This bubbling jar of fruit, sugar, bacteria, and yeast was my first experimental batch of homemade vinegar. It turned out beautifully. Slightly alcoholic, but beautiful. I learned from a friend that if I let the vinegar sit past its alcoholic stage it would become a full fledged vinegar and not just a vinegary beverage that gives you a buzz.
The process was simple enough, I added slices of apple to a jar of water with a little bit of extra sugar, covered it with a coffee filter and rubber band, and ignored it. Well, I checked on it almost obsessively to see if it had grown a SCOBY yet. After about a month of anxious peeking and occasional mold skimming, my SCOBY was there! It had grown! I had ‘made’ it happen!
Delighted with this success, I scaled up. Mistake #1 – a ceramic crock that wasn’t meant for fermentation. This mistake went unnoticed for a good while, but was the real cause of this experiments demise. I started this batch with a little of the original vinegar, a peeled off layer of the original SCOBY, sliced apples, and sugar. It quickly grew a 1/4″ thick SCOBY and smelled fantastic. The jar had a snuggly fitting lid (Mistake #2 – nothing except saran wrap or a coffee filter is snug enough to keep fruit flies out) so I covered it, and really did ignore it this time.
After a month, I noticed that the area around the crock was smelling a little mildewy. Mistake #3 – never ignore a weird smell around anything, ANYTHING, you’re fermenting. No excuses.
Another month – I pulled the lid off the crock and out flew a thick mass of fruit flies. The apple slices were mostly white with maggots, and the walls and underside of the lid were crusted with pupae. Another thing – the level of the vinegar had dropped by a few inches in the jar. Flies, leakage, and mold-from-leakage meant that I dumped this whole mess into the compost and will start again. I’m not at all discouraged by this failure because it is clear that every mistake made was due to my own ignorance/laziness and not at all to the actual difficulty of making vinegar. I was just a little too confident a little too fast and lost what could have been 3 gallons of delicious apple vinegar to my vinegar-hubris.
From left to right: Pesto, garlic-jalapeno carrots, pickled shallots, pickled garlic, sourdough starter, orange oil (not for eating but for cleaning), apple vinegar, and kombucha.
From left to right: Kombucha. Lots of it.
I have started in on my goal of preserving the bulk of my food for the winter. This includes anything besides water that I want to drink. I’ll be buying flour, sugar, rice, and most of my spices, but the idea is for everything else to come from my own stores. This little row is just a small sample of what my ‘fermenting shelf’ is now holding. I keep being told that working on (3!) a farm will eventually break me of my constant search for food and eliminate the urge to glean and forage – so far these feelings have only intensified. Having very little income, a whole slew of food allergies and intolerance, and a life long love of foraging and cooking makes me believe that I’ll never grow out of it. I promise to post as much about each individual project as I can, but for now, pictures of pretty bottles and jars!
A surplus of overwintered and flowering kale means I have a surplus of delicious kale chips about to be made. I modified a recipe I found on the whole food’s website to use what I had on hand – my primary cooking strategy.
Not everything is pictured here, but the main recipe goes as such:
2 lbs kale – torn into 1″-2″ pieces
1 Green bell pepper – roasted and peeled
1 c almonds, soaked for an hour
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1/3 c rice milk
4 cloves garlic (I used early volunteer garlic that I pulled from around the farm and included the greens as well as the bulbs – ended up using about 1/2 lb)
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients, except the kale, in a food processor and blitz until a uniform paste. Toss the kale with the sauce and spread on a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper. Bake at 250 F for about 3 hours, turning over half way through.
I became very impatient with the oven (which is also incredibly filthy) and wasn’t entirely satisfied with the texture so I switched over to my dehydrator and left it at 125F overnight and was very pleased with how the chips turned out. Crunchy, cheezy, and gone before I ever got a chance to take pictures. I will have to make way more chips if I plan on having this snack added to my winter-food stash.
What’s your favorite way to prepare kale?