Friday, February 25, 2011

fermenting and sleep

First, as I was typing this blog's address into my address bar, one of the suggestions as I typed "Kristais" was "Krista is awesome." Of course I had to click on THAT to see what it was. It was some kid's facebook page. Kind of a letdown.

So, my honey wine still does not seem to be taking off. I am being patient, though. It has been sitting on the counter and stove for a week now. I will give it a few more days and decide whether I should just throw it out or add the yeast to it. I also decided to keep the turnip kimchi. This afternoon I had pretty much decided to throw it in the compost. It wasn't that the taste was bad; I think the turnips were just cut up too big. I should have used my food processor like I usually do. I actually cannot remember why I didn't. I think I was holding the baby, and it was easier to wield a big huge very sharp knife with one hand than listen to her crying really hard and using two hands for the food processor. I will eat it for a few more days, with the idea that if we don't like it, I don't need to force it on the family. Molly actually really likes it.

I did not make the dosas today because our dinner got rescheduled for Sunday. I guess I will just let the batter keep on fermenting until then.

And, perhaps the most interesting news of all, my miso and koji got delivered today so I can 1) eat miso every day and 2) make my own miso with the koji. I will of course report back, perhaps with photos.

Oh, and a quick note on Penny's sleeping. Last night she only woke up once between 8:00 and 6:30, around 2:00. Woot! The night before it was twice. These are definite improvements. There are a few things working together. The researcher in me would say there are just way too many threats to internal validity to tell what is working, but I have stopped drinking coffee (though I am still drinking black tea. Still, it's a drastic decrease in caffeine, down from that pot or more of coffee I was drinking every day), we have put a very loud humidifier in her room, and her naps have become a little more consistent. I will probably reintroduce coffee in a few days and see if that makes a difference (let's hope not because I really love coffee!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dosas and sauerruben and t'ej

I'm not sure if the honey wine (t'ej) is taking off. The recipe says that in three or four days it should start bubbling, at which point I am supposed to transfer it to the jug. It has not yet started to bubble, but I am not too disheartened yet because my kitchen is really cold, so it could just be taking a few extra days. When I went to My Old Kentucky Homebrew to buy an airlock, I talked to the very helpful worker (who is probably the owner), and he told me I should probably add some champagne yeast. I bought it for $.89, but Bill talked me out of using it. As he said, the fun in what I'm doing really is wild fermentation. So I'm just going to be patient and "(t)rust that the yeast will be drawn to the sweet honey-water from the air" (Katz, 2003, p. 29).

We are having one of Bill's coworkers and his wife and daughter over for dinner on Friday. I am going to make Indian food and was thinking I would just serve naan that I bought in the store. BORING! Instead I'm going to make dosas, which are essentially Indian pancakes made with a batter of fermented lentils and rice. I soaked the lentils and rice overnight, and then I put them in the food processor with some yogurt and extra whey I had in the fridge. This batter will ferment for about 48 hours, and then I will thin the batter with some water and add a few extras (e.g., cilantro, garlic) then make them on our cast-iron griddle. I will report back on how they turn out.

I'm still figuring out what to do with all those turnips, and I found a recipe in Wild Fermentation for sauerruben, which is pretty much sauerkraut, but it's made with turnips rather than cabbage. I made it exactly the same way, shredding my turnips in the food processor, adding salt and caraway seeds, mashing the heck out of it with the potato masher, and then packing it tightly into a crock with a weight.

And speaking of turnips, I tasted the turnip kimchi today, and it is very interesting, very spicy. I think it will be ready by Friday so those poor souls coming for dinner on Friday will get to (be forced to out of politeness?) taste it.

I ordered some seeds today for my garden. I am very excited about having my first garden, but I am extremely intimidated by it. I hope I get at least some yield. The seeds I ordered include the following: beets, spinach (two types), lettuce (2 types), kale, and cilantro. I am going to start out small, with some of my favorite (all greens, including the greens from the beets) and most used (beets, for the juice) vegetables.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Okay, I'm committed now to making miso. I ordered the koji today, which is essentially cultured rice, necessary for making miso unless you have wild koji spores in the air (usually just in miso shops or basements where miso has been made for years). I haven't decided whether I will make the one that takes a year--red miso--or the one that takes only a month--sweet miso. The koji is expensive ($14.50/pound, and the miso uses 1.75 or 3.5 pounds), and the one that takes longer to ferment uses half the miso. So....I might start with that one and see how it goes. If I just love the process of making it I will probably order more koji and make the sweet miso.

