Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lacto-Fermenting in warm weather

My good friend, Peggy Matthews, is guest posting today about lacto-fermented salsa. Read on!

I finally harvested my heirloom garden tomatoes (grown from seed!) which I planted very late in the season. They grew to be large, heavy, and funnily-shaped which I was glad about since hybrid varieties tend to be smooth, perfectly round, and tasteless. These babies had FLAVOR!

I don’t know why I grew tomatoes as I am not very fond of them. But I do like tomato salsa. So I decided to mince them up and make a large, half gallon jarful, of it.
After assembling all of the ingredients I realized that I had a dilemma: I needed to keep it at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit but we were having a bit of a late September heat wave and even the coal cellar in the basement was a balmy 75 degrees.
What to do?

After exercising my grey matter for a while on this problem, I came up with the idea of placing the jar in a large, flat-bottomed glass bowl that was first lined with refreezable ice packs on the bottom and then layered with a folded dish towel to diffuse the chill. I put the jar of salsa on top of that cold layer and wrapped another dishcloth around it all to keep out the ambient warm air.

It’s still early days yet (just 3 days into the fermentation) but I have a good feeling about this. I periodically feel the outside of the jar to be sure it’s not too cold and I let the ice packs warm up overnight before replacing them with new ones. Luckily the weather is now turning cooler so I may not need to babysit the jar this way, but I will definitely keep this method in mind for next year when I am in the mood to lacto ferment in the middle of summer!

Peggy’s Lacto Fermented Salsa
3 Cups filtered tap water, boiled and then cooled (to evaporate off the chlorine, which can kill the microbes I want to grow!)
¾ Tablespoon Pickling Salt added to the water and stirred until dissolved.

Into a clean, glass, half-gallon, wide-necked jar I added:
• 3-4 large diced Garden Tomatoes
• ½ large diced Vidalia Onion
• 6 medium Garlic Cloves, peeled (3 whole, and 3 smashed once with the flat of my chopping knife)
• Fresh rosemary from my garden, unchopped leaves
• Fresh parsley from my garden, unchopped leaves
• 3 garden-fresh Hot Red Peppers*, whole, with the top chopped off to expose the seed core
• 1 Tablespoon dried Basil
• 1 teaspoon dried Oregano

To the salt water brine above, I added one packet of Caldwell’s Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables, available at Cultures for Health.
After the starter culture was thoroughly dissolved, I poured this brine-culture mixture over the vegetables in the jar (I had leftovers because the tomatoes took up so much room in the jar!)
I didn’t weigh the vegetables down; I just secured the screw-on plastic lid containing a water trap air vent so that gasses can escape but air can’t get in.

The instructions for using the starter culture say to keep the ferment at a steady 70 degrees for ten days, and to then cure it in the fridge, preferably for a few months. Actually, that was for their cabbage sauerkraut recipe so I think my salsa will be ready much sooner as the tomatoes have more readily available sugars for the microbes to feast on (and ferment) and they are much softer than cabbage leaves.

Fingers crossed that my salsa comes out yummy and perfectly fermented!

(*gift from Sharon’s garden)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Potatoes from Old Potatoes

I just harvested my little potato patch this morning. These potatoes were from store-bought potatoes that were rotting in the cellar in the Spring. I cut off the rotten parts and put the remaining pieces in 2 short rows in my lemon balm garden. I basically ignored them except for watering them a few times when it was dry. After a few weeks I realized I hadn't planted them deeply enough so I weeded around them and used the weeds as a mulch to keep the tubers cool. (potatoes need to be planted deeply because they won't grow properly when the tubers are close to sun-warmed soil)

We won't cure them, just eat them over the next few weeks. I'll use the potato cooking water for gluten-free sourdough pancakes.

