Tag Archives: sauerchi

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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Thinking Categorically About Food

People often ask me where my culinary creativity comes from.  This post addresses at least one major source which I call “categorical thinking.”  Saueressen is not just an artisan cooperative delivering farm-fresh fermented foods to the community, but also an educational institution teaching live-culture life skills, empowering people toward greater freedom, nutrition and culinary capacities in their lives!  This and other posts will serve as foundations for community-based workshop curricula, part of Saueressen’s work to reskill the local foodshed.

Contents

  1. The Foundations of a Pantry Chef
  2. Examples, aka Ethan’s non-specific relationship with food
  3. Making it happen: abundance, scarcity and fear

The Foundations of a Pantry Chef

A huge part of working with food effectively involves what I call “categorical thinking.”  That is, thinking about the different elements of the kitchen process and how they contribute to the overall dish.  In the specific case of ingredients, something might add saltiness, or moisture, or fat, or sweetness, or sourness, or umami, or chewiness, or creaminess, or bulk, it may act as a binder or thickener, aromatic, savory, any or all the above and more.

Thinking categorically about food allows us to improvise and empowers us to explore new combinations and hone in on core ingredients to keep stocked in our pantries.  This largely distinguishes a good pantry chef from someone who feels dependent on specific recipes and tools.   Don’t have that one ingredient?  Rush to the store!  Don’t have that one kitchen item?   Better go buy it!  Pull together your weekly shopping list based on your recipe plan.  Recipes, lists, cell-phone apps, endless specialized tools, oh my!  How did people get by without these things?  Pantry chefing saves time and money while leading to amazing discoveries.  Pantry chefing generally allows us to throw together fantastic meals from ingredients on-hand, and it affords us flexibility to substitute and experiment piecemeal and bit by bit with new ingredients even as we maintain a solid foundation.

Pantry chefing means knowing the true value of what we have.  For example, that lemon balm growing like a weed outside your building isn’t just for shits and giggles — it makes a fantastic culinary herb.  The first time I made zaatar, I didn’t have sumac on-hand, so I went to the store.  I couldn’t find it at any store, after trying several.  I did, however, remember that it imparted a lemony-sour flavor to the dish.  So I minced some lemon balm and macerated it in vinegar and added that into the zaatar.  It turned out fantastic.  Not exactly the same as zaatar with sumac, but still really good in its own right.  Lemon balm also makes a great pesto.  In fact, “pesto” just means “ground into a paste.”  You can make a pesto out of pretty much any tender, leafy aromatic herb.  Not just basil. Carrot fronds, parsley, cilantro, mint, oregano, sage, etc.

Everyone knows you serve fish with a slice of lemon or lemon juice, right?  Don’t have lemon on hand?  Try another citrus fruit.  Don’t have any citrus on hand?  Well, try pan-frying fish covered in a garlic-lemon balm paste (use a fat like butter, lard or coconut oil to smear the paste onto the fish) and vinegar (either in a marinade or as a condiment).  Or, maybe you have sumac on-hand.  Congrats — by substituting things out for the “citrus” and “sour” categories, your cooking just got a whole lot more creative!

Don’t have honey?  Mollasses, maple syrup, fruit syrup, sugary fruit preserves all do the trick, and vice-versa, while adding their unique footprint to the finished recipe.

Making mayonnaise?  It requires egg yolk, right?  Well, mayo is really just emulsified oil with added salt, sweet and acid components, sometimes a fancy “aioli” with aromatics like herbs or garlic.  What else works as an emulsifier?  Try substituting avocado for the egg yolk.  You might understand this instinctively, knowing that avocado makes great smoothies or can make a fantastic egg-free banana bread.  With categorical thinking, you just landed smack dab in the middle of a delicious bowl of vegan mayo — without any of those weird ingredients you find in the commodity “veganaise” you might buy at the store!

In no way do I disparage recipes or recipe-based weekly grocery lists.  I think they are great starting points for reskilling ourselves in the art of food prep.  But I encourage everyone to move beyond that limitation and develop their own culinary repertoire, vision and style.  One major way we do that is through categorical thinking.

Taste, smell, texture, size.  What ingredients cook quickly, burning easily or turning to mush?  What ingredients take a while?  What “residual flavors” do you want to impart?  Maybe you should cook those things first, unless their flavor burns off quickly.  Then add them last or even save them as a fresh ingredient or garnish.

