Grow Gather Enjoy: Fermenting

Showing posts with label Fermenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fermenting. Show all posts

How to Preserve Lemons

06 September 2018
This time of year is citrus season. If you are lucky enough to have your own tree or know someone with an established tree, you can guarantee a glut of lemons at some point over the citrus season. Once established lemon trees are quite prolific.

I was the recipient of a lemon tree for Christmas which is currently growing in a pot and has not reached glut-harvest levels as yet. However, once people know you like to take excess produce off their hands it does have a way of finding you. Enter a fruit bowl full of lemons needing some attention....

A mix of lemons.


Preserving olives three ways

14 June 2018
For many years I dismissed the idea of preserving my own olives. I had tasted several home made attempts over the years from others and was left unimpressed. So, I figured this was just one of those things that was better left to the experts.

All this changed when I tried a good friend's attempts a couple of years ago. These were delicious, clearly surpassing any other home made attempt I'd tried and rivaling many bought options. This, coupled with the free olives available for foraging in my suburb, spurred me on to give it a go.

I'm glad I did, as now I can tick one more item off the 'to buy' list and look to my own preserves for delicious and tasty olives. Here are three different ways you can take the plunge and preserve your own too.


Red cabbage sauerkraut

08 May 2018
Like many things, I never much liked sauerkraut until I tried homemade. I happened to be in Germany at the time, so that probably helped too. It did take me a little while to build up the courage to take the plunge into fermented foods but I haven't looked back.

Making your own sauerkraut is super simple. At its most basic it involves just two ingredients: cabbage and salt. You can change up the flavours by adding spices such as caraway, dill, celery, coriander or fennel seeds. You can also vary the vegetables and make kraut out of many things. I've experimented with carrots and kohlrabi in the past and both made a tasty alternative.

My stock was starting to run a little low and I thought I might experiment with a little more colour for my next batch, so I picked up a red (although this is probably closer to purple) cabbage.

Shredding up the cabbage.


Making your own vinegar (without a mother)

05 April 2018
One of the jobs in the kitchen recently was to replenish my stock of apple (scrap) cider vinegar. I stumbled across the concept of fruit scrap vinegar while reading Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation many moons ago. I liked the idea of turning food scraps into something useful and also adding another made from scratch item to the pantry. It was a little while however until I took action and attempted my own (as you know, I don't like to jump into things too quickly!).

My first attempt was using some quince scraps from the garden after making a batch of quince paste. Unfortunately it was not the success I had planned. Bits of the fruit bobbed to the top and I started colonising a whole colourful community of mould. Off to the compost pile...

I love the 'star' when you cut apples this way.

I really wanted to give apple scrap vinegar a go so I saved peels, cores and discarded bits and pieces  in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to attempt take two. Learning from my mistakes I ensured the fruit stayed submerged using a piece of plastic lid cut to size for my jar. Success this time, and it's been a regular on the made from scratch list ever since.

The process itself takes a few weeks but requires very minimal effort. Basically you dissolve a little sugar in some boiling water, then top up with room temp water and pop in your fruit scraps. Add something to the top to ensure it all stays submerged and cover with some muslin, a clean chux or a tea towel to keep bits out and allow gas to escape. Then leave it for the microbes to do their thing.

I generally use a ratio of 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar, about a kilogram of apple scraps and enough water to cover. The more apple scraps you use the stronger the apple flavour, but you can use less and either make a smaller batch or have a more subtle apple flavour. If the water where you live is heavily chlorinated you can pour some into a jug and sit out on the bench overnight before you make your batch. I don't find I need to do this where I live. If you have rain water to use, all the better.

Apple scraps from the freezer - not the most photogenic things!

For the first week it's a good idea to have a little look each day and give your mix a stir. This adds extra air, helps the microbes start doing their thing and reduces the chance of surface mold forming before the 'good' bugs have taken a hold. Once the ferment stops actively bubbling - usually close to two weeks around here but it will depend on temperature etc - you can strain out the apple bits with a fine sieve or muslin (or clean chux) lined colander. Pop your vinegar into bottles or whatever you plan to store in and leave for another week or two with the lids off, but covered loosely.

You can taste test along different steps of the process to get an idea of how things are changing. The acidity and flavour will continue to change over time.

I'd recommend checking out Sandor Katz's books if you are interested in learning more about fermentation and how to do it. He is definitely the go-to guy in all things fermenting. There is also a great how to on the for making your own scrap vinegar if you need to do a little further research before diving in.

I've made a few batches of the apple cider vinegar successfully since my first attempt and also given the recipe a go with pineapple scraps and mango skins. Both worked well and created a fruity vinegar great for adding a tang to salads and dressings. You can also use fruit scrap vinegars in any home-made cleaners or hair products.

Mango vinegar - you can see a 'mother' forming in the corner.

It's not advisable to use home-made vinegar for preserving that you are not going to keep refrigerated as you do need a minimum acidity in shelf stable preserves to ensure they keep the nasty bugs at bay. But otherwise fruit scrap vinegar can be substituted with the bought stuff wherever you like.

Fruit scrap vinegar is a great way to reuse kitchen waste and a ridiculously frugal ways to stock the pantry with flavoured vinegars of all kinds. So, what are you waiting for?

Have you ever tried making vinegar at home?
Any other ways that you use up your fruit scraps?

Fermented tomatoes and tomato salsa

30 March 2018
I interrupt my normal broadcasting schedule to bring you a bonus post. If you've found your way over here from Rhonda's blog I'd just like to say hi and extend a very warm welcome. I hope you enjoy perusing my little space on the interwebs.

