Fermentation Fest, A Live Culture Convergence // Reedsburg, WI

Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence is an annual celebration of live culture in all its forms, from dance to yogurt, poetry to sauerkraut. Presented by Reedsburg, WI-based Wormfarm Institute, Fermentation Fest brings together farmers, chefs, artists, poets and performers in the beautiful working lands of Sauk County, WI for nine days of tastings, demonstrations, cooking classes, art events, performances, food carts and more.

Check back for more details soon.

Author Talk and Fermentation Workshop // Portland, OR

Fermentation on Wheels –the book and the adventure–was born in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in May 2013 when author Tara Whitsitt converted a forty-foot vintage military bus into a fermentation lab and workshop. Since then, she’s travelled over 24,000 miles with a mission to bridge communities, inspire sustainability, and teach fermentation.

With her new illustrated memoir/cookbook, Tara shares road stories and recipes–from the generous farmers who offered respite and fermentables, to young arms baptized elbow-deep in salty cabbage, and to fifty unique recipes of delectable fermentations learned and created while on the road.

After her book discussion, discover the simple tradition of preservation through bacterial collaboration in one of its most simple forms: via the local micro-flora of vegetables! Fermented foods heal our bodies, celebrate age-old traditions, and promote healthy eco-systems. Learn about the cost effective and simple tools involved and go home knowing how to creatively and fearlessly make sauerkraut, cucumber pickles, and much more with this hands-on demonstration.

Author Talk and Fermentation Workshop // Seattle, WA

Fermentation on Wheels –the book and the adventure–was born in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in May 2013 when author Tara Whitsitt converted a forty-foot vintage military bus into a fermentation lab and workshop. Since then, she’s travelled over 24,000 miles with a mission to bridge communities, inspire sustainability, and teach fermentation.

With her new illustrated memoir/cookbook, Tara shares road stories and recipes–from the generous farmers who offered respite and fermentables, to young arms baptized elbow-deep in salty cabbage, and to fifty unique recipes of delectable fermentations learned and created while on the road.

After her book discussion, discover the simple tradition of preservation through bacterial collaboration in one of its most simple forms: via the local micro-flora of vegetables! Fermented foods heal our bodies, celebrate age-old traditions, and promote healthy eco-systems. Learn about the cost effective and simple tools involved and go home knowing how to creatively and fearlessly make sauerkraut, cucumber pickles, and much more with this hands-on demonstration.

Get Cultured! with Fermentation on Wheels // Eugene, OR

Celebrate the wonderful world of fermentation with Tara Whitsitt of Fermentation on Wheels. From noon to 2:00, Tara will guide you through a variety of cultures that require inoculation—their history, how to feed them, and the transformative foods they create such as kefir, tibicos, sourdough, and kombucha. Then, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Tara will open the Fermentation on Wheels bus for tours and a culture swap. Bring your own starter cultures for exchange & discussion as well as an empty jar and take a culture home from the workshop. If you would like to take a starter culture home with you, please bring something to trade or $10 (per starter culture).

Fermentation on Wheels in Del Norte! // Crescent City, CA

Fermentation on Wheels will join the Health Fair at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 3rd, sharing the joys of fermentation with a sauerkraut demo at 11:30am as well as starter culture swap* and more food fermentation education throughout the day. What does that mean? After you get your veggies, fruits, and grains at the farmers market, swing by the bus and learn how to ferment them!

*Attendees may bring starter cultures of their own for exchange & discussion as well as bring an empty jar and take a culture home from the workshop. If you would like to take a starter culture home with you, please bring something to trade or $10 (per starter culture).

Fermentation on Wheels is a grassroots project that brings fermentation education to communities of all ages and backgrounds and inspires with a school bus that has been converted into a fermentation lab, library, and workshop space. The project’s founder, Tara Whitsitt, organizes events nationwide to bridge communities and restore a genuine fascination in local, traditionally-preserved foods. By traveling the country, connecting consumers to local farmers, and teaching fermentation, she hopes to emphasize the importance of strong, sustainable food practices and values.

Sauerkraut with Dandelion Greens, Turmeric, and Spice

I’ve been loving sauerkraut made with bitter greens and turmeric this fall and winter. Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory compounds, increases the anti-oxidant capacity of the body, and helps prevent heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. With all its benefits, turmeric is such a powerful medicine that I try to get a healthy dose of it, especially during sick season. The bioavailability of its nutrients is increased during fermentation, so I choose to simply add it into my bi-monthly sauerkraut routine.