One of the trade-offs is specificity.  Most people who make recipes don’t really seem to know what they are doing.  But there are many recipes out there that call for specific ingredients and processes, and for good reason.  While thinking categorically in many ways lowers the bar and makes recipes easier, it also means we need to broaden our expectations about the results, because it will most often result in different tastes and textures in the end product.  It’s also possible to acheive results very close to the original recipe, but I think mimicry should take a back seat to discovery as the goal.  Different does not mean “better” or “worse.”  Our goal to produce a satisfying, delicious, pleasing result always remains, even though the result might be slightly different than that one recipe you found on that one website or in that one book.  Or maybe you have a recipe handed down to you through generations of family folklore.  You can decide whether you commit an act of tribute or sacrilege through creative categorical modification.

On a similar note, sometimes a specialized tool really does the job better, more quickly, more safely.  On the other hand, it takes a chunk of change from your wallet and will just add to the already-formidable kitchen clutter (don’t try to tell me you don’t have kitchen clutter without explaining exactly how you’ve managed to work your way around that landmine).  For the longest time, I didn’t have a double-boiler.  But I have pots and bowls. So I just nested a small glass bowl neatly inside a pot of slightly larger diameter filled with water and made sure the bottom of the bowl didn’t touch the bottom of the pot.  It worked well enough.  But the second-hand dedicated double boiler bowl I have now gives me greater capacity and it allows me to use the pot lid.  And at the end of the day it’s also, you know…a bowl.

I do the vast majority of all my food prep with a chef’s knife and a paring knife.  I love learning new knife techniques.  However, if you make a lot of julienned vegetables — consider them a staple in your weekly household fare, rather than a phase — then it might be worth getting that one device that makes julienning a little easier, faster and safer for us mere mortals.

Here’s some more examples of categories I think about, to get you started…consider this a window into my mind, how I think about “specific dishes”

Examples, aka Ethan’s non-specific relationship with food

Tabbouleh:  minced aromatic salad, usually with a salt and acid component, diced fruit (dried or fresh) and a minced carbohydrate (for paleo, i use apple or carrot or dried fruit; for gluten-free, try quinoa instead of bulgar wheat) and lots of olive or avocado or walnut oil to give it a moist mouth feel.  The last tabbouleh I made was from carrot fronds with lots of supplemental aromatic herbs, including mint, oregano, sage and lemon balm.  It’s a great way to dispose of a wealth of herbs.  Tabbouleh also makes a great summer dish because it doesn’t require heating up the house — another food category.  During the hottest days, I tend to focus more on light salads, coleslaws with sides of cold meats (like salami or smoked salmon or chicken).

Sausage:  minced or ground salted aromatic fatty meats
As long as the meat is minced or finely chopped, it’s fatty enough, and salty enough, it starts tasting a lot like sausage.  Beyond that, no matter what other ingredients I add, it always turns out great sausage.  I just made some ground beef sausage with finely minced fennel fronds, basil and mint blossoms (stuff from my garden), garlic, onion and wine vinegar.  The meat wasn’t fatty enough, so I minced some frozen bacon fat and added it in to the mix.  Turned out fantastic.  Consequently, this is how I started adding organ meats and other nutrient dense offal back into my diet.  Texture and taste are acquired, and I can say I have not, in the course of my life, acquired a fondness for the texture and taste of liver.  However, when I chop it and mix it with aromatic herbs and spices and salt it, I love the texture and taste.  I can still tell it’s liver, but now it’s…surprisingly good, and even more nutrient dense than plain liver (is that even possible?).  Try one teaspoon of salt per pound of meat, and go heavy on the aromatics.

Kraut:  brined and fermented brassicas, undrained, plain or with other ingredients.

Chi:  brined and fermented brassicas, drained and flavored with an aromatic paste or pesto.

Sauerchi:  The best of both worlds.

Fries:  stripped or julienned starchy vegetables, fried and salted.  Use medium-high heat (depending on the veggie) so they are a bit crispy and brown on the outside and tender on the inside.  I can’t eat potatoes, but I make fries with sweet potatoes, sunchokes, carrots and other roots and tubers, even squash strips or kholrabi.

