When you can’t stop saying the F word

water kefir grains || cityhippyfarmgirl

water kefir grains

It quite often brings on a wrinkle of noses, pouty lips, raised eyebrows and sometimes, just plain disgust. It’s a word certainly not to everyone’s taste, and yet…

I just can’t help myself.

I repeat the word again and again, while most people switch off. Sometimes there is a low mumble of vague fained interest, with their silent words screaming bloody hippy, and yet I still can’t stop saying it.

fermented vegetables || cityhippyfarmgirl

Fermentation.

See I said it again. I say it again with joy and amazement. Fermentation, it’s not the dirty word that so many us think that it is, I promise, it really isn’t. On the contrary it’s a word that brings life and excitement to a conversation, just as it does to our palate and gut health.

The joy of coming across another fermenter in everyday daily life and talk is beyond exciting. It’s a conversation of respect, excitement and happiness. One of curiosity and intrigue and a use of words that generally don’t get thrown around together in the after school pick up line. There’s an understanding and unparalleled enthusiasm to hear more.

I’ve seen it before in other conversational areas that are usually thrown to societies fringes, (as that’s where I frequently lurk), an excitement that truly is contagious. When you hear another person, mention the mere whispered word of kefir or scoby…

Ohhh, you’re talking FERMENTATION! Yes you are, yes you are!

sandor katz || cityhippyfarmgirl

Sandor Katz at a recent fermentation talk and Nick from Milkwood

So with that enthusiasm in mind, I will not curb my tongue and lessen the frequency in eliciting the F word. I will shout it loud and shout it proud, to anyone that cares to listen. I will drop the F word into conversation where ever I see fit and from this day forth I shall proudly say…

F#%* yeah! I’m a fermenter!

the Art of Fermentaion Sandor Katz || cityhippyfarmgirl

Fermentation Bible

For more rather exciting dabbles in fermentation see these posts-

sourdough– how to make a starter

ginger beer that will put hairs on your chest

how to make sauerkraut

pride of the pickles

 mead– not just for Vikings

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Mead, not just for Vikings

plum mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

I’d never really paid much attention to mead. I had heard of it certainly, but had never tried it. Not because I didn’t want to, I just well…didn’t pay it much attention.

But then fermentation stepped into my life. Sourdough certainly. Sauerkraut became a staple. Pickles started appearing and then I got a box of plums.

See it was the box of plums that pushed me to the mead. I needed to process the whole box, but space (as always) was an issue. I couldn’t store that amount of jars of jam or chilli sauce, nor could I freeze a huge amount either. I went looking, flicked through the trusty bible, figuring there must be some other way of fermenting with plums I hadn’t thought of.

So that’s how mead stepped in.

I read, planned and hesitantly started. Within 24 hours there was fermentation action happening and that was just a little bit exciting. There are just three ingredients in there- honey, water and plums. That’s it, and then the bottle started bubbling like an excitable volcano. The excitement was contagious. I continually checked and stirred it. I thought it would take about a week for bubbles to ease off but it only took 5 days (Sydney, Australia summer time). Strained and bottled, the taste test.

It was good. I thought.

I say I thought, because at this stage, I still had no idea what mead tasted like, so had nothing to gauge it by. It’s hard to tell whether there is much alcohol content. The test would be to down the bottle on an empty stomach and see what happens, but that didn’t seem likely to happen.

Ten days into the fermentation, (second fermentation period) the mead developed a thin mould layer. It had a closed lid, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I did what any hack city hippy would do, and shook it in, ignored it and popped it in the fridge.

But not before I had a good smell of it. I have finally gotten to trust my nose. With all my fermenting experiments I always smell them along the way. Observing differences, subtle changes and really trying to identify when and where things start to change. I trust my nose and if I’m not sure, well I don’t use it- The Plum Mead smelt fine, and while several weeks later into the fermentation process the taste was fairly underwhelming, I am keen to try it again.

golden coloured mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

Next, I started on a Honey Mead, (or honey wine). Raw honey and unchlorinated water, that’s it.

