Drifter, the re-emergence of Fermentation Illustrated, and Community Supported Ferments

Greetings from Northern New Jersey! This month through October 2020 I’ll be running a pop-up called Drifter, even though I’m a little more driftless than usual these days. So until I drift again, join me at Get Juiced Health Bar Cafe every third Thursday from 6 to 9 pm for dinners inspired from as far as Southeast Asia to as close as your [favorite] neighborhood diner. Menus will highlight traditional foods and fermentation techniques. Ingredients will be organic and sourced as locally as possible. I’m emphasizing vegetarian cuisine but will often offer meat options.

The first dinner will showcase Rueben-style sandwiches. We will offer protein options (lamb for $18 or tempeh for $16) with sauerkraut and miso mayonnaise on naturally fermented sourdough bread, served with hand-cut fries, and three dipping sauces — almond-cilantro pesto, malty mustard, and fermented ketchup. Fermented pickle plates of seasonal, local vegetables will also be available as a side for $5. Inner Love Foods will brew up Sassy Soda, a fermented soda made with sassafras for $3.50 a pop. We are in the brainstorming phase of very fancy vegan milkshake, too. Everything, down to the tempeh, will be made in house. The fermented ketchup is made from tomatoes that were grown in my garden last summer! The mustard is made with my favorite malt vinegar, started by my friend Lou Bank of SACRED. It’s a simple yet decadent menu.

drifter reuben_4
Drifter’s vegetarian option is a coriander-garlic marinted tempeh Reuben with hand-cut sweet potato or regular French fries, almond-cilantro pesto, fermented ketchup, and malty mustard. 

Seats at Drifter are available as first come first serve and reservations are strongly suggested. Contact Tara at tara@fermentationonwheels.com to reserve. We will also have a take-out option available if you pre-order at least a day in advance. Guests with reservations will go home with a complimentary 4-ounce jar of something fermented.

New issues of Fermentation Illustrated, my monthly zine, will come out every third Thursday at Drifter. Fermentation Illustrated shares cultural, historical, and personal stories of fermentation, inspiring and empowering people to do it themselves. It’s also very silly and will hopefully fill you with a little more laughter. This issue will be the first since Tempeh Demystified was released in January 2015. Issues are regularly $10 but you can receive a half-price discount if you dine at Drifter the night of a zines’ release.

And finally, this dinner adjoins the upcoming launch of Community Supported Ferments, my monthly subscription program of fermented foods. Shares will include tasty ferments such as kimchi, tempeh, vinegar, yogurt, and sourdough. Fermentation Illustrated will also be in each share. For more details on Community Supported Ferments, download the brochure here.


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.


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.


Yields 1 quart, 1-3 months


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)


one qt glass jar


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.