Saag:  spiced leafy green vegetables stewed in fat and broth until tender and mellow.  I make it with bumper crops of spinach, wild spinach (pigweed/amaranth greens), and chard, mostly, but you can use pretty much any leafy green, even kale or collards (although it will take longer to cook and have a different texture).  You can get rid of a LOT of greens in a single pot of saag.  I use the tender stems, but chop them like celery and onions and add them in at the beginning with the rest of the soup base so they have extra time to heat and reduce and tenderize with the rest of the base ingredients.  Otherwise, they might ruin the smooth and creamy texture.  The spices are up to you. Sometimes I do something more mediterranean, but often I use combos of ginger and cinnamon and clove.  Meat optional, but I always cook the veggies in the base very well before adding the greens, deglazing several times to reduce and dissolve them (for texture) and caramelize their sugars, bringing natural sweetness and depth to the dish.  If I have it on-hand, I’ll add bone broth or extra fat (coconut or dairy cream, butter, coconut oil, lard, etc) to enhance creaminess.

Frittata:  a beaten egg mixture poured and cooked over stir-fried vegetables — a savory egg pie.  Prepped on stovetop w/a lid on the pan or finished in the oven to crisp the top.  A quiche is just a frittata with a crust around it.  Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo got rid of the carbs but kept the crust with her Prosciutto-wrapped mini frittata muffins (is it a muffin?  is it a frittata?  is it a quiche?  Yes!), in a great example of creative categorical culinary thought.

Soft tea:  a home-brewed soft drink made from tea, sweetened and fermented to add some sourness and carbonation.  Examples of soft tea include kombucha, which tends to be pretty acidic, bordering on unfinished vinegar (not my cup of tea), and ginger beer (which requires steeping the ginger in boiling or hot water for a while to extract the gingery goodness).  I like my soft teas with a subtle sourness that sets them apart from kombucha, very little sweetness (because the sour isn’t overwhelming and my body doesn’t do well with lots sugar and I the flavor of the tea itself to come through the sourness and the sweetness) and moderate carbonation.

Revisit what you know about “soups” and “stews” and “pies” and baked and stovetop dishes, marinades and sauces and others.  Categorical thinking tends to focus on prep techniques and processes just as much as ingredients.  Much of the results reside in the process.  For example, sometimes taste comes from process rather than ingredients. The first time I brought my ginger beer to a party, someone said, “mmm, it tastes like it has lemon in it!” I said, “it doesn’t.”  It has three ingredients:  water, honey and ginger. “How did you get it to taste lemony?” she asked.  “I sweeten and ferment it until it sours mildly with lactic and acetic acid, then I resweeten it slightly and bottle it to carbonate.  That way it stays low-alcohol.”  <long pause>  “…So, you’re saying it doesn’t have any lemon in it…?”

Categorical thinking cuts both ways, like a double-edged sword.  You can get all the ingredients right, but still screw up the process.  Or, thinking about it differently, you can create a completely different dish using the same ingredients with a different process.  Don’t want frittata?  Have an omelette instead!  Or some stir-fried veggies and a side of eggs over-easy.  Same ingredients.

Consider the techniques, texture (e.g,. fibrous, crisp, mushy), cutting/chopping pattern, tastes, smells, nutrition, tools (how are you going to get the skin off that raw winter squash?), functional roles (is that going to work as a binder?), etc.

I often substitute leeks (aka “bunching onions”) for both onion bulbs (cooked) and green onions (raw) in many dishes, because I have them on-hand (they grow prolifically in my garden with little or no help for me, stocking me with onions for months out of the year).  I sometimes also think of “alliums” as a culinary category, much like “citrus” or “parsley” (carrot greens, celery greens, etc).  Don’t have onion?  I can still add garlic or chives.  Different, but still pungent-sweet-good.

Want to do barbeque chicken, but don’t have either a grill or a barbeque sauce?  Well, barbeque sauce combines a sweetened fruit base with alliums (onions — oftened caramelized — and/or garlic), acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice) and salt.  The last barbeque sauce I made was from blueberries.  It’s a very strongly-flavored condiment that adds to and enhances the flavor of the entire dish, so don’t be afraid to go heavy on the acid, salt and sweet.  The grill adds a smokey flavor, but you can still easily achieve the browning by searing the salted chicken at high heat before slathering in sauce and baking or braising.  I can’t have tomatoes, but I also love making barbeque sauce and sloppy joe’s using applesauce or apple-based ketchups as a substitute.  Delicious!

Making it happen:  Abundance, Scarcity and Fear

In the end, the categories you use reflect your individual focus and priorities, including your skills, tools, preferences, challenges, etc.  Some people just cannot bring themselves to make tabbouleh without parsley.  Others cannot bear to think of orange as a substitute for lemon.  All of which brings up another wonderful point:  categorical thinking helps people explore and develop their individual culinary voice and vocabulary.  It leads to culinary diversity, which I find wonderful because when you and I talk shop, we’ll offer one-another unique perspectives on food prep.  Our dialog creates even more ideas and possibilities to explore.  So, you don’t like orange juice with fish because it’s too sweet and not sour enough?  Yup.  What if we add some apple cider or wine vinegar to it?  No, it’s not lemon juice but…hmmm…mmmm…interesting.  Ya know, I’d like to braise a chicken in this!  Oh, wow.

