Monday, May 06, 2013

Cultivating Relationships

There are but few strands of a densely interwoven web of relationships that can sustain and enrich us. Fermentation is one way in which we may consciously cultivate this web. This is the daily practice of cultural revival. By engaging life forces, we rediscover and reconnect with our context.
 - Sandor Katz, Fermentation

Ahhh, yeast. That white cheesey stuff. It’s alive, and it’s all around us.

So, my sauerkraut, put into the fermentation pot on February 1 was canned yesterday. This year, I used juniper berries from the front yard instead of caraway. I put in one green apple for each head of cabbage. It’s crisp and tart and tangy and lovely. I don’t heat seal the jars because I don’t want to murder the live creatures that created lovely kraut and that are so essential to maintain a healthy digestive system. Instead, I’ve found it keeps ages in the refrigerator. I have a pork loin roast I can’t wait to serve it with.

Next: the mead. My first try was made with raw honey, honey comb, and flavored with rose petals from my backyard and some rose water. I also used white cardamom – slightly stronger and more medicinal tasting than the regular green cardamom, but deeper and more mellow with time.  After a month, I strained out the spent petals and spice as Katz suggests. This also aerates the liquid and promotes further fermentation. The jug sat in my cool dark closet for another month and continued to bubble gently. I racked it – put it into recycled beer bottles with bale lids – last week.

I plan to keep two bottles to age some more, but we had a half-jug that we tasted “young”. It’s not bad, and it’s clearly alcoholic, although I didn’t bother to use the thermometer-thingie to measure specific gravity and thus determine the alcohol content. Still a bit sweet and it’s cloudy rather than translucent like commercial mead, but the rose and spice provide a subtle depth to the honey flavor. I’m hoping that aging it longer will make it better and dryer as the sugar continues to ferment, mellowing the strong honey flavor. I’m ready to invest in a larger jug and do more. We hope to make it to the home-brew store this week where I might also get a book with techniques and recipes.

If you have any interest in fermentation, Katz’ new book quoted above is a marvelous reference. He doesn’t provide much in the way of specific recipes, but he does provide amazing cultural background and general techniques to ferment all manner of foods from mundane to exotic. If you’re interested in detailed recipes, get his older book: Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

Yesterday, we finally found tomatoes at a farmer’s market, roasted them with garlic and sweet peppers and canned the sauce. Today is the third day the strawberries have macerated and they are ready to cook down into jam and can. J picked a jam recipe that includes some mint I just harvested from the backyard, and black pepper.

So, we’ll finally have some fresh homemade food to eat and to share. And soon, also to drink. The best part of making these things is sharing the process with J. Reconnecting and enjoying the process together is priceless.

1 comment:

Martha in Michigan said...

You "finally" found some tomatoes — it is to laugh. I planted mine in walls o' water last week, which is pushing it in SE Michigan. Sure enough, there's a freeze warning for tonight. They will be okay, but I'll have to cover the geraniums and caladiums and poblano peppers that are unprotected. I am so done with winter.

I enjoy vicariously your time with J doing such things together. I'll meet mine in Seattle next weekend, although we expect to be consuming more than producing. Hope they don't expect too much mountain hiking from me....