Wednesday, July 24, 2013



Old Fashioned Fermented Dill Pickles For Newbies




This step by step recipe is especially for a friend of mine who is nervous about fermenting. I'm determined to win her over, and this easy and informative breakdown plus a few mouthwatering photos, might do the trick! Maybe you are one of those nervous newbie fermenters? If so, I hope this will get your butt in gear, it's pickling season after all! What better way to eat your pickles than raw, probiotic and from scratch? 


So What Type of Crazy Supplies Do I Need?

Not much really! You should have most of these things already:


  • 1/2 gallon (or 1 Qt) clean, wide mouth mason jar plus one Kraut Kap pickling lid (or other ferment vessel)
  • Sharp knife
  • Teaspoon measures
  • Liquid cup measure
  • Sieve






Now Let's Talk about our Ingredients for a minute:


Cukes:
First off let's talk about cucumbers. For best results you want to find the little warty pickling (also called Kirby) cucumbers while they are in season, preferably organic and definitely not waxed. In a pinch you can also try the Persian cucumbers, which are available at Trader Joe's or Costco. I don't put a weight or measure on the cucumbers in this recipe. It really all depends on what size and shape your cukes are!  Sometimes you can squeeze a ton into your jar and other times you get five big fat ones and that's it! This recipe is for a half gallon, so buy at least 15 cucumbers and if there are extras eat them while you are waiting on your pickles.

Salt:
This is a critical ingredient, it will inhibit any bad microorganisms from establishing before your good ones put up shop. You need to use a natural unrefined sea salt, without any additives whatsoever. It's important that it's a regular grind because I'm letting you measure it, normally you would want to weigh your salt so that it's an accurate amount despite how coarse it's ground. This recipes calls for an amount that is in-between a "half sour" pickle that has a 3.5% salt brine and a "full sour" pickle with a 5% salt brine. That way, you will be good even if your salt is measure is slightly off. The salt should look like the coarseness of grind you would use at your table and you should level off each spoon measure. 

Pickling Spices:
Any basic pickling blend should work. Try to make sure it's good quality and not irradiated. If you can't find a blend you can mix your own. Use clove buds, broken cinnamon stick, dried ginger, cardamom seeds, mustard seed, black peppercorns, allspice berries, dill seed and crushed red pepper. Never use powdered spice in a ferment! Everything going into the ferment should be whole and as fresh as possible. (You can use just dill and garlic if you don't care for the spicy flavors and just want a great garlic dill)

Grape Leaves:
If you have grape leaves great! The tannins in the leaves will help keep your pickles crunchy. If not, you can use Red Raspberry leaves, Horseradish leaves or Oak leaves. I haven't tried the latter two, but I found the Red Raspberry gives a slightly different flavor, not bad, just it does add it's own flavor profile. You can experiment with any of these leaves, or just omit them if you don't have access to them.



And here we go...!


Easy Old Fashioned Fermented Pickles
Makes 1/2 gallon. Measures for quart recipe are in parentheses
Ingredients:
  • 10-15 medium pickling cucumbers unwaxed (5-7)
  • 4 Cups of filtered water (2 Cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons natural sea salt (1 T. plus 1 1/4 tsp)
  • 1-2 heads of fresh dill weed or 1 teaspoon dried (1 head fresh or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tablespoons of pickling spice (1 Tablespoon) (eliminate for garlic dills)
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled (5 cloves garlic)
  • Fresh or dried grape leaves- optional





(1) Wash your cukes very well in cold water. Don't use a scrub brush, just plenty of cold water and your fingers so you don't tear up the skins. Trim both of the ends off. In any type of pickling process, the blossom ends are removed. The blossom end contains enzymes that can lead to squishy pickles, and nobody wants that! We are cutting both ends off because it will help the brine penetrate better and you won't get confused about which end, exactly, is the blossom end? Leave your cukes to soak in a cold water bath so they are super plump before they go in your jar. 