Now I'm having dreams of fingerlings and creamers for next year.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hot Summer Tips for Fermenting

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Zucchini Ferment

Just a few quick tips for fermenting in the heat of summer:

Avoid fermenting during a heat wave:
Fermenting during a heat wave is difficult at best unless you have an area that consistently stays below 70 degrees for that first 3 day fermentation period. The last time I tried it, my kitchen was in the 80's, way too hot for the first fermentation period. I moved everything to the basement, which was significantly cooler but apparently I was too late or it wasn't cool enough. The cukes became moldy and slimy.

Usually the cukes are coming fast during a heat wave and it seems the best time to be processing them. We often have to harvest twice a day during that wonderful high summer heat. Now, I store the cukes in the fridge until the heat wave breaks and then I ferment.

Avoid using the cukes that form during heavy summer rains:
These cukes are full of water and won't ferment well. My experience is that extra water seems to upset the salt/water balance.

Use onions with your cukes and summer squash ferments:
To avoid mushy cukes and summer squash ferments, add a little onion to each jar.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Make your own medicine! Fermented Escarole

When I ferment vegetables I always feel that I am making medicine because the fermentation process fosters the same bacteria and yeasts that keep our digestive systems strong. This in turn keeps our immune systems strong.

Fermented Escarole has the added benefit of being a bitter green that supports and detoxifies the liver. Escarole has a naturally bitter flavor, mild when young, stronger when older.

It is easy to start from seed in the garden, doesn't need much attention, can sit in the bed a long while till you need it and stores well in the fridge. The young leaves are good in salad, older leaves are great in a stir fry, especially with garlic.

After fermenting I find that it is still a bit tough to completely chew so I scoop out the leaves, run them through the blender while adding enough brine to bring it to the consistency I like. I add it to salad, beans and have it with meat or fish.


Freshly washed and ready to chop for fermenting


In the jar, ready for fermenting for 3 days at room temp and 2-3 weeks in fridge

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Green Garlic, Fermented!

Green Garlic is garlic grown for the young plant parts rather than just the bulb. Just plant some cloves in the fall and eat them in the following spring/early summer. They don't need optimal conditions yet they give a lot of food.

They are great sauteed and I also love them fermented. Imagine all the benefits of garlic combined with all the benefits of lactofermentation. This is power food!

Recently harvested Green Garlic plants


Green Garlic Scapes or Flower Stalks


Green Garlic stalks, cut and ready for fermentation jar


The jar ready for fermentation period

The white layer is from chopped green garlic bulbs, the light green layer is from the chopped stalks and the dark green layer is from green garlic scapes. I used a horseradish leaf for the leaf layer.

I'll let it ferment for 3 days on the counter and then 2-3 weeks in the fridge.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Late Spring Lentil Stew using what grows in Late Spring!

I like to make lentil stew in the late spring and summer because it's a light but nutritionally potent meal. I often serve it marinated and room temperature. This week I was able to use vegetables entirely from the garden for the stew.

I soaked 4 cups of green lentils for 24 hours. They were beginning to sprout by then. I used a pile of radish greens from the radish crop, some hefty Walking Onions and a clump of Green Garlic which is garlic grown for it's stalks, flower stalks and flowers rather than the bulb. Some parts of the Walking Onions and Green Garlic were too tough or unsuitable to use for the stew so they went in to the freezer for the first fall soupstocks.

When the stew was finished I froze some of it for future summer meals. I marinated the rest of it with lemon juice and Kombucha vinegar which is kombucha tea that has matured into the vinegar stage. The kombucha tea was made with lemon balm from my garden.

Green Lentils soaked for 24 hours, starting to sprout


Radish Greens


Green Garlic & Walking Onions


Walking Onions leaves and bulbs chopped


Green Garlic bulbs chopped


Finished Cooking - Ready to eat, freeze or marinate in Kombucha Vinegar


Tough Green Garlic leaves to be frozen for soupstock in the Fall


Green Garlic & Walking Onion roots and necks to be frozen for soupstock in Fall

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Walking Onions

Walking Onions are a fabulous perennial vegetable. They need minimal care and will produce a large amount of food in a very small space. All the parts of the plant are edible!