Thinking categorically starts when you flip the switch from the train of thought that asks, “what ingredients or skills or tools don’t I have?” to “what ingredients and skills and tools do I have to meet the spirit of the need at hand?”  This describes the difference between scarcity-based and abundance-based thought.  Scarcity thinking confines us in a cacoon of fear, limits and controls us.  In contrast, abundance thinking frees us to relate and experiment and experience and grow and share.  Another positive consequence of abundance-based thinking is that it implies and facilitates greater gratitude, graciousness and appreciation for life, which also helps enhance our mood and make us happier and healthier.  When I make mistakes, I now look for the lessons and growth opportunities.  Not only do I become better, stronger, etc as a result — but it also lowers my stress level a lot.  More specifically, thinking in terms of abundance about categories of food, ingredients, processes, techniques and tools provides us endless possibilities to explore.  Which of the literally infinite possible things can you do with an onion?  I know a few…and I aim to learn more all the time.

Some might think, “Ok, that’s all well and good, but where do I start?”  You start wherever you are at, with whatever you know and whatever you have.   You learn to trust yourself and your senses and your vision and imagination — the more you use them, the greater they grow in strength and sensitivity and usefulness.  I started over a decade ago with nothing but a cheap chef’s knife (that I still have and love) and the knowledge that I liked making quesadillas.  My quesadillas steadily evolved from cheese in a folded tortilla, fried.  Then I added some veggies and salsa.  Then I caramelized some onions.  Oooh.  After a year or so, my quesadillas started looking more like fried tacos, stuffed full of delicious veggies and meats and sauces, but they still had that cheese and crispy fried tortilla.  This is called embellishment, an important component of categorical thought.  Try it with grilled cheese, or pasta, or any other simple dish you know.  Then, when things get complicated, revisit the basics.  After years of making soups, I recently discovered a new favorite (and nutritious) comfort food:  rich bone broth, slightly salted, with fresh thyme and coconut milk.

You develop culinary skills by practicing and picking up hints and tips here and there and making mistakes and learning from them.  It took me ten years until I observed and learned how to hold a chef’s knife…and as long to learn how to keep it sharp and file down the spine so that it doesn’t bite into my hand.  I don’t regret those intervening years at all — far from time wasted, they remain filled with amazing adventures and discoveries along the way.  I learned many easy and difficult lessons.  Most recently, when I almost severed my pinky finger from my hand, I learned the importance of always a. staying attentive and present to the task at hand, b. clearing and maintaining a clean and uncluttered workspace for food prep, and c. letting the knife fall, if it falls, rather than trying to catch it.  I feel incredibly grateful for those lessons — they have made me a better person and contribute in many other indirect and unseen ways to my life.  Similarly, by adding too much oil or salt to a dish, I learned how to identify “enough.”

I tell people that “I eat my mistakes,” as a way to both literally and figuratively ingest them and pick them apart so I know what to do better or differently next time and really let the lessons sink in.  By relishing learning opportunity, I don’t allow my fear of mistakes to paralyze me so much anymore.  Yes, I still fear mistakes.  When I release myself from fear of making mistakes, even my mistakes become gifts.  Sometimes, they represent the greatest gifts, as some of my biggest mistakes have also led to some of my biggest successes and points of growth.  That to me represents the immense power of abundance-based thought.

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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Pizza with Sauerchi

Day-old pizza.  What to do?  My dad loves it cold, straight out of the fridge.  Blech.  I like to reheat it, but none of that soggy microwave business.  Here’s what I do to give myself a fantastic taste and texture with enhanced nutrition without a noticeable increase in prep time:

  1. Preheat a well-seasoned iron frying pan on low
  2. Finely mince some fresh herbs (or use dried herbs or spices, whatever you have on hand).  I mince some sage, thyme and rosemary.  Sometimes with oregano.  I use a generous amount — the taste is sublime!
  3. Put the pizza in the frying pan (keep the temperature low), sprinkle the herbs over the pizza, douse with a bit of olive oil and black pepper and turmeric (black pepper and turmeric synergize to increase health effects).
    1. TIP:  if you have a hard time fitting two pieces, try cutting them in half lengthwise and arrange them in the pan alternating the direction of the crust.
    2. TIP:  Bend the tips up the side of the pan, since they cook fast anyway.
  4. Cover and fry/steam on low for a few minutes until the bottoms are crispy and the tops are melty.
  5. Remove and serve immediately with a few dollops of sauerchi.
  6. Eat up to the crust.  Save the crust for dessert.
  7. For dessert:  Tear the crust open and apart where it connected to the rest of the pizza (the part you just ate), to expose the soft insides, to create little mini breadsticks.
  8. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.
  9. Add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the plate or bowl.
  10. Dip the cinnamon-sprinkled crust in the oil and vinegar and enjoy!

