Friends, Food, and Fermentation

A month or so ago, my friend Sarah convinced me to try a bite of her homemade lacto-fermented pineapple.  I was a little afraid of it, and thought it tasted kind of crazy, but found myself wanting another bite a few minutes later.  This led to me pulling out my copy of Nourishing Traditions the following week for the recipe so I could make some myself.  The pineapple was a success.  All my kids liked it, with the exception of my oldest, Seth.  A couple weeks later, Sarah hosted a little sauerkraut making party at her house.  I’d never tasted sauerkraut before, but I definitely wanted to make some.  Sarah offered to let me taste hers while I was there, but I ever so politely declined.  I planned to use the two weeks that my own jars of sauerkraut fermented to build up the courage to actually taste it.  My two weeks was up this past weekend.  I opened one of the jars and my kids and I smelled it.  We all agreed that it smelled like sewage just before I screwed the lid back on and tucked both jars in the back of the fridge.  We didn’t taste it.  We were scared.  But then Sunday we had friends over, friends who wanted to taste my sauerkraut.  I warned my first victim:  “This might be nasty.  We haven’t actually tasted it.”  He tried it and said it was good.  “Oh!  Well, then you should take it home with you.”  I asked our other friend if he would like to taste it too, and he said that he loves sauerkraut.  Perfect!  I put some in a bowl for him and he liked it too!  I gave him my other jar of it, because it would have most likely just sat in my fridge forever.  Then Silas started asking for his own bowl of it, so I gave him a little.  He ate a couple of bites and seemed to like it.  About an hour later, sitting at the kitchen table with Jonny and our friends I boldly plucked one shred of the sauerkraut out of Silas’ bowl and tasted it.  It tasted kind of good, but kind of weird, but not gross like I expected.  I encouraged Jonny to taste a shred as well.  We both agreed that it was edible.  So, yes, sauerkraut.  I made some, and I gave it away.

Far more fun though has been the chain reaction that the pineapple and sauerkraut party started in my kitchen.  The same day Sarah taught me how to make sauerkraut, she sent me home with milk kefir and water kefir grains.  I’ve long been acquainted with milk kefir, but had never made my own.  Water kefir:  I’d never heard of it.  Now we’re drinking smoothies made with the milk kefir every day and playing with the water kefir too.  It’s so much fun.  I am a little hyper about it.  I love straining out my grains and admiring them and carefully starting my fresh batches each day.  Every other day I make the kefir lemonade–but not really lemonade.  We use two quarts of water kefir combined with the juice of two oranges, two lemons, and one lime.  It’s really good and everyone loves it.

But I couldn’t stop there.  Sarah pointed me to the Cultures for Health website for instructions and recipes for the kefir, where I became intrigued by their other products.  This is my absolute favorite website right now.  There is so much good information there, and of course I ordered sourdough and yogurt starters!  I tried making sourdough bread a few years ago using the method outlined in Nourishing Traditions for catching your own wild yeast.  I think I was successful in catching the yeast, but I never made a decent loaf of bread.  In fact, I am pretty sure I gave up after the first brick-like loaf of bread I made.  My new spelt starter is happy and bubbling.  We have already made these sourdough pancakes a couple of times and they are really good.  I am planning to try baking my first sourdough loaves today, so we’ll see how it goes.  Jonny and I watched the video on how to do so, so I think I’m ready.  I know I’m really excited.  I’ll have to post a bread report later today on Facebook.

I haven’t made up my mind about the homemade yogurt.  I’m kind of attached to my thick store bought stuff.

Next up is kombucha, because obviously I don’t have enough to maintain in my kitchen yet.  I’ve got a friend who is going to get me started.  And that is part of what I love about all this fermented stuff, the way it gets shared and passed around, friend to friend.

The other reason I love this, is that I am excited about being in my kitchen for the first time in what feels like years.  That’s a very good thing.

p.s.  The adorable teensy dog in the last photo belongs to one of our friends whom we shared sauerkraut with, so that makes the photo related, right?

p.p.s.  Please share any advice, your expertise, or favorite books on fermentation with me.  I want to know.  I already know that I need to save for some of these jars.

After reading this post, a friend mentioned that Cultures for Health has an affiliate program, and because I am really loving this company, I signed up.  The links to Cultures for Health in this post are now affiliate links. 

