Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The last of the fermenting for a bit. The first sauerkraut I made was way too salty for me and it went in the compost pile. These 2 were made with very light salt and wine for the liquid. One with a dry white wine and one with a burgundy wine. I think it turned out better than the other one. Smelled better, tasted less salty, kept a hint of the wine smell and flavor, but honestly, I really don't like really sour food and it was really sour. Ever have the Warhead candy? That kind of sour. I know - sauerkraut, it's supposed to be sour, but I just can't do it, so I'm not. But at least I know the principle of how to do it now and have tried 2 different ways with success. That makes it a good experiment and learning experience.
I still have a couple of bags of garlic to dehydrate. Maybe in a week or two. I really need to get it done.
And it's getting more springlike out there so I'll be starting my tomato, pepper, cabbage, kale, and herb seeds soon. I did plant some cumin and anise seeds indoors, but they dried out and I lost about half of them. I haven't replanted yet.
On a good note, the killdeer and red-wing blackbirds are back now. That always makes it feel like spring to me, even though there are snow flurries out there today and it's only 37 degrees.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dehydrating Garlic

As you can see from all the green sprouts it is time to get serious on dehydrating all the garlic I still have from last fall. It took me about 4 hours to break up the cloves, peel them, and slice them for the dehydrator. It made about 3 half pint jars and I used the Foodsaver vacuum sealer lid attachment on the jars to store them. Today I did another batch (Ontario Purple Trillium) that size but it went much faster because it was a different variety that had larger cloves and were easier to peel. The skins just popped off. I still have 2 more bags of garlic in the studio waiting and my son wants me to do his (which I will gladly do). It will be great to have it all done and know I didn't plant as much for this coming summer.
Next fall when I plant I may stick to the Ontario Purple Trillium and Bavarian, both of which have large easy to peel cloves. I've found I'm no garlic connoisseur so there is no point to growing a big variety, especially since I never managed to get to Farmer's Market to sell some last fall like I had planned. But it was fun trying some different kinds. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fermented Cranberries

The newest fermented food I'm trying is Fermented Cranberries. I almost followed the recipe except for using walnuts instead of pecans and thinly sliced celery instead of raisins. I also forgot the salt and had to dump the jars out in a bowl and stir that in, then put it back in the jars. It looks good. It smells good. It tastes good. Hopefully it still will after the 48 hours of sitting on the counter. It sounded too good not to try though. I do enjoy cranberry relishes.
The recipe said it would make one quart, but as you can see it made a bit more than that.

Update: It's quite good. I think next time I'll leave the celery pieces larger though for more crunch. I also strained some of the juice into some of the fermented lemonade for a fruitier flavor and it was good, but quite tart!
We tried a taste of the mead. I like it. I have a bit of a mold problem on top so I may siphon it off into a clean jar and let it work some more. The next batch will be a fruity mead, not just honey and water.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mead and Some Thought on Fermenting

The mead is finally working a bit. After having it on the kitchen counter for 3 days with no bubbling at all and no changes in the smell of it (just smelled like honey water) I finally researched a bit more and found the suggestion of putting it in the oven with the light on. I tried that, stirring vigorously a couple of times a day, and it helped. There is now a slight yeast smell and some bubbling. So now it is back on the counter in the half gallon jug with the airlock in place. Now it just needs to sit for at least 3 weeks. Then it is supposed to be drinkable. This is something like Ethiopian tej, not mead with commercial yeast in it. The funny thing is I don't really drink much alcohol at all, only rarely a little wine. I just thought it would be interesting to try making it. Of course if it turns out well I could probably find some volunteers to drink it for me.

