Real Fermenting: 2012

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Maple Wine

A fine time to return to brewing  - the fall. Autumn. It's always so exciting to me when the new fall vegetables and fruits come into season. My own brewing history began with an autumnal abundance of pomegranates and pineapple guava. Now I have an abundance of apples, and I want to make an apple beer, but first, the inspiration struck me to make maple wine.

Maple syrup is one of my favorite foods. I have a sweet tooth, but maple syrup has always seemed more nutritional than simple sugar syrup. And you know what? It's packed with vital minerals (this gallon of wine will have about 20 doses of the daily value of manganese). And there is something exciting about pouring a quart of maple syrup at one time. I really recommend trying this recipe for that reason alone. Forget the expectations of a complex, full-bodied white wine in the spring and enjoy fermentation at its simplest level. Great ingredients, yeast, drink!

Pouring the syrup

Friday, 10 August 2012

Not Fermenting - Pickled Jalapeños

Pickled jalapeños - I can't get enough of them! In order to support my habit, I needed to make my own. These aren't fermented, but they are made with homegrown peppers, along with jalapeños from my farm box. This recipe follows a basic canning process, which you won't see very often on this blog, because it is designed to prevent fermentation, or any kind of microbial activity. Canning was invented fifty years before germ theory was discovered, by the French brewer and confectioner Nicolas Appert. For Napoleon... hmm. Maybe next time, I will try to find a fermented jalapeño recipe. 
Chopped jalapeños. Wear gloves

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Carrot, Onion, Parsnip and Horseradish Sauerkraut

I just know this is going to be a beautiful sauerkraut. The flavors of these wonderful vegetables are just all so rich and complementary. Just imagine a hearty sausage (no wimpy hot dog will suffice!) sitting proudly on a bed of this sauerkraut!

Our faithful friends for sauerkraut

Monday, 6 August 2012

Gundru, or Kyurtse

This recipe is straight out of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. If you haven't seen this book before, pick it up now. It is a fantastic resource, full of inspirational passages and great advice. Gundru, or Kyurtse, is basically pickled greens. Apparently, it is Nepalese in origin from the Newar people of the Kathmandu valley. I am using some wonderful mustard and dandelion greens today, but you can use anything that is part of the cabbage family. Think beet greens, turnip greens, lamb's quarter whatever you have on hand.

Dandelion and mustard green wilting in the hot Bakersfield sun

Coffee Kombucha

I've have been making kombucha with various teas over the past month or so. Alternating between caffeinated teas and non-caffeinated teas, I have been enjoying having access to cheap and excellent kombucha. My favorite has probably been the black tea kombucha combined with ginger juice. The heat of the ginger covers any excess sourness when you forget to bottle your kombucha for a couple of days. Today, I am making coffee kombucha.

One thing I would highly recommend is being careful if you add chia seeds to the bottle. I have a couple of different theories about why this happened (chia gel is compressible maybe? viscosity leads to liquid being drawn out of the bottle?), but today I suffered the effects of an explosive decompression while opening a chia seed kombucha. Imagine opening a shaken-up coke can, but with chia seed gel covering your kitchen. Another bottle last week with way too much chia opened with a column of rigid rising chia, which I rapidly attempted to eat, to no avail. Stick to 3-4 tsps per pint. I really went crazy with the chia.

My kitchen after the chia explosion. Note the side of the fridge.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Cider Four Ways - Update

A quick update on the Cider Four Ways experiment I did a couple of weeks ago. Now I have the chance to sample each of the ciders, and I will run through them in this post. As a reminder, they were: Plain Cider, Chai-der, Ginger Cider and Earl Grey Cider.

Earl Grey Cider - Delicious!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Juniper and Caraway Sauerkraut Update

Definitely undersold is how I would describe this spiced juniper and caraway sauerkraut. I used 1 tsp of caraways seeds and about 6 juniper berries for one whole cabbage. Next time I experiment with this recipe, I'm thinking that I'll try doubling the spice level. I could also try lightly crushing the seeds to release more flavor into the brine.

Decanted sauerkraut ready to be put into a jar

Friday, 27 July 2012

Our Microbiome

We have all been trained from an early age to be scared of microorganisms. We know to wash our hands and to cook our food thoroughly and to throw out moldy cheese. I can remember from around the age of 10 struggling with an overly developed sense of contamination. I thought that bacteria or whatever could quickly travel from one part of my body to another, so if, say, my elbow touched something gross, I should wash my hands before eating. Everything was dirty by association. At some point, I realized that bacteria couldn't zoom down my arm at the speed of light and so began my critical approach to our modern sensibilities on contamination.

Today, we are learning more every day about the vital role that microorganisms play in our health as humans. In fact, I would question even the extent to which we should call what moves when I take a step a "human".


