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!