Homemade Fermented Food and Drink

July 25th, 2011

Hard cider bottling of the Newton pippin cider that I pressed with Nat West last winter. Really good this year -- much better than last's. The dandelion wine is bottled on the left...

Ever since I bought a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation shortly after moving to Portland I’ve been a food fermentation freak.

I love everything about home food fermentation. I love the DIY aspect of crafting foods that I love such as sauerkraut, wine, and miso. I love the time and patience involved in creating these foods and drinks — most ferments I make take anywhere from a few days to a year. I love the full flavor of food ferments — from pungent and sour to salty and spicy to sweet and effervescent. I love that fermented foods and drinks are inherently good for me because of the live micro-nutrients they contain. I love that I’m carrying on food traditions born well before refrigeration, artificial preservatives, and pasteurization. The list goes on and on.

In January 2009, I got to travel to Nashville to meet one of my heroes — Sandor Ellix Katz — and interview him for The Sun Magazine. In October of 2009, we got him to come out for the inaugural Portland Fermentation Festival that David Barber, George Winborn and I organized and continue to organize every year. The date is still TBD for this year’s and I’ll let you know soon when/where it will be.

For now, I’ve got a bunch of home food and drink ferments that I’ve been checking on, bottling and eating up lately to share with you here. This weekend I started a sour cherry wine with fruit collected from a neighbor’s tree. I’ll post about that soon.

I’ve got two batches of miso going right now that I started in November — soybean miso and red bean miso. Here’s what they’re looking like now after several months of fermenting…

I scraped the salt off the top of this red bean miso and it's looking pretty and already tasting DELICIOUS. Going to be patient though and let it ferment until fall. At least.

The soybean miso is looking and tasting great too. Did the same and scraped off the salt and mold, repacked with a nice layer of sea salt, covered and put back in the utility room till fall.

Yes, you have to be very generous with the salt so you don't get too much mold.

This year's three gallons of Brooks plum wine has finished fermenting and is now bottled. It's so good. It's tart and off-dry and tastes like a perfect plum. The alcoholic kind.

These petals and more went into this year's gallon of dandelion wine. We bottled last year's and it's delicious as always, a little more flowery this year too which is nice.

If you’ve never done any home food/drink fermentation I recommend starting with saurkraut or kimchi. They’re both quick and easy ferments that pack a lot of flavor. I can’t recommend Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation enough. I use it all the time. Happy fermenting! Let me know what you make.

Happy Anniversary Blog: Two years and counting

February 22nd, 2011

It’s been two years since I started this blog as a sort of companion piece to my book Food Lover’s Guide to Portland. Since the beginning I’ve aimed to keep my posts short and sweet and informative for Portland food folks and visitors. I hope it’s been helpful.

This time last year I celebrated one year of blogging with a sort of year-in-review. It was a nice way to take stock so I’m doing it again for the two-year marker. Thanks for stopping by now and again. Thanks for chiming in now and again. Thanks to each and every one of you out there who celebrate our local food scene in Portland and beyond. Here are some blog highlights from the past year…

I started off February 2010 with our semi-annual Cincinnati chili feed. Can’t beat Gartner’s dogs, spicy Cincy chili and finely grated Tillamook cheddar…

Sometimes 3-ways are sloppy. Cincinnati chili 3-ways that is...

Portland International Film Festival followed shortly after. PIFF is my favorite local film fest and we always do PIFF + Pizza. Was going to giveaway some tickets here for this year’s now in its final week but unfortunately got too busy. Go to PIFF while you still can!

Cheese followed by egg...

I won an Excalibur Food Dehydrator and made my first batch of spicy beef jerky late March. It was amazing and I’ve made it many times since…

Thin sliced tri-tip ready to marinate and dry...

In May I had my first interview in The Sun Magazine with one of my favorite people — Sandor Ellix Katz

I never thought this day would come...

Several weeks later I had a kick-ass book launch party for Food Lover’s Guide to Portland the day it came out — July 1st, 2010…

The best celebration I could have hoped for. So much fun.

At the end of summer my boyfriend and I went on a magical 10-day sailing trip around the San Juan Islands and I blogged about our DIY galley cooking in three installments…

We have a stainless grill too but most of what we cooked on the boat happened here.

In the fall we put together a filled-to-the-gills second annual Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust…

Biwa's rocking kimchi with big chunks of daikon and lots of fire.

Late December I got to press hard cider with our friend Nat and he gave me a carboy of the stuff to take home and ferment myself…

Nat sorting through one of the last Newtown Pippin apple bins.

And just in time for the new year I made miso for the first time. In a month or so I’ll be checking on it…

After mashing the soybeans you mix that with the brined koji...

THANKS FOR ANOTHER GREAT YEAR!

Eat, drink and be hairy!

Hard Cider Pressing with Nat

December 27th, 2010

Nat sorting through one of the last Newtown Pippin apple bins.

In early December I got to help out a friend with the last cider press of the apple season. Our friend Nat West has been crafting his own cider and hard cider for a few years now from gleaned, traded and orchard picked local apples and this year was the biggest. He thinks his total apple haul this year clocks in at about 5,800 pounds, which translates to roughly 500 gallons of cider.

This year’s apples included a mix of Newtown Pippins, Lady, Jonagold, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, Brown’s Apple, Hereford Redstreak plus about 1,000 pounds of mixed varieties gleaned from various local spots. I helped out with the last of the Newtown Pippins — about 250-300 pounds.

The agreement was (and is with a lot of Nat’s friends) that in exchange for helping out for a shift of apple milling and pressing I’d get to take home a carboy of that day’s cider. I thought that sounded great and I was really happy to get to work with and learn more about Nat’s awesome set-up.

Basically, Nat mills his apples with a retrofitted garbage disposal and presses them with a hydraulic press in his garage. Apples are stored and rinsed in bins and buckets in the driveway and once the juice is pressed it’s kept in 55-gallon drums in the basement during fermentation and then stored largely in kegs. Nat lets his cider go anywhere from six to eight months.

Nat doesn’t sell his cider he just drinks it and trades with it. Really good stuff. Here are some photos…

Nat rinsing the apples before I put them through the apple mill aka retrofitted garbage disposal in the garage.

I filled bucket after bucket with apple pumace shown here. It oxidizes pretty quickly while in queue for the press.

Nat's awesome hydraulic cider press.

Hard cider fermenting in the basement in 55-gallon food grade barrel.

Most of Nat's cider goes directly into kegs but he bottles some for friends.

Read about my cherry wine here.

Ready about my plum wine here.

Read about my dandelion wine here.