Wild Fermentation

Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

5 pounds (2.3 kg) cabbage

3 tablespoons (45 ml) sea salt

Supplies:

Glass jars with lids

Large bowl

Process:

  1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. Place the cabbage in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle salt onto the cabbage and massage it vigorously with your hands. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage through osmosis and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. Sprinkle more salt on as needed and continue to massage until cabbage becomes very watery. You should not need to add any water. Massage the cabbage until water is so abundant that you can squeeze it out.
  3. If you would like to add other vegetables (such as carrots or beets) mix them in after you have finished massaging the cabbage. You do not need to massage other vegetables.
  4. Pack cabbage (and other ingredients) tightly into jars. To do this add a few spoonfuls of cabbage at a time and pack it down tightly to get the air bubbles out.
  5. Make sure all the cabbage is submerged in the brine. Leave an inch or two of space at the top of the jar because the cabbage will expand some. Cover with a whole cabbage leaf to keep cabbage shreds under the brine.
  6. Cover with a lid and store in a dark place at room temperature such as a cabinet or pantry.
  7. Let ferment for at least 4-5 days to 2 weeks then enjoy! Serving size is 2 tbs/day. Refrigeration is not necessary, but optional after you have finished fermenting. Fermentation will continue if it is left unrefrigerated and the flavor will become stronger. To stop fermentation refrigerate the jars. Always store ferments in a dark place out of direct sunlight.

The duration of fermentation needed for your sauerkraut to be ready varies on your climate and weather. In a warm and damp climate ferments will process faster than in a cool and dry climate. In a warm climate sauerkraut can take as little as 4 days and in a colder climate as much as about 2 weeks.

Option to use bucket for larger batches:

Supplies: 

Food-grade plastic bucket 

Plate that fits inside bucket (should be about the same size as the mouth of the bucket)

1 gallon (4 L) jug filled with water or a clean rock 

Cloth cover

String or rubber band

  1. Chop cabbage as in recipe above but place directly into bucket rather than bowl.
  2. Massage cabbage as in recipe above until there is substantial water.
  3. If you would like to add other vegetables (such as carrots or beets) mix them in after you have finished massaging the cabbage. You do not need to massage other vegetables.
  4. Pack the cabbage tightly down into bucket. There should be enough brine to cover all of the cabbage. 
  5. Cover cabbage with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the bucket. Place a clean weight (jar filled with water or rock) on the plate. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the bucket with a cloth and tighten the cloth on with a string to keep insects and dust out. Store in a dark place at room temperature such as a cabinet or pantry.
  6. Check the cabbage every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Skim what you can off the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove it all. Don’t worry about this. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. 
  7. When the kraut is ready you can place it in jars or leave it in the bucket depending on your usage. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the bucket repack it carefully and make sure all the kraut is submerged in brine. As above refrigerating will stop the fermentation process. 

 

Sourdough Bread

Ingredients:

½ cup flour (any kind)

Water (de-chlorinated)

½ tsp salt

Oil for greasing pan

Supplies:

Glass jar

Mixing bowl

Bread baking pan

Small piece of cloth 

String or rubber band

Process for sourdough starter:

  1. In a jar mix equal parts flour and water (example: 1 cup water and 1 cup flour).
  2. Stir the mixture vigorously. 
  3. Cover the jar with breathable cloth to keep out flies but allow for circulation of air.
  4. Store your starter in a shaded place, at room temperature (70-80F /21-27C is ideal) with good air circulation. Check daily, and stir vigorously. Agitation stimulates the process. Ideally stir morning and night.
  5. In a few days, you should notice small bubbles and a sour smell. This indicates an active starter that is ready to be used. At this point you can use it to make bread. Steps 6 and 7 are for maintenance of your starter. If you keep your starter alive you will never have to make one again. Thus the first time you make sourdough bread will take the longest.
  6. Once the starter is active you need to feed it if you want to keep it alive and use it again. Flour is the starters food source and without it the starter can die. If you are baking at least weekly, leave the starter out in your kitchen and stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of flour every day. The starter will get thicker and start to rise or hold some of the gas released by fermentation. You want the starter to remain essentially liquid in form so add more water if the sourdough gets so thick that it starts to cross over into solidity. If you bake bread less frequently you can refrigerate the starter. A refrigerated starter will need to be fed once every week or so. A day or two before you plan to bake bread, remove the starter from the refrigerator and feed it, to warm it up and activate the batter again.
  7. When ready to use for making bread, add up to 90% of the starter to your dough. Save the remaining 10% of your starter and add equals parts flour and water to the starter so that you’ll have ample starter for your next batches of bread. Note: If you are baking frequently the starter can be ready again in as little as 12 hours after adding water and flour to the portion that you save.