Comments

  1. Wow! Sounds like ya’ll have been busy having fun in the kitchen. So glad it has all turned out well. Canning makes me nervious. We’re big fans of kefir here. I’ve been wanting to make my own kefir for years now but have never been brave enough to try it. Just might have to check out the web site and give it a try 🙂

  2. Id love to hear more details of a sauerkraut party!

  3. This is so funny. I just discovered Cultures for Health, too. I will be ordering their Water Kefir starter. I also heard that the Bubbies brand has good sauerkraut, if you don’t want to make your own. So glad I found your blog, love your pictures!

  4. Ginny,
    Fermentation….. now here is a topic I am really excited and passionate about!!

    We’ve done a lot of fermentation experiments over the years. (milk kefir, water kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, natto, sourdough bread, gluten free sourdough bread, pickled beets, kombucha, fermented apple juice…)

    Cultures for Health is an awesome website. Did you know that you can sign up to be an affiliate with them? I’m signed up with their affiliate program and think it’s really great.

    I’ve read ‘Wild Fermentation’ by Sandor Ellix Katz and saw he came out with a new book that I would really like to get.

    There are two ferments I’ve been making in our house every week. Sauerkraut and Beet Kvass.
    We have made sauerkraut many different ways over the years- with whey (like in Nourishing Traditions) when we were milking goats and batches with just salt. We had mixed results. Then we ordered ‘Caldwell’s Starter Culture’ from Cultures for Health and it rocked!! Our sauerkraut was so good!! Better than anything else we’ve ever tried. People who come to our house keep wanting more and even crave the juice. It’s like our bodies know how much we need fermented foods. We also use the Caldwell’s Starter Culture to make pickles and beet kvass. We also tried other starter cultures for vegetables from there, but we thought Caldwells by far gave the best and tastiest results.

    I wrote our favorite recipes/methods here:

    For sauerkraut:
    http://woolymossroots.blogspot.com/2011/09/our-sauerkraut-recipe.html

    For beet kvass:
    http://woolymossroots.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-make-healthy-fermented-drink.html

    Fermenting food is very addicting. We keep wanting to try more and more. (Wow, this is a long comment!)
    Happy Fermenting!

    Love,
    Taryn

  5. Brigitte says:

    Kombucha is relatively new to me. I am on my third batch. It makes a great between meal drink when you just want a little something in your stomach. I like the black tea decaf type but my daughter makes a great green tea one that makes me think of pear cider. Keep a watch and don’t let it get too acidic. Thanks for all your lovely and inspiring posts.

  6. Love sauerkraut but never tried making it. That fermenting business looks fun, must look into it!

  7. If you want to read about fermented foods, get any book written by Sandor Katz. If you want a very entertaining time, go to any lecture given by Sandor Katz. He is amazing, charming and so-o-o-o knowledgeable.

  8. I don’t know if anyone mentioned it yet, but Preservation Kitchen is one that has a bunch of fermenting recipes, in addition to some great canning recipes, too. I think there’s cabbage sauerkraut, as well as some other kinds of fermented veggies, and I can’t remember if that’s where I saw the recipe for fermented dill pickles, but I can’t wait to make them!

  9. Rose Shopen-Klassen says:

    Hi, Ginny. We love the pancakes from Nourishing Traditions, where you soak the grains overnight. It’s so easy, and they are the most lovely pancakes ever!! My husband has been making yoghurt and sourdough for me, and that is lovely. Your blog is so inspiring. Thank you,
    Rosie

  10. It is rather exciting stuff, isn’t it?! I make our own sauerkraut and love love love it. I made the mistake of taking the lid off a freshly fermented batch beneath my visiting father’s nose. He declared it the most wretched smelling stuff he’s ever experienced in 71 years of life. Then he ate it (brave man) and said it was delicious! I used to make sourdough bread until we went gluten free. And kefir is a staple in our diet, too. I read the book by Donna Gates, The Body Ecology Diet and it is a wealth of information on the importance of fermented foods in your diet. When my oldest was a baby, I did a whack of lacto-fermented canning and then didn’t have the guts to eat much of it. The process was fun,though. Now, we eat it all. Oh, and soaking almonds and steel-cut oats is good for you, too. Enjoy your kitchen moments…
    xo Jules

  11. Kathleen Bond says:

    Sauerkraut is soooo good with nice, big, juicy sausages. Also great with pork roast. I’ve never tried to make my own, so I think you are very adventurous!

  12. We have GALLONS of kombucha! I like it immediately (not as fermented) whereas my daughter likes it more ‘worky’. Making our own yogurt has not been too successful, but our sourdough bread is a huge success! We haven’t attempted saurkraut yet (but we all LOVE the stuff! – our good German/European roots? *grin*)
    I’ll definitely check that website out!

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