food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Fermentation Station

Who are these mysterious cloaked figures in our kitchen?

Not pictured: 5 gallon crock of sauerkraut

Draped in all kinds of strange cloths, they sit there – for what can seem like ages – emitting interesting smells, attracting the attention of humans and fruit flies alike (hopefully the latter are sufficiently locked out).

Behind Door Number One:


AKA Mushroom Tea

AKA Too Easy (and tasty) NOT To Make Yourself

Ingredients (makes 1 gallon)

1 Kombucha Starter (the “Mother” or “tea beast”)

2 Cups Kombucha (from a pre-made batch or from the store)

3 Quarts Water

1 C Sugar (refined white – for whatever reason the yeast loves it! or cane sugar don’t use honey)

8tsp (or 8 tea bags) of black tea


* Dissolve the sugar in the water in a pot

* Bring the water to a boil; once boiling, turn the water off and add the tea

* Allow the tea to steep for 15 minutes

*Once the liquid has cooled to lukewarm, pour it into an uber clean wide-mouthed gallon jar

* Add the kombucha and the kombucha mother and cover the mouth of the jar with a tea towel and rubber band it tightly over. Trust me, the fruit flies will be more than curious!

* Keep the kombucha in a warm dark place – a kitchen cupboard works great – and test it every now and again.

In 1 – 3 weeks, it should be ready! What is ready? Well, it can vary depending on your tastes – I’ve had kombucha that was sweet and kombucha that was damn near vinegar! Both, I should note, were delicious! Once you get the hang of your brew, feel free to try different (caffeinated) tea combinations. Occasionally I’ll try a green tea/rooibos combo; friends have tried adding ginger and loved it.

And Door Number Two?

Fermented Jalapeno Hot Sauce

Ingredients (Makes 1 ¼ cups)

¾ pounds hot peppers, topped and chopped
2+ cloves garlic
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2Tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider or white vinegar
Water, as needed


* Blend chiles, garlic, salt and sugar in the food processor until you’ve got a thick porridge
*Transfer to a glass bowl and cover with cheesecloth or a tea towel; let it sit for 3 or 4 days at room temperature. Look for small bubbles to appear – You might just hear some fizzing! You might, too, see a little mold forming on the surface. Skim it off and move right along!
* Put your mixture and the vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
* Add water – or any additional salt, vinegar, sugar, etc – to adjust the taste and thickness. Feel free to pass it through a food mill if you like a smoother sauce.
* Put your sauce in a jar and refrigerate – watch (and TASTE!) the flavors meld and change.
* Pour liberally on omlettes, stir fries, roasted potatoes, and anything else you can think of!

Here’s 5 gallons of Deliciousness bubbling away:

The beginning stage of Hard Apple Cider

Well I guess this is the beginning stage of hard apple cider:

The rest is pretty simple. Pour your cider into a clean carboy and top with an air lock (both available at most brew shops). We added about 3 cups of honey, too, to give the natural yeasts more to feed on (a yeasty kick in the pants) and add some sweetness to the mixture.

The rest is good old fashioned neglect, a key ingredient for so many fermentation adventures. Careful: too much neglect can result in a serious flavor-trashing and mold build-up (oh, sauerkraut ’07!). So keep at least a casual eye on your brewing cauldrons; they’ll thank you for it with delicious tanginess that will liven up the darkest of winter days.


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