I generally post Tuesday, Thursday and once over the weekend, but as I knew there might be a few new readers coming over I thought I'd put up something new. Also, I thought an extra post to check out over the long weekend might be welcome to those with a little time on their hands. And speaking of time - I wanted to put up this post before all the tomatoes disappeared so that if you get inspired you still have time to give it a go.

The bulk of my tomato preserving is straight up in the bottles as I talked about k, however I also like to put up salsa, sauces and chutney if I can source enough tomatoes. I have dreams of one day being able to grow enough for all my preserving needs but alas I'm not there yet so I just source them from the markets or independent fruit & veg shops as I need. But I digress...

I've been intrigued by fermenting tomato salsa. Ever since my success with I've wanted to start trying out other veg to see what I like and what gets eaten. So this week when I saw bags of tomatoes at a good price I thought I'd have a little dabble.

After a lot measured amount of researching recipes and how to guides I was ready to start.

Ingredients washed and ready to go.

For my batch I used about 6 tomatoes, half an onion, 1 green capsicum, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 chillies, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds and 3 teaspoons of salt. How much you use will depend on the size of your jar and the ratio of the ingredients you want. There is no right or wrong. I obviously went for a more tomato dominant salsa but you could add more onion or capsicum if you like. If you want a hot and spicy salsa feel free to add more chillies. You could also use fresh coriander leaves but I just had seed on hand so went with that. The only ingredient you want to be careful about changing is the salt - you need a certain amount of salt to get the right mix of bugs in your ferment to do the things you want and stop the things you don't want.

Colourful layers in the jar.

I decided to chop my ingredients up and layer in the jar but you could mix in a bowl and then stuff in - whatever works for you. Once you've got it all in the jar give it a good squish down with the back of a fork. This pushes the solid bits down and lets the liquid float to the top. You want to make sure all the 'bits' are submerged under the liquid. If your tomatoes haven't produced enough liquid top up with some water or lemon juice if you want a bit of a zing (you could even add this in the mix either way).

After a good 'squishing'.

And that's it. Now you just need to place your jar in a spot on the bench where it wont get disturbed and is out of direct sunlight. Cover with a cloth or lid on top loosely to allow gasses to escape and keep things out. I generally leave my ferments on the bench for 3 days and then pop in the fridge, but it's really up to you and your own taste. The great thing about ferments is you can just taste them each day until you are happy with the flavour, just use a clean spoon each time to avoid contamination. As an aside I think one of the biggest benefits of making things yourself is the ability to tailor things to what you like and what's available. Once ready pop in the fridge. Most of the info suggested the salsa would keep well for up to six months.

After 3 days - you can see bubbles around the edge and a couple in the middle, the liquid is a little cloudy and nothing 'suspect'growing on top - fermenting win!

While I was going I decided to have a go at fermenting a jar of whole tomatoes, and because I had it on hand I popped in some capsicum too. For flavours in this batch I added a clove of garlic chopped and a teaspoon of fennel seeds. I did need to weigh these down a little to keep the tops of the tomatoes submerged. I generally use a circle of plastic that I've cut up from a container lid as It's flexible enough to get under the jar rim but easy to remove.

Whole tomatoes and capsicums ready for the bench treatment.

I've popped both these ferments in the fridge today after a sneaky taste test. Delish. I look forward to using the salsa to add a bit of a lift to Mexican dishes through winter. I think the other veg is likely to end up on a few lunchtime platters.

I think I can safely say that I will be adding both these fermented tomato goodies to my  preserving list for next year. And, if I spy any further well priced bags of tomatoes before the season ends I might just snap them up and put away a few more jars. I think I need a preserving fridge.....

Have you been preserving much as summer winds down?
Ever tried fermented tomatoes or salsa?

Making fermented cucumber pickles

05 March 2018
My first attempt at fermenting cucumber pickles last summer was a taste revelation....and a textural failure! My second attempt was a success on both fronts - I was hooked. Unfortunately it was the end of the cucumber season so once the jar was empty I had to wait.....

The first step this year was to grow the cucumbers. The textural failure last year was the result of using large cucumbers and cutting them into spears like I normally do with the vinegar pickled variety. However, once the little fermenting microbes had their way with my cucumbers they were a little on the mushy side. You definitely need the small whole cucumbers. These are a little harder to come by so I wanted to grow my own.

Pickling cucumber vine growing nicely. Lots of flowers...yay!

Second step is to wait patiently until you have enough to fill a jar or two. Unless you have a lot of vines you are unlikely to have enough cucumbers at the right stage at the right time to fill too many jars. Feel free to buy some small cucumbers and skip the first two steps.

From here on in it's a pretty simple process. Give the cucumbers a wash and trim off the blossom and/or stem if needed. Stuff them in a clean jar with some garlic and herbs. In this batch I used a bay leaf, two cloves of garlic halved and some peppercorns. The limit here is your taste preference - dill, fennel, caraway, coriander or mustard seeds would all work well. You can find plenty of suggestions and recipes on the interwebs too.

Cucumbers and spices in the jar.

Next you cover them with a brine. For this batch I used 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of water. First dissolve the salt in half a cup of boiling water and top up with cold. Then just add enough to your jar to cover. You may need to wedge your cucumbers together or under the neck of your jar so they stay submerged.

Cover your jar with some muslin or just balance the lid back on top loosely - you don't want any bugs or things to get in but you want the fermentation gases to release. Place somewhere out of direct sunlight where they wont be disturbed for 3-10 days. I generally leave mine for around 3 days but it depends on your taste preference - the longer you leave them the more fermentation will occur. Also, they will still ferment slowly once in the fridge.

After 3 days on the bench. You can see the bubbles and cloudiness of the brine.

Then you simply pop them in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy....after a sneaky sample of course.

Are you a pickle kind of person?
Have you been bitten by the fermenting bug (pun intended)?

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