How would the world look with sacred economics?
December 24, 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , ,
Charles Eisenstein is a philosopher and alternative economist. He is the author, most recently, of Sacred Economics, a book that seeks “to make money and human economy as sacred as everything else in the universe.” I caught up with him and asked him to explain a little about how the city of Madison might look if it operated under what he calls a gift economy.

Raw Milk in the Dairy State
November 17, 2012, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve spent most of the last few days at the 2012 North American Biodynamic Festival here in Madison. On Thursday afternoon, there was a workshop on “Food Rights, Food Freedom” moderated by the wonderful David Gumpert. The speakers included Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund attorney and organizational vice president Elizabeth Rich. I interviewed her during the break between two panel talks, for local community radio station WORT 89.9FM and our local news show “In Our Backyard” Thursday night:

Interview_with_Elizabeth_Rich_FTCLDF_Raw_Milk_in_WI_11-15-12.m4a Listen on Posterous

A Day of Shattered Glass
November 17, 2012, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, it’s finally happened. I don’t have a picture because my first thought upon discovering the mess was to clean it up, not photograph it, but I had my first bottle explode this evening.

I used to religiously make tester bottles of each batch of ginger beer, pouring some into a plastic bottle and feeling it occasionally to see how much pressure was building up. But I don’t have any plastic bottles around the house now, and so I’ve made a few batches of kombucha, ginger beer, and now water kefir without that safeguard. Oops.

I fell asleep on the couch this evening while attempting a little self-hypnosis. Since I wasn’t trying to hypnotize myself into falling asleep, I think it wasn’t really successful. 😉 I woke halfway to the sudden tinkling explosion of broken glass, but took a while to climb all the way out of sleep and get up to look around.

By the time I made it to the doorway into the kitchen, it was like a crime scene. There were a few large chunks of broken glass in the dining room and a spreading pool of red liquid and broken glass all over the kitchen floor around the fridge.

As I mentioned last time, the winter home of the fermentation station has been the top of the fridge. Included in the station were three thick glass bail-top bottles of water kefir finished with its initial fermentation, with cherry juice and elderberry syrup added and bottled for secondary fermentation. And how.

One of the three bottles holding the flavored water kefir, not a green Grolsch bottle but a clear German square-bottomed bail-top bottle that I bought locally, burst and sent its contents and its container everywhere.

The first thing I did was to transfer the remaining two bottles into the fridge. After I cleaned up the juice and glass on and down the sides of the fridge, down the walls and doors, and puddling on the floor, I pulled one of the remaining bottles out of the fridge and carefully opened it in the sink, with my face averted. It was anti-climactic. The bail top flipped open with a little pop, and I poured a fizzy but well-behaved and delicious red beverage into a pint glass.

Well, then. Chalk one up to: Lesson learned. Plastic tester bottles, here I come. Obviously that won’t prevent every incident, since each bottle clearly carbonates at a slightly different rate, but hopefully it will help.

In other news, the beet kvass/rassol is also in secondary fermentation, and the ginger bug is bubbling madly, ready to be made into another batch. I’ve been drinking the first batch, and I think it could actually have gone for a longer fermentation, as it’s still quite sweet. And this time I’ll add more ginger — I like it spicy.

The water kefir, previously described as delicious, is that, but also slightly odd-tasting, as I remember it being the last time I incorporated it into my fermentation practice. I wonder if the taste will change over time with frequent fermentation. The grains Jack gave me are obviously well cared for and frequently fed, so it’s not that they’ve developed off flavors due to neglect. Could I change the flavor by using different carbohydrates, like maybe diluted maple syrup?

Put that one in the experiments yet to be performed column.

Winter Station
November 14, 2012, 1:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, in mid-November the pantry gets too cold for most ferments to go at any decent rate, as it turns out, so the fermentation station has been moved around the corner into the kitchen proper. Its true location is on top of the fridge, but it’s all more photogenic down on the table:


New developments are: the ginger bug on the left, which has already been made into one batch of ginger beer that’s carbonated and been transferred to the fridge tonight; the tibicos grains that are currently trying very hard to turn sugar water into water kefir (two days in there and it’s still sugar water); and the beet kvass/rassol, which I haven’t made in a while.

Also, the three bail-top bottles in the back are not the first batch of lemongrass ginger reishi kombucha but the second. Unfortunately, I forgot to steep the lemongrass with the black tea this time… So I made a lemongrass simple syrup and added it to the bottles for their secondary fermentation. We’ll see if it works. The first batch, especially the one bottle of it that was in a small bail-top like these and not in a bigger bottle, was ridiculously delicious and perfectly bubbly.

