The Farmer and the Fermenter- Episode 1

Welcome to the debut of The Farmer and the Fermenter, the podcast where we discuss all things farming, all things food fermentation, and all the places in between where they meet!

Hosted by Austin Durant, founder and Chief Fermentation Officer of Fermenters Club, and Mel Lions, founder and director of Wild Willow Farm and Education Center.

In this episode:

  • Introduction to Mel (“The Farmer”) and his farming journey
  • What is regenerative farming?
  • Is all Organic Created Equal?
  • The origin of Wild Willow Farm
  • Word to ya mothers: Sourdough and kombucha
  • Creating community through farming and through food fermentation

Please leave us a comment on what you’d like to hear more (or less) of!

Mustard

Most mustard is made from either white (or yellow) mustard plant, Brassica hirta. Its spicier cousin is the brown mustard, Brassica juncea. We use a combination of the two here. There is also black mustard (the spiciest of the bunch), but it is difficult to grow and is not very commonly found in the U.S.

The word mustard derives from Latin for mustum (fermented wine) + ardens (hot seeds).

Water revives the enzymes from dried/powdered mustard, and will create the pungency that mustard is known for. Interestingly, temperature affects the pungency too. Use cold water for a hotter mustard, and warm water for a more mellow mustard.

Conversely, acids slow this enzymatic process. So you can get mustard to a flavor you want (wait a few minutes or a few hours), then add brine/acid to “lock it in” by adding an acid, (brine or vinegar).

Turmeric is what makes mustard yellow (not just by using “yellow” mustard) and is common in store-bought varieties.

Mustard
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 1 pint
 
Ingredients
  • 35g (3 oz. by weight) white/yellow mustard seeds
  • 35g (3 oz. by weight) brown mustard seeds
  • 60g (about ¾ cup volume) white/yellow mustard powder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup (60ml) pickle brine or liquid whey
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 7 fl ounces (205ml) filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) (20g) honey (OPTIONAL)
  • 2 tsp (10ml) turmeric (OPTIONAL)
Instructions
  1. Add brown and yellow seeds, water (colder water for spicier, warm water for more mellow) and garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Mix about 6-8 minutes
  2. Add mixture to a clean wide mouth pint mason jar.
  3. Add mustard powder. To achieve a mellower/less spicy mustard, wait 10 minutes before adding remaining ingredients.
  4. Add salt, turmeric, honey (if using) and pickle brine to jar.
  5. Stir well.
  6. Tightly secure lid and ferment at room temperature 3 days.
  7. Store in refrigerator for up to a year.

 

 

 

Fermented Hot Sauce

Hot sauce can take anywhere from a few weeks to 4 to 6 months to ferment. I tend to let mine go on the longer side. My most recent batch was a four-month ferment.

Keep it simple with a single pepper type, or use a variety of (similar colored) peppers with differing levels of heat and flavors. If you use a mix of red and green peppers, you will wind up with a grayish-brown product. Not very visually pleasing, but it will likely still taste delicious!

Fermented Hot Sauce
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 1 quart
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. (1 kg) fresh chile peppers, any variety
  • 2 Tbsp. (30ml) pickle brine or whey
  • 1 Tbsp. (15ml) sea salt plus more to adjust taste
  • 6-8 cloves fresh garlic
  • distilled vinegar or ripe kombucha to adjust consistency
Instructions
  1. Cut stems off peppers.
  2. For more heat in finished sauce, keep the seeds and membranes in hotter peppers. To reduce heat, cut them out and discard or compost.
  3. Peel garlic and add to work bowl of a food processor or blender.
  4. Add salt and pickle brine or whey to work bowl.
  5. Add peppers to work bowl. Pulse until you reach the consistency of pickle relish or salsa.
  6. Transfer contents to a quart-sized jar. Secure with a fermentation airlock device, or cover with a swatch of clean cloth or a paper towel. Secure with mason jar ring.
Fermentation
  1. Ferment for anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months.
  2. If yeast or mold formed on top, wipe, scrape, or scoop off the top layer.
  3. Add contents to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth (up to 5 minutes depending on speed and power of your device).
  4. Adjust consistency and flavor by adding salt or vinegar as needed.
  5. Dispense into recycled sauce bottles. Store at room temperature or in refrigerator. Keeps for many months.

