Category Archives: News

Winter 2015 update: New ferments!

I’ve been focusing much on my own health and healing from lifelong auto-immune disease, and as a result the fermentation project has fallen by the wayside for a year.  I simply did not have the capacity, for most this year, to jar the remaining sauerchi in the crocks, let alone process new batches.

On a related note, I no longer have regular internet access, so cannot provide regular updates.  Contact me via phone (msg or txt) for a more immediate response (see menu link below for #).  Contact me via facebook or email only if you can wait one to two weeks!

My recovery is going well, though, and this winter, with the help of a dear friend, I was able to push and take care of the last remaining batches, which brings us to…

New ferments available!

Caiti and I just jarred almost 28 gallons of sauerchi, all well-aged and mellowed, like a fine wine or cheese. You can see what’s available in the menu: Menu_122815 and below.  Please contact me via phone (see menu link for #) for inventory confirmation.

Cold and Ready (limited stock)

## contact us to confirm current inventory ##

Main Ingredient

(*farm sourced)

Pesto

(*farm-sourced)

Farm Source(s)

*white cabbage, *daikon greens

*radish root, *carrot, garlic

[HG]

*lacinato kale

onion, *apple, *garlic

[HG]

*eggplant

onion, *cilantro, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin

[MIG]

*shredded yellow and green summer squash

onion, *basil, ground mustard

[FOH][MIG]

*hothouse cucumbers

*carrots, *dandelion (roots and greens), *elephant garlic, mustard seed, *veggie brine

[HG][FOH]

*broccoli, *carrots

onion, *cilantro, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chili powder

[MIG]

*red cabbage, *red beets

cranberries (fresh and dried / sweetened; non-organic), *parsley, ginger

[MIG]

*red beets, *red cabbage

*dill, onion, *elephant garlic, mustard seed

[MIG][HG]

*red cabbage, *red beets

onion, *basil, ginger

[MIG]

*white cabbage, *heirloom beets, *carrot

onion, *cilantro, mustard, turmeric, cinnamon

[MIG]

Coming Soon Cold and Ready (new stock!)

Main Ingredient

(*farm sourced)

Pesto

(*farm-sourced)

Farm Source(s) Crock Size

*red cabbage

cranberries (fresh and dried / sweetened; non-organic), onion, *carrot, ginger

[MIG]

5 liter

*savoy and *nappa cabbage

*radish, *carrot, onion, ginger, *rosemary [note: this is a really strong ferment, like a very stinky cheese]

[MIG][HG]

3 gal

*red cabbage and *fennel bulbs

*fennel (fronds and seeds), onion, ginger and turmeric

[MIG][HG]

3 gal

*red cabbage

onion, ginger and garlic

[MIG]

5 liter

*carrots

onion, *carrot sprouts, ginger, garlic, *rosemary

[MIG][HG]

3 gal

*carrots

onion, *carrot sprouts, ginger

[MIG]

3 gal

*chioggia beets

onion, *elephant garlic, *sage, *rosemary, *fennel

[MIG][HG]

20 liter

*golden beets

onion, mustard, turmeric

[MIG]

20 liter

*delicata squash

*carrot, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, clove

[MIG]

20 liter

In the Crocks

Main Ingredient

(*farm sourced)

Pesto

(*farm-sourced)

Farm Source(s) Crock Size

*Heirloom cabbage

Dried blueberries, chocolate mint, lemon balm

[HG]

5 liter

*apple and onion

[This is a long-fermented apple ketchup]

[HG]

3 gal

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Time-Lapse Video and Troubleshooting Cultured Milk

Fermentation can be funny sometimes.  Same ingredients, same process (or so it seems), and yet different results.  Fortunately, “different” seldom means “ruined.”  But it requires us to think creatively or adjust expectations.    So my curds separated from my whey in my dairy ferment.  Ruined?  No, certainly not.  Cheese?  Well on its way!

Donna Schwenk created a short time-lapse video that effectively illustrates how temperature, time and starter ratios (the volume of starter culture compared to fresh milk) all interact to produce different results.  Watch the video here (sorry, there’s no way to embed):

http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/new-video-kefir-separating/

Milk is just a colloidal suspension (specifically, an emulsion) of proteins and fats in water.  Under certain conditions (such as acidification), these different components can separate out.  In this case, the physical process of separation involves the denaturing (curdling) of proteins, causing them to tangle and gob up with one-another, and the production of carbon dioxide, which then gets trapped among the now-solid proteins, causing them to rise to the top of the vessel.  Shaking or stirring typically disentangles and redistributes the proteins, releasing the trapped carbon dioxide as well.