Bitter or winter greens, such as dandelion, kale, arugula, beet greens, and spinach, act as gentle diuretics, purifying blood and cleansing the system, and are also great for digestion. Integrate bitter greens into sauerkraut to get the health benefits without getting slammed by the bitterness. Dandelion greens are my favorite.

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Yields 1 gallon, 1–4 weeks

Ingredients

7 lbs cabbage (2 medium-size heads)

6 to 8 dandelion leaves

3 inches turmeric root

1 tsp Szechuan pepper

2 scotch bonnet peppers (or other hot pepper available to you)

2–3 tbsp salt

Materials

1-gallon glass jar or crock

Weight and cover

Process

1) Cut cabbage into quarters and finely chop. Place chopped cabbage into a large bowl. If you have outer leaves of cabbage, rather than compost them, place them aside for later.

2) Finely chop dandelion greens and add them to the bowl with the cabbage.

3) Add 2 tbsp of salt and massage the cabbage for 5 to 10 minutes. Your cabbage will release water, which will serve as the sauerkraut’s brine. Taste the cabbage—you may want to add more salt to your liking.

4) Check for a puddle at the bottom of your bowl and squeeze a handful of cabbage above the bowl to check whether it has produced enough brine. Once gently squeezed, brine should drip with ease from the cabbage.

5) Finely chop the turmeric and scotch bonnet peppers and add them with the Szechuan pepper to your bowl of salty cabbage and dandelion greens. Distribute with caution — the heat of the pepper might irritate your hands and the turmeric will stain your hands (temporarily). I recommend tossing with salad servers.

6) Once the ingredients are distributed, pack the cabbage into your gallon jar until it’s submerged below brine. Take the cabbage leaves you set aside from earlier and layer them on top of your kraut, pressing down.

7) Add a weight, such as scrubbed and boiled river rocks or a small jar filled with water, on top of the layer of cabbage leaves. Secure a tea towel to the mouth of your jar with a rubber band to keep dust and bugs out.

8) Wait a week and taste—you may want to keep it going another week, but it’s good practice to try your ferments along their journey. Vegetables will ferment at different speeds depending on their environment—the warmer it is, the faster it will ferment, while the colder it is, the slower it will ferment. Most vegetable ferments thrive best between 68° to 76° F.

9) When the sauerkraut is to your liking, cover it with a lid and store in the fridge. You may also pack it into smaller jars if that’s easier. Keeping your new kraut cool slows fermentation, so you can enjoy the fermented flavor from when you sealed the jar.

 

Beet Kvass

Beet kvass is known for its nourishing qualities, especially as a stomach tonic. Beets are powerhouses packed with vitamins, such as folate, that are enhanced when fermented. There are many ways to culture beet juice and produce this lively beverage – I like to ferment mine with a combination of wild bacteria, of the beet but also from brines of other cultured vegetables.

Traditionally, in 10th century Eastern Europe, kvass was fermented from the yeast of stale black or rye bread. Today it’s common to follow this traditional ingredient with the addition of whey.

I don’t use bread or whey. With this recipe, you get the full flavor profile of the beet, and the bacteria therein. As I always recommend, use quality ingredients: the quality of the ingredient increases the quality of the culture. We rely on the quality of the bacteria that’s carried in our vegetables to bring us tasty flavors.

Yields 1 gallon, 3-4 weeks

Ingredients

3 quarts water

6 large beets

2 tablespoons salt

¼ cup cultured brine (sauerkraut juice)

Materials

Gallon glass jar

Tea towel

Rubberband

1) Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 quarts of water. This serves as the brine for your kvass – I prefer less salt with my kvass. You can double the salt content if you prefer a saltier version. Save your last quart of water to fill your fermentation vessel.

NOTE: I like to use filtered or spring water, but you can use tap water, too. I like to keep a few gallons of tap water out in the open, allowing the chlorine to evaporate out over the course of a few nights.

2) Cut your 6 large beets into quarters and place in the glass gallon jar. The jar should be close to ¾ full.

3) Pour your recently made brine into the glass gallon jar, covering the beets. Add more water to completely submerge the beets and fill the jar. If filling the jar requires more than one quart of water, add more than one quart.

4) Cover the jar with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band. Beets are sweet and can attract unwanted bugs, so secure well.

5) Let the beets and brine sit for 2-3 weeks. I let mine sit for a full 3 weeks, to get the most out of the beets.

