Thursday, October 28, 2010

Microbial Harvest

I think I've said here before that my food passion lies in fermentation. Oh, the wonders that microbes perform on ordinary food!

At any one time in my kitchen you can usually find various fermented vegetables, sourdough, many permutations of cultured milk (we're currently addicted to "greek style" goat milk yogurt), kombucha, water/juice kefir, cheese, and homebrew.

I had to buy some cabbages this year because mine did poorly in the garden. We had piles of green beans, so I lacto-pickled lots of those (literally gallons), and while those are my favorite pickle, we just couldn't do without some kraut. (Ooops, my German roots are showing... not that we ate it growing up or anything, but it must be in my blood-- kraut and beer!)

So I bought a half-dozen cabbages from a near-by farmer. Who, incidentally, I will probably not patronize again. I asked her if she sprayed her cabbages (like I didn't already know the answer...). "Yup" she answered, "everybody does." I knew that. I asked what she used. "Same stuff the organic people use." she said, curtly. "The government's always changing the organic standards. There are all kinds of sprays on organics." Grrr. She wasn't really being mean, exactly, but she was totally talking down to me. Okay, lady, I get that you have issues with organic labling, and heck, so do I. But you're not going to solve any problems by being condescending about it. I think she pretty much assumes that I was just an uninformed city-slicker who had bought into the organic hype. As it happens, I have a particular interest in agriculture (not that I know much, but I think I know a few things...). I honestly don't care if something is "organic" according to government-imposed standards, I just don't want chemicals and GMOs in my food. I'd honestly rather buy from conscientious local producers who do the best they can than from government-regulated organic producers.

Um... I probably had better arrest this rabbit-trail before I get into a tirade...

Anyway, I bought the cabbages, because it's next to impossible to get unsprayed stuff around here, and the kraut was calling to me. But I kinda wish I had engaged her on the subject (but we were in a hurry) and I probably won't go back.

Okay. Aaaaaanyhoodle.

Point is, I have lots of fermenty things going on right now.

Yesterday, Nathan and Jonah went to an Amish neighbor's cider pressing. They had a trailer-load of apples and to press in their giant press, so my guys went to procure some cider for us. For 30 bucks we got 15 gallons of fresh, raw cider, and a big box of apples. I spent the afternoon starting hard cider and vinegar.

I don't have enough airlocks for all my bottles, so I use balloons. This gives the added entertainment of watching the balloons inflate by the sheer power of yeastie beasties. As I type this, the balloons are huge, even after being vented a couple of times today. I think, though, that I'd like to get my hands on some better equipment eventually (though you can't beat this for economy! Those jugs were all free, so I've spent next to nothing on equipment.). I'm thinking I really should go over to a bucket-fermenter system, and it'd be nice to measure alcohol content as well.

I figure that in a few weeks I'll be bottling 26-28 pints of hard cider for a total cost about about $12. Maybe even $10. That is WAY cheaper than beer. And my husband is very happy with the prospect of cheap, high-quality booze.

I've got some cider in the freezer, and more in the spare fridge to deal with yet. I think I'm going to do some cider kefir and I'd like to experiment with cyser-- apple mead made by adding honey and yeast to raw cider and fermenting. Sounds yummy to me!

Needless to say, I do have fun.

Evan, however, got a little bored with all my fermenting yesterday, and konked out on the floor.


  1. Were you intending to write "microbial" harvest?

    Also, I have a gallon of raw cider waiting for me to do something to it. I'm not enamored with the sea salt/whey fermenting because the end flavor is so salty. What's the cyser one?

  2. Ha! Thanks for noting the typo... fixed it.

    To make cyser you use a wine yeast to ferment the cider-honey mixture. It takes quite a while, I'm told. Then you rack it off the lees (siphon the clear liquid off the sediment) and bottle it. If you want the recipe, I can share it with you. You'd need a little basic brewing equipment and some yeast.

  3. Cider kefir?!? I'm very interested to see how this turns out. I envy all of your fermented goodness. I need to get my tail into gear.

  4. "arrest this rabbit-trail"? Holy mixed metaphors, Batman!

  5. Everyone has to have a super power.

  6. Mandi-- I have made cider kefir before using water kefir grains. It is amazingly delicious! If you haven't tried water kefir, I highly recommend it! It's so easy and super yummy! I'd even share you some grains if you're inclined to try it...

  7. I still have not ventured into this but I would love to try. I wish you were my neighbor so I could watch you work. That baby is getting so cute! Little blond fuzzy head!
    As for the spraying thing. I am at a cross roads with it because where I live you can't harvest anything if you don't spray. So it''ll either be quit gardening or spray next year. I may just plant a huge crop of zennias and enjoy the color.