As far as fermenting in general - I am realizing I have to re-think my attitude about food preparation and safety to be able to do fermenting. Basically I have to be willing to leave food sit out and 'rot' - oh, I mean ferment.  I have really become a child of modern food preparation - refrigerate it, freeze it, or pitch it out. Do not let it sit out for more than an hour or so or it will be spoiled and kill me. Well, that attitude just doesn't work in a person who wants to practice different forms of food preparation such as lacto-fermentation or meat curing (which is next on the list). I am still struggling internally with the idea of leaving sauerkraut out of the refrigerator for months, scraping mold off the top and then still eating it without dying. I guess I'll have to work on my attitude more as I learn these 'new' old methods of preparing food. And then realizing, done right, it is more healthy than some of the refrigerated or frozen foods. I'm working on it...

And the fermented lemonade with a 4 to 1 ration of autumn olive juice in it was very tasty. I had a bit more trouble with scummy stuff growing in it, but I strained it as well as I could through several layers of cheesecloth then refrigerated it. The rest of the debris settled to the bottom and was easy to avoid. A successful experiment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Fun: Garlic and Fermenting

 Today I spent a few hours cleaning and slicing garlic for the dehydrator. This batch is Polish Softneck. A good hot garlic. It's kind of hard to get the skins off so I had to work at it for quite a while. This turned out to be 4 large trays worth for the dehydrator. It's in now, probably until tomorrow morning.  Then it could be processed a bit finer or powdered, but I wouldn't do that until I was ready to use it. In the meantime it will be vacuum sealed into a mason jar and stored for some other time.

And the latest fermenting experiments: my first batch of mead in the cheesecloth covered jar, purple cabbage and carrot kraut now a full week old and no longer smelling like a dirty diaper, and a new batch of fermented lemonade. I also have a small batch of lemonade with a cup of autumnberry juice mixed in to see how that works out. I couldn't find much on other fermented juices that are not intended to be wine so I guess I'll just have to experiment a bit. Well, there is ginger ale and ginger beer which is on the list for some time soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Winter Mushroom Surprise

As I was driving home from church yesterday I spotted this clump of mushrooms along the side of the road. I didn't stop then, but couldn't resist going back later in the day to see what they were. I just bought my first mushroom identification book last week and here was my first chance to try it out. And WAY earlier than I thought I would be able to use it. Who expects mushrooms in mid January in Michigan? Not me!
So as near as I can tell it is an Oyster mushroom. Being new to this stuff I did not eat it even though I did bring some home. And also, it was really waterlogged. It probably froze and refroze a few times. I think they had been there for a while because one cluster had a lot of gravel on it, probably from the last snow melt last week. I don't think they came up in our 60 degree 2 days, more likely a while back and just preserved by the cold.
Anybody out there who can identify this more surely? I'll be watching that spot in the next warm weather to see if something fresh comes up. I don't even know if I like oyster mushrooms, but I'd like to try them.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Fermenting, Mushrooms, Gardening

An assortment of lettuces and kale under a daylight fluorescent light in the studio.

The third flush of shiitake mushrooms in the studio. Looks like just 2 again. I got about 7 the first time, 2 the second, and then 2 now. Maybe it will be good for one more flush. We'll see. The Lion's Mane seems to be done after just 2 flushes.

 Fall garlic waiting for something. I was going to sell at the Farmer's Market but didn't. Now I'm working on dehydrating at least some of it. It's really potent and tasty that way - and ready to use, which is the best part.
 The rest of the fermented lemonade after sitting out for 5 days and then being strained through cheesecloth. Bob and I both liked it better now than after just 2 days. I will try this again sometime.
 And then there is the Fermented Maple Applesauce that I just started today. It has to sit out for 3 days.
I did mine just like the recipe in the link except for just pulsing the apples then stirring everything else in by hand well. I didn't want mush.

There was too much fresh applesauce to fit the jar so it ended up mixed with turkey and some wilted spinach. Very tasty. I may do this on purpose sometime and add a bit of sweet brown rice into it. The uncooked applesauce was great as a fresh relish topping.
This one is some sauerkraut started today using purple cabbage, carrots, radishes and sea salt. I don't know how it will be. I need to look up some more information on it as it starts to work. I couldn't get it weighted down well and need to work out something better for that tonight.
So those are the things I've been working on today. It's been interesting so far.

Here is a link to some very interesting fermented recipes.