Process for Sourdough Bread:

  1. Mix 6 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and about 90% of your starter into a mixing bowl. 
  2. Knead dough until it’s pliable and doesn’t stick to your hands. It should be stretchy when you pull it. If it tears easily, keep kneading. If it’s sticky add more flour.
  3. Let dough sit to rise for 5 hours. You can let it rise for up to 20 hours, if you desire a stronger sourdough flavor. You can let the dough sit for 72 hours to make it “gluten-free”. Keep the bowl covered with cloth and dampen the dough occasionally to keep it moist.
  4. Coat baking pan with oil. Shape dough and place in pan. You can lightly dampen the dough with water prior to baking to prevent the loaf from drying out.
  5. Bake at 360 degrees for approx. 45 mins.

Ginger Beer

Ingredients (to make 1 gallon/ 4 liters):

3 inches (8 cm) or more fresh ginger root

2 cups (500 ml) table sugar

2 lemons

Water (de-chlorinated)

Supplies:

Large cooking pot

Glass jar

Small piece of cloth 

String or rubber band

Recycled plastic bottles with caps (enough to fill 1 gallon/ 4 liters)

Strainer and funnel (optional)

Grater

 

Process for “ginger bug”:

  1. To make the “ginger bug” the first time add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) grated ginger (with skin) and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar to 1 cup (250 ml) of water. 
  2. Stir well, cover with a breathable cloth and store in a dark place such as a pantry or cupboard at room temperature. Add the same amount of ginger and sugar as above every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in 2 days to about a week depending on your climate. Fermentation occurs faster in warm, moist climates and slower in cold, dry climates. Once it is bubbling the ginger bug can be used to make ginger beer. Once the liquid is bubbling you have an active starter that is ready to be used. At this point you can use it to make ginger beer. Step 3 is for maintenance of your ginger bug.
  3. When you make ginger beer you will use about 90% of your ginger bug and save 10% to keep your ginger bug alive. To remake your ginger bug simply add about the same amount of ginger, sugar, and water that you poured out. If you are making ginger beer frequently leave the ginger bug out in your kitchen and feed it a little ginger and sugar every day or two. If you use it less frequently you can refrigerate it, feeding it a little ginger and sugar each week. If refrigerated, let it sit out for up to 12 hours prior to using to make ginger beer to let it become active again.

Process for Ginger Beer:

  1. Grate the ginger root. 2 inches (5 cm) for a mild ginger flavor or up to 6 inches (15 cm) for an intense ginger flavor.
  2. Juice the lemons.
  3. Boil 1 gallon (4 L) of water. Add the ginger and 1.5 cups sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Let it cool.
  4. Once the ginger-sugar water mixture has cooled completely strain out the ginger for a smooth ginger beer. If you don’t have a strainer you don’t need to remove the ginger chunks. Add the juice of the lemons and 90% of the strained ginger bug. 
  5. Bottle in sealable bottles and store in a dark, room temperature place such as a pantry. Your ginger beer should be ready in 2 days to 2 weeks depending on climate. 
  6. How to know when it is ready: Make 1 bottle of ginger beer in a plastic bottle to be used as a gauge. I would not typically recommend using plastic bottles because of the health and environmental destruction that goes hand in hand with them but for safety purposes I recommend making just 1 plastic bottle per batch of ginger beer. Ginger beer becomes highly carbonated to the point where it can explode glass bottles. This can be quite dangerous. To prevent this you can check your plastic bottle each day by squeezing it to gauge if the batch is ready. As the bottle fills with carbonation, a byproduct of fermentation, the bottle will become more firm. When the bottle is firm to the point where you can’t squeeze it in then you know the batch is ready to drink. Place all of the glass bottles in the fridge to stop the fermentation so they will not become over carbonated and explode. When bottling in glass it makes sense to leave extra space for carbonation. If you don’t have refrigeration you can still make ginger beer but it would be wise to stick to plastic bottles and make only enough to drink within a few weeks. When opening the ginger beer you may have to open it slowly and continue to “burp” it to not lose a lot of it on the floor!