(Edited to note; I have seen quite a few opinions this pickling season on trimming the ends. It sounds like some fermenters have better luck with crispy pickles by leaving the entire skin as intact as possible. I have not found trimming both ends affects the crunch factor, but if you don't have access to grape leaves trimming only the blossom end slightly is something you might want to try!)


(2) Heat 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour in your salt, remove from heat and stir until dissolved. Leave this mixture 
to cool while you continue to work on your pickles.




(3) Place a grape leaf in the bottom of your jar. Arrange the cleaned and prepped cucumbers in a single layer standing upright. Try to puzzle piece them together to fit as many as possible but don't crush them.


(4) Place your pickling spices into a sieve and run them under fresh filtered water. Spices can be prone to picking up mold spores and such so it's good to give them a good cleaning before putting them into a ferment. Pour about half of your rinsed spices plus your dill weed into the jar and drop 1/2 of the garlic cloves down in the cracks between the cukes.



(5) Arrange your next layer of pickles on top the first. This second layer is a bit tricky, because you want to make sure to leave plenty of head space at the top of the jar. Usually it works well to save the short or curved  cukes for layering horizontally on top. Go ahead and cut one or two in half if necessary. Make sure they are no higher than slightly below the shoulder level of your jar.



(6) Sprinkle packed cukes with remaining pickling spice, dill and garlic cloves. Place another grape leaf on top of everything. 



(7) To your cup of salt water, add enough fresh cool filtered water to make 4 cups total. Double check that it is at room temperature. If you are in a big rush, or forgot to dissolve the salt earlier, you can add ice water to bring down the temperature faster. Pour the finished brine into your jar just until it covers the cukes. 



(8) Place a ferment weight on top of your grape leaf (or straight on top your pickles if there are no leaves) and gently push down until the cukes are snuggled up into the jar and brine covers the grape leaf and the weight. (NOTE: I got slightly carried away with the photo taking part of this and I did not leave enough head space here! It should be at the shoulder level of your jar, not up to the threads. Some of the brine was later removed)



(9) Secure your pickling lid according to the manufacturers instructions. (For a Kraut Kap, this means making sure the silicone seal is in place, screwing the lid on as tight as possible, inserting the airlock into the grommet and filling it with water to the "fill" line.) Place your ferment in a dark closet or cabinet for about 1-3 weeks at room temperature (68-72) If it's really hot summer time you can utilize a cool cellar or use an ice chest with some cool water. When fermentation is complete, top your jar with a storage cap and move to cold storage (your fridge, unless you are a fancy homesteader with a cold cellar.)

(Edited to note;  I have great success with a 3 week ferment, however, I live in a very temperate climate, if you are having a hot summer and are unable to practically cool your ferment down, you can move to cold storage much sooner. I had one pickling fan tell me two days was enough in the heat! It won't harm your pickles to move them to the fridge sooner if you feel like they are ready to eat!)





Let's answer those questions I know you must have:

The ferment will be very active the first few days and there is a possibility it can overflow through the airlock if you did not leave enough head space. If this happens, simply remove the airlock, clean it out put it back in and fill it back up with water to the "fill" line. It's a good idea to put a towel under your ferment to prevent a possible mess!

You can tell your pickles are done when they stop bubbling so much and it's been about 1-3 weeks. You can check if they are fully fermented by slicing one open.  Opaque white spots means it's not quite done. Don't worry, you don't have to seal it back up and let it ferment longer, just eat them they will be delicious, and they "finish off" in the fridge anyhow.  Inspecting your finished product can help you learn to judge when your ferments are done for future batches.




How do I know it's safe to eat?

Luckily pickled veggies are very safe! Much safer then canning! Your pickles should be at least mostly crispy (can vary depending on tannins, quality of produce etc…) The brine will be slightly cloudy, but should taste fresh and clean and salty. Your pickles should taste like pickles (this is why it's a good first ferment, you know what the end result should be!) The garlic can turn blue while fermenting, but it's delicious and perfectly safe to eat. There may be a slight white powdery looking film settling on some of the pickles, this is also safe! It is most likely an anaerobic yeast, but can also come from additives to salt, or wax coatings on the veggies, but we had agreed not to use waxed cucumbers, so I think it's probably the yeast! 