 

 

 

Not sure how hot each pepper is? Consult the Scoville scale to get your chile bearings.

Fermented Corn (Maize) Kernels

I initially made fermented corn as a way to create a lactobacillus-rich neutral flavored brine I could use to inoculate other dishes (like legumes).

This recipe uses a 5% brine (by weight). You could go as low as 3% brine because it is a short (less than a week) ferment.

Fermented corn has a sweet and sour taste. Simple as can be to make, now I keep a jar of fermented corn on hand all the time. It’s great to sprinkle a few tablespoons over some greens, into a salad, or mixed in with your favorite guacamole recipe!

summer salad with cornjar of fermented corn

 

Fermented Corn (Maize) Kernels
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 1 pint
 
Ingredients
  • 2 ears sweet corn (about 1 cup/ 250ml)
  • 8 oz/250 ml filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons/10 ml/ 12.5 grams fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. Cut kernels off corn ears.
  2. Dissolve salt into water in a pint or quart sized mason jar.
  3. Add kernels to jar.
  4. Cover container with a tea towel or clean dishcloth to keep dust and flies out, and secure with twist ties or a rubber band. OR if using small batch fermentation kit, apply the fermentation lid per the instructions.
  5. Ferment 3 to 6 days (until you see it bubbling and has a sour aroma and taste).
  6. If there is any surface yeast or mold, skim it with a spoon or a paper towel. Stir the contents of the jar.
  7. Remove airlock lid and replace with metal lid.
  8. Store in refrigerator. Keeps in brine for up to 2 months.

 

No Nukes ☮ 3 Pepper Cukes

Using three chile peppers in various forms, these no nukes cukes hold some heat, while simultaneously being balanced by the inherent coolness of the cucumber.

Want it hotter? Leave the seeds and membrane in the fresh chile pepper. Want to adjust the heat? Use any kind of peppers you like, from bell peppers to scotch bonnets to Carolina reaper (DISCLAIMER: use peppers at your own risk!) ???

Think all pickles are fermented? Think again– and learn the differences!

No Nukes 3 Pepper Cukes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 1 quart/liter
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb./½ kg. cucumbers (slicing or pickling varieties)
  • 2 jalapeño or other chile peppers
  • ½ tsp.(2.5ml) cayenne pepper powder
  • ½ tsp.(2.5ml) California chile (or another mild variety) pepper powder
  • 1 pint/ ½ liter filtered water
  • 1½ Tablespoons/ 15-20 ml fine sea salt (about 5% brine by weight)
  • 1 tablespoons /15ml pickle brine (Optional)
  • 1 large grape leaf, 2 bay leaves, or 1 other large fruit tree (apple, stone fruit) leaf
Instructions
Prepare
  1. Scrape the tip off the flower end to ensure there are no flowering parts (enzymes & molds can make pickles mushy). Rinse off any dirt from cucumbers. If using slicing cukes, slice into ¾″ thick pieces. Leave whole if using pickling (Kirby) variety.
  2. To a clean quart glass jar or ceramic crock, add grape leaves, cayenne and California chile powder.
  3. Cut stem off jalapeños, then slice lengthwise in half
  4. Add cucumbers to jar
  5. Mix Brine: Stir sea salt into filtered water until salt dissolves.
  6. Add pickle brine from a previous batch to container.
  7. Place a lid or plate that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the container on top of cukes. Add a weight like a jar or wine bottle filled with water. OR, If using a small batch fermentation kit, add the weight(s) to the jar.
  8. Slowly pour brine into jar until there’s enough to cover the contents. Leave about one inch from the top of the container (if using mason jars).
  9. Cover container with a tea towel or clean dishcloth to keep dust and flies out, and secure with twist ties or a rubber band. OR if using small batch fermentation kit, apply the fermentation lid per the instructions.
Ferment
  1. Place in a cool, dark spot in your house. Taste after 5 days. If still too crunchy (like a raw cuke), let ferment a few more days.
  2. White yeasts and mold may form on the surface that is exposed to air. THIS IS NORMAL. Remove weight and plastic lid, wipe or spoon out as much of the mold as you can, clean lid and weight with warm soapy water, dry thoroughly and add back to the jar.
  3. When you like the taste and texture, remove the weight, hops bag (if using), transfer to refrigerator and place a tight lid on container. Pickles will last up to 6 months in the fridge.

