What's That Smell: September '20

What a wild year- when I wrote the first draft for this email we were still cruising at 90°, and while it's still super dry, everyone has thrown the frost alarm all over for this past weekend! Bonkers!
On the farm we harvested all of our dried beans, potatoes, and squash for delicious meals all winter. Our field corn seems to be up next as the field is really starting to empty out now. We'll talk about what we'll be fermenting with those crops as the year goes on. As of now we are beginning to ready the field for our fall wheat before everything goes to sleep.
I love how busy this time of year is. But now all the tomatoes are canned, apples are becoming cider, and we have a bit of a last call for summer vegetables before the cold knocks them off one of these days.
This month we're making hot sauce and fermented hot pepper flakes. I have an old timey use for left over apple mush from cider making, and we talk about bacteria that keeps the leaves green, we also touch on our favorite local fruit the paw paw who is currently in season.
If you have a spare moment take a look at this great write up on one of Pittsburgh's own- passionate fermenter Trevor Ring, who has been busy working on some great fermentation events with his project Community Cultures.
And as always stay in touch and share how you've been fermenting with the seasons!

each smell is telling me a secret -jonathan richman
Fermented Hot Sauce
Hopefully you've been enjoying the variety of peppers at the markets and in your backyards. What I like about making hot sauce is the incredible number of different peppers to choose from. I used to love make mine exclusively from the hinklehatz pepper. It has a wonderful story along with it where the Pa Dutch used it specifically for hot sauce for their sauerkraut. Quite fitting.
Hot sauce can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. My favorite method is just pureeing hot peppers with a little salt, let it ferment, and donezo! That works with fresh peppers but you can also ferment them submerged in a salt brine if they're dried.
The recipe I most recently made uses Farm rehe macedonia hot peppers (available now at the Bloomefield market) and peaches. A friend mentioned the idea of adding fruit and I'm sold. The peaches add a little sweetness and some acidity- if you can recall the vinegar fermentation speil from last month.
It's a pretty open door as to what you want to do. Add a clove of garlic (or maybe roasted garlic) to your puree, or a hunk of onion, perhaps some garden herbs like oregano. I hope you can follow your creativity.
I'm adding another little trick on the end of this recipe, and that's fermented hot pepper flakes. If I ever made a new organization it would be Dry Pittsburgh. I love dehydrating almost as much as fermenting. Fermented pepper flakes is fun addition to your pantry, sneaking a hot and tangy zing to your foods, and super easy to do. Just be sure to do your drying outside if possible or where there's good ventilation!
Fermented Hot Sauce Method
1. Clean and destem your choice of fresh hot pepper or hot pepper medley. Prepare any other ingrdients: garlic, onion, fruit, herbs, etc.
2. Grind everything together in a food processor or blender. Add a little bit of water as necessary to get a fully purred slurry to a nice slushy consistency.
3. Stir in salt for a 3% brine, so that's about 1-3 tablespoons per a quart of slurry.
4. Ferment with lid on or off according to preference. I like to do the lid on and burp it every few days to keep the weird films from developing on the surface. Without a lid make sure to stir it up every few days.
5. Ferment to your preference, maybe 1 week, maybe a few months. Pack in fridge to store when you like what you've got.
Fermented Hot Pepper Flakes
1. After your hot sauce is done fermenting to your preference strain out the solids using a fine mesh strainer.
2. Bottle up your hot sauce liquid, then dehydrate the solids using your favorite method. If you don't have a dehydrator you can dry it with a regular old fan or in the oven at the lowest setting. (The oven will require some close monitoring and frequent stirring.)
3. Be sure to break up the fermented solids every so often when dehydrating as they will clump together. Also be careful as the drying fumes could be intense!
4. Grind up the dried solids or break up with your hands and store away!
Paw Paw Wine
It seems necessary to give our unique regional fruit a nod while it's in season. For those unfamiliar, they are the largest edible fruit native to the US and has surprisingly tropical-like flavors. I tried to think of a good way to ferment it and kept falling back to wine. I hope he doesn't mind me yielding to him on this topic but our local paw paw historian Andy Moore has a solid article and recipe for wild fermented paw paw wine here. For even more info...get his book?
An old Cider Vinegar Trick
"The leftover pomace was piled on a wooden platform and allowed to ferment. In the course of a few days considerable heat was evolved, and when the pile was warm to the touch, a pail or so of warm water was poured over the pile to maoe up for the evaporation. In a day or so more of it was put through the press again. The expressed liquid was poured into open shallow pans set in a warm room, often behind the stove, and in a few days good vinegar resulted."
This method was described by hobby historian of New England brewing traditions Sanborn Brown. Naturally it was interesting enough to give a try. I dumped my pressed apple pomace on a tarp and walked away. It rained a little so I figured that was as good as pouring water on it. After a few days I took it back to the press. Some sweetness was still there along with some alcoholic bite. It was apparent a moderately acidic vinegar was possible. The biggest hold up was having to strain a lot of bugs out of the liquid. I imagine back when this was more common so may have been bugs in the diet, but perhaps this recipe hasn't quite aged well for our modern preferences!
Microbe of the Month: Wolbachia
While it seems most people I come across welcome autumn and all of her comforting transitions, there are certainly those who lament at summer's farewell. The Wolbachia bacteria subscribe to the latter as those who want to hang on to summer's green as long as possible, but in fact this is something they actually do! This bacteria can keep leaves green as all the others around fall into their fatal hues.
Wolbachia are a parasitic bacteria who mostly inhabit insects. They are also endosymbionts, as in they often help the insects who host them. They are the most common reproductive parasite, which means that many an insect can not reproduce without the help of Wolbachia. In the case of the leaf miner moth, the resident Wolbachia parasite will actually keep a leaf green through autumn in order to allow the larva to continue feeding! Here's how it works: Wolbachia carry a gene found in plants that provoke cells to make hormones called cytokinins. These cytokinins are phytohormones who influence and increase the growth of plants. Farmers will use cytokinins to increase plant vigor and yield. In the case of the parasized leaf miner larva they will delay the death of plants cells around where they stand. An infected leaf miner larva can be seen in autumn residing on a green pad on an otherwise yellow leaf. This relationship between insect and bacteria can add up to an additional month to the insect's life cycle, and hold on to our fleeting summer green for just a little bit longer!
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