I use the different parts in salads, sautes, stews, soups and lacto-fermentation. I begin harvesting in early spring when the first greens come up. I continue to harvest the greens and later on harvest flower stalks, flower buds, and sometimes complete plants.

The top photo is my walking onion bed in early spring. The bottom photo is in late spring.

Watch Walking Onion Video! 

As I harvest I keep in mind not to use it all so there will be plenty for next year.

This season I have extra walking onion bulblets for sale!!  20 bulblets cost $21, including shipping and will plant a 4 square foot bed. Planting directions included.

 Order Walking Onions

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

This Week in the Garden

Boston Lettuce + one Freckled Red Romaine


Green Garlic Stalks




Harvest on a Bench:
Escarole, Green Garlic, Walking Onion Flower Stalks and Lemon Balm for Kombucha Tea.
The Escarole and Green Garlic were sauteed together with olive oil. Really Good!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fermented Rhubarb (savory)

Click here to watch Fermented Rhubarb Video

Here's a page out of my book, "Lactofermentation Through the Season". Just in time for the first Rhubarb stalks.

Fermented Rhubarb

Seasonally, rhubarb is one of the first vegetables that I ferment since it is one of the first to be available in late spring/early summer. Since it is perennial it is best to harvest some while leaving some to continue collecting sunshine, water and nutrients to build the root system. Because of this I will make it in small batches throughout the season as the plant puts out more stalks.

In most recipes rhubarb is cooked so the toughness gets softened. Lacto-fermentation is essentially a raw product so it’s important to use tender rhubarb stalks. Lacto-fermentation will soften the rhubarb to a degree but tough, stringy rhubarb may not ever become palatable. Best to use young stalks no more than 1 inch wide. And remember: Do not use Rhubarb leaves as they are toxic!!

Yield 1-2 quarts

Ingredients & Equipment

• 10 stalks young rhubarb no more than 1 inch wide
• Leaf layer: horseradish leaves, Swiss chard leaves or blackberry/raspberry leaves
• Do not use Rhubarb leaves as they are toxic!

For the brine
• 2 quarts filtered or spring water
• Pure salt, kosher, pickling or coarse sea salt, with no additives

• Large pot for boiling water
• 2 wide mouth quart canning jars
• 2 canning lids and rings
• 2-4 rocks
• Small pot for sterilizing the canning lids, rings and rocks
• Wooden pressing tool
• Wide mouth funnel (optional) for filling the jar
• Ladle


Making the Brine
• Bring the filtered water to a boil for 4 minutes.
• After it’s cooled a bit add 3 tablespoons of salt and stir to dissolve.
• Allow brine to cool to near room temperature (2-4 hours or overnight).

• In a small pot sterilize lids, rings and rocks by boiling them for 4 minutes.
• Let them cool for about 10 minutes and pour out the water to let them cool further.

Leaf Layer
• Wash leaves and reserve.

Assembling the Jars

Filling the Jars
• When the brine is almost cool chop rhubarb into bite size pieces.
• Start layering the rhubarb into the jar an inch or two high at a time, gently pressing it down with wooden pressing tool.
• Keep adding 1-2 inch layers of rhubarb, pressing down each layer until about 2-3 inches of space is left at the top.
• Press it down again.

Leaf Layer
• Add a layer of leaves on top of the top layer of rhubarb and press it in.

• Place a rock or rocks on top of the leaves.

Brine into Jars
• Ladle brine into the jar leaving about 1 inch of space from the top.
• Let sit uncovered for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to escape.
• If the brine level drops below 1 inch from the top add some more brine.
• Wipe any brine off top of jar, put lid on jar, and screw on band.


• Allow to ferment on kitchen counter or shelf for 3 days at room temperature, 72 degrees.
• Gently move to the refrigerator.
• Taste after 2 weeks. It may be ready or it may need more time.
• Store in refrigerator. Taste gets better with time.
• Lasts 1-3 months in refrigerator.