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Spent Grain Bread

Really excited to share this recipe with you, because my home is filled with the delightful aroma of fresh bread right now. And what's better is it's recycled grain from the Robust Porter I just made. This bread used a sponge method, wherein part of the dough is prefermented for 24 hours or so.

Must. Resist. Slicing. Bread

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pale Ale Tasting Notes

My original hopped beer has now all been drunk. It was a Pale Ale, intended to be an American Pale Ale, which turned out a little more like an English Pale Ale. Insert joke about me being British and living in California here.

It does exactly what it says

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Real Fermenting Manifesto

Real fermenting is a cultural essential. Every society around the world engages in this primary and deep practice. From the pit-fermented "cheese-like" fish-egg ferments of the Yupik to the dried fermented greens of Nepal, humans in every corner of our world engage in some form of fermentation. This website and my fermentation practice is informed by and inspired by this global microbiological universal.

Brew Projects

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Robust Porter - Steeped Grains

Steeping grains is a easy way to get some extra color, body and flavor into your beer.  In this recipe for a Robust Porter, I use a CaraMunich grain and a Chocolate Malt grain. You can buy these premilled from homebrew supply stores. I order mine from the Seven Bridges Cooperative in Santa Cruz. They have a special this month on any organic product (15% off). I'm not associated with them - it's just a great deal.

This brew represents the next step up in complexity from an all-extract brew. I wrote about that simple method when I brewed a Pale Ale - which turned out a little weak in body. After the steeped grain/extract brew comes a partial mash brew. Later in the week, I'm going to write up a partial mash California Pale Ale, which I also made today.
Weyermann CaraMunich (5oz) and Briess Chocolate Malt (4oz) grains

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Pale Ale Update

The pale ale is in bottles now, for at least a week. After one week and a day in the Better Bottle, I could see that fermentation had practically stopped. No more bubbles were traveling up the side of the bottle and the beer was even starting to clear. In this post, I describe how to estimate the alcoholic content of your brewed beverages.

Measuring the final gravity of the beer

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Juniper and Caraway Sauerkraut

Traditional spices, traditional technique. That's what this juniper and caraway sauerkraut recipe is all about. These spices feature often together in German cooking.

The spices resting gently on the surface of the sauerkraut

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Cider Four Ways

This is an experiment in bottle flavoring. I am making a 1 gallon batch of plain hard apple cider. Following the Strong Waters recipe for hard apple cider, I put 1 gallon of apple juice (organic, pasteurized, no need to heat it to sterilize) into my primary fermenter. To that juice, I added 1tsp yeast nutrient, 1/2tsp pectin enzyme and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir the juice and add a packet of Premier Cuvee. Airlock your fermenter and leave that for about a week until it has finished fermenting. Then we get to the interesting part of this experiment. Making Plain Cider, Chai-der, Ginger Cider and Earl Grey Cider in the bottle.

Oh no! - Bottle Imperfection

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Beet-Cranberry Sauerkraut Update

As I predicted, this beet-cranberry sauerkraut has turned out amazing. The sauerkraut juice is syrupy and rich and vivid. I feel I could paint with it. The beet has stayed a little crunchier than the cabbage, but, as it makes up less of the total bulk, the whole has a very pleasant texture after 8 days at around 70-80F.

Real Fermenting's initials, in beety brine

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


This kombucha brewing kit from Williams-Sonoma costs $70. I am sure it would be very useful. It's also about $60 more than these instructions would cost you, including buying the glass jars.

Culturing the kombucha - 5 days in
These are the simplest instructions on the web for making kombucha from the store-bought bottled beverage, so you'll excuse the lack of prose here. I'll try to be methodical and precise and concise. There are three distinct stages: Culturing, Feeding Up, and Brewing. Do everything precisely as I write it. I can explain why things are the way they are in the comments, if you have questions, or in another post. In-line explanations cause everyone else to write an epic poem about Russian grandmothers, so stay here for the exact way to make kombucha from store-bought kombucha drink.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Bottling the Blackpeach Gruit Ale

In the absence of any inspiration, I decided on Blackpeach Gruit Ale as the name for this brew. It smells pretty awesome at this stage. In this article, I will bring you through a basic and sanitary bottling process. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than this.
Aaah, waiting bottles!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Pale Ale

This is a recipe for 1 gallon of Pale Ale. It is pretty unusual to see 1 gallon recipes online, but as it is part of my philosophy to make small batches, I have had to learn how to convert things into smaller brews. Small batches encourage experimentation, and do not cost too much if the experiment goes bad. Another part of my philosophy is simplicity. To that end, this brew is made from malt extract (rather than whole grains), but with pellet hops. That means we are free to try different combinations and amounts of hops, while maintaining a fairly simple boil process. I bought this hop sampler from Seven Bridges Cooperative, which provides an excellent array of hop varieties to try out. Perfect for small batch brewers.
Pelleted Organic American Bravo Hops

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Beet-Cranberry Sauerkraut

Okay, so this beet sauerkraut recipe really came out of a chance conversation with my friend David Haddox, who happens to be my wife's cousin. He's a big time mountain biker and all-round superfit dude. He wrote, "Just FYI, beet = lots of nitrates, highest of veggies from what I've read. These nitrates help lower blood pressure, act as a vasodilator, and increases stamina somehow, not to mention all the vitamins for recovery." He's using vegetable juices as sports nutrition!