How can I tell if it's not safe to eat?

The same rule of thumb you use for canning applies here, check it out before you consume it. If you see any signs of mold, slime, discoloration, funky smell etc…don't eat it, just toss it! Vegetable fermenting is very safe but things can still go wrong! So be smart! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lacto-fermented Guacamole


Easy Lacto-fermented Guacamole 



This fermented guacamole recipe is a super easy 24 hour ferment. Avocados are highly perishable and unsuitable for long term storage so a fermented guacamole is only for the probiotic benefit and not for preservation. To give this guac an extra nutritional punch without oxidizing the pretty green fruit, it was created with a fermented "base" recipe containing all the tasty flavorings and fresh Haas Avocados are mashed and added before serving. 


The Guac:

at least 24 hours before serving:
  • 1 medium roma tomato
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 1 medium jalapeno (half of a banana pepper or quarter of a bell pepper for mild)
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice (one small, 1/2 large)
  • 1 tsp zest of fresh lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red peppers
  • 3 grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seed
  • 3g of sea salt or Himalayan salt (about 1 tsp of regular grind)


Wash, seed, and finely dice the tomato and jalapeno. Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Mix remaining ingredients together and pack into a half pint wide mouth jar. Top with Kraut Kap or other air-lock lid. Place in a dark place at room temperature (68-72 degrees) for 24 hours. Remove Kraut Kap, top with a regular plastic cap with seal and move to cold storage. 

Right before serving:

  • 2 medium Haas Avocados 
Mash avocados well with a fork. Mix in about 1/2 cup (half the jar) of guacamole base and serve.
The remaining base may be refrigerated for another day, or you can just use the entire jar with 4 avocados, chances are you will need a big batch! 




Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lacto-fermented Salsa




I love lacto-fermented salsa! It's so tangy and flavorful! I have tried quite a few recipes, my first attempt being the salsa recipe in Nourishing Traditions. Since then, I have discovered I don't care for vegetable ferments using whey, and I don't care much for the usual recipes out there which produce a very watery and overly oniony result. This one is an attempt at a richer, saucier salsa with a balanced amount of onion and lots of mild pepper flavor. Feel free to substitute Jalepenos for the Pasilla pepper if you like a spicier salsa.








Salsa Sabroso 


5 Roma Tomatoes halved, seeds and pulp removed and diced
1/2 med onion, peeled and diced
3 Tomatillos, diced 
1 large Pasilla Pepper, seeded and diced 
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
Juice and zest from one lime 
3 Tablespoons of tomato paste
15g (about 1 T. of regular grind) sea salt
1 tsp. Cumin seed
1/4 tsp. dried or fresh garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 coarse grinds of fresh black pepper

Weigh all of your diced veggies, you should have about 1lb, 10oz, or enough to pack a quart jar tightly with about 1-1.5" of headspace or scooped and measured to 3.5 cups. The size of the veggies can vary so either double check the weights or the volume to ensure there will be enough salt in proportion to vegetables. Set extra diced vegetables to the side before mixing in remaining ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or fingers, pack your salsa tightly into a quart sized mason jar. Screw your Kraut Kap on very tightly to compress the silicone seal, insert airlock until very snug and fill with water to the "fill" line.  Let sit in a dark cupboard, undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove Kraut Kap, and top with a regular plastic mason lid and seal and store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Easy/Basic Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut Without Whey 



 Sauerkraut (no whey*)
This recipe makes a quart sized batch of sauerkraut. Double it for a half gallon batch.
  • 1 head of cabbage (about 2lb)
  • 15 grams(about a Tablespoon) of natural sea salt in regular grind or one packet of Spicy Garlic Mustard Brine Blend*
Core your cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves if necessary. This should bring your cabbage down to weighing about 1lb, 10oz, or just enough to pack the shreds up to the shoulder level of your wide mouth quart mason jar. Using a sharp knife (or a mandolin/cabbage shredder) slice your cabbage into fine shreds. You want your cabbage pieces as consistent as possible so they ferment at the same rate. You can also use a food processor but it gives the sauerkraut a different texture.  


