Archive for Fermentation

Kefir smoothie: banana coconut milk

Winning combo: plain kefir, banana, coconut milk and honey!


Kefir update: smoothie

So plain kefir is a little strange to drink by itself, however, blended with fruit into a smoothie is delicious and healthy. I’ve been using frozen blueberries, banana and honey in kefir as a breakfast starter or post work-out treat.

Don't let simple appearances fool you!

Kefir – yummy yogurt-like drink

Like yogurt, kefir has active cultures which can benefit your digestive system. In addition, kefir is made from fermented milk and so has calcium and hopefully some added Vitamin D. I purchased the kefir grains from and Marilyn was great with customer service. She had to send the kefir grains twice! because they were sent back the first time.

What are kefir grains? Thanks to a packet that arrived with the grains, I have some explanation that they are micro-organisms such as bacteria. See pic for a listing:

real live kefir grains

bacteria can be good for you!

After letting the grains sit with milk (2% organic) for 24ish-hrs, I strained the kefir and pureed with honey and almonds. The taste was a little sour, slightly alcoholic and milky. I wasn’t thrilled with the taste but I have a lot more experimenting to do with recipes. Off to a start!

Time stamped, I promise.

Strain strain strain.

Frothy only b/c I blended with honey and almonds

Pork and Sauerkraut, a family tradition

My Pennsylvania dutch grandmother chuckled at me when I mentioned that I was going to ferment cabbage and make sauerkraut. She exclaimed, “Why I never heard of such a thing. I always use that canned sauerkraut and it tasted good!” So, the canned version gets Grammy’s stamp of approval but that doesn’t mean I can’t give fermented cabbage a try. Also, Katz in Wild Fermentation suggests this task for beginning fermenters and laid out easy steps for preparation. I previously described the flavor of the kraut at Day 10, on Day 25 it wore its familiar cloak of sour taste and crispy texture. Good raw as well as cooked.

Pork and Sauerkraut
-2lbs pork shoulder (boneless) -purchased at my farmer’s market from Mint Creek Farms (IL)
-small golden potatoes (maybe 15)
-4 C. of sauerkraut (combo of red and green cabbage)
-1 onion
-1 celery stalk
-1 pear
-1 22oz beer
-caraway seeds
-juniper berries
-dill seed and celery seed were also recommended but I didn’t use

-1 C. salt to 2 quarts water
-1/4C. juniper berries
-4T. caraway seeds
-2T. peppercorns
-2T. herbs de provence
-boil these all together and then cool liquid before submerging pork and leaving for 8-12hrs. in fridge

Mashed potatoes
-Boiled potatoes (also potatoes from slow cooker)
-olive oil
-caraway seeds

Pork prep:
-I made the brine one day prior and let the pork soak in it overnight.
-In late morning of dinner day, I dried off pork and seared the outside to keep juices inside while cooking.

Slow Cooker prep:
-In the bottom of the slow cooker, I placed the sliced onion, chopped celery and sliced pear.
-Then I added juniper berries, caraway seeds, and peppercorns (in reasonable amounts?…)
-I placed as many potatoes as I could fit around the edge of the pot (I had to boil all the others before making the mashed potatoes)
-I added some sauerkraut on top and then placed the pork roast on that
-I tucked sauerkraut all around the pork and on top and poured 1/2C. of the fermentation saltwater over it
-Lastly I poured in one 22oz beer which brought liquid level almost to top and then sealed the pot
-Cooked for 3 hrs on high and 3 hrs on low, the pork was well above the 160F internal cooked temp when finished

Mashed potatoes finishing
-My roommate, Meghan, skillfully mashed the boiled and slow cooked potatoes.
-In a small frying pan, I combined 3T. olive oil with 3T. butter and 1T caraway seeds and 1 garlic clove sliced thinly. Let simmer until garlic started to brown and the smell of caraway seeds filled the air.
-Added hot oil/garlic mix to the mashed potatoes, 3T. mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Easy and yummy, no milk version.

At the end, some Russian’s best bread from a local bakery, beer (a la Jenny) and organic apple sauce from Trader Joe’s rounded out a very hardy meal.

Nestled for its slow cook.

Potatoes should take up half the plate, right?


In ‘Wild Fermentation’, Sandor Katz suggests making sauerkraut for beginning fermenting enthusiasts. So, why not! I shredded both red and green cabbage and salted them as I packed them into separate ceramic containers. After 24hrs, you should add brine (salt water) if the water-level isn’t just above the cabbage. Pack it all down with a weight on a plate, I’m using a brick.

