Tag Archives: fermentation

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble – A “Productive Home” Post

Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing (or was – it’s been a while for her, just as it’s been for me), and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity (as you may have noticed). It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
The thing I want to show off? I recently tried fermenting apple cider.
My sister sent me a fancy fermentation crock for making sour kraut and other brine-pickled veggies. The crock itself broke in transit – as happens sometimes when you ship something by bus across four provinces – but it came with an airlock which, tbh, I’m rather more excited about than the jar.
I had a whole jug of grocery store sweet cider left over from Winter Solstice, a recently acquired package of bread yeast, and NOW a shiny airlock! 😀
What could go wrong??
 
Remarkably? Just about nothing. (I feel semi-confidant saying this, for reasons you’ll learn shortly, but I’m still knocking on wood about it).
 
So. I know that, when fermenting beverages, it’s ideal to use something like champagne yeast, which can survive a high-alcohol-content environment and keep right on eating sugar – which is what you need if you want to get wine-levels of alcohol in your drink (12%-15% – I have no idea what the right fermentation terminology is on this one, so I’m just going with what tends to be written on the bottles). However I’ve had “apple wine”, and it tastes like apple cider with too much alcohol in it (easy alternative: Heat some up and then add a shot of spiced rum or cinnamon schnapps or something).
I was going for something more like “what people drink when they don’t like the taste of hopps”. Something with the 5%-ish alcohol levels of “alternative-to-ugh-beer cider”.
Which bread yeast can do just fine.
 
So I tipped half a teaspoon or so of fine bread yeast into the mouth of my cider jug, filled up my airlock with water, and packing-taped it to the mouth of the jug (they are the same size, and this is way easier than drilling out a hole in the middle of the lid, so that’s what I did).
I sat the already-starting-to-bubble cider in a glass baking dish, so that if/when things spilled over a little, I wouldn’t have a mess on my hands (this was a good idea – there wasn’t much spillage, maybe a teaspoon or two over the course of a couple of weeks, but it would have been sticky and gross if I hadn’t given it a spill-dish), and put the whole thing somewhere out-of-the-way.
 
And then I waited.
 
While I waited, I did a few other things on the Bubbling Cauldron front. Namely, I reorganized my chest freezer and, in the process, pulled out the leaf lard and the stock bones that came with Sir Francis Bacon, our (half of a) Large Black pig whom we put in the freezer in 2015.
 
To that end, I put up about a gallon (only a gallon – I didn’t use all the bones, because I want to be able to do this again sooner rather than later) of soup stock earlier this week and, more recently, finished putting up about three litres of rendered lard.
Re: Lard: I put the rolls of leaf lard into my slow cooker and heated them up on the “keep warm” setting. once it was warm enough to melt, I ladled the liquid fat into silicon muffin trays and let it solidify in the fridge (or in a snow bank, outside) before putting it into tubs in the freezer. We’ve still got some spicy shmaltz (uh… chicken fat for cooking with, it’s a Yiddish word, iirc, the same way English has tallow and lard and maybe lanolin – although I’m not sure if lanolin applies to ALL sheep fat or just the stuff that comes off the wool) in the fridge right now, so it’ll be a minute before I start using this lard to fry onions and otherwise cook savoury stuff on the stove, but it feels good to have it done.
 
I’ve also topped up the salt water in my sunchoke and beet pickles (and skimmed the mold off the surface of the water – it’s fine, that’s the whole point of keeping everything submerged in saline, the mold can’t actually grow in that salty & airless an environment), and decanted my kombucha (which I’ll have to do again later today, along with checking the sour kraut in the fridge and… doing something… with the kefir grains, because the cream they were in is definitely kefir cheese by now, and I’m not at all sure what to with it at this point).
 
Anyway. A couple of weeks have gone by, I’ve done some stuff – making stock and rendering lard – that make me feel resourceful and competent and, incidentally, give me extra free stuff with-which to cook. The boiled bones and the crackling left-over from making lard will go out to the compost heap for feeding the crows and/or anyone else who happens to come by.
It’s been long enough that I decided that today was the day to transfer my somewhat fermented-smelling cider to a different jug.
 
I’d hung onto the plastic jug from the sweet cider I mulled and served at Solstice, originally with the plan to use it to make mead (in much the same way, fyi, and that’s still the plan, even if I end up decanting it into old wine bottles that I re-label with a sharpie), so it was definitely the right size to take on a jug’s worth of the same stuff, only recently fermented.
 
I strained it through the sieve I use for decanting my kombucha – which probably means the whole thing is still full of dead yeast, even if I think I managed to keep most of it from sluicing through – and it was quite fizzy going into the new jug.
 