Place all of your cabbage shreds into a large bowl. It will look like way too much to fit into your quart jar! But don't worry, It will pack in there! 


Sprinkle your salt or brine blend over your cabbage shreds and mix well. You can walk away at this point for 30min to a few hours and let the salt naturally draw the moisture out of the cabbage. If you just can't wait that long you can whip out your Kraut Krusher, or meat tenderizing mallet and pound the cabbage shreds to release their juices. 





After the cabbage is wilted and swimming it it's own juices, use a wooden spoon or your clean fingers and pack the shreds very tightly into your wide mouth mason jar. You should leave at least 1.5" of headspace to reduce the risk of overflow. If you are planning on using a weight or folded cabbage leaves, leave even more space. Allow 2-2.5" if you are fermenting in a very warm environment. If you can't quite fit all of your shreds just put them to the side for use on top of a salad, or stirred into a soup. Make sure your cabbage brine is plentiful, if you seem to be short on juice no matter what you do, your cabbage is probably just old. Go ahead and mix in a few Tablespoons of filtered (chlorine, fluoride-free) water. 



If you are using an airlock system, it's not absolutely necessary to submerge your cabbage shreds under the brine. In an air-free environment your cabbage won't spoil, but without moisture the cabbage shreds at the top of your ferment will take longer to fully ferment.  If you are using a weight, place a folded cabbage leaf on top of your sauerkraut to keep all the miniature shreds submerged, and then press your weight down on top of the leaf until the brine rises to the top. 




Screw your Kraut Kap tightly onto your jar, insert the airlock and fill with filtered water to the "fill" line. Place your jar of kraut in a dark place, or covered with a Crock Sock or towel, at room temperature. Don't disturb your ferment except to check your airlock water level on occasion. If your water evaporates you can add a little more, but don't remove the airlock while re-filling. If your ferment is very active or too full it can sometimes overflow. The brine will rise up and out of the airlock and spill down the jar. If this happens, don't panic! Remove and wash the lid and airlock. Pour a couple Tablespoons of brine out and push your weight down firmly until the remaining brine rises to the top. Replace the lid and airlock. The sauerkraut will rapidly replace the oxygen with carbon dioxide and it will continue fermenting. Let your sauerkraut set at least 4 weeks or up to 12. When it's fermented as long as you prefer (or as long as you can wait!) remove your Kraut Kap, and seal with a regular white plastic mason jar cap and silicone seal and move to cold storage.



*Why don't you use whey?
The bacteria needed for Lacto-fermentation are already present in the vegetables themselves. With the right amount of salt, and an air-free environment you won't have issues with yeasts, molds or undesirable bacteria. If you are doing an open-crock ferment, whey, or other vegetable starter, will give the good bacteria a head start over the bad. Unfortunately, milk bacteria aren't optimal for vegetable ferments. You can expect slightly mushier, slimier and inconsistent results with a whey starter. A true and spontaneous Lacto-ferment will give you a crisp, clear tasting brine, pure vegetable taste and lots of texture.