Apple Cider Vinegar or Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Ingredients:

¼ cup (60 ml) sugar

Apples or scraps of any fruits high in sugar (apple, pineapple, grape, berries, etc.)

Water (de-chlorinated)

Supplies:

Glass container (we recommend 2 liter size)

Small piece of cloth

String or rubber band

1 liter glass container with lid (recycled wine bottle with cap or cork works great)

Process:

  1. In a jar or bowl, dissolve sugar in 1 quart (1 L) of water. 
  2. Coarsely chop apples. The more you chop up the apples the more you increase the surface area of the fruit, which speeds up the fermentation.
  3. Fill jar with chopped apples or fruit scraps and sugar water mixture. You can add a little vinegar from a previous batch as a starter to speed up the process. Make sure all the fruit is submerged in liquid. You can do this by placing a glass cup or small plate over the apples. Cover the jar with breathable clothe to keep flies out and leave to ferment in a dark place at room temperature. 
  4. When you notice the liquid darkening, after about 1 week, strain out the peels and discard. In colder climates this step could take a few weeks to a month.
  5. Ferment the liquid 2 to 3 weeks more, stirring or agitating periodically, and your fruit scrap vinegar is ready. You can now transfer contents to another container with a cap or cork if desired.

Note: To make fruit scrap vinegar you can use any fruit scraps that have sugar in it. This includes apples, pineapple, grapes, berries, etc. By using fruit scraps you can make vinegar for free. You do not need to add sugar but this will slow down the fermentation process quite a bit so you just need to allow more time.

Pickles and Pickled Vegetables

Ingredients:

Vegetables (as many as you can pack in the jar)

Salt

Water (de-chlorinated)

Whole peppercorns, garlic, spices (optional)

Any of the following tannin-rich items to maintain crispness: handful of oak leaves, grape leaves, horseradish leaves, OR a black tea bag (optional)

Supplies:

Glass jars with lids 

Process:

  1. Make 5% salt water mixture. Simply add 3 tablespoon salt per quart (liter) of water. You can boil the water to dissolve the salt but it’s not necessary.
  2. Cut up vegetables into any shape you want. We recommend long strips.
  3. Place tannin rich item in the bottom of jar. Then add whole peppercorns, garlic, and spices (optional).
  4. Pack vegetables vertically as tightly as you can. Much like our bodies, the vegetables will want to float in the salty water once submerged. Packing them tightly prevents them from floating. Note: You can put wilted vegetables in the fridge or an ice bath for 6 hours prior to help retain crunchiness.
  5. Pour salt water mixture over the vegetables, submerging them completely. 
  6. Place a lid on your jar and let veggies ferment for 4 to 7 days in shaded place at room temperature. Store the jars on plates to catch fluid that comes out from the jars.
  7. Taste periodically. Place in the refrigerator or cellar when desired flavor is reached in order to slow fermentation.

 

FAQ

Chlorinated water

All of these wild fermentation recipes must use water that is free of chlorine. In the USA, 98% of municipal water supplies are treated with chlorine. Chlorine inhibits the growth of the bacteria and yeast that are needed for fermentation. The safest and surest way to de-chlorinate your tap water is to boil it for 20 minutes. Make sure to let the water cool before using it. You can also fill up a container and let it sit for 24 hours. The chlorine will evaporate. However some municipalities use a form of chlorine that has a bond that doesn’t break from evaporation so this may not work in some cities. If you have well water then that won’t have chlorine in it.

Climate

Fermentation varies greatly depending on climate. Fermentation is much more rapid in warm, damp climates, especially anywhere near the equator. Fermentation is much slower in cold, dry climates. Because of this there is a large range in how long that your ferments will take. A sourdough culture could take anywhere from 2 days in Florida to a week in the winter in New York for example. Fermentation also depends on the heating or air conditioning in the house. For example ferments will take longer in air conditioned houses in the summer than if the windows are open.

Storage

You will typically store your ferments either at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Store ferments in dark places such a pantries or cupboards. Never in direct sunlight. All of these ferments can be done completely without refrigeration. If you are in a warm area and don’t use refrigeration it may just mean making smaller batches more frequently rather than larger batches that would last for months.