I ordered on-line from South River Miso Company, and I added two types of miso to my order. I figured I was already paying for shipping so I should probably just go ahead and get some instant gratification and order some already-aged miso. I ordered a one-year fermented chickpea miso and a three-year fermented soybean and barley miso. Sounds good, huh? The red miso also requires a tablespoon of aged miso for the recipe so I will just use the miso I just ordered. I am really excited about this! The process does not look hard, just obviously time-consuming. I will get to finally use the room I have jokingly been referring to as my fermenting room since we moved into our house over the summer. The recipe (again from my pal Sanderkraut, author of Wild Fermentation) says to leave it in a non-heated cellar, basement, barn, garage etc. Bill's been busy converting our garage to his workshop so I don't think I'll put it in there to ferment because of the risk of some bits of metal or wood getting into it.

Note: the one-year actually refers to one summer so I will be able to check the miso in the fall, something to look forward to when the weather turns chilly again.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

turnip kimchi

Yesterday I started the process of making the turnip kimchi. I let the thinly sliced turnips and daikons soak overnight in a brine with about 3 tbsp. salt in 4 cups of water. Today I finished it up and put it in the crock to begin fermenting. I will check it in about a week. We have some guests coming for dinner on Friday so I might check it then and let them sample it. Here is the process (again, based on the recipe in Wild Fermentation):

Dice an onion or a few scallions or shallots (I used an onion because that is what I had on hand), grate about 3 Tbsp of fresh ginger, and put about 6 garlic cloves through a press. Put all this in a big bowl and add a bunch of red pepper flakes--I probably used about 2 Tbsp. You can also use fresh chilies. Experiment with the seasoning and adjust to your tastes. Drain the soaking vegetables, but save the brine. Taste the vegetables to see if there is enough salt. It should taste pretty salty; add more if needed. Mix the drained veggies with the onion-chili-garlic-ginger mixture and pack tightly into a crock. Press down (I use a potato masher) until juices rise above the veggies. Add some of the reserved brine if necessary. Weigh down--I use a liter-sized mason jar filled with water--and cover with a towel. I also usually put the crock inside another dish to catch any runoff brine. Now I just need to wait a week or so and taste it. I have a good feeling about it. I was a little nervous about the turnips, but I really think the onion-ginger-garlic-chili combination would make most things taste good.

Friday, February 18, 2011


As promised (or as suggested), I am going to post about some food. I did three ferments today, including two new ferments! Now, dear readers, do not expect this level of productivity in the future. My mother-in-law had Molly all day today, and Penny napped for two hours. The three ferments were yogurt (not new), turnip kimchi, and t'ej (Ethiopian honey wine. I am not exactly sure how this differs from mead). I also have some kombucha fermenting on the counter; I got this started yesterday.

I decided a week or so ago I needed to start making yogurt again because the packaging is wasteful, and it is much cheaper and the taste is pretty much exactly the same with homemade. So I made some yogurt today. In the past, I have made a full half gallon, but that can be a bit of a daunting task for the fermenting period. I have had to find room to leave all that warm milk out for a few hours. The last two times I've made it, I've only made a quart, a much more manageable amount. The basic process for making yogurt is to heat (whole, organic) milk to about 180F, then let it cool to about 110F. It isn't necessary to warm it to such a high temperature, but it makes the yogurt thicker. Then mix about a tablespoon of yogurt from a previous batch into the warm milk. Leave it to ferment in a warm (about 100F) place for about 8 - 12 hours. I usually put it in a cooler with another jar full of hot water. If, after this amount of time, the yogurt hasn't thickened or hasn't developed that yogurt-y smell, add another teaspoon of yogurt and warm the cooler up again.

My CSA has had SO MANY turnips lately. What can you do with turnips??? Really, if you have suggestions, please list in the comments. I decided to attempt turnip kimchi. In Wild Fermentation, my go-to fermenting book, Sanderkraut gives a recipe for root vegetable kimchi, which includes turnips, daikons, carrots, and a few other root vegetables. I only put in turnips and daikons that I had left. I will post the recipe for this in another post.