 Sauerkraut 
This recipe makes a quart sized batch of sauerkraut. Double it for a half gallon batch.
  • 1 head of cabbage (about 2lb) purple or green
  • 15 grams of natural regular grind salt or one packet of Spicy Garlic Mustard Brine Blend 
Core your cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves if necessary. This should bring your cabbage down to weighing about 1lb, 10oz, or just enough to pack the shreds up to the shoulder level of your wide mouth quart mason jar. Using a sharp knife (or a mandolin/cabbage shredder) slice your cabbage into fine shreds. You want your cabbage pieces as consistent as possible so they ferment at the same rate. You can also use a food processor but it gives the sauerkraut a different texture. Place all of your cabbage shreds into a large bowl. It will look like way too much to fit into your quart jar, but don't worry, It will! Sprinkle your salt or brine blend over your cabbage shreds and mix well. You can walk away at this point for 30min to a few hours and let the salt naturally draw the moisture out of the cabbage. If you just can't wait that long you can whip out your Kraut Krusher, or meat tenderizing mallet and pound the cabbage shreds to release their juices. After the cabbage is wilted and swimming it it's own juices, use a wooden spoon or your clean fingers and pack very tightly into your wide mouth mason jar. You should leave at least 1.5" of headspace to reduce the risk of overflow. If you are planning on using a weight or folded cabbage leaves, leave even more space. Allow 2-2.5" if you are fermenting in a very warm environment. If you can't quite fit all of your shreds just put some to the side for use on top of a salad or in a soup. Make sure your cabbage brine is plentiful, if you seem to be short on juice no matter what you do, your cabbage is probably just old. Go ahead and mix in a few Tablespoons of filtered (chlorine, fluoride-free) water. If you are using an airlock system, it's not absolutely necessary to submerge your cabbage shreds under the brine. In an air-free environment your cabbage won't spoil, but without moisture the cabbage shreds at the top of your ferment will take longer to ferment.  If you are using a weight, place a folded cabbage leaf on top of your sauerkraut to keep all the miniature shreds submerged, and then press your weight down on top of the leaf until the brine rises to the top. 
Screw your Kraut Kap tightly onto your jar, insert the airlock and fill with filtered water to the "fill" line. Place your jar of kraut in a dark place, or covered with a Crock Sock or towel, at room temperature. Don't disturb your ferment except to check your airlock water level on occasion. If your water evaporates you can add a little more, but don't remove the airlock or water to refill. Let your sauerkraut set at least 4 weeks or up to 12. When it's fermented as long as you prefer (or as long as you can wait!) remove your Kraut Kap, and seal with a regular white plastic mason jar cap and silicone seal and move to cold storage. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kraut Kaps Lacto-fermenting Lid


Kraut Kaps and Fermentation




Kraut Kaps are a new take on the Lacto-fermenting lid. These lids are comprised of food safe components! The handy "kaps" produce the desired oxegen-free environment for excellent fermenting results. They fit any wide mouth canning jar. The three piece barrel style airlock is easy to disassemble and clean, the natural gum rubber grommet is durable and the BPA-free lid comes with a silicone seal.  Kraut Kaps are also sold in a three pack for those of us who like to have multiple ferments going at once. 

Lactobacillus, the bacteria that produce the sour pickle flavor and the ability to preserve your food, only thrive in an oxygen-free environment, while molds and yeasts require oxygen to survive. After your salt brine initially inhibits the growth of any harmful microorganisms, the PH of your vegetables drop rapidly as Lactobacillus start producing their bi-product of lactic acid. This highly acidic, air-free environment keeps your pickled vegetables safe from molds, yeasts or harmful bacteria that could destroy your flavor or make you sick! If you need to scoop "scum" off of your ferment, you really shouldn't be eating it!

Starter cultures are not necessary when using Kraut Kaps. You can use a culture if you desire but the only thing required is a good natural sea salt and filtered, or spring water, without chlorine or fluoride. We recommend against using milk whey as a starter as the results are usually not texturally appealing. For a crisp, clean, salty and sour result simply salt your vegetables and pack them in their own juices or submerge them in a salt brine. Screw your Kraut Kap on tightly, and insert the airlock into the rubber grommet until it's tight. Take the cap off of your airlock and fill with filtered water to the "fill" line. Set your Mason jar in a dark, room temperature place, and let set for the amount of time your recipe states. 






If you are interested in using Kraut Kaps for your next fermentation project, you can pick them up here.... Primal Kitchen Shop




Sunday, January 27, 2013

Basic Water Kefir How-To

Easy/Basic Carbonated Water Kefir How-To




Water kefir (Tibicos) is a probiotic drink, cultured with a mix of bacteria and yeast that live in symbiosis within a self created biofilm. You can buy it fresh or dried and the "grains" multiply with time, which is great for sharing or drying for later. It is cultured or "fermented" in a two step process. 