Now according to Sandor Katz, (who I was lucky enough to hear speak recently) raw honey already contains abundant yeasts- with pasteurisation or cooking killing them off.

“The yeasts are inactive so long as the honey’s water content remains at or below 17 percent (as it is in fully mature honey). But increase the water content just a little bit beyond  that and the yeasts wake right up.”

And so I did. I woke those little things up with a ratio of 1:4, following the instructions, and intermittently smelling it. At the end of three weeks I have a lovely light (green) sweet tasting mead. I can’t liken it to anything else I’ve ever had, but it’s good and I think this could be the beginning of many more meads to come.

So what do my two experiments with mead making have to do with Vikings?

Well according to Norse mythology, mead seems to be heavily linked with the Norse god Odin and along with it, anyone that drinks mead may become a poet or scholar. I’m still waiting for poetic inspiration, but perhaps I simply haven’t made or drunk enough of the honey gold beverage?

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All of my mead making inspired by 

The Art of Fermentation- Sandor Katz

pride of the pickle

fermented pickle- cityhippyfarmgirl

It worked! It really worked!!

It’s not every day that you excitedly talk pickles with your landlord’s handy man. But I did, and here I was again, excitedly telling him over the phone that the very same pickles we had been scrutinising several days earlier had indeed worked, and I was just a little bit excited.

I had made sauerkraut before, and that was certainly easy enough, (although the last batch did have to tossed out due to a truly unimaginable miasma settling in my kitchen-due to it being far too hot to be fermenting sauerkraut. Bless my birkinstocks, and oh my goodness…it stank. It really did.)

So with the sauerkraut in mind, I was a little nervous embarking on the pickles. Consulting the fermentation bible though and it seemed hot weather was still ok to work with. I had some wonky farmers market cucumbers that seemed perfect for pickling. So lets give this pickle thing a crack.

pickles- cityhippyfarmgirl

Each day I would study the jar, looking for changes. On the third day I found them. It started going a little cloudy, then on the fourth there was a scum on the top. I wasn’t sure, I really wasn’t. I’d just seen the week before, a 20cm high mould growth from the top of someones pickles. Was this the beginning of a similar path??

fermenting pickles- cityhippyfarmgirl

surface mould on the fermenting pickles- small ceramic dish to weigh the pickles down and keep submerged.

Then the handy man came over. After tending my minor fixing-things, talk turned to the mouldy scum pickle concoction on my bench top. They’re fine, he assured me, sunlight, skim the scum off and they are nearly ready due to the change of colour. Turns out my handy man’s mother had decades under her belt of making pickles, just like the method I was trying to replicate. Luck indeed, I had in my kitchen, years of pickle knowledge; albeit once removed, (but that was certainly good enough for me.)

Now I was curious, really curious.

Another two days went by and then I was ready. Mouldy scum scooped off (since it had appeared I had done it every 12 hours) and a pickle gently rinsed.

I sniffed, smelt like pickle.

I admired, looked like pickle.

I nibbled the end…

pickle- cityhippyfarmgirl

It tasted like pickle!

Douse me in cheese and roll me in a sandwich. Yes indeed, I had myself a pickle! Well pickles. I had a whole bunch of these glorious naturally fermented pickles and I was just a little bit excited.

Which is why several hours later, when I had to make a phone call about all things handyman related I couldn’t help but blurt out over the phone…

It worked! It really worked!

theartoffermentaion || cityhippyfarmgirl

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Last year I tasted a three dollar jar of pickles from Germany. Aside from the massive food miles for such a simple jar of food I also got a migraine type headache within half an hour of eating one of the pickles. I did it twice more before ditching them and vowing never again, not even in a moment of pickle weakness.

Eating anything naturally fermented is filled with wonderful probiotics. If you would like to know more about the awesome world of fermentation I highly reccommend this book and if you are super duper quick (and in Australia) you get to hear and learn from the man himself.