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!

Homesteading Hack #3

I think of Homesteading Hacks as little tidbits of knowledge that can be used to make our homesteading experiences more enjoyable. Sometimes that means a hack saves us money, sometimes it saves us time, sometimes it does BOTH!

dry erase markers for food storage

Colorful & Reusable? Awesome

This week’s hack is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. A few months ago I wrote on a window with my dry erase markers, hoping they would wipe off of glass without an eraser or cleaner. They did, so I was looking forward to using them at our health food store when I purchased bulk items. All you have to do is tare the container as you walk in and write the weight on the jar or lid with your marker. Then, when you fill it, write the PLU on the top so the cashier can ring you up. My new store in Easton, PA doesn’t sell as much bulk as my old one (I’m heartbroken) and they don’t seem to use PLUs as much either. I haven’t tried weighing my containers yet, but I will next time I make the trip up there.

Oh, I try to write the throw away date on my leftovers, not the date I put it in the fridge. That’s a great tip for making it easier to know what’s good and what’s not that I learned from my Auntie Kim – she got it from her days in the restaurant biz. Thanks, Aunt Kim!

*Sidenote: Yes, those are the plastic mason jar lids. I’ve been putting off buying them for almost a year, but I kept thinking, “man, I wish I had some of those plastic lids…” so I finally caved and got 8 regular and 8 wide mouth lids. I have lots and lots of Classico lids which I use all the time on the regular mouth jars, but I didn’t want to “waste” my rings and lids for the wide mouth jars. So far I’m okay with my decision. They are BPA free and they never come in contact with the food – mainly used for fridge storage. We’ll see how long they last before they go the way of most of the other plastic in my kitchen… :0)

Send me your Homesteading Hack and maybe I’ll feature it on the blog!
Email ideas to owlmoonfarms {at} gmail.com

Homesteading Hack #2

I think of Homesteading Hacks as little tidbits of knowledge that can be used to make our homesteading experiences more enjoyable. Sometimes that means a hack saves us money, sometimes it saves us time, sometimes it does BOTH!

For instance, did you know Classico Pasta jars are Mason Jars?? Well, they are, and though you cannot re-seal them for canning with the Classico lids, you can use new lids/bands and process them just like any other jar! And, if you’re still to nervous to use them for canning, they make awesome storage for beans, rice and other dry goods. Plus, you can use the lids on any of your other Mason Jars for food storage/travel containers. So if you are buying pasta sauce from the grocery store, keep any eye out for Classico coupons and watch your weekly grocery store mailer and stock up! Think of it as buying pasta AND Mason Jars and the savings are even better!

nevermind the tacky temporary labels...

Send me your Homesteading Hack and maybe I’ll feature yours on the blog!
Email ideas to owlmoonfarms {at} gmail.com

Homesteading Hack #1

I think of Homesteading Hacks as little tidbits of knowledge that can be used to make our homesteading experiences more enjoyable. Sometimes that means a hack saves us money, sometimes it saves us time, sometimes it does BOTH!

20120412-084547.jpg

This one is especially useful for renters – we use Command Damage-Free Hooks to hang all those scrub brushes we seem to accumulate. Now my cast iron scrubber, re-useable straw cleaner and my jar/bottle scrubber are all right there where I need them, dry and free of mashed bristles. Nice.

Send me your Homesteading Hacks and maybe I’ll feature yours on the blog!
Email ideas to owlmoonfarms {at} gmail.com