Featured Recipes

Ferments Reaching With the Sun


It seem(s)ed to be a favorite activity across the globe and by many cultures to make ceremonial fires to mark the longest day of the year. The people who have studied these traditions but probably have no actual background in doing them believe it was to strengthen or encourage the sun as it began its trek through summer to the waining days of autumn. The unfolding of the sun from its scarcest on the winter solstice to its longest on the summer solstice is brilliantly observed on fermented foods who burst to life with the warming lengthening days much like the moon's pull on the ocean’s tides.

That picture up at the very top may or may not be a familiar sight to some- long after fermenting a concoction to dry (no residual sugar) it somehow has sprung like a geyser into the airlock. It’s no fault to the maker who tries to keep the carboy as full as possible to minimize oxygen contact.

While there could be reasons for the referment, (like that the primary fermentation wasn’t actually completed, which was the accidental senario that brought us our bubbly champagne from a long ago mistakenly not completed batch that was nonetheless bottled up and shipped away to restart during warmer times) this secondary ferment could have another culprit known as Oenococcus Oeni. OO is a Lactic Acid Bacteria, in the same family of LAB that gives us sauerkraut (Lactobacillus as opposed to Oeoccus), and is responsible for what is called malolactic fermentation in alcoholic beverages. And if you’ve ever had a drink of white and red wine then you have likely already experienced the marvels of this bug.

During primary fermentation a number of factors like sugar and acidity minimize bacterial activity, however after the completion of alcohol fermentation, OO present will eventually take their turn at the table. They specialize in consuming malic acid which they convert into lactic acid. Malic acid for those curious expresses itself as a crisp apple tartness (think white wine). When the malolactic fermentation is allowed to complete that malic acid that felt sharp and zingy actually gives way to lactic's soft, rounded, and sometimes budddery character. 

By rule of thumb these days red wines are allowed to go through MLF while white wines are generally not in order to maintain their crispness. (Exceptions exist like in the case of many-a chardonnay which aims to showcase that buddderiness.) The halting is usually achieved through adding sulfur dioxide which these days is a powder derived from the ancient practice of newly burned smoke lit inside of a wine container to disinfect it- in fact it is still a practiced method of cleaning a wine barrel by lighting a sulfur match inside and quickly plugging the bung. Sulfur dioxide is not only anti-microbial but has antioxidant abilities enough to put the brakes on fermentations if it’s so desired. (And while sulfur dioxide, aka, sulfites often get the blame for wine-related headaches, no direct correlation has ever been found so far, but what has been found is that it's antioxidant abilities can cause asthma-like reactions. I experienced this first hand when making commercial wine and siphoning hundreds of gallons of sulfite solution with my mouth that would send me into a coughing fit but never once gave me a headache.)

OO favors warmer conditions. Some winemakers will move their batches to warm places after fermentation to quickly jump-start the colonization of OO before cold fall and winter temps move in, letting the process crawl along until they are frenzied by the climbing temps of spring. With the warming and lengthening of the sun it's fun to watch the slumbering crocks and barrels, and many other ferments jump up to reach with it.


This month's featured recipes are very fruit and berry-entric. With berries everywhere like from strawberries and raspberries at markets to mulberries scattered on the ground, cherries just starting, and elderberries on the way, it's a wonderful time to take advantage of them whether they are fermented or, in the case of the jelly/ jam primer, are not but no less an essential tradition. I can't wait for blueberry season around the corner as blueberry vinegar has become a cornerstone of my diet all year long. The sour pickles recipe is a lazy method to make amazing crisp and delicious pickles on the go of your everyday busy life. Their season has begun.

Happy Summer & Happy Fermenting!

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