Breaking the silence for another fermie fest update

Wow, am I bad at blogging. Bad as in I haven’t posted here in three years, bad. I did set up a facebook page to see if that would make it easier for me. There’s a few things there, including pics of last years Farm to Fermentation Festival. Check it out:

I’ve really been enjoying some of the fermenting groups on facebook. Fermenters Kitchen is my favorite.

But the other reason for my silence here is that my latest obsession, making essential oil blends, has been taking up my “free” time. Started a new blog even!

But it’s time for another festival! Tomorrow! Jennifer Harris has been doing a fantastic job organizing this event and really taking it from humble beginnings in Freestone to its next level in Santa Rosa. Check out the lineup and if you are in the area, get yourself there:


Post-Festival Frazzle

Where do I even begin to ruminate and report on the fabulous fermented events of the weekend? First, the Fermentation Symposium with Sandor Katz, Dr. Charles Bamforth and Jenny McGruther. Then the Fermentation Feast with all sorts yummy beverages and edibles directed by chef John Ash. And of course the Fermentation Festival itself – a now very popular day party celebrating all things fermented and featuring an amazing variety of fermented food and drink, exhibits, classes, speakers, live music, and even awards for best kombucha. Wowza.

Recap of awesomeness:

  • Wild West Ferments has really got it going on in the wild yeast soda pop department. I could NOT get enough of the Currant Cardamon soda. I need to make this.
  • Japanese Kasu-Zuke pickles are so good (but expensive for a jar)! Everything that Cultured Pickle Shop does is excellent, but kasuzuke are my favorite.
  • I can now eat Natto without the “eww” factor thanks to the brilliance of Natto sushi rolls.
  • Sweet and salty flavored miso paste on tofu – who knew? This was so simple yet so inspiring.
  • I’ll risk lactose intolerance any day for Bellwether Farms Ricotta cheese (no worries, I was fine).
  • Sandor Katz is gracious, down-to-earth and totally amazing. I’m full of state pride after he said “California is doing things with Kombucha that I’ve never seen before”.
    Also, mind is blown after: “Some microbiologists are starting to think that bacteria don’t have separate species, but are a superspecies that is genetically fluid, not unlike humans using tools.”
  • My kombucha palate rocks. I blind-tasted nine kombuchas, then hours later after sampling many others, I recognized the one I voted for. I blurted out “You’re number 8, I voted for you!” and Bern Galvin of Bucha gave me a complimentary bottle of winning (2nd place) Verbena Rose. Woot!
  • I was happy to see the fine folks at Cleansing Ministries and get some fresh replacement water kefir (SKG) grains, as mine petered out last year. And they had Guayaki Yerba Mate water kefir again, which was a great pick-me-up during the fest.
  • Eatwell Farms is producing some very tasty lacto-fermented soft drinks using herbal hydrosols, branded as “Drinkwell Softers”. I tried a Rosemary soda and a Lavender soda, er softer, and loved the lavender. I would really likw to get my hands on some herbal hydrosols and experiment – they actually sell them so that might be a start.
  • There’s a local Fermentation Club the meets at Merritt College in Oakland. Neat.
  • Charles Bamforth (master brewer/UC Davis) had a lot of really interesting things to say about beer, so much so that I want give gluten-free beer another try. “Beer is good for you in moderation! Beer has more assimilable silicon than any other food.”
  • I met friendly Hannah Crum of and we had a brief chat about continuous brewing and tea options. She has a great DIY guide on her website if you haven’t downloaded it.
  • My new favorite krout peeps, Kathryn and Peter from Farmhouse Culture, and Kirsten of Mellonia provided excellent dinner table conversation during the feast.
  • I missed the talk by Mary Sheila Gonnella on “The Edible Effect of Fermented Foods in Your Digestive System”, but lucky for me I already got to participate in a “cafe chat” exercise with her at the symposium. I’ll have to keep my eye out for her classes at Bauman college. Also in our cafe chat, the lovely Virginia of VML Wines. We had a wonderful conversation that I wish lasted longer.

Listening to Sandor Katz

Wild West Ferments and Farmhouse Culture getting a steady stream of customers

Blind tasting kombucha

Blind tasting kombucha for the People's Choice Kombucha Awards

And the People’s Choice award goes to….GT’s Synergy (1st Place), Bucha (2nd), House (3rd) and runner ups were: Revive, Culture and Kombucha Botanica.

Kombucha judges panel: Hannah Crum, Sandor Katz, Michael Pollan and Jenny McGruther

I was not clear on the results of the judge’s panel and hope they get posted on the website or facebook page. It sounded like “most unique” was a tie between Mother Knows Best and Cultured Pickle Shop.

