Homespun Alchemy™... In the Kitchen

Lacto-fermented carrots and garlic after about eight days of fermentation

"You are an alchemist; make gold of it."
-- William Shakespeare

Several years ago after reading about...and being intrigued by...a somewhat mysterious food-alchemy called "fermentation" I invested twelve dollars for the now classic cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.

Note: Of course, sadly, as per inflation, the book in now almost sixteen dollars via Amazon...still quite a bargain (in my opinion) considering the treasure trove of information contained therein...but I digress.

One weekend, I brought the book with me to my Dad's house. I wanted to mine-his-memory, and knowledge, about some of the unfamiliar techniques I was reading about.
Why you ask? My father...being the son of a Swedish/American mother and a long~time foodie quite versed in multitudes of unusual eats (Lutfisk anyone???). Little did I realize that doing so was to shift the paradigm of my long held belief that it was my grandmother who was responsible for all of the usual...and preparation during his boyhood. When I asked how his mother went about making her sauerkraut, he informed me that it wasn't his mother, but his father who created and nurtured those huge crocks of deliciousness.

That weekend he walked me through his memories of watching his father prepare the cabbage by slivering, pounding and salting it. He informed me of the vital importance of making sure the cabbage was completely covered with brine at all times to avoid spoilage. It quickly became apparent, however, that his fondest memory was of sneaking down to the basement of his childhood home for the sole purpose of lifting the brick-weighted china plate from atop the large crocks of fermenting cabbage to sample its tantalizing the handful. It was, he said, a tasty treat rarely encountered today. Having my own taste for sauerkraut...and tart flavors in general...I understood perfectly. Soon after I began my first fermentation project.

Today, I try to always keep a jar of homemade sauerkraut in the refrigerator for whenever I get the craving. As well...inspired by wonders found on the internet HERE...HERE and most recently HERE ...I've ventured more deeply into this miraculous way to transform and preserve ordinary foods.

This is a picture of our Kumbucha brewing।
The floating things inside are the SCOBY's.
I leave them to ferment in the sunshine for a few weeks or more
(I taste them every week or so to determine the degree of tartness I like)


The huge
success of the sauerkraut inspired the faith needed to try my hand at creating Kumbucha. For those not familiar, Kumbucha is a fermented drink that uses a mother SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to ferment two basic ingredients...tea and sugar! It was first introduced to the family by our daughter Katie several years ago and we were treating ourselves to a commercial brand called GT's Kumbucha which is quite delicious and comes in a variety of flavors (my favorite being gingerade). It is, however, very expensive ranging from $3.49 to $3.79 per 16 oz. bottle. One time, Mike found a rare sale where its cost was two dollars per bottle. Needless to say he bought a few cases and I kept the bottles. I now refill them regularly with my own home brew.

Another fairly recent staple in our kitchen is
lacto fermented carrots. I found the recipe here and was absolutely floored at the deliciousness of these. I omitted the dill as we had none, and they are still amazingly delicious. The first batch I made was left for nearly three weeks and the carrots practically dissolved, so I recommend only a week or so Even still, I simply pureed the first (soggy) batch and used it to make salad dressings that called for garlic (in lieu of vinegar...I do the same with extra tart Kumbucha as well). My next fermenting endeavor will be to try Clarice's fermented green bean and raspberries recipe.

Fermented Deliciousness: Homemade Kumbucha decanted into recycled commercial Kumbucha bottles along side jars of home fermented sauerkraut.

Happily, our kitchen now boasts, on a regular basis, several batches of fermented drinks and vegetables in various stages of their alchemical transformations! The tastes are treats that only time and nature can well their health enhancing potential is legendary as is the economical and time-saving benefits of developing the habit.

Are you practicing the art of fermentation? If not I
urge you to take a leap of faith and do your own research on this ancient method of food alchemy and preservation.

Sending love and good thoughts to all.

Tracey and Family x0x

P.S. I forgot to mention the fermented lemonade that I made (and consequently drank the entire jar in one day!). (I found the recipe HERE.)

I fermented lemon juice, water, sugar and whey in a tightly sealed jar
(leaving about three inches at the top for the gasses to collect)

for about three days to make this delicious fermented lemonade.


Nana said...

Hi Tracey; What a wonderful post!! My mom used to make sauerkraut and I also remember the crocks in our fruit cellar, along with homemade jelly and lots of veggies and fruits to get us thru the cold winter months! The tea also sounds delicious, hope to try making some soon. Have a Great Day! Love and hugs, Nana

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Hi Nana!
It's always so nice to see your name in my comment box! :) Yes, I don't know why so many of the old ways were abandoned, they seem to be so much better for us, much tastier and obviously much more economical! The happy news is that there appears to be a revival of the old ways going on...and that is encouraging.

P.S. I wish we had a fruit cellar...what a good and sensible idea...another one that's fallen by the wayside yet appears to be in revival as well...but I digress! Hope you are having a great day too!

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

I love Kombucha
and you're so smart to make it yourself (it is pricey). I've read a bit about fermented foods and they are supposed to be so good for you.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Hi Manuela! I must admit that my kumbucha habit was becoming pricey...that factor along with the temporary labeling recall a few years back drove me to home brew! I still have a GT's as a treat once a week or so (it's cheaper than Starbuxks and much better for you...not that I don't love Starbucks too! :). I was lucky enough to be gifted with a fresh SCOBY from a long time acquaintance who worked at a whole food store near my Dad's! I now have a batch brewing at his house as well as two at our own! (Did I mention I was addicted to it? :))). OH...I LOVED your little barn with that adorable pergola and the pretty window box...your husband is very good to you Manuela! :)))

Storybook Woods said...

I had to smile Tracey because as I was looking into this, I talked w/ my dad. He is Jewish and he told me about how my grandmother Clair use to make garlic pickles all the time. I guess she would get mad because her 7 boys would eat all the pickles and she could not keep up with them.

Our family is loving the fermented veggies and are addicted to them like potatoes chips. Great post xoxo Clarice
ps. not that it is important it is raspberry green bean, not strawberries. Although strawberries would be delish !!

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Hahahah...I must have had strawberries on the brain when I wrote this!!! Those pickles sound amazing have me craving a crisp sour garlickly pickle! Any chance you'll be sharing that recipe on your blog? Can you tell I like garlic??? ;)

I know what you mean about the fermented veggies being addictive like chips (but much better for the waistline!).

Thanks so much for the note Clarice and the clarification.


Storybook Woods said...

You know the pickles were just a lot of garlic, fresh dill and bay leaves. Ohhh and some pepper corns. Easy,peasy xoxo Clarice

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Thanks so much for sharing Clarice! Will be stopping by the farmstand for pickling cucumbers!

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

My husband has been adding kefir to our diet and I've been thinking of experimenting with fermintation.

Hehehe, it does remind me of kimchee. He tried kimchee when he was in Viet Nam and to say the least he did not like it.

He brought back a saying from the war, if one was in real trouble they were in "deep kimchee".

So it was quite amusing when it started to be sold in our larger supermarkets. He couldn't believe it! We get a lot of unusual foods available being near the University.

This was a fascinating post! Sorry I don't comment more often but I am always HERE. :)

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Hi Brenda! My Dad was in Viet Nam too and he actually likes Kimchi and introduced it to us as kids. I actually love it more than sauerkraut (bigger cabbage leaves and other goodies in it plus a little hot pepper heat!). I probably inherited his sour~loving palate ;). I have never had Kefir, but am reading all kind of good things about it! you have reminded me of two things to add to my must~try list and I thank you!!!
Love to you my friend!
P.S. I DO are a loyal friend! xxx000xxx

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