The fermented rhubarb is very good using only rhubarb but for variation try adding spring scallions, spring celery leaves, early chard stems and/or tender horseradish stems for very interesting and sometimes very exciting flavor!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Primroses - Hose-in-Hose

Here is a photo of one of my favorite flowers from my garden, blooming now. Given to me by my friend Hilda, (an Englishwoman transplanted to New Hampshire, US). They are double primroses, called Hose-in-Hose, because each flower has a flower growing out of the center.
I just found out that primroses are edible; haven't eaten them yet, though. Too pretty.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gravlax - Home Cured Salmon

Check out my recipe and video on how to make this delightful and economical food Gravlax-Home Cured Salmon

Monday, March 21, 2011

4 Home - Rendered Fats

Top white fat is pork, far right is from chicken soup, bottom is chicken fat, left is duck. They have a refrigerated life of about 1 month so I freeze it till I need it. I also have some goat fat in the freezer from my recent goat braise.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Garden in New England

Ingredients for the first salad of Spring:
Shredded Red Sauerkraut and
Horseradish Condiment made with
homemade herbal kombucha vinegar

Claytonia in the Over-winter cold frame

This week begins the section on “From The Garden”. The snow is almost gone, still a few patches in the woods and in the shade. We’ve had our first salad consisting of Claytonia also known as Miner’s Lettuce.

This week’s video First Spring Salad, shows a thick row of Claytonia/Miner’s Lettuce grown in the over-winter cold frame. It germinates easily in the fall and is thick by March. We start thinning it out by cutting some leaves and using them for salad. I mixed some Horseradish Condiment and Shredded Red Sauerkraut into the salad and topped it off with Olive Oil. I love the spring because we get that first burst of enzymes from the garden! The salad was fresh and potent and full of flavor!

There is also a page, Spring Garden showing photos of the new greens already up in our New England garden.

Future pages will include descriptive photos and videos on the growth cycles of Walking Onions and Green Garlic which are very easy to grow and require minimal work.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The First Signs of Spring

Hi All,

Hope you are getting glimpses of Spring as the snow recedes. Today we started raking the leaves off the beds and I saw shoots from my Walking Onion beds, Green Garlic Beds, and Horseradish Beds.

We’ve also overwintered some rutabagas by leaving them in the ground in the hopes of getting salad greens from them in early Spring. There are little nubs of green! In our overwinter cold frame we have a thick crop of Miner’s Lettuce, a goodly amount of Mache’ and some small Swiss Chard plants. These were all planted last fall. The Miner’s Lettuce needs some thinning so we will have our first salad this week!

Can’t wait to ingest these potent greens!

I finally finished up 2 new videos for my video course site:
Kombucha Cultures and Fruit Infused Water Kefir. Kombucha Cultures is a short video contrasting a young, smooth culture with a mature, gnarly culture.

Fruit Infused Water Kefir is about turning your extra finished water kefir into a fruit drink using seasonal fresh fruit. These drinks quench thirsts in the heat of summer. They are delicate-tasting and give us those great probiotics and enzymes that keep us running smoothly.

These videos expand the Kombucha and Water Kefir section. Another Kombucha video on Kombucha Marinades for meat and fish is in the works.

Hope the videos are helpful.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Medicinal Kombucha

While experimenting with natural remedies I found an excellent concoction that breaks up congestion. It uses Kombucha Tea or Kombucha Vinegar as a base with the addition of Lemon, Horseradish Root and Ginger Root. You can download the recipe and view my video on how to make it here:
Medicinal Kombucha

Kombucha Tea

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meat Loaf free of gluten, dairy, eggs

Check out my recipe and video for Meat Loaf that is free of gluten, dairy, and eggs. It's nice and light and deeply flavorful. Meat Loaf Recipe & Video

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Video on Kombucha Tea!

I have a new video on my Ecourse site about how to make
Herbal Kombucha Tea, that tasty, potent tonic full of probiotics and enzymes.
Learn to make it yourself for pennies a batch.
Click Here to take a look!

Kombucha Tea

Cultures for Health
Purchase Kombucha Cultures from this excellent company!