After a week and a half, the cabbage is on its way to sauerkraut but is missing that acidic tangy flavor that needs to be quelled by potatoes and pork. Katz describes sauerkraut as fermenting by three different microbial species; coliform, leuconostoc, and lastly, lactobacillus. Each works in succession and so I’d imagine 1.5 wks isn’t enough to complete this chain.

I boiled fresh pork brats from paulina meat market in two different pots, one with 312 wheat beer from Goose Island and the other with tap water. I added sauerkraut (both kinds although I think I prefer green), caraway seeds, juniper berries, and peppercorns to each pot and let boil for 30 minutes. I finished the brats with a light fry in bacon fat in the cast iron skillet. Starting smell was a frat house the morning after a kegger (not that I would know, mom), finishing smell was of a hearty pub meal.

The beer-boiled brat and kraut won, obviously. Can’t wait for the sauerkraut to be fully ripe!

Day 0.

Day 10.

Brat stole the show.

This fart goblin bread smells delicious.

For bread, I think the recipe makes a significant difference in the final outcome. Whereas carob powder and lots of espresso killed my first sourdough pumpernickel bread, coffee and cocoa powder made this batch delightful. Also, the fermenting time intervals were shorter as was the baking time, only 50 minutes! Here’s the link to the recipe:

from humble origins.

to an impressive result.

Kefir tasting

In a few weeks a set of Kefir grains will arrive on my doorstep, ready to take a bath in milk and ferment for a day. In order to prepare for my homemade kefir adventures, I bought plain kefir from the grocery today. I tasted it alone; sour like yogurt with a thick milk consistency. On the nutrition facts, it looks like they add fiber so I guess they’re optimizing the benefits for your digestive system. As you can see below from the label, it’s a low-fat milk drink with lots of healthy bacteria that can aid digestion and provide calcium.

According to wiki, kefir has origins in the North Caucasus region, most of which is now in Russia. It was discovered by shepherds who found that the milk in their leather pouches would ferment and become slightly carbonated.

I made a banana, honey, almond and kefir smoothie today with the help of my emulsion blender. Very good! Few days later I made apple butter, honey, almond and kefir smoothie, also good.

Also, apparently you pronounce the drink ‘Kee-fir’ not ‘Ke-fear’.

a point of comparison

Pumpernickel bread with sourdough starter

Well, even if this gets filed in the ‘failures’ category, I have learned a few things from this bread-making process, one of them is a tip from “The Big Bang Theory’ episode last night. ‘Pumpernickel’ means ‘fart goblin’ or ‘fart devil’ in German. (see Wiki for more information on the nickname) While my bread didn’t smell like a fart, it didn’t smell like roses, either.

The process
1. Make a sourdough starter
-for 5 days I let a cup of flour and cup of water take in all the micro-organisms from my kitchen and ferment into a sourdough starter.

Kind of cute, right?

2. I then mixed the sourdough starter into a sponge which included carob powder, more flour and water. This sponge was stirred occasionally and let to ferment for 24 hours.

Making the sponge

3. Then I stirred in the remaining ingredients; the remaining rye flour, 4 shots of espresso, molasses and salt. The final texture was hard to get my spoon through but still sticky and moist. This sat for 8 hours.

yeah, I know what it looks like.

4. I poured the dough into a casserole dish and let it sit for 3 hours. Then I baked it at 350F for 2.5 hours. Once complete, the surface was crusty hard and the interior soft and porous.

Ready for heat.

It looks delicious, doesn't it?

The taste, however, ….weird. I originally thought to break out the espresso, carob powder, and molasses just so I could identify what tastes were from which ingredients, oh I wish I had done so.

It tastes bitter, a little dry, and overall…weird. It obviously needed more molasses or perhaps brown sugar. The espresso would make it bitter. I think the carob powder was the main culprit. …it’s not good. I’m not going to use it again. Also, this was a sourdough starter, not active dry yeast from a packet.

This recipe came from Katz’s ‘Wild Fermentation’. First recipe…good texture but I’m going to have to watch his ingredients carefully. In searching online, some suggested cocoa powder but no one suggested carob powder. Lesson learned.

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

The author describes his love of fermentation as a fetish. He playfully explains his forays into all types of fermentation, including but not limited to; vegetables, beans, dairy, bread, and beers. He combines personal anecdotes about his fermentation trials with food history and recipes. I have yet to try many recipes but I’ll update this review when I do!