 

Here’s the Scoville scale, a scientific-ish way to measure heat of chile peppers.

Citrus Hopped Pickles

Here’s a riff on the garlic dill pickle recipe. It uses hops and citrus peels. If you like IPA beer, you’ll dig this variation.

I’ve used salt-and-pepper variety of cukes with their unmistakable yellow skin, but you could make them with any pickling (or even slicing) variety.

Think all pickles are fermented? Think again– and learn the differences!

Citrus Hopped Pickled Cucumbers
Author: 
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 2 quarts
 
Ingredients
  • 2-3 lbs./1-1½ kg. cucumbers (slicing or pickling varieties)
  • peels from 1 lemon, and 1 orange
  • ¼ oz (7g) dried hops or hops nuggets, any variety
  • 1 Tbsp./ 15ml peppercorns, mixed
  • 1 quart/liter filtered water
  • 2-3 Tablespoons/ 30-45ml fine sea salt (4.5 to 6.8% brine by weight)
  • 2 tablespoons /30ml pickle brine (Optional)
  • 2 grape leaves or other fruit tree leaf
Instructions
Prepare
  1. Scrape the tip off the flower end to ensure there are no flowering parts (enzymes & molds can make pickles mushy). Rinse off any dirt from cucumbers. If using slicing cukes, slice into ¾″ thick pieces. Leave whole if using pickling (Kirby) variety.
  2. To a clean half-gallon or larger glass jar or ceramic crock, add grape leaves, citrus peels, peppercorns and hops. You may wish to add hops to a canvas tea bag to make them easy to retrieve later.
  3. Add cucumbers to the jar, packing as many in as you can.
  4. Mix Brine: Stir sea salt into filtered water until salt dissolves.
  5. Add pickle brine from a previous batch to container.
  6. Place a lid or plate that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the container on top of cukes. Add a weight like a jar or wine bottle filled with water. OR, If using a small batch fermentation kit, add the weight(s) to the jar.
  7. Slowly pour brine into jar until there’s enough to cover the contents. Leave about one inch from the top of the container (if using mason jars).
  8. Cover container with a tea towel or clean dishcloth to keep dust and flies out, and secure with twist ties or a rubber band. OR if using small batch fermentation kit, apply the fermentation lid per the instructions.
Ferment
  1. Place in a cool, dark spot in your house. Taste after 5 days. If still too crunchy (like a raw cuke), let ferment a few more days.
  2. White yeasts and mold may form on the surface that is exposed to air. THIS IS NORMAL. Remove weight and plastic lid, wipe or spoon out as much of the mold as you can, clean lid and weight with warm soapy water, dry thoroughly and add back to the jar.
  3. When you like the taste and texture, remove the weight, hops bag (if using), transfer to refrigerator and place a tight lid on container. Pickles will last up to 6 months in the fridge.

 

Baked Tortilla Chips

Feeling irritated at the lack of snack chips (particularly tortilla chips) made with healthy fats, I created a technique and recipe for homemade baked tortillas that are as good as any fried version. They’re better in fact, as you’re no longer slowly poisoning yourself with rancid, uber-processed vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, safflower, canola)  that about every chip on the market is still fried in!

Start with round tortillas. My go-to is organic yellow corn tortillas from 365 Everyday (the Whole Foods brand). I use coconut oil as my fat, but you could use any healthy fat– lard, tallow, avocado oil, ghee, etc.

Another benefit of making your own chips in small batches is that you are more likely to savor them, as they are the fruits of your labor. While it is simple to make, it still takes effort. Rather than mindlessly plowing through a seemingly bottomless bag of store-bought, mass produced chips, you might slow to appreciate the hand crafting and care taken with each chip. That’s what I call mindful eating!

 

Baked Tortilla Chips
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 oz
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz (wt.) corn tortillas, about 12 6-inch tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil or other nutrient dense fat (tallow, lard, schmaltz, avocado oil, ghee, etc.)
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. If the fat you're using is solid at room temperature, Heat up ½ cup water, or run a silicone spatula under hot water for 20 seconds. Dip heated spatula into the fat of your choice. this will allow the fat to be worked more easily. I use coconut oil.
  3. Spread a thin layer of fat on one side of each tortilla.
  4. Stack the tortillas (up to 4 at a time). Cut them into 8 pieces (they will take on the same shape as, surprise, tortilla chips!) Repeat until all tortillas have been cut.
  5. Lay chips head-to-tail on a single layer on two half-sheet pans lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  6. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until they just start to curl up and just start to brown.
  7. Remove from oven and pour into a bowl.
  8. Add salt to taste (while they're still hot!)