6) After 3 weeks, strain the beets from the brine into a clean gallon jar and add your ¼ cup of cultured brine. A cultured brine is any brine saved from a leftover fermented vegetables. This could even be the leftover brine from kimchi. I like to use sauerkraut brine from an especially well received sauerkraut. I find this introduces an especially nice touch to beet kvass, and boosts the fermentation process.

7) One week later: bottle and store in a cool place. The kvass is rich in flavor and best in small amounts — like a tonic. If you prefer an effervescent beverage (as I do), store in a sling top bottle at room temperature for a few days before storing in a cool place.

Grapefruit Sage Vinegar

Last winter I made my first vinegar with Kate Payne, author of Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen, while in Austin TX. I was an experienced winemaker, and luckily never had a wine go acetic on me, which is a common mishap for the novice winemaker.

When I arrived at Kate’s, she brought out an array of homemade vinegars accompanied by sparkling water, and we tasted each. I brought an organic grapefruit from Arizona and smudge sage from Oregon to turn into vinegar. Though Kate was concerned the high acidity of the grapefruit might stunt fermentation, after researching, we decided to double the sugar to assure plenty of edible interest for the microorganisms.

Vinegar is also known as acetic acid, the primary bacterial component. It adds a complex, acidic flavor and has many uses in food, from salad dressings to sauces to deglazing a pan to making canned pickles. In fact, we call canned pickles pickles because vinegar introduces tanginess—a tanginess that originates from fermentation.

Vinegar is simple: the primary ingredients are sugar, water, and air—fermented to alcohol and further fermented with the addition of acetic acid bacteria. The addition of air introduces Acetobacter (acetic acid bacterium), but I recommend inoculating with raw vinegar for more consistent and reliable flavor. You can source raw vinegar from your local grocery store. Brag apple cider vinegar is a brand that contains live, active bacteria and yeast.

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Kate sent the recipe notes for each of our vinegars last month, and I’ve been excited to share. Mine turned to a fine vinegar for cooking and shrubbing. Kate claimed she and her wife downed it as bubbly booze! You are welcome to enjoy yours either way.

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Yields 1 quart, 1-3 months

Ingredients:

1 quart water

1/2 cup sugar (note we doubled because of acidity concerns)

1 grapefruit

1 tbsp crushed sage

1/2 inch ginger

SCOBY or raw vinegar (optional)

Equipment:

one qt glass jar

strainer

tea towel and rubberband

1) Bring 2 cups of water to a boil on the stove top. Add sage and ginger to the water and let steep for 10 minutes.

2) Strain sage and ginger and dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in the hot tea.

3) Shave 2 tbsp of grapefruit rind, add to sweet tea. Squeeze juice from the grapefruit into tea.

4) Transfer sweet tea to quart jar and 2 tablespoons of shaved grapefruit rind and squeeze all the juice of the grapefruit into the tea. Top off with water and cover with a tea towel and rubber band or a plastic Ball-jar lid.

5) Place a tea towel and rubber band on your brew and let sit for a month or two. It will have a period of being bubbly and boozy before it crosses over to the vinegar side.

6) Let the mixture naturally ferment for a few weeks. Once the ferment shows signs of activity and has a boozy scent and flavor, after 12 weeks, simply let it ferment wildly or add the optional raw vinegar to minimize the possibility of off flavors.

7) The warmer the temperature and larger the surface area exposed to air, the faster it will acetify. The final fermentation for one quart can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

8) Once the alcohol is fully converted to vinegar, store it in a sealed container. Oxygen will cause the vinegar to spoil. If you are patient enough, you can age your vinegar for a year or two, which I like to do. The flavor develops deeper, richer flavor notes with age.

My vinegar matured in one month, I used raw vinegar to speed it up and bring consistency. This is mostly because things on the bus get shaky, so an open container for too long can be a little much to look after.

If you would like to enjoy yours on the boozy side, taste regularly during the fermentation process to see when you like the taste best.

E-mail me if you have any questions: tara@fermentationonwheels.com.

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Indo-Thai Sauerkraut

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Yields 1 gallon, 1-4 weeks

INGREDIENTS

6 lb cabbage

2 lb carrots

1 tbsp caraway seed

1 tbsp cumin seed

3 dried thai chilis

3 tbsp unrefined sea salt

MATERIALS

1 gal glass jar or crock

weight (river rocks, yogurt lid or plate & heavy things)

cloth & rubber-band

PROCESS

1. Prep your cabbage and carrots. We thinly slice cabbage and cut our carrots julienne style. Put them in a big bowl. If you have outer leaves of cabbage, rather than compost them, place them aside to use as a top layer between your kraut and your weight (We will explain this in more detail shortly).