Total prep time:  about 10 minutes.

Using this method, I enjoy day-after pizza more than the original!  It’s crunchy, melty, gooey, with added nutritional density to make up for the fact that it’s, well, pizza.  The sauerchi adds a great flavor and temperature counterpoint.  By saving the crust, I get a satisfying dessert as well.

This recipe fits under the principles of using leftovers as the “original fast food” as well as combining leftovers as ingredients in new meals.  In other words:  don’t just reheat — consider it an ingredient for something new.  If it’s a new concept, this recipe is a great first step in that direction.

Pro tip:  Sauces can have a dramatic impact on the rest of the pizza flavor.  If you make pizza from scratch, try using sauerchi as a pizza base substitute for tomato sauce.  Mix with yogurt or sauercream for a creamy base.  Although baking it kills the live cultures…yum!

How do you use your live-culture foods?  Write in and let us know!

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!

Saueressen on salt

Although many others discuss the matter of salt in ferments, and do a pretty good job, Saueressen has yet to find a more complete practical discussion of salt.  We attempt a more complete introduction to salt use, below, in two parts:  How much salt?  (the more popular question first) and Which salt?  Please comment if you have questions or more information / experience to share.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Salt?
  2. How much salt should I use?
    1. General Guidelines
    2. Ingredients Quality
    3. Self-brining?
    4. Remember Osmosis
    5. Salt for Security
  3. Which Salt?
  4. Final Note:  The Value of Salt

Why salt?

Salt performs several functions in a vegetable fermentation process.  Among other things, it

  • inhibits the growth of undesirable organisms,
  • inhibits the activity of pectic enzymes that threaten to turn your ferment to mush
  • slows down and regulates the fermentation process,
  • draws water from the vegetables to create an anaerobic brine,
  • helps select for anaerobic lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) that create the desired end product and
  • enhances and balances the flavor of the ferment (making it taste less acidic)

Salt has a place of importance in such ferments.  That said, people can and do ferment without them.  For example, some people ferment vegetables in wine.  In Nepal people mash kale leaves and ferment them unsalted in their own juices to create gundruk, a food of great national importance (emphasis mine):

The shredded leaves are tightly packed in an earthenware pot, and warm water (at about 30°C) is added to cover all the leaves.[2] The pot is then kept in a warm place.[2] After seven days, a mild acidic taste indicates the end of fermentation and the gundruk is removed and sun-dried.[2]This process is similar to sauerkraut production except that no salt is added to the shredded leaves before the start of gundruk fermentation.[2]

Gundruk has very different characteristics than sauerkraut (including the fact that it results in a sun-dried product).  Those differences stem from different processing techniques and expectations, and have little or nothing to do with the safety, quality and performance of the ferment itself.  In fact, what makes for good sauerkraut might make for bad gundruk, and vice-versa.  So much of what makes a “good ferment” boils down to expectations formed out of preference and acquired taste.

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How much salt should I use?

Short answer: salt to taste.

Not satisfied with that answer?  Same here.  Some further guidelines and points to consider, below.

General Guidelines (longer answer)

use more salt if:

  • your ferment involves physically-delicate ingredients
  • your fermentation enviornment tends to run hot (70-75 or higher *F)
  • you do not have a reliable airlock and way to keep your ferment submerged in the brine (e.g,. a weight or various mechanical systems — ask about those and I’ll write an overview)
  • you are doing a “plain jane” ferment without other protective ingredients (garlic, onion, herbs, spices)

use less salt if:

  • your ferment involves tougher vegetables you wouldn’t mind softening a little bit during fermentation
  • your fermentation environment tends to run cold (65-60 or lower)
  • you have a reliable airlock system (airlocked crocks, airlocked mason jars, or baile-top [fido-style] mason jars) and submersion method
  • you tend to ferment with other protective ingredients (garlic, onion, herbs, spices)

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Ingredient Quality

Different vegetables — and even the same vegetables across different farms or harvests — contain different salt/water/sugar balances.  Celery, for example, typically has a high salt content.  I’ve worked with both relatively dry, dense and savory and relatively heavy and sweet cabbages.  Technically the same cabbage, but grown and harvested at different times and places.  The carrots I get from one of my farm suppliers taste so juicy, crunchy and sweet, it almost feels like I’m eating a fruit or a piece of candy.  That difference in going into the ferment creates a noticeable difference in the outcome as well.