I haven’t tried any of it yet. I want to give it a month or two[1] in the fridge for a second ferment, I think it’s called, much slower (and less-likely to overflow for that reason) and a little bit gentler. I’m hoping it will clear the Slightly Funky smell underneath all the apples and sparkles – I’ve done a slightly-fermented tissane drink by filling an old wine bottle with sweet hibiscus tea and dropping a few grains of bread yeast in, and then letting it sit in the back of the fridge for literally a year. It works. AND there’s a Slightly Funky smell that happened at around the six month mark, so I’m not worried about catching that scent in my cider right now. I just know I need to give it a little more time to even out.
 
Anyway. That, right there, is what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. I’m excited and hopeful, and looking forward to trying to make mead (ideally with a little bit of pomegranate molasses and some choke cherries thrown in – for tannin, in the second instance – and in time for me to be able to serve it next Winter Solstice).
 
Time to put laundry and books away.
 
TTFN,
Meliad.
 
 
[1] Or more, we’ll see. This might be the kind of thing that waits until Beltane, rather than Ostara, to hit the table, though wouldn’t it be great to serve apple cider pressed at Autumn Equinox half a year later when the days and nights are hanging equal again? I think that would be a lovely connection-point, like summer-honey wine served at Midwinter.

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First Weekend in June – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been a lot of planting!
 
I think I’ve got the garden pretty-much planted for the year. I mean, yes, I’d still like to get my hands on some lovage (and I may have a source!), but other than that and maybe transplanting a bunch of winter squash, I think we’re set. It’s time to grow-grow-grow!
 
Planting(s):
The beans, winter squash, and yellow zucchini seeds that I had just planted, the last time I did one of these things, are poking their heads out of the earth and starting to look like they might grow into Serious Plants.
That said, most of the winter squash… doesn’t seem to have come up? It looks like I got a package of Mostly Duds on that one. BUT a few are coming up – which I’ll need to move around slightly, as it appears Danger Squirrel has been moving things around on me – AND I’ve got some sprouting in the compost heap, where they’ll stay as they should be super happy in there. The winter squash (which I think miiiiiight be Fairy Tale Pumpkin) that sprouted early-on from compod seeds needs to be transplanted (again) so that it can get its roots inper soil than is available in my raised beds, but it seems to be growing fairly happily, which is a good sign.
I’m saying that I might actually get a real squash CROP this year, even though I know it’s way too early to be counting my pumpkins and butternuts at this point.
The daikon radish “perimeter fence” is also doing its thing – though it remains to be seen if it does its JOB, which is keeping the soil IN, and the marauding runner-roots of crab-grass and creeping charlie (which I love, and use as ground-cover in the front yard) OUT of, my vegetable patch – but they’re growing, so that’s good.
My transplanted rainbow chard seems to have recovered from being unceremoniously uprooted and moved around, which is kind of a relief. Ditto, the breakfast radishes, which had been growing all in a clump and are now much more spread out.
In addition to the seeds that are coming up, I planted a whole bunch of starts. Two ground-cherries, from a friend up the street, a jalapeno pepper and an aubergine from another couple of friends (also up the street – I live in a goooood neighbourhood), and a bundle of goodies that I bought, once I had the $20 to do it (freelancer life, I tell you…), including:
A Lebanese Cucumber (because I think my first one got frost-zapped, or close to it, and I wanted to make sure I had some cukes this year)
A Japanese(?) Eggplant – the long, skinny ones
Chives (the standard-issue onion type, that get the purple flowers)
Lemon Balm
Sorrel (we’ll see if it takes off, the way my friend’s – also up the street – has in her shady front garden)
Black Cherry baby tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (I don’t actually remember the variety off the top of my head)
Beefsteak tomatoes (for my wife, who loves them. I’m… not holding out a tonne of hope, but we’ll see)
 
The friend who gave me the ground cherries may have some “mild salsa peppers” to send my way, as well. (Their parents have a Tiny Hippie Farm in the Valley, where they raise laying hens, and they often have spare plant-starts to give away to their youngster’s garden-enabled friends).
 
In Other News: My raspberry bush has one (1) flower! But there’s a strong possibility of more, so I am starting to get hopeful for fruit in the back yard! 😀
 
Harvesting:
Lots of rhubarb.
Lots of mustard greens.
You’ll hear more about both of those, below.
Beyond that, the garden is still young, and most of my perennials are flavourful herbs, rather than early veggies, so there’s not been a lot to pull out of the ground just yet. I admit, I’m hoping for a week or two more of cool weather (although maybe not as cool as it’s been…) so that my peas and greens can stay comfortable and my radishes have a solid chance to get big enough to harvest. >.> It’s funny. I want my peas to start flowering, but I don’t want my khol crops to bolt. But those things happen at the same time! I have to remember that if I want my fruit crops to start producing, I have to let my greens go to seed as well. 😉
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been fermenting. And cleaning. And furniture-moving. O.O
 
