Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How I Started Fermenting

Kayla at Radiant Life blog did this interview with me: part 1 part 2. She was awesome--I was really happy with the results.

In the interview, we talk about how I became interested in food and nutrition, how I started fermenting, what my favorite fermentation recipe is, and more.

While I was reading it, I kept thinking, "Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself!" Then I remembered that I actually had said it myself, which humbled me.

Hope you find it interesting.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Santa Rosa, California, and Beyond: My 2015 Fall Events

Here's what I have so far for this late summer/fall:
Come find me at any of these events!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Beet Kvass: The Easiest Fermented Beverage

There are a lot of fermented beverages in the world.

Alcohol fermented beverages are very visible: some examples are wine, beer, hard cider, and mead. Historically, these beverages have served many roles. Alcohol has psychoactive properties, so since the beginning, these drinks have had roles in religious and spiritual ceremonies and practices. And alcohol is anti-microbial, so these drinks remain safe to drink even in places where drinking water is not. In the past, these drinks were common everyday beverages. Many of them had lower alcohol content than today's versions.

Because of the popularity of alcohol fermented beverages, it is easy to overlook the importance of sour fermented beverages. Sour dairy drinks like buttermilk, whey, kefir, and yogurt and yogurt-based drinks have been important dietarily and culturally for a long time. Kombucha has recently become a huge industry in United States. Other drinking vinegars and shrubs have recently become trendy in the realm of craft cocktails. And it is easy to forget that root BEER and ginger ALE were originally fermented beverages, too, before they became flavors of soda.

In my opinion, a great starting point for home beverage fermenting is beet kvass. It is very easy to make, it is tasty (at least I like it!), and it has great health benefits.

Here is my recipe for beet kvass.

Beet Kvass

(makes 2 quarts / 2 liters)


  • 2 or 3 medium-sized red beets, rough cut into 1/2-inch (1cm-2cm) cubes or equivalent. (If they're organic, no need to peel them.)
  • 1Tbsp (15g) high-quality salt (sea salt or Himalayan salt is best; kosher salt is okay too)
  • filtered water (no chlorine)
  • (optional) a few slices of ginger


  • a 2-quart (2L) mason jar


  • Add beets to the jar to fill it to about 1/3 full.
  • Add water to fill the jar to 1/2 full.
  • Add salt (and ginger if you are using it).
  • Put the lid on the jar tightly, and shake the jar until the salt is dissolved.
  • Open the jar, and add more water until the jar is nearly full, leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) of space at the top.
  • Close the jar, and let it sit for 4 days to a month or longer.
Every day for the first several days, feel the top of the lid, and if it is firm, "burp" the jar (unscrew the lid just enough to let some air escape, then tighten it again). 

You may start drinking the kvass any time you like, but it's best after at least 4 days, or longer if you are in a cooler environment.

Once you have started drinking it, it is best to keep the remaining kvass in the refrigerator--otherwise the exposure to air can encourage yeast to form on the surface, and your kvass can become slimy.

The beet pieces may be eaten along with the drink, or they may be used in a salad, juiced, or whatever.

You can experiment with shapes besides cubes if you like, but if you cut them too small, the kvass may become slimy.

Beet kvass may be consumed on its own, as a daily health drink. But it can also be used in soups, like borscht or gazpacho, or in sauces (keeping in mind that its health benefits are diminished if it's heated). It can even be used in mixed drinks like Bloody Marys and micheladas!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Basic Fermenting Recipes

I'm making this post for attendees at the hands-on the workshop I did at Pollinate Farm & Garden in Oakland, California on April 19.

But anyone else is welcome to read the post too. :-)

Please post in the "comments" section below if you have questions, or if you'd like to discuss other ways to eat these fermented foods (I've offered a couple, but I've only scratched the surface).

My book, Real Food Fermentation, has more information about fermented foods. Click here for information about how to get the book.

Basic Sauerkraut

Ingredients and Equipment

  • cabbage (round, green or red)
  • salt (1/3 ounce or 2 tsp. per pound of cabbage; or 20g per kg of cabbage)
  • large, sharp chef's knife
  • large cutting board
  • large mixing bowl
  • mason jars, preferably wide-mouthed (a bit more than 16 oz. capacity per pound of cabbage)
  • a digital kitchen scale (available from your favorite brick-and-mortar store, or online)
  • (optional) a thin, narrow-mouthed mason jar to stuff with


  • chop cabbage, finely or coarsely
  • put cabbage and salt in mixing bowl
  • squeeze cabbage and salt vigorously with hands until liquid runs freely (this may take a few minutes)
  • put cabbage and liquid in mason jars, leaving an inch or two of "headroom", and close lids
  • leave to sit, not in sunlight, but somewhere you won't forget about it (kitchen counter?)
  • "burp" the jars every day for the first few days (if you don't do this, they may spill over and/or break the top!)
  • it's ready after 4 days or 4 months or somewhere in between, depending on how you like it

Eat it

  • on its own
  • on a sandwich
  • as a side dish with grilled meat
  • juice it!

