Workshop Review: Fermentation Basics

This past weekend I attended a fermentation workshop at Blooming Glen Farm in Perkasie, PA where I knew I would:

Learn the basic principles of this ages-old, simple and fun preservation method by getting hands-on with yogurt, sauerkraut and seasonal vegetables. Everyone will leave with a jar of pickles or kraut and a culture with which to make their own, very simple yogurt at home! You will also leave (hopefully) with an appreciation for the role of the microbes living all around us!

Although I have been making kombucha for a few years, I have never had success with yogurt, pickles or sourdough; three delicious and useful ferments I am determined to master. Amanda’s workshop was just wonderful and because we had so many fresh veggies at our fingertips {thank you, Tricia & Tom!} we all left with a pint of fermented pickles {ready to eat July 7} and some sauerkraut {ready July 21} plus a tablespoon of villi, a 100-year-old yogurt-like culture from Finland.

Amanda of phickle.comIt is clear that Amanda has done workshops like this one before. She was friendly, informative, and answered all of our questions without hesitation. She was engaging and a joy to listen to. I have a tendency to ask a LOT of questions, and I felt like I was in a safe environment, so I went with my gut and asked away; she answered all of them. I even had a follow-up for Amanda today via her Facebook page!

The thing that I already knew that bugged me the most: you can’t use raw milk in dairy cultures because the good bacteria in un-pasteurized milk will actually kill the good bacteria in your yogurt {or kefir} culture. Ultimately, you have three choices for how to deal with that:

  1. Buy pasteurized {but not ultra-pasteurized} milk.
  2. Home pasteurize your raw milk, or
  3. Maintain a mother culture made with sterilized or pasteurized milk to preserve the viability of the culture {www.culturesforhealth.com}.

For now, I am going with #1 – I picked up a half gallon of pasteurized, grass-fed, whole milk today, so we’ll see what happens. I started 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. villi starter around 1:30 today, and I have to work all day tomorrow, so I’m hoping that by 5:00pm tomorrow we’ll have some yummy yogurt!

The most memorable thing that I didn’t already know: using whey in your ferments will speed up the process, kicking the good bacteria into hyperdrive. So it might be useful when you want to have pickles for a certain event, for example, or if you’re giving pickles as gifts. But since the one experiment I’ve done with whey yielded less-than-tasty dilly carrots, I wonder if I don’t like the taste or if I messed something else up along the way…?

Overall, it was a lovely afternoon spent with old and new friends and I am re-energized about stepping back into the world of fermentation. Amanda’s workshop made home fermentation seem easy, affordable, and enjoyable, so I look forward to sharing some successes with you in the near future!

What’s in Season?

Each month I will share a little bit about a garden veggie that is in season where I live {Eastern PA}. Some of them I have grown myself, some I have grown at work, but all of them I have cooked and eaten. Look for these at your nearest Farmer’s Market or wherever you buy fresh, local produce!

What’s in season in June? Kohlrabi!

kohlrabi from nuttykitchen.com

White Kohlrabi {photo credit: nuttykitchen.com}

It’s almost summer time, so the Farmer’s Market stands are really starting to fill in. Cool weather means the brassica-family plants (broccoli, cabbage, etc) are still mild and sweet, but as the heat of summer hits, many of these will begin to “bolt,” or direct their energy to growing seeds, rather than developing tender, yummy fruit.

Kohlrabi is a new vegetable to many first-time CSA members and farmer’s market visitors, but its versatility makes it a perfect candidate for culinary experimentation. Delicious raw, pickled, or in stirfrys, Kohlrabi is easy to grow and even easier to eat!

Thinking about growing kale in your garden this year?
Kohlrabi grows in loose, average soil. For a spring crop, direct-sow seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost; plant ¼ inch deep, 10 seeds per foot. Or start seedlings for a fall crop indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost. When seedlings are around 4 inches tall, thin plants to (or set out transplants at) 5 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart. Keep plants well watered and free of weeds; put down a mulch to help accomplish both tasks. Cultivate carefully to keep from damaging the delicate, shallow roots. Use young leaves in salads and stir-fries. Harvest immature “bulbs” when they are no more than 2 inches in diameter, cutting the stems 1 inch below the swollen stem. Remove the leaf stems and leaves, and use the remaining stem as you would turnips. Kohlrabi will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator and for several months in a cold, moist, root cellar. {http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/kohlrabi-growing-guide}

Need a recipe?
I made these last summer and enjoyed them for many weeks. We eat most of our kohlrabi raw with homemade hummus, but if you’re looking for something a little different, give these yummy pickles a try! This recipe makes one quart of pickles.

fridge pickled kohlrabi and carrots

photo credit: beckyintherootcellar.com

Fridge Pickled Kohlrabi and Carrots

Ingredients:

4 small kohlrabi
2 large carrots
2 Tbsp. salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. pickling or kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dill seeds
1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
6 black pepper corns, crushed

Start by peeling and slicing the kohlrabi. Place in a colander and salt with 2 Tbsp. salt. Allow the kohlrabi to sit for an hour. In the meantime, peel your carrots and cut into sticks. Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan. When kohlrabi is done draining, rinse and pack with carrots into a quart jar. Boil remaining ingredients until all of the salt and sugar are dissolved and pour over carrots and kohlrabi. Cover and allow to cool on the counter then refrigerate. Let this sit in the fridge for two days before jumping in.