Finally, the one I am most excited about, is the wine (also from Wild Fermentation). I have also gotten quite a bit of honey from my CSA lately, and I needed to clear out some cabinet space. The recipe for this is to mix 3 cups of honey with 12 cups of water, cover with a towel, and let ferment for a few days until bubbly. Then transfer to a large glass container with an airlock and let ferment for 2 to 4 weeks. I only had room in my ceramic crock for a 3:1 ratio of water:honey so I hope I can just add the extra three cups of water when I transfer it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Few Toys

We started Molly's life buying very few toys, and we have asked people not to buy her many toys. She does have a few beloved toys that she plays with, and our families are very thoughtful with the few toys they buy her (which is very appreciated!!!). This really started as a necessity because 1) we were broke when Molly was born so we didn't buy much of anything, and 2) we had a small apartment so there just wasn't any room to put any toys. This lifestyle choice is very good for Molly, though, and I assume it will also be for Penny. Parents have been joking for generations that they would buy their kids toys for Christmas or for birthdays, only to have the kids play with the boxes. This is really true! Yesterday, for example, Molly woke up and got her three dolls and then went to the diaper hamper and pulled out a few diapers. She took them into her room and laid them out very neatly and told me she and her dolls were going to do "yoda," which in English is "yoga." She did yoga with her dolls ALL DAY. She would roll up the diaper "mats" and then take them to another room and unroll them again. She would lie on the floor with them and do different poses. It was really interesting to see her imagination working. This morning she rearranged her chairs so that her dolls could sit on either side of her (and one on her lap) while she read to them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

food swap

Today I went to a food swap. It was so cool!!!! I made sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, granola, wheat berry sprouts, chicken broth, and diaper cream/hand salve/lip balm (not a food, I know, but it was a hot commodity nonetheless). Everyone brought homemade or home-grown food, and it was used as currency. I came away with bread, jam, buttermilk, ricotta cheese, frozen cabbage, frozen corn, canned green beans, a knitted wash cloth, amaretto, pea soup, pepper relish, and...I think that's all. Not too shabby, huh?

From the list of foods above, you may be able to deduce that I have been really into my fermenting lately. I have made a lot of sauerkraut lately because we have gotten so much cabbage from the CSA. I will probably attempt miso next. From the book Wild Fermentation, it does not look very difficult; it just takes patience for the fermentation to occur. I was thinking about starting a blog about food, particularly fermenting. I'm not sure what else I could do, but if I have a goal to blog about it regularly, I can expand my horizons a little. Maybe I will try again with sourdough bread. I think I need to get a bread stone for that to turn out correctly. I have had trouble with bread--Abacus, do you have any tips?

Penny's sleep has not improved too much, but it has a little bit. Bill has gotten up with her a few nights so I can get some sleep. Last night and the night before, I fed her around 1:30 and again at 5:00. It's not ideal, but it's definitely an improvement over the every-hour wakings/feedings she was doing for a while.

(This is my 100th blog post, by the way!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

sleep, or as it's known in the real world, lack of sleep

I thought Molly was a bad sleeper. Well, Penny is determined to one-up her older sister. We have been trying to get her to sleep through the night for weeks now. It is hard! On the third night, Molly surrendered. She slept through the night. Penny is not giving up. She can moan and cry and scream for hours on end. And, unlike her momma, she can go without sleep AND without coffee. Two night ago she slept until 5:30, and we thought we had turned a corner. Last night, however, she woke at 2:30 and was awake until 4:00, at which point I finally went in and fed her. I've been waiting until 5AM.

Now, I realize parents (particularly mommas) have been doing this forever, and there are many people whose kids have special needs and have genuine sleep disorders (I know a couple), but I just want to complain for a minute about how difficult it is to go without sleep. I forget very common words, like 'shoes.' I forget why I went into a room for something. I seethe with anger when I can't immediately locate the milk in the fridge. With one kid, I thought it was hard, but I could sleep when she slept. With two, there isn't that break. I can't imagine with three or more, though I know we always live up to our own situations. I also know many people have it much harder. Okay--I'm finished complaining. Just let me go get another cup of coffee--be right back.

And I'm not writing this just for complaining's sake. It is for posterity and so I can show Molly and Penny later just how much trouble they caused me. Just kidding. They are truly, truly delightful little people. Molly is just getting so grown up that she is no longer a toddler, but a little girl. It's amazing to watch. Again, this is something that has been happening forever, but it is a truly amazing transition. I laugh so much at them because they really are fun to be around. Molly is actually developing a sense of humor and will joke with us. Penny thinks Molly is the most hilarious person she's ever met, too. The good far, far outweighs the sleep deprivation, and I am very happy to be able to stay home with them.

Penny also does not have the interest in food that Molly had. She really just wants to nurse more than anything else. She has eaten a few solids, but she generally only takes a bite or two. She is 8 months old now, and the medical 'experts' say to start giving solids at 6 months. We have started to introduce them, but we are just letting her go at her own pace. She is clearly not wasting away--she weighs a lot, still in the 90th percentile for weight and height--so I'm not concerned about it.