Michael Stusser, the founder of Osmosis Enzyme Baths, turns out to be a festival organizer. A big shout out thank you to him and the folks at Ceres Community Project. I think I might volunteer to help next year, they are going to need it if this fermentation thing gets any more popular…

Pre-Festival Jitters

It has now been a year since the last Freestone Fermentation Festival, which left me so inspired I started this blog. Key word, “started”. Then I got busy with my full time life. I fermented a lot of things, took a lot of pictures and tweeted occasionally, but Girl Fermented didn’t quite come together as planned.

During the last year I experimented with lacto-fermenting purple cabbage, pearl onions, green onions, white onions, yellow onions, cilantro, horseradish, carrots and many other veggies I can’t remember now. Some were fabulous, others not so much.
I made some great water kefirs last summer but let the grains die.
I made smreka once successfully but every subsequent batch molded.
I determined I had a gluten sensitivity just as I had perfected my sourdough routine.
I’ve perfected my kombucha recipe and mixed it with every juice and tea flavoring combination I could think of to create my favorite stand-by.

My life has been full of ups and downs just like everyone else, and this last year has had some particularly challenging personal moments. Kombucha has kept me going, on so many levels. There is something more to it than just the good-for-you probiotics, even though that is the reason I brew it. The care and feeding of the scoby is a ritual that reinforces the care and feeding of the self. You nourish it and it nourishes you. This is true for so many things in life.

I’m waxing philosophical because I spent today listening, thinking and talking with other like-minded people at the Fermentation Symposium and Feast at the beautiful Shone Farm in west Healdsburg. What a day, and what a dinner! Check out the menu. And I got to meet Sandor Katz and other fabulous fermie people. I am feeling inspiration rise up again like our revered fermentation bubbles.

Tomorrow is the festival and there is a stellar line-up of speakers and vendors. If you are within day-trip distance of Freestone, California, I highly recommend this event. See you there!

Don’t Be a Sourpuss

It seems a little complicated and time-consuming, and well, it is. But sourdough is worth it! And it gets easier with practice. If you have a starter and are struggling with more traditional “knead and shape” recipes, try a low knead, dutch oven recipe like the one below.

My start on the sourdough journey was lucky – I got a nice mature sourdough starter and very specific instructions to a tried and tested recipe from a friend. The starter actually originated from the famously delicious Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone, California.

This recipe uses the Dutch Oven method for bread baking, which I love because almost no skill is kneaded (pun intended) to shape a loaf, and it makes a nice crunchy crust without having to mess with baking tiles and steam.  I use a 3.5 quart Le Creuset.

Hearty Whole Grain Sourdough Bread*

Low knead / dutch oven baking method

Evening (night before baking):

Mix dry Ingredients:

  • 300 g (about 2/12 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) rye flour
  • 150 g (about 1 ¼ cups) unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • (optional) 50-100 g toasted sunflower seeds, flax seeds or any combo of flax/sunflower/sesame seeds

Mix wet Ingredients:

  • 300 g (about 1 ¼ cups) filtered water at 105 degrees (give or take, but not over 110)
  • 200 g (about 1 cup) mature room temperature sourdough starter, well stirred
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Stir the wets into the drys and mix well. Get your hands in it to get all the ingredients well mixed.

Put the dough in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover a layer of plastic wrap and then with a dark dish towel. Place into a slightly warmed (110 degree) oven with the oven light on. Be sure the oven is turned off, but keep light on for warmth.
Leave overnight, 12 – 14 hours.

Next Morning:

Flour a bread board with unbleached white flour.
Turn the bread out onto the breadboard and flatten out. Use a rubber spatula to help it out of the bowl.
Knead the loaf using unbleached white flour. Use plenty but don’t get it too dry. It should still be slightly sticky on your wrists.
Form the dough into a ball by stretching the top down toward the bottom as you turn the dough ball in your hands. Go all the way around.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on your breadboard.  Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil (I use Trader’s Joe’s spray Olive Oil).  Place the doughball on the oiled sheet so you can pick it up by the 4 corners of the parchment paper.

Place the whole the parchment + dough into another ceramic bowl (regarding size, you want there to be enough room for the dough to rise, but still have walls supporting its upward movement).
Cover with plastic and the dark dish towel, and place in a warm oven with the light on, as before.
Leave it for 2 hours or so.

After the 2 hours, remove the bowl from the oven, insert the Dutch Oven and its lid, and turn the oven on to 500 degrees and preheat for 30 minutes.