In my experience, the separation tends to happen when acid-producing strains become dominant. There’s a rhythm to backslopping, so the frequency with which you use and renew the culture also affects its behavior (people who work with sourdough tend to understand this principle).  I would consider frequency a fourth variable for us to keep in mind, alongside ratio of starter used and temperature and time (as displayed in the video).

If I’m making a rennet-free kefir or yogurt cheese, then I want the curds to separate from the whey, as the video portrays.  This involves minimal disturbance so the proteins can tangle together and form a gel-matrix.  I can then further drain and salt and press and age the curds into cheese, depending on the type of cheese I want.  However, if I want my dairy ferment to stay smooth and creamy, then I’ll shake and stir it periodically as it ferments, or try making several smaller batches in rapid succession and use a smaller ratio of starter:total volume than normal to rebalance the microbial community.

Relational Note

Learning these subtleties takes fermentation and our relationship with the wonderful micro-organisms who preserve our food and nourish us to a whole new level.  It involves a dialog betwen us and them.  “Ok, this is what I want, what do you need to help me produce those results?”  We think of the industrious little critters less as slaves and more as coworkers and colleagues, and ultimately giving us better food and better emotional results (including less stress!).

Community Note

This post started as a follow up and embellishment of Donna Schwenk’s response to a confused customer’s questions.  I respect her for trying to troubleshoot problems based on 3rd party descriptions.  I wouldn’t.  Too many variables and…ever played a game of telephone?   This brings about another reason for why Saueressen exists:  to provide real-world community-based expertise.  We need to talk directly.  We need to workshop food security in the same room, compare notes as we observe the same problems and processes.  This is the next level of the fermentation revolution.  We have tons of internet experts.  Saueressen will contribute its small part.  But the we need now, more than ever, solid and rigorous community-based expertise.  Just like deli’s dot the map across the continent, Saueressens (and artisan co-ops like them) should find their niche in every community where moderate interest in food fermentation exists.

Join us as we build an Open Food Federation

Open Food Federation founders will meet soon for the first time to discuss the development of a sustainable open technology solutions network for local food hubs everywhere.  All supporters of local food systems and open technologies are welcome to join the discussion.

Learn more at:

http://www.openfoodsource.org/open-invitation-federation-founders-meeting/

The Federation will comprise a nationwide or even international network of local food hubs who contribute to information technology solutions that embody the local food cooperative movement’s values and principles of transparency, collaboration and democratic control.

Pro-biotic Jell-O, anyone? + Protease discussion

The Background

I found some packages of Jell-O lying around. Gelatin is an incredible collagen-based nutrient for the body regarding tissue repair. Have you ever made a bone broth, and put it in the fridge, only to find that much of it had solidified into a gel (and it liquifies again when heated)? That’s because in making bone broths, we use heats and acids (like vinegars) to dissolve or extract nutrients from the bones and connective tissues. Some think that dissolved gelatin contributes significantly to the health benefits of bone broth. I definitely find it a more palatable way to eat connective tissues!

The Experiment

i’m doing a mesophillic SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast) ferment of jell-o to add flavor, nutrition and reduce the finished sugar content, with added fruit (raspberries and chopped whole apple) and cinnamon (which gets slimy when hydrated, so a good option for something like gelatin/pectin). will be interesting to see how well the bacteria and yeast take to the collagen-based medium and whether i can still finish setting the gelatin after fermentation!

Troubleshooting

if this doesn’t work, i’ll use pure gelatin next time (without any of the chemical flavors, conditioners and preservatives), peel the apple and boil the apple peels in the mix water or tea (kombucha jell-o?) to add pectin and aid in the setting of the gelatin.

I also found an interesting tip on the Jell-O package: don’t add fresh or frozen pineapple, figs, ginger root, kiwi, papaya or guava because they’ll prevent the gelatin from setting. Also, not listed b/c it’s not yet commercialized, pawpaw will do the same thing. Kiwi, figs and pawpaw are all temperate climate fruits.

The above fruits contain a high density of proteases — enzymes that help digest proteins. So consider such fruits a useful addition to any protein-heavy meal or ingredient to enhance digestibility. For example, marinate or soak meats or grains in pineapple juice before cooking.  If you reduce the pineapple juice over the stove at a heat above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll likely denature and de-activate the enzymes.  Which is why it’s OK to add cooked fig or kiwi sauce to a Jell-O concoction!

On the flip-side, proteins are often used to enhance texture in or thicken foods (think: gluten, whey and egg whites for baked goods).  So we have a dilemma:  more nutritionally-available (and safer) the foods typically have a broken down protein structure, but contribute less to the “sharp” texture of the finished meal.   In this case, no Jell-o jigglers.  But the liquid version will still taste good and I suspect provide a similar nutrition.  I used to drink — and love — “hot Jell-o” as a kid…mmm…memories!

