What's that Smell?!

What a fun challenge it is to ferment through the seasons. It takes some flexibility to adjust according to the current weather and what's available. Over time I've found certain products are better suited to specific times of the year. While personally I'm not a huge fan of eating many of the classic vegetable ferments in the summer months (feels too weighted down for me), the practice still doesn't slow down as summer is your one chance to catch many of these ingredients locally.
Fermenting in the heat can be a precarious pursuit if you have a warm house with no cellar. It doesn't take long, especially in these 90° days, for veggies to transform into moldy, mushy goop. On the other hand, your refrigerator can get packed full before you know it.
I was recently reflecting on how in our area we can produce a kimchi crop in the spring and the fall and I had to remind myself why I only do it in the fall. (That's definitely what that smell was...)
Here are a handful of recipes reflecting the season and what we're fermenting right now, with techniques to adjust to the enviromental challenges of July.
I hope everyone is taking time for subtle beauty, cultivating tenderness, compassion and generosity. What a great time it is to share your garden's bounty or favorite dish with someone, especially someone you might not see eye to eye with. Perhaps we can agree on what's kind and delicious and start learning something we didn't know before.

Cooling wishes!

Experiements: Brine-less Kraut?!

Last fall while studying winemaking we were keeping a meticulous control of the wine's contact with oxygen through the whole process, but there was one instance we didn't at all- while it was fermenting. In fact all we did was throw a flat plastic board of sorts over top that didn't even fit all that well

During the active fermentation co2 gases were being discharged naturally. Co2, it turns out, is heavier than oxygen, and so as long as the fermentation was active enough the co2 was pushing all the oxygen away and that imperfect cover was enough to keep the surface flooded with co2.
I took this into consideration for my veggy ferments. Hot temperatures make the molds and other less-invited friends grow in a hurry. However molds need oxygen to grow. I started playing around with anaerobic ferments where I was immediately fastening a firm lid, like a screw on, and not returning to off-gas it or touch it at all. I even went so far as to do a "dry" sauerkraut where I used an old cabbage with low moisture, tossed it with salt, but didn't massage or pack it when I jarred it. I fixed the lid and didn't touch it. That's the image above, which shows the kraut at about 6 months old. Note the lack of brine present. Looks pretty good don't you think? It tastes great. It has a strong acidic zip and a low funk. It's crisp but definitely dry. The downside here is once you finally pop the lid you better have a plan for that kraut because theres no brine to fend off the rush of microbe-rich air flowing in!
The process seems to take a bit longer but the lactic acid bacteria we need for kraut works just fine without oxygen. It would also be prudent in any tests with this method to allow greater head-space so the enclosed container won't blow its lid.
It's an on-going experiment and I'm wondering if a co2 flooded ferments can keep a hot weather ferment crisper and mold-free. I made some kimchi from spring napa cabbage last week, sealed the lid and am leaving it in our toasty ambient temperatures. I'll let you know how it goes.

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Sour Pickles

In my backyard at home I have four pickling cucmber plants that are giving round about 6-12 cucumbers a day right now. Those 6 or so fit perfectly for me in a pint jar so here's a super easy way I've been making sour pickles one jar at a time as the cucumbers roll in.
Since it's so hot right now and I want a crisp pickle I've been using the refridgerator for a long slow aging process. Additionally, I do not like to cut them open as the seed pod and inner flesh risks getting mushy.

1. Pack as many little cucmbers into your jar as you can manage.
2. Add a clove of garlic and a handful of fresh dill to each jar.
3. I just eyeball my salt (as I tend to do for everything) but for once I can provide firm amounts! For a moderately salty pickle add 2-3 TBS of salt per a quart. That will hit about the 3.6- 5.2% salinity which is perfect for my tastes.
4. Cover with water and fasten the lid securely.
5. Leave it out on counter for 3 days, or until you notice some vigorous bubbling activity. When that occurs, move to the back of the fridge until you forget and remember again that it's there some time later in the winter.

Microbe of the Month: Bacillus subtilis

This microbe is amazing! Not only does it have the power to boost beneficial microbes but it has strong defenses that fight off bad ones too.

Bacillus subtilis is non-pathongenic to humans and a major part of natto (though it's also found in many other ferments such as kimchi). B. subtilis is equipt with a powerful defense system that helps it out compete other microbes by secreting a variety of antibiotics. In the outdoors it can inhabit the root structures of plants and in turn assist the plant by killing off disease causing organisms. It also can produce a toxin that's wards off harmful insects. Inside our bodies it's much of the same story. B. subtilis strengthens beneficial intestinal microbes while inhibiting the growth of bad ones. I read a neat study that showed it kick e. coli's butt on a pig farm that had an outbreak. Additionally it produces great enzymes that assists in the breakdown of proteins and starch in foods fermented with it.
It's naturally found in many different envrionments including the upper layer of the soil. The first recipe I ever heard for making natto was to wrap cooked beans in a bed of straw and bury it in the ground for three days. That person told me the bacteria was in the straw but perhaps it is actually getting innoculated by the soil! Or you can buy cultures online in powder form, either way, eat your fermented foods, especially natto!

Berry Country Soda

We are in berry season and who doesn't love bubbly water. This recipe is great for blemished, damaged, or overripe strawberries, blueberries, raspberries  or fruit of any kind. It does not dosappoint! I discovered it on a bike touring trip where I stumbled across a sprawling wild berry patch. I picked a bunch into a mason jar, and it fermented as I rode that day in the hot sun. The recipe has been refined since then but still doesn't beat the original that was cooled overnight by being submerged in a river.

1. Pack ripe, crushed berries into mason jar maybe about 1/3 of the way.
2. Top with water and tightly secure screw lid.
3. Leave out in the hot sun or counter for a day or two. Keep an eye out for a heavily bulging lid- that's the sign we're looking for.
4. Place jar in the fridge to chill. (Tip: liquid absorbs carbonation better at lower temperatures.)
5. Enjoy your naturally carbonated, naturally sweetened sparkling beverage!
We have so many great things at our farm markets right now. The WPa Young Farmers put together this great comprehensive market guide. Let us know how you are fermenting along with the seasons-
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