Ferments:
So I treated my kefir grains to some whipping cream. As you can imagine, it’s much thicker than it has been, AND it’s delicious. Not that I’m going to switch my kefir to an all-cream-all-the-time diet, but it’s definitely something I’m doing again, and will probably try to do every now and then for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure that I could use this extra-thick kefir to make, effectively, a sour-cream “cheese cake” type custard, but… maybe? Certainly something I’d like to try!
Earlier this week, I made orange-pops, which is a recipe I got out of My First Cookbook EVAR (I think I was seven, if not slightly younger, when I was given this cookbook). Basically, you take a (small – slightly more than 1C) tin of frozen orange juice, mix in 2 cups of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of vanilla, blend with a fork (or a whisk), spoon it into freezer-cups, and freeze it over night. I used kefir instead of yoghurt. Tastes great, but it doesn’t freeze super-solid (unlike the chocolate-coconut ones), which means sometimes I pull the stick out with no popsicle attached. I wonder if adding coconut milk to this recipe would help or hinder on that front…
In other fermentation news, we have gone through about 1/3 of the sour kraut. I’m enjoying it, my wife is enjoying it, and tbh I’m also loving how quick and easy it is to add veggies to a sandwich – no washing, no chopping, because it’s all already done. TO THAT END, when I pulled a grocery-bag full of mustard greens, dandelion greens, and Vietnamese garlic greens on Wednesday (and picked some wild grape leaves, on the way home), I decided to ferment them into something like a sour kraut (except not, because these greens are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more delicate). It’s an experiment – I threw a little bit of onion, and a bunch of mustard seeds and (dried) coriander, plus a bird chili into the mix – and we’ll see how it goes. I HOPE it’s good, as it’s a good way to use up pulled greens, but… Look, honestly? Three days later, there was no bubbling going on. I added some kefir whey (I wanted to skip that step, to see if I could do a vegan ferment and also avoid the mold possibilities in letting dairy just hang out on top of the salt water like that, but oh well) and we’ll see if it helps, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m wondering if the dandelion greens have too many natural defenses (unlikey?) or if I just washed my greens a little too well? We shall see.
I have also made bread but, since it’s not sour dough, I’m not sure that it counts as “fermenting” at this point. Still! Bread! The loaves turned out small, but well. And that’ll do.
 
Other Kitchen Stuff:
One of my favourite Heathens is coming to visit for a few days (in town for a conference, and we’re conveniently located), so I’ve been tidying All The Things, prepping the guest-room, getting a spare house-key cut, checking my stocks to see what kind of vegan food I can whip up for dinner on Monday, that sort of thing. BUT I also spent a big chunk of yesterday moving in a WASHER AND DRYER (!!!) which meant my house felt really chaotic for a while.
The washer and dryer, which were given to us by some generous friends who were moving & at the same time and said we could have their old set FREE if we were able to ourselves, are currently sitting in my kitchen, where my ancient kitchen table used to be. Technically, the table is still the – we’ve just cleared it off (which took several days worth of finding homes for Things that got dumped onto the table because they didn’t have anywhere else to live) and shifted it around a bit.
I suspect the new machines won’t be hooked up for, probably, another month. the washing machine needs to be further moved into our basement (which… it may not fit through the door, but we’re willing to give it a shot) where the hook-up is – or else my ex-contractor wife will need to renovate the kitchen, which (as this is a rental) we’d rather not do – and the dryer will need to be hooked up to the vent (which IS in the kitchen) and set on top of… something… so that it’s not blocking the kitchen’s Cold Air Return. Both machines need a bit of a clean before that happens.
We’ll also need to find a new spot for that table, but an old friend (read: ex-partner), whose stuff we’ve been storing for two years, has decided to make a more permanent move to Alberta and will be collecting the rest of their things from us some time in the next month. Which means the plant stand and small cupboard we’ve been using as bird-cage stands will need to be replaced. With, for example, an antique drop-leaf table.
None of that has happened yet, but the table is tidy for the first time in a year-and-a-half, and the laundry machines are IN, and that’s a major part of the battle. I’m really happy about it. 😀
 
ANYWAY. That’s been my Productive Home week this week. Still to do: Make a vegan dessert (either chocolate Wacky Cake or a rhubarb pie), vacuum the main floor, sweep upstairs, and put clean sheets on the guest-bed. Also figure out whether or not I can hang a set of curtains today. :-\ (The walls are lath and plaster, which means stuff meant to be screwed into drywall… doesn’t work so well. But also, our guest would probably appreciate some curtains). ONWARDS!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.