2. Add 1 tablespoon each of caraway and cumin to your veggies.

3. Cut open 3 thai chilis and collect the seeds – add them to your ingredients. Chop the skin of the chilis and add these too.

4. Add 2 tbsp of salt and massage into your ingredients for 3-5 minutes. Your cabbage will release water, which will serve as your kraut’s brine. Don’t forget to taste prior to packing – you may want to add more salt to your liking. The addition of salt is important for a multitude of reasons, but how much you add is up to you. Here’s a nifty chart on salinity percentages for your reference.

5. When the ingredients are nice and wet, pack them into your container. The goal is to pack your vegetables until your brine is above your veggies. Note: this can take time and a lot of strength! We have friends who use wooden spoons or even wine bottles to pack their kraut down below the brine. This is important, because any veggies exposed to air can grow mold. You can scrape off the mold (it’s not dangerous), but you will lose a little bit of kraut.

6. Once it’s packed down, take the cabbage leaves we recommended you set aside from the beginning of the recipe and layer them on top of your kraut. This way, the outer leaves will grow mold first, and you can simply toss them into your compost.

7. Your weight: It’s easy to fill a small jar with water and sit it on top of your ferment – if you have other ideas for weights, that still allow your ferment to get some air exposure, give it a try. As you can see, our winning method on the bus is using 3 outer cabbage leaves on the top layer of our kraut followed by several scrubbed & boiled river rocks. Our river rocks were gathered from the Willamette River back home, so we know our ferments carry a little bit of our beloved Oregon with each bite.

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There are a lot of good methods, and many come straight from our creative common sense. Cover your vessel with a cloth and rubber band, to keep random bugs and dust particles out.

8. Wait a week and taste – maybe you’ll want to keep it going another week, but it’s good practice to try your ferments along their journey. Ferments will work at different speeds depending on their environment. Temperature is a huge factor – most ferments thrive best at 68-76 F, just like us.

9. When your ferment is to your liking, cover it with a lid and place in the fridge or other cold storage. Keeping your new kraut cool stalls fermentation process, so you can enjoy the fermented flavor from when you sealed the jar.

Fantastic Kombucha

Along the road, I often encounter people who seek a kombucha starter, more commonly described as a S.C.O.B.Y. (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). However, kombucha (the beverage) is the actual starter. Although the kombucha SCOBY assists in the fermentation process, padding the bacteria and yeast and providing them with her nutritious presence, she is the by-product of their action, similar to the vinegar making process.

This means you can grow your own SCOBY at home. If you purchase a bottle of kombucha (preferably something small batch or local), you can transfer it to a wide mouth jar, cover with a cloth, and wait 1 to 3 weeks. Ultimately, you will have a SCOBY to get started with larger batches of kombucha in your own kitchen. You may also find a kombucha SCOBY and some starter from a friend who brews at home.

Here are the tools, ingredients, and the how-to for making Kombucha at home:

EQUIPMENT

Large stockpot

Strainer

Funnel

Glass or ceramic fermentation vessel (with spigot is ideal)

INGREDIENTS

1 gal water (approximately)

1 c organic unrefined sugar

4 tablespoons black tea

herbs as you see fit for flavor

1 cup of kombucha

kombucha SCOBY

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Heat half of the water in a pot with the sugar. Dissolve the sugar as your water comes to a boil; once it reaches a boil remove from heat.

2) Steep your tea and other herbs for 5 to 10 minutes.

3) Add the remaining water to your pot. This should allow the sweet tea to cool to a temperature that is comfortable to the touch. It’s very important that your tea not be above 100 F when the culture and SCOBY are introduced.

4) Pour sweet tea through mesh strainer into your fermentation vessel. Use a funnel to prevent tea from missing the container. Make sure you leave enough room for your culture and SCOBY.

5) Add the culture and SCOBY. Leave your to-be-kombucha in a temperature stable space, cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band, and wait one to 3 three weeks or until a new SCOBY forms in a layer at the top of your brew.

6) Taste your kombucha weekly as the flavor intensifies. When it’s to your liking, bottle and refrigerate. Keeping your kombucha cool will pause the fermentation process. Don’t forget to save a SCOBY and one cup of kombucha for your next batch. Pass the other SCOBY on to a friend!

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Share your mothers with friends and family. Let them know about fantastic kombucha, and email us if you have any questions. info@fermentationonwheels.com