Fermentation Frenzy

This week during my travels, I began reading (via audio book, so actually listening to) The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. It’s gotten me into a crazy frenzy of fermentation, and the book itself has a TON of useful information. The first few chapters provide an overview and some basic information, and the remaining chapters are recipes and how-tos for different types of ferments.

This week, I’ve started a multitude of ferments, including sourdough starter, kombucha, honey mead, agave mead, and four variations of sauerkraut. I’ve outlined my processes below.

Sourdough Starter
– This is probably the simplest thing I’ve started this week. My own sourdough starter begins with 4 tablespoons of unbleached flour, and four tablespoons filtered water. Simply mix the two in a glass jar, bowl, or other vessel, cover, and let sit. Feed every 12 hours with an additional 2-4T water and 2-4T flour, for the first 2-3 days. Watch for bubbles, then feed once a day for the next 3-4 days. After a week, your starter should be sufficiently bubbly and ready to bake with. I started with a very small amount of starter as I plan on keeping my starter around for a while and not using it right away. Use more flour/water in the same ratio if you want more volume for a more immediate use. If keeping it long term, let it live on your counter in a warmer area and don’t forget to feed it every couple of days.

– For my kombucha batches, I begin with 7 cups of filtered, boiling water, poured over 7 black tea bags. Allow tea bags to steep for 15-20 mins for a very strong brew. Then, while still warm, add 1c of white sugar. Stir to allow sugar to dissolve and brew to cool. You can add another 6 cups of cold, filtered water to the brew to lessen the strength of the tea and cool the mix. Once cooled to around 100 degrees F or less, add in about 1 cup of kombucha (either raw from the store OR purchased from someone else who makes their own batches). Kombucha uses air to ferment, so it is best to try and ferment in a wide mouth vessel for more air exposure. You can add your SCOBY at this point also. Cover vessel opening with a paper towel, cloth, coffee filter, etc. so that the brew can breathe, and leave it until desired amounts of fermentation are reached (usually 1 week to 1-2 months).

Wild Mead
– I am working on two forms of mead this week: traditional honey, and experimental agave. Both meads were somewhat thrown together in glass jars. I estimate that I used 1c raw honey (use raw honey because the wild yeasts are not removed) to about 4-5c filtered water. The agave is being brewed a bit stronger, with 1c agave nectar to 3-4c water. Stir both as many times each day with a wooden spoon as you can (I try at least every hour when I’m home). Do not rinse the spoon between stirs as wild yeasts will accumulate on the spoon and be imparted into your meads when you stir them (to facilitate fermentation). Once you see bubbles, you can transfer the mead to a narrow mouth vessel with an airlock or balloon to prevent air exposure (air at this point can turn the mead to vinegar) and allow to ferment until desired alcoholic content is reached.

– I have never made sauerkraut before, but I love eating it. I started with 1 head of cabbage, which weighed approximately 2.5lbs. I chopped the cabbage and mixed it in a bowl with 4.5 teaspoons of salt. I squeezed and pressed the cabbage to bruise it and allow it to release its own juices. The cabbage and salt were allowed to sit for 15-20 min to pull juices from the cabbage. I then shoved the cabbage into jars and packed them tightly with my pickle packer (wooden dowel). Once tightly packed, I placed a pickle pebble (glass weight) in each jar and covered any remaining cabbage up to the weight in filtered water so that all cabbage was submerged in brine. I then placed pickle pipes (airlocks) on each jar and have them sitting on the counter. I kept one jar salt only, one jar with raw honey, one jar with white sugar, and one jar with brown sugar. The raw honey kraut seems to be fermenting the fastest, to no surprise. Looking forward to seeing how they taste in another week or so.

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