Friday Epilogue
October 26, 2012, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I know you were all waiting on the edges of your seats, so let me assure you that I jarred up enough kimchi for my 11 CSYaymates, went to drop if off, and then introduced my scoby to my new batch of sweet tea. Then, for good measure, I made a batch of mayonnaise with a bit of whey to ferment slightly overnight.

<congrulates self on an evening well spent>




Finding Inspiration in Culture & Community: The Reedsburg Fermentation Fest
October 26, 2012, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Farm, Fermentation, Food | Tags: , , , , , ,

I went to one day of the more-than-a-week-long Reedsburg Fermentation Fest last Saturday. WORT’s “In Our Backyard” interviewed Sandor Katz and Erin Schneider live on the radio the week before the fest started, and because I ended up filling in as co-host with the amazing Rob McClure, I got to ask Sandor some questions on air. The day I drove up to Reedsburg, I went to one of Sandor’s workshops, and one with Vanessa Tortellano and Alla Shapiro of NessAlla Kombucha here in Madison. I interviewed all three of them.

We aired the interview with Sandor on Wednesday and with NessAlla on Thursday. That part was totally fun, which I expected.

What I didn’t quite expect, maybe because I’ve been fermenting things for a while and started to take it for granted to some extent, was to walk away totally inspired and reinvigorated to ferment, to preach fermentation, to try new things, to share, and to “bubble over.” A lot of it was Sandor’s talk on the bigger picture of fermentation.

Sandor Katz on Fermenting Social Change

When I got home to Madison that night — well, first I had to do a few hours of work on a report that we published at work today, but then soon afterwards — the first thing I wanted to do was ferment something. And, in Vanessa and Alla’s workshop, they’d shared some lemongrass ginger kombucha that was delicious. So I decided to try making some. I’d never made flavored kombucha before. Not for any good reason. I just hadn’t tried it. Cosmo Joe was here with me after painting on State Street all day, so he got to watch the process.

Can you see that funny-looking little nugget floating amidst the various tea bags in the middle there? That’s a dried reishi mushroom from Kingbird Farm. I boiled it with the ginger before I added the oolong and fresh lemongrass (from the Dane County Farmers Market). Does anyone know what reishi does to kombucha? I didn’t, but I decided to try it.

I tried the brew for the first time today, a little early I thought, but what the heck, it had been warm for a few days. It was downright tart! I haven’t had kombucha ferment that quickly in a while. Maybe it was just because I poured a new batch of sweet tea in with my scoby right after bottling the last batch rather than waiting a while, maybe it was because of the reishi, who knows — I don’t, anyway.

So I bottled it up and added a little maple syrup to see if I can get some bubble.

My last batch, which I bottled right before making the sweet tea for this batch last Saturday night, doesn’t seem to have had enough residual sugar when I bottled it, because it stayed flat.

Speaking of bottling, a few weeks ago I bottled the red wine vinegar I’d started a while back.

That same night (October 6th), I started the batch of root kimchi I’m about to jar up for this month’s CSYay. It has (can I remember it all?): cabbage, multi-colored carrots, daikon, beauty heart radishes, black radishes, French breakfast radishes, rutabaga, scallions, garlic, ginger, and Thai chiles. I know I’m forgetting something.

I pulled off the cloths and tried it today, and it’s delicious (especially the stuff in the lighter colored crock, which is *supposed* to be the same as what’s in the brown but apparently is just different enough).

Back to today: I bottled that last batch of kimchi and made the sweet tea for the next batch. This time it’s half black tea, half green tea, with some roasted dandelion. I’ll add some frozen raspberries after it’s done fermenting, if it seems like it’ll go well.

And I’ll leave you with this: some foggy bottoms at Trautman Family Farm this last Tuesday:

For the rest of the images that accompany this post, please visit my F(ermentation)Log on Posterous.

Kraut, vinegar, and kefir, oh my
September 12, 2012, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Lest you surmise from my woeful posting habits that the fermentation station is no longer in operation, rest assured, the bubbling, fizzing, and souring continues. I made a crock of kraut on Saturday from a couple cabbages from our community garden plot, started souring some vinegar from the remains of a bottle of red wine, and of course have the weekly kefir and viili going as usual.

I recently found out about a monthly community exchange of consumable goods and joined up. I can’t decide whether to contribute 14 shares of kraut or 14 portions of some preparation of the ridiculous quantity of collard greens currently exploding at the garden. What should I go for? The fermented delicacy or the slow-cooked autumnal greens?

For more on my fermentation station, including the missing parts of the conversation between “Progress in the Pantry” and “June Garden News,” please visit my F(ermentation)Log.