 

Gut Wellness and the Workplace

Having worked in the corporate world in my first career, I understand and have experienced the demands, stresses, and lifestyle that most people in this environment undergo. Long working hours, early or late-night travel, deep mental focus demanding lots of energy, and meeting unreasonable deadlines are just a few of the stressors we endure. Often, the first casualty of working in this type of environment is care for our physical bodies. We forget to eat (or to eat well), stop breathing deeply,  move/stand up (especially if we are cubicle cowboys, hunched over our computers for hours at a time, most of the day).

Back in the (Corporate) Day, 2001.

It is a fact that 90% of the serotonin (one of several “feel-good” chemical produced by our body) is created and resides in our gut. That means that a happy gut literally translates to an overall happy mood.

One defense against the stresses of the corporate world is to build a healthy gut. Eating fermented foods, which are the original source of probiotics, can help rebuild a healthy gut.

To that end, the mission of my second career emerged. I am passionate about bringing ancient nutritional wisdom back into modern life. Just as important to me is integrating concepts into communities and cross-pollinating tribal knowledge from one to another. Whether it’s the homesteading, DIY, permaculture, foodie, yoga, corporate, startup, psychotherapy, spiritual, or any other communities, we all have to learn from and teach each other. I am dedicated to connecting communities to continue the virtuous cycle of learning and teaching.

American Red Cross Fermentation Workshop, 2018

We offer fun, hands-on, immersive on-site workshops that promote team building, and also teach valuable practical skills for promoting better health. If you’re interested in learning more about these turnkey workshops for your group or organization, drop us a line! We would love to share our knowledge so that you and your team may continue to thrive!

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Cannabis Kombucha

 

 

I’ve tried some delicious cannabis kombucha brands here in California, where adult use of cannabis is legal. Commercial brands mix a THC-infused emulsion into kombucha that’s already brewed.

I hadn’t heard of anyone including cannabis in the fermentation. I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would the SCOBY be okay, or would it get paranoid and climb out of the jar? Would it ferment? I used vegetable glycerin to emulsify the THC into the simple syrup. I read that glycerine is bacteriostatic (a compound that freezes the metabolic action of bacteria, without killing them). Would this throw off the fermentation in any way? Only one way to find out!

UPDATE: After experimentation, I concluded that it’s preferable to simply infuse the cannabis syrup into a secondary kombucha fermentation. See notes at bottom of this post for the original experiment.

I found that the secondary fermentation with cannabis syrup is slower than with other adjuncts I commonly use (fresh squeezed fruit juice, dried or fresh herbs, ginger), so I adjusted the length of time to reflect that.

add a little ginger along with the syrup for a bright flavor that complements the subtle terpenes

The syrup I made used some old trim for which I did not know the THC content, so I had to estimate the THC content.

STEP 1: Make Cannabis Syrup

You will first need to create cannabis-infused simple syrup.

STEP 2: Make Kombucha (primary fermentation)

Follow our classic recipe for kombucha.

STEP 3: Make Secondary Flavored Cannabis Kombucha

The recipe below creates a finished kombucha with about 10mg THC per 8 ounce serving.

Cannabis Kombucha
Author: 
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 24 oz. 750 ml
 
Ingredients
  • 24 oz. (750 ml) mature kombucha
  • 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. (25 ml) cannabis syrup
  • 15g fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
Equipment
  • swing-top bottle
  • funnel
Instructions
  1. With a funnel, add cannabis syrup to a clean glass bottle (either a swing top or one with a cap which can tighten.)
  2. Add ginger pieces to bottle.
  3. Top with plain kombucha. Leave no more than ½" of head space in the neck of the bottle. Close tightly.
  4. Ferment 4-14 days, burping occasionally (over the sink) to release gas buildup.
  5. When you like the flavor and carbonation, move bottle to refrigerator.
  6. Before serving, gently rock (DO NOT SHAKE) the bottle by inverting it a few times. This will allow any sediment to be better incorporated into the beverage when you pour it.
  7. Serve chilled to reduce the chance of the bottle overflowing with carbonation. Enjoy responsibly.

