venturing into the world of ferments

My house is no stranger to random science experiments.  There was that time I raised 500 silkworms in a filing cabinet in my living room.

Naturally, there was also the time I boiled cocoons to  make spinnable silk hankies.  Or as I like to refer to it: the time I made worm soup.

Then there was also the time I thought I’d start an edible mushroom garden, so I inoculated various logs with mycelium plugs.  And there was the myriad Bonsai tree attempts – at which you would think I would have had more success than I did, being an arborist and all. FullSizeRender 7

There was also that time I converted my kitchen into a chemistry lab, trying to make cold-process soap.  And there was the yarn dyeing. And the sourdough phase.

The list goes on, really.

My latest endeavour is fermentation.  Now, I’m not new to the whole concept.  I’ve done a bit of fermenting in the past.  Sourdough, for example, is something I’ve been doing for years.  I also attempted a few ciders awhile ago; and more recently ginger beer….with minimal success.  That seems to be the trend with my science experiments.  I get all antsy to start so I dive in head-first, often without doing sufficient research on the subject.  Rather than do further reading, I quickly get distracted by some other project and neglect the original one.  Which means that I actually should have started this post with:

My house is no stranger to failed random science experiments.

This time will be different.  (I hope!)  I’m pretty determined to ensure these ferments work out.  Mainly because I’m really eager to taste them, but also because I think my body could definitely benefit from  a probiotic boost.  If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple months, you’ll know that I underwent a really rough year in 2016.  It’s amazing just how significantly stress can manifest in your body.  My immune system took a serious hit because of it.  Not just with cold and flu – which did affect me stronger last year than ever before – but also with more serious issues that I’m still trying to diagnose, for which I took a hell of a lot of antibiotics over the course of the year.  I hate being on antibiotics.  I hate the over-prescribing of antibiotics, but even when they are necessary, I hate taking them.  That feeling that they’re wiping out my natural gut bacteria.  Or something.  My doctor recommended that I take some probiotic supplements for a little while, which I am doing.   But now that I have a sort-of necessary purpose for my science experiments (a purpose that extends beyond mere personal interest/fascination), I have more desire to succeed.

It helps that Cory is just as interested in fermenting as I am.  Last Sunday we gathered up some supplies and began the SCIENCE! We made sauerkraut, beet kvass, ginger bugs, honey garlic, kombucha, yogurt, and wine.

The wine is from a boxed kit we bought at a home-brew shop; it’s not like we spent the day in our bare feet crushing grapes.  Although that does sound like a relationship goal right there.

I’ve made yogurt a few times before. It’s so satisfying because it’s so easy and so delicious.  You just have to heat some milk to just under boiling, add about 1/4 cup of plain yogurt (as your starter), and leave it for a few hours in a warm spot such as in the oven with only the light on.  My food dehydrator has a yogurt setting, which I love because it keeps the temperature nice and consistent.

Ginger bug is the term for the starter culture used in making ginger beer.  It’s grated ginger and sugar in water.  You have to feed it daily for about a week to build up the natural yeast, then you can add it to sweet ginger tea to ferment.  When we attempted this in the past, we failed for a couple reasons. First, it’s very important that you use organic ginger for the bug, to ensure it has natural wild yeast on the peel.  Non organic ginger is usually irradiated which kills the yeast.  It’s fine for use in the tea, which is boiled anyway, but you should really use organic ginger for your starter. Our initial ginger bug remained fairly inactive even after weeks of feeding, most likely because we didn’t use organic ginger.  Our second attempt at ginger beer failed for a reason that is a bit more uncertain.  Most recipes called for adding lemons in the tea for flavour.  We omitted the lemons, which may have affected the viscosity of our final product.  It didn’t go bad.  There was no mould growing on it.  But it was as thick as egg whites. After a bit of research, I’m under the impression that the acidity from the lemons actually helps prevent the conversion of certain sugars into dextran, the culprit of slimy ginger beer.  If anyone else has some insight, I would really appreciate it. This will be our third time trying to make ginger beer.  Hopefully it works.  Third time’s a charm, right?

Today is Sunday, and the jars have been sitting on a shelf in our dining room for exactly one week.  So far, so good.  The sauerkraut tastes fantastic but it’s not quite sauer enough yet.  It still needs time.  The garlic in honey needs lots more time.  The kombucha has a tiny SCOBY floating on top.  I’m optimistic.

Oh, and by the way. I finished Opposite Pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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