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.

Water Kefir

We take tibicos, more commonly known as water kefir, very seriously on the bus. Tibicos is a starter culture composed of opaque little beads of lovely that produce lactic acid, ethanol (small amounts), and carbon dioxide when reconstituted in sugar water. It is believed to be born on the pads of the Opuntia cactus, native to Mexico. We more lovingly refer to our “grains” as tibi.


Not only does this culture produce one of the most delicious fermented beverages, but it is also the highest maintenance culture of our collection. We have three water kefir cultures each unique in scent and taste – our first from Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, an intentional community in Tumacacori, AZ, the second from a woman in New Orleans, and our third from Hex Ferments in Baltimore, which was a culture they received from author Sandor Katz.

This post serves to discuss maintenance and how to keep your tibicos healthy. I’ve found that these feeding guidelines keep kefir bubbling through hot summer heat as well as through the winter. Keep in mind we do not have refrigeration on the bus – these tibicos cultures have weathered temperature extremes and remain happy, so we’re hoping to shed light on the way tibicos responds to the love you give it.

Important note here! Dairy kefir and water kefir are not related. Although results may be interesting, and possibly even delicious, this does not mean you can reversely feed your water kefir dairy and your dairy kefir water to keep them in good health. However, I encourage you to experiment if you’re curious. I don’t, however, recommend experimenting unless you have extra of your culture to play with.


1 tbsp tibicos

1 quart water (hard water & spring water are best – avoid water with chlorine)

½ cup unrefined organic sugar

5 thin slices of ginger

½ crushed shell of egg

1 tsp of molasses

1) Add sugar as you heat your water and thoroughly dissolve sugar.  At this time you can also add the ginger. I like to slice my ginger thinly to expose as much surface area as possible. Add molasses too and stir.

2) Allow time for the water to cool. You’ll want the temperature to be 100 degrees or less (comfortable to the touch) before adding to your tibicos.

3) Combine tibicos with water mixture.  Add your half crushed egg shell. Cover your container with a cloth and rubberband or use another method to allow air flow.

4) In a day or two, depending on temperature and other conditions, you’ll notice fizz on the top layer of your water mixture. Your tibicos is feasting.

5) OPTIONAL: Secondary Fermentation Add more sugars. My favorite is to add fresh pressed apple juice with Cinnamon and licorice after the grains have been brewing for a day in sugar water. I let the grains get groovy with the apple juice until it’s to my liking, then I bottle my elixir in sling top bottles and refrigerate. Before it ferments further, bring to potlucks and woo the crowd!

6) When you aren’t making delicious elixirs, add other nutrients to your tibicos, especially if it’s stressed. I use water strained from red beans, and add sugar as I would with regular water. The tibicos perks up within a matter of hours. Make sure to store yours in the fridge with a loose lid (I use plastic ball canning lids) when you’re not conducting experiments, and then feed once a week to keep it in good health.

6) Taste and smell your tibicos regularly. Every culture is different. Get to know yours and how quickly it ferments while in storage – in and out of the fridge.


Practice different combinations with your water kefir. You can simply purchase a natural fruit juice (no additives or preservatives) at the store, add your grains, and then adjust the sweetness with sugars for your grains to eat through.

If you have any questions, you can also send an e-mail:

Happy fermenting,



Indo-Thai Sauerkraut


Yields 1 gallon, 1-4 weeks


6 lb cabbage

2 lb carrots

1 tbsp caraway seed

1 tbsp cumin seed

3 dried thai chilis

3 tbsp unrefined sea salt


1 gal glass jar or crock

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

cloth & rubber-band


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.


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:


Large stockpot



Glass or ceramic fermentation vessel (with spigot is ideal)


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


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.