kick.

Please note John's beer in airlocked carboy. I'm really excited about this one:

It's a maple pale ale.  He used maple sap instead of water for brewing it and he's going to use maple syrup instead of corn sugar to prime it. Nomsy. Can't wait for this baby to be born so I can get back to alcohol!

Just kidding. Sort of.

I kind of do miss beer, though.

And now that it's warm and springy dandelions will be popping their merry little blooms up and John and I are intending to go big on the dandelion wine making this year. A five gallon batch!

Isn't fermentation fun?

There's other stuff I'll be telling you about, I've got two sourdough starters going now. One is on the older side, it has the most pleasing aroma but I've noticed it's rising power is weak. While I want to fix that, I also thought I'd try a second one, for the heck of it.
left is my older, very yummy one, right is the newbie who is already bubbly and promising
I'm making my own apple cider vinegar:
Put those apple cores to use, baby!

  And I made soda which is carbonated naturally by fermentation, and I plan to make yogurt sometime in the next couple weeks too. Maybe this blog will get a little love and you'll hear about it.

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