Other ingredients have preservative qualities in the ferment, such as garlic, onion, antioxidant/anti-microbial herbs and spices (ginger, rosemary, tannic acids from grape or oak leaves, etc).  These “minor ingredients” help balance the finished flavor while providing additional protection for the ferment throughout its lifecycle (including in storage), potentially allowing more flexibility on salt use.  I’ve found adding such ingredients gives me much more flexibility and control over the finished flavor, quality and longevity of the ferment — so much so that it’s become a core part of the Saueressen Process and our concept of sauerchi.

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Self-brining?

Use enough salt to extract juice from shredded vegetables.  NOTE:  The more finely shredded the vegetable, the less salt needed to create the self-brine.  If the shredding is too coarse, you run the risk of oversalting to create the brine!  If you drain off some of the excess brine, it will leave the remaining vegetables much less salty.  Adding ingredients, such as an unsalted pesto, will also further reduce the salt content (which can rescue base ingredients that you accidentally oversalted).  You may also rinse over-salted vegetables, in a pinch.

Remember Osmosis

The perfect amount of salt will initially taste like too much salt, until it diffuses equally throughout the liquids and solids of the ferment over the course of about a week.  The same principle applies when adding salt to soup or sourdough bread, so if you’re used to seasoning soup, you should have an idea of what to expect when salting vegetables for a ferment.

Salt The Top for Security

A ferment will always most likely (and often does) become contaminated along its edges — especially the top.  Sprinkle additional salt over the top of the packed ferment to give the top of the brine or other surface more protection during the vulnerable, early stages of the ferment.  The salt will diffuse throughout the rest of the ferment over time.  Only take this opportunity if the ferment still needs additional salt!

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Ok, sheesh.  So, which salt?

Short answer: Use either unrefined mineral (mined) salt or unrefined sea (evaporated) salt in fine grain texture (e.g, not rock salt or flake or powder).

Both unrefined sea and mineral salts have all the good stuff the ferments need (trace minerals and nutrients, fantastic flavor) and none of the bad stuff (such as aluminum and other chemical additives).  Supposedly the iodide supplement in table salt can further inhibit or kill the micro-organisms responsible for fermentation, but I haven’t noticed a difference.  Even then, it could be useful to slow down overly-vigorous fermentations (e.g,. in a warm environment).

Consider the granularity of the salt — how coarse or fine the salt is.  Fine-grain sea salt tends to be cheap, ubiquitous and practical.  It stores compact, doesn’t require additional processing to use, is easy to measure and handle, and dissolves quickly into solution.  If you keep recipes and use different sizes of salt grains, remember to measure by weight and not volume!

Some people also consider salt a spice and pay a premium for different types of specialty or “finishing” salts to affect taste, texture and even color, such as black salt and smoked salt.  Whatever floats your boat, although such salts probably get lost in a ferment (if you’ve found specialty salts useful in ferments, please write in and let us know!).

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Final note:  the value of salt

Our bodies are self-contained sacks of salty brine.  We need salt to live.  If the concentration of salt in our bodies falls too low, our bodies stop functioning. Yet, we need freshwater, not salt water to help balance things on the other end.  Human (and probably most) life depends on a very delicate balance — a balance that requires our bodies to continually readjust.  Readjustment requires, at its core, salt and freshwater.

In light of this delicate balance, throwing something like a vegetable brine away feels to me like throwing away liquid gold.  Such a rich, nutritious and useful liquid, full of electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, sugars and other nutrients.

Instead of throwing out excess brine:

  • Reduce it down to a thick, syrupy brine.  It will store for a long time in a refrigerator.
  • Use it in recipes that call for both salt and liquid.
  • Use it as a soy sauce substitute — it provides much of the same rich, umami flavor.
  • Use it to deglaze/braze pan-cooked meals (such as veggies, meat, rice, quinoa, etc; just don’t add dry salt!)
  • Create marinades and dressings with it
  • Make a stock, broth, soup or stew out of it
  • Use it as brine in non-self-brining ferments

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