First Ferment:
When measuring and straining your water kefir grains make sure to use plastic, glass, stainless steel, or other non-reactive material. You will need at least 1/4 cup of grains to culture a quart of sugar water. The ratio of sugar, grains and water is easy to remember. One tablespoon of kefir grains and one tablespoon of sugar to one cup of water. Here I am brewing a half gallon of kefir, so I am using 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) of grains, 1/2 cup of sugar and a half gallon (8 cups) of water. 




Measure your sugar into the bottom of your jar. Don't use honey for a sweetener, it has antibiotic properties which can damage your kefir grains.


Add your filtered water at room temperature. It's handy to culture directly in jars that hold a certain amount of water or have markings. That way you can pour directly into your jar without measuring first. 

Water kefir needs to have minerals. Raw sugars will have some minerals already present, but you can always add some extra. Make sure you don't forget this step if you are using refined white sugar which has no mineral content! I use a pinch of unrefined sea salt, a few liquid mineral drops or a drizzle of un-sulphured molasses. You can also use some dried fruit, just make sure it's un-sulphured. Some people brew their kefir grains directly in juice or add flavorings directly to the initial ferment. I prefer not to do this(excepting a lemon slice) because it's hard on your water kefir grains to adjust to a new environment every time you brew them. Some flavorings, especially spices can also inhibit bacteria or yeasts. It's a lot safer to experiment with flavors during your second ferment. I'm using the un-sulphured molasses this time around. Drizzle in a teaspoon and then put your sealing white Mason Jar lid on and shake the living day lights out of your jar. You know it's done when the molasses and sugar are completely dissolved.



Carefully drop your strained water kefir grains into your sugar water mixture. The grains will multiply over time so every couple weeks re-measure them and if they are too plentiful you can dry the extra, or put them in a strong sugar water mixture and have them hibernate in the back of your fridge.


You can also add a slice of lemon during the initial ferment. It's better to use organic lemons but if that isn't a possibility, make sure to peel your lemon first. i stick with my lemon for a long period of time and sometimes I go without for several weeks, but I try not to confuse my grains by switching it up every time I culture another batch.


Cap your mason jar tightly with your Kraut Kap, which will allow the carbon dioxide out during fermentation. Let this first ferment set 24-48 hours at room temperature in a dark place.

Second Ferment:

Here I have a previous batch that's been fermenting for 48 hours. It's a lighter color because I used liquid minerals instead of molassas. Strain your sugar water into a new jar and set your grains aside for your next batch of initial ferment.


Now comes the fun part! Choosing your flavor! For this batch I'm using a raspberry, blackberry lemon blend. The sky is the limit when picking your flavor combinations. Try coconut, ginger, fresh berries, pineapple, a portion of normal grocery store bottled juice, some fresh squeezed juice, or even a few tablespoons of juice concentrate. You can decide how much and what type you want to try, at this point nothing can harm your grains so be ceative. Whatever you choose, goes into your jar of strained sugar water.



Top your jar with a storage cap and let it set at room temperature in a dark place for 1-7 days. The longer ferment will work better when your room temperature is low, or if you like your water kefir less sweet. A long ferment will produce a small amount of alcohol, and while it's negligible you might want to save the long ferments for yourself instead of your kiddos! I usually shoot for three days but sometimes I forget and it ends up being four which is just as tasty. If you are doing a long ferment it's a good idea to burp the lid slightly every couple days, to avoid too much pressure build up. You do want a good amount of pressure if you like a carbonated finished product. The white plastic storage caps will actually bulge just enough to allow emergency pressure to escape. I always open my kefir with a towel over the lid to catch any overflow or a flying lid!




Pour finished kefir over ice and enjoy right away or refrigerate and drink within the next three days.