Mixed/Fancy Kraut

Follow recipe for Basic Sauerkraut, but use a mixture of vegetables instead of just cabbage, slice or cut into shapes and sizes as you like, and/or add herbs and/or spices to taste. Caraway seeds are a classic seasoning; 1 tsp per pound of cabbage is a ballpark amount, although different caraway seeds have different potencies. Things like garlic, ginger, turmeric, horseradish, burdock, etc. can provide nice flavor and health benefits.

Beet Kvass

Ingredients and Equipment

    • a handful of beets (red or golden, number needed may vary with size)
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • large, sharp chef's knife
    • large cutting board
    • half-gallon mason jar
    • (optional) vegetable peeler 


    • fill jar halfway with water
    • add salt
    • put lid on jar and shake until salt is dissolved
    • if the beets are not organic, peel them
    • cut beets into 1/2-inch cubes
    • put beets in mason jar, to fill about 1/4 or 1/3 of jar
    • fill jar nearly to top with water, leaving an inch or two, and close lid
    • beet greens, if there were any, can be fermented as "Mixed/Fancy Kraut" recipe above
    • wait a 4 days to 4 weeks, tasting the liquid periodically
    • once you like it, strain out the beets and store them separately
    • the liquid is "beet kvass"
    • the fermented beets may be slice and used in a salad, or juiced, or whatever

    Drink it

    Preserved Lemon (Citrus)

    Ingredients and Equipment

    • lemons, Meyer lemons, limes, or citrus of your choice, ideally from a garden rather than from a shop
    • salt (approximately 10% of weight of citrus)
    • knife & cutting board
    • mixing bowl
    • big mason jars
    • (optional) "pickling spice" mix from store (without preservatives; read the ingredients)


    • cut citrus into approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) squares
    • squeeze citrus over mixing bowl; add the peel to the bowl as well
    • add salt and optional spices to bowl; mix
    • pack the mixture tightly into mason jars, leaving an inch or two of headroom, and close lids
    • let the lemons sit for months or years

    Eat it

    • anywhere you might use fresh lemon
    • in your potato salad (or tuna salad or chicken salad)
    • cook it with fish or roast chicken
    • add a shot of sweetener for a fermented lemonade

    More Things to Read

    Thursday, April 2, 2015

    Making the Case for a Fermented Passover

    A guest post by Jeremy Ogusky

    We've all heard the story of the Israelites hastily leaving Egypt and not having time for their bread to rise. We know this as the explanation for why we’re forced to eat matzah, or unleavened bread. But are there any other explanations for why we scorn chametz, or leavened bread, during the 8 days of passover?

    Let's first look at the word chametz, which is cognate to the Aramaic word meaning "to ferment or leaven" and the Arabic ḥamuḍa, "to be sour", "to become acidic". Long fermented bread is more sour & aptly named sourdough. And in ancient times, all bread was sour. Humans didn’t have the technology to mass produce light & sweet breads – all bread was heavily fermented, sour, and made good use of the wild micro-organisms in the environment as a fermentation starter. Ancient breads were likely what we would now call "rustic" sourdoughs. And the starters humans used to kick-start each new bread batch were maintained throughout the year. Many think that passover was used as a time for folks to restart that old sourdough starter. Think wiping clean your pantry and starting a fresh batch of fermented dough with all new microbes.

    In the past, this was a way to keep your bread fresh & wipe out old & "unclean" micro-organisms. And so folks came to associate ancient sour breads with uncleanliness. Think of the symbolism that we use nowadays for chametz and its "corrupting influence", "souring" our souls with false pride. This was potentially an ancient survival tactic, keeping our bread fresh and stale microbes at bay.

    Cut to modern times where anti-microbial soaps and hand sanitizer is commonplace and where our food (and soil in fact) is sanitized, pasteurized & sterilized. This has led to an equally sterilized body. Our intestines are not brimming with life & rich diversity anymore and we are only beginning to understand the negatives of our modern war on bacteria. Maybe it is time to rethink this war, this this doctrine against sourness. And maybe passover is the perfect time to explore the upside of chametz thru a reinterpreted seder plate where we can together investigate the value that "unclean" bacteria play in our lives!

    This coming passover, I plan to incorporate fermented foods on my seder plate. I plan to lead a discussion on the ubiquity of fermentation in Jewish cuisine and put it specifically within a Passover context. To symbolize the harsh suffering and bitter times Jews endured as slaves, I will incorporate lacto-fermented bitter & pickled greens on my seder plate. And my karpas will be dipped into sauerkraut brine, which is essentially alchemically-activated salt water. The brine will represent less the Israelite tears and more the conductive material for transformation. Around our seder plate, we will discuss how the pain of slavery can be a transformational experience towards community connection and solidarity in the same way that brine & microbes are a transformational experience for the cucumber on its way to becoming a pickle! So let us rethink chametz together and find ways to incorporate traditional fermented foods on our seder plates. And let us reinterpret our passover traditions and redefine them in ways that make sense today.

    Jeremy Ogusky of Ogusky Ceramcs (OguskyCeramics.com):
    studio potter, fermenter, and founder of the
    Boston Fermentation Festival (BostonFerments.com)