The beet in question

Wine Sauerkraut Update

Woah! This wine sauerkraut is completely amazing. It has the sweetness from the wine, the great sour tang, plus a little extra acidity, I think. I just gave away a couple of half pints to some friends here in Bakersfield, so hopefully we'll get a couple of reviews soon. Highly recommend trying this one, if you are ready to graduate from basic sauerkraut. Couldn't be easier. Recipe here.

A quart for us and two half pints for some buddies

Monday, 25 June 2012

Our Porch Garden

This is a quick note just to show what we have been able to achieve in our little porch garden here in Bakersfield. And to show you guys my little family. I feel very proud of our garden, which has been mostly vision from Madeleine and watering from me. So read on for more on our little apartment oasis.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Fermenting Links - 24th June 2012

These links all point to sources of information that have inspired me and influenced my fermentation philosophy. The latest is a New York Times article which really reinforces the importance of a vital culture of non-human cells within the human biome. Not everything I make is about increasing your health, but real fermentation connects all these factors: politics, health, economics and many others.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Simple Perry

This simple perry, or pear cider, couldn't be any easier. It is made from store-bought juices. This is surely a compromise; I'd rather have an orchard and a cider press. The fact is I live in apartment in suburban Bakersfield, CA. While we do our best with gardening on the porch, we couldn't have a fruit tree right now. So I buy organic fruit juice, with no preservatives, not from concentrate. Here's the easy perry recipe, based on Scott Mansfield's Strong Waters.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Blackberry-Peach Gruit Ale

This recipe is born out of the last attempt at gruit ale, which resulted in a tasty brew, for sure, but which could have had a stronger aroma. This ale is made with blackberries and peaches for their aromatic qualities. It is a hop-free beer, made with unhopped malt syrup as the main sugar source, along with a little honey. I chose to add honey for its aromatic qualities, as well as in anticipation of some astringency from the whole fruit and the bitterness of the herbs. Honey takes a little longer to ferment than the malt syrup, so the fermenting time will be extended to about 2 weeks.

The wonderful organic farmers' market blackberries

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Wine Sauerkraut

Wow, I had a lot of fun times researching recipes for this. There seems to be hardly any straight wine sauerkraut recipes in English online, without juniper, or peppers, or carrots. So I searched German websites and used my limited high school German skills, along with Google Translate ("So you ought already once or twice washed with cold water. This is best you give wnn the herb into the pot and then water to give the water's washed and allowed to proceed wiedr all nochmal" hmm?). I have hashed together a simple recipe to experiment. I really want to see if there is a taste difference between the basic sauerkraut and this new recipe for wine sauerkraut.

The wine in question

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Gruit Ale

I will start with the recipe for a gruit ale, which is very easy to make and quite delicious. The glass of gruit ale in front of me is a great golden color, with a delicate bitterness and citrusy aroma. It is not hoppy, because it has no hops. Gruit ale sounds weird, and it is unusual, but it should not be restricted to the history books. It represents what all beer was a thousand years ago, and what it should be still. After the recipe, we can discuss the different herbs used in beer making and the current orthodoxy of hop-only beers.

Last bottle of gruit ale, bottle-conditioned for seven weeks

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Basic Sauerkraut

Basic sauerkraut is very easy and very delicious. This recipe yielded a little over a quart of wonderful, raw, organic sauerkraut. I started with a nice, large, organic cabbage from the farmers' market and some Pacific Sea Salt from Penzeys Spices. These guys have a really awesome spice store down in Santa Monica CA. And that's it. Cabbage and salt are the ingredients to this (and every other) basic sauerkraut recipe. I basically followed Sandor Katz's guide in the fantastic Wild Fermentation.
Lactobacilli et al. doing their work (pictured but microscopic...)

This is a very basic recipe. Over the next weeks and months, I am going to be working on some sauerkraut varietals (wine sauerkraut, juniper sauerkraut and so on). Come back to read about them and my many other projects. You can't hurry fermentation, no matter how hard you try.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Strawberry Wine

This is how I made Strawberry Wine. This simple and easy recipe comes from Strong Waters (Scott Mansfield) page 70. My view is that it is important to use the foods that are abundant and seasonal around you for your brewing experiments. Why is that?

Thanks to Fried Dough of Flickr for this beautiful shot

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A new beginning

Well, it's been a long time coming, but I have finally resolved to return to the blog! Hurrah! I have been brewing pretty consistently since I started the blog so long ago, but in the last few months, my pace has really picked up and I have been recording everything in a paper log. A plog???