Updates

This experiement was a smashing success.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys fizzy things and jell-o.  I ate the first batch before it got very bubbly (fruit and jello-o and spices).  In the second batch, I substituted rooibos and ginger tea for the boiling water, and subbed 2 cups of fresh kombucha for the cool water.   In the future, I’ll be making this from scratch with sweet tea and finished kombucha and fresh fruit.

latest concoction: a spiced strawberry apple jell-o with homemade apple cider vinegar and a chamomile-rooibos sweet tea. Next concoction will address the banana-carob connection.  The fruit seems to ferment more readily than the sweetened gelatin.

Sideways and Sauerchi: Introduction to Living Foods

Contents

  1. Background:  Managing Expectations
  2. Inspiration: Maya from Sideways on Wine
  3. Why Wine? A Sideways-sauerchi comparison
  4. Live-culture labeling

Background:  Managing Expectations

I find increasingly that living foods seem to pose a lot of questions and confusion to many of us not used to interacting with them.   How do we start thinking effectively about living foods and our relationship to them?

The way we view our food factors hugely into what we expect of it.  For example, did you know that wineries only tend to clarify (remove tartrate sediment from) their lower-end, cheaper wines, and leave their higher-end wines cloudy?  Clarifying wines takes extra time and labor, and can even result in a lower-quality, less-complex wine.  So why go through the trouble of clarifying low-end wines?  It makes no sense, right?  Except consumers of low-end wines expect a clear wine.  To them, an unclarified wine has “gone bad.”  I don’t know how the expectation got started.  We’ve gotten ourselves stuck in an endless loop, and it seems no one has the courage to dare break the cycle!  Wineries fear losing their low-end market, and consumers fear drinking something “bad.”

On the flip-side, wine snobs will tend to reject “clarified wines” as overprocessed — like the difference between distilled grain vinegar and a fine oak-aged wine vinegar.  So, everyone wins if people can adjust their expectations accordingly:  wineries can save time and money, and low-end wine consumers can get a better product for their money!

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Inspiration:  Maya from Sideways on Wine

Maya explains to Miles, the main character in Sideways, why she likes wine.

Transcript

I like to think about the life of wine.  How it’s a living thing.  I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were grown:  How the sun was shining, the rain…I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes, and — if it’s an old wine — how many of them must be dead by now.

I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I open a bottle of wine today, it will taste different than if I open it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive, and it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity…that is, until it peaks.  And then it begins its steady and inevitable decline.

…And it tastes…So. F***ing. Good.

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Why Wine?  A Sideways-sauerchi comparison

Sauerchi shares many similarities with wine (and beer; and yogurt, and fermented live-culture food in general).  They also have many differences.

I find it useful to think about the similarities between wine and sauerchi because, as Maya explains, they are both /alive/.  However, wine has a more established place in our society.  We can make the transition from dead/canned/pasteurized foods to living foods by thinking about sauerchi in similar ways we think about wine, and adjust our expectations of our food to better nourish ourselves.

  • wine and sauerchi both represent ways to process perishable foods that enhance rather than diminish their value over time (have you ever tasted a 4-year-old sauerkraut?  Yes, they exist!  Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation, describes his experience with them as “sublime”)
  • they continue to change and evolve over time, gaining complexity
  • the rate and type of change depends on their storage conditions
  • they remain sensitive to oxygen, light and heat
  • they can “go bad” if not properly cared for before opened
  • their “going bad” has little to do with danger and mostly to do with expectations and aesthetics (e.g,. wine turns to vinegar; sauerchi can develop kahm yeast [read about it here and here]; when it develops a heavy kahm yeast, it tends to exhibit cheddar-like flavors and textures, and I call it “sauercheese” and enjoy its different properties in this manner, with adjusted expectations).
  • Wine gets fermented in a way to minimize the risk of vinegar bacteria development during its initial fermentation; but subtle and slow processes occur after bottling and during aging, opening and consumption that add to the wine’s complexity and aesthetics.  Similarly, sauerchi gets fermented in a way to minimize the risk of kahm yeast in its initial fermentation, but subtle and slow processes occur during aging, jarring, opening and consumption that add to the sauerchi’s complexity and aesthetics.
  • if left too long in warm or aerobic (“with oxygen”) conditions, wine and sauerchi both turn into different foods with different aesthetics and expectations and uses (wine turns to vinegar; sauerchi turns to sauercheese).