 


Initial Experiment

Kombucha (primary fermentation) with cannabis syrup

In order to test whether the fermentation affects THC content, I tried a scientific-ish experiment. I tasted a spoonful of cannabis syrup mixed in with regular kombucha, and then studied the effects. Then I tried an equivalent amount of syrup in the fermented-with-cannabis batch. The effects of the fermented batch were indeed more mellow. So it appears that the fermentation process reduces the THC content at least a little.

The effects of the cannabis when it’s been fermented in with the kombucha are noticeably more subtle than when consuming the syrup without fermentation. The finished kombucha has a really nice aroma (subtle terpenes), and is quite tasty. Many testers report that they couldn’t detect any flavor of cannabis. I’ll keep working on the recipe. Most would therefore argue that it’s not a good technique because it is loses potency during fermentation. That could well be true. I still enjoy drinking the kombucha and its light effects. I will continue the experimentation again using more and stronger syrup.

Always store scobys used in this recipe separately from other “non-cannabis” scobys. Best is to store them in their own jar (always at room temperature– never in the refrigerator!) in a little of the reserved liquid from the last batch you make. Keep a cloth lid on top of the jar to keep out flies and allow the scoby to continue to breathe. It doesn’t need much liquid to hang out– just enough to keep it submerged.

References:

  1. Meet the Cannabis Kombucha Guru, herb.co. Accessed Mar. 20, 2018
  2. Cooking with Cannabis: Delicious Recipes for Edibles and Everyday Favorites. Wolf, Laurie.
  3. How to Calculate Edible Potency, keytocannabis.com. Accessed Mar. 12, 2018.
  4. How to calculate THC dosage in recipes for marijuana edibles, thecannabist.co. Accessed Mar. 12, 2018.
  5. Dosing Homemade Cannabis, Cooking with Cannabis, Part 4. Leafly.com

 

Hoppy Hazy Kombucha

Satisfy your hop fix– Hangover-free!

Eager to hop on the hops bandwagon, but not wanting to suffer the consequences of drinking beer (which my body has, in not so subtle ways, recently told me to give up), I wanted to see if kombucha could be hopped in a similar way to beer.

I use whole leaf, dried hops so far and have had great results. Hops is also sold in “nuggets”, whereby the flower is compressed into pellets or nuggets. I have not yet used these, mainly because I like the results from using whole hop flowers.

After a few experiments, I found that the flavors indeed work well together.

You can customize the hoppiness to just your liking.
Mild variation. 5-10 hop flowers per quart. Ferment at room temp 3-4 days.
Hazy AF variation. Double the amount of hop flowers (20 flowers per quart of kombucha). After fermenting at room temp 3-4 days, bottle condition another 3 to 5 weeks in the refrigerator. Aromas are dank, lemony, piney. Flavors are bitter, sour, chalky, hoppy.

Check out that haze! (this is the 30 day hopped variation.)

 

Hopped Kombucha
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: 1 quart
 
Ingredients
  • 1 qt/liter ripe (or slightly sweeter than ripe) kombucha
  • MILD: 5 grams hops flowers or nuggets, any variety
  • HAZY: 15-20 grams hops flowers or nuggets, any variety
  • ¼ cup (60ml) grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed, about 1 medium sized grapefruit)
Instructions
  1. If fresh squeezing, slice grapefruit in half and juice through a strainer sitting inside a funnel, to catch seeds and pulp, into a swing top or tightly sealable bottle (or add about ¼ cup juice).
  2. Add hop flowers to bottle.
  3. Top with kombucha until there is only ½" space from the top of the bottle.
  4. Ferment at room temperature 2-5 days, (less time in hot weather, longer in cooler weather).
  5. Carefully let out pressure by slowly uncapping over a sink.
  6. Refrigerate bottle.
  7. MILD: Serve chilled. Pour through strainer into glass (to filter out hops petals).
  8. HAZY: Let sit in refrigerator from 3 to 5 weeks.
  9. Serve chilled. Pour through strainer into glass (to filter out hops petals).