Right before going into the oven, make 2 or 3 slices across the top of the loaf, and salt the top with coarse salt (I paint a little olive oil or melted butter over the top of the bread before salting it, some people use an arrowroot glaze — makes the crust crunchier).
Using the 4 corners of the parchment paper, carefully lift and place the doughball into the hot Dutch Oven. Replace the lid.

Bake for 35-55 minutes, then check the internal temperature. (I usually need 55 minutes, but all ovens are different). Bread is done when the internal temp is between 195 and 200 degrees. If it’s been cooking for 55 minutes and the thermometer is still not there, I take the bread out and thump it on the bottom. A hollow sound confirms it’s ready.)

Remove the loaf from the Dutch Oven by turning it over carefully and catching the loaf with a towel or hotpads.
Let the loaf cool on a raised wire rack for least one hour. Resist the urge to cut the bread right out of the oven – it well shred and deflate the loaf.

*Original recipe courtesy Alan G. aka Alonzo.

Fermentation Nation

May 23, 2010

I had been wondering what my first post should be for this new blog, and then I attended the Freestone Fermentation Festival in Sonoma County. I felt like I found my people at this inspiring event, and what an auspicious topic to kick off the many blog ideas banging around in my head.

The Hubbub Club

The Hubbub Club

One thing is for sure, the lacto-fermentation movement in this area is alive and thriving! Now I’m not a newbie when it comes to eating and drinking wonderful fermented things, but I’ve only been home fermenting for about six months. I’ve been making kombucha tea and sourdough bread weekly, and recently began experimenting with lacto-fermentation using some of the recipes in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

I was incredibly excited to hear about the Freestone Fermentation Festival taking place this year at the Harmony School/Salmon Creek Falls Environmental Center – just a short jaunt past Freestone on the Bohemian Highway in beautiful west Sonoma County, California.

Freestone is the perfect place for this (the name itself drums up a feeling of freedom and independence from mainstream everything) and is already home to the famous Wild Flour Bakery, a wild yeast bread heaven, and the fabulous Osmosis Enzyme Baths, which offers a unique healing body therapy from the enzyme activity of fermenting cedar.

Fermented cedar enzyme foot bath

The perfectly pleasant spring day was filled with how-to demonstrations for making kombucha, water kefir, sauerkraut, wild fermented beverages and more. Music played, kids had fun riding on the Lunna Pillar, and food and drink was delicious.


The LunnaPillar kept kids entertained

There were plenty of vendors to talk to and try/buy their products. I was like a kid in a candy store! The day was so full I can’t possibly fit everything into a single post, but here are some highlights:

  • My absolute favorite beverage of the day was the Guayaki Water Kefir being sold at the Restorative, Inc. (water technology)/Cleansing Ministries Rejuvenation booth. They demoed how to make Common Water Kefir using this recipe, but the Guayaki Yerba Mate blend they were selling was just fabulous. I will be trying to recreate this soon, using the plump water kefir grains (SKG) I bought from them.
  • Another favorite beverage of the day was Smreka, a Bosnian fermented drink made with juniper berries. Samples and demo provided by Wild West Ferments. I can’t wait to make this!
  • The Cultured Pickle Shop from Berkeley had an array of fun things to try, including some really interesting Nukasuke (vegetables pickled in fermented rice bran).
  • Farmhouse Culture gave an entertaining and informative demo on sauerkraut making.
  • The Farmhouse Culture booth also had an excellent beverage which I’d never really had before – sauerkraut juice. The jalapeno flavor was actually quite refreshing.

    Farmhouse Culture was selling some amazing krout juice. Fun ladies!

  • Finally got to try Natto. The slimy texture was hard to get past and it wasn’t my favorite – maybe it’s an acquired taste…
  • Redwood Hill Farm had a huge block of goat feta for noshing on, and they are cool folks.
Redwood Hill Farm

Redwood Hill Farm, purveyors of fine goat dairy

  • I found the kraut pushing tool I had been looking for at the Cultivate Home booth. I can’t wait to check out their Sebastopol store.
Cultivate Home

Super nice ladies from the Cultivate Home store in Sebastopol

On top of the educational benefits of the day, I was pleasantly surprised at how much light-headed bubbly FUN everybody was having. My only disappointment was some of the demos were at a really basic, beginner level which much of the crowd was not. It would have been great to have more advanced sessions, perhaps focused on troubleshooting fermentation issues. I would have also liked to have seen more suppliers of starters, cultures and related fermentation tools.

That being said, I will definitely attend next year. And if you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

Fermentation Fest

A good time had by all

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