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Live-culture labeling

After thinking through the above, and with feedback from many customers and advisors, it seems necessary to include three short statements that go a little way toward educating customers on the nature of living foods:

I’m a living, breathing food.  Please store me upright in a cool, dark location.  Enjoy my many phases of life!

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SauerNation: in search of Live-Culture Community

SauerNation stands for the growing number of people who demand high quality, locally-sourced, nutritious and affordable live-culture foods.  It includes the artisans who produce such foods, and the farmers who supply them, as well as everyone who eats them.

Navigation

  1. Rights of the Citizens of SauerNation
  2. The Live-Culture Community Vision
  3. Building Live-Culture Community
    • SauerKnowledge
      • SauerForums
  4. Saueressen Membership

Rights of the Citizens of SauerNation

  • The right to access nutritious live-culture foods made with locally-sourced ingredients
  • The right to know your live-culture food along the entirety of its supply chain
  • The right to meet the people involved in producing your live-culture food
  • The right to learn how to make and use live-culture foods

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The Live-Culture Community Vision

Together, our collective work of SauerNation will build a live-culture community supporting

  1. Access to nutritious, locally-sourced live-culture foods
  2. Local organic farms, farmers and farming practices
  3. Local artisan producers
  4. SauerKnowledge to help you
    • make your favorite live-culture foods
    • use live-culture foods in your diet
  5. Neighborhood food security hubs that
    • provide economic and professional opportunities for individuals
    • build community food preservation capacity
    • produce, store and distribute emergency nutrition supplies
    • prevent food spoilage and waste at all points in the local food system
    • develop the community’s capacity to feed itself during “long emergencies”

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Building Live-Culture Community

Contact us to get involved. We need artisan-producers, consumers and farm-suppliers (including urban small-plot intensive farmers)!

SauerKnowledge

The Saueressen Knowledge Base — needs your input: submit recipes, how-to, tips and tricks, or other information, or help take on an leadership role in building our local capacity for live-culture foods.

SauerForums

Saueressen will host two forums to help facilitate community discussion on the two main subjects of SauerKnowledge:

  • How to make your favorite live-culture foods
  • How to use live-culture foods in your diet

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Saueressen Membership

Anyone may buy from Saueressen at the standard prices.

Annual Membership Fee: $40 to become a Saueressen member, which includes 5 pints of Sauerchi or equivalent value products. Members may purchase additional Sauerchi or other products at member discount for the year of their membership.

Low-income customers on SNAP: $20 to become a Saueressen member, which includes 3 pints of Sauerchi or equivalent-value products. Saueressen will accept SNAP/EBT in the future. Low-income members may purchase additional Sauerchi or other products at member discount for the year of their membership.

Saueressen exists as a worker cooperative collectively-owned by its fermentation artisans.

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Future Considerations

Saueressen will offer a membership for food service / institutional customers that includes an upfront purchase fee for quarts of Sauerchi.

Saueressen will offer a lifetime membership option to all customers, including low-income customers. The lifetime membership fee for low-income customers will consist of an upfront payment of part of the total membership fee, with a flexible payment plan for the rest of the fee.

Membership will include access to a shared benefits network with other local cooperatives or other locally-owned businesses.

The Saueressen strategic plan includes the establishment of neighborhood food security hubs that use and promote traditional low-energy methods of preservation. This concern over the distribution of food and food technologies may require changing the structure of Saueressen from a worker-owned cooperative to a community cooperative owned by workers and customers both. Saueressen must also actively build consumer capacity to locally source and prepare their own live-culture foods, which will blur the line between artisan producers and consumers, changing its business model from a “community-supported enterprise” to a “community-generated enterprise.”

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A Day at the Market

Narrative

To bed at 2am after a long day.  Up at 6:30am.  Load up coolers, load up car.  Pick up partner in crime (so to speak).  Arrive at the Salem Public Market slightly before 8am.  Set up the display by 8:30am, which turned into a very nice rainbow fo colors.  Chatted with other vendors and learned a lot.  Sampled about three pints worth of Sauerchi between 9am and 1pm.  Said hi to dozens of people.  Helped make several sales for the Salem Food Co-op.  Bartered with other vendors.  Drank too much coffee.  Returned wired.  Put everything away.  Todo list followup.  CRASH.

Quotes

The most memorable quotes from the day…a very engratiating and humbling reception!

(after first bite) Wow…oh my God!

You should be here every week.  You’ll be here next week, right?

[Do you want a receipt?]  No, I want a spoon!

I didn’t think I liked pickles for 49 years!

Pictures

With Saueressen, you can eat the rainbow for all the health benefits it entails.  No food coloring added — it’s all from the ingredients themselves!  As flavorful as they are colorful, too!