Archive for the ‘Fermentation’ Category


August 2, 2014

So I made kimchi. It’s loosely based on the method of Sandor Katz in Wild Fermentation:


My only regret is that none of the ingredients were home grown. Kimchi Fail. Nonetheless it’s very tasty and counts as something preserved that doesn’t need fossil fuels to preserve it (aka refrigeration).

I started with half a wombok chinese cabbage, sliced into shreds. Added grated carrot, a sliced red capsicum (for colour), sliced onion, finely chopped garlic and ginger and some red cabbage that had nearly reached its use-by date. Plus half a leek that was keen not to go to the worm farm. You can add chilli, but I’m not a chilli person. I would have added some home-grown sliced kale, but the rabbits….

Put the whole lot into a large bowl and mix (hands are good for this):


Make up a brine with 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of salt and pour over the vegetables. Push them down till the brine covers them and weight down with a dinner plate or similar. Leave for a few hours. I started mine late in the afternoon so left it on the bench overnight:


Drain off the liquid, reserving some to top up if required and pack the vegetables into a jar. Weight down again with what ever suits (I use a smaller jar filled with water) and push it down hard till liquid comes to the surface. Make sure all the vegetables are submerged:

sunday 003

Cover with a cloth or plastic bag and leave on the bench for a week or so while the fermentation proceeds. You can see the tiny bubbles of CO2 forming and they will rise to the top as you push down on the weight. Once it’s fully fermented, it’s ready to eat.

You can store it in the fridge if you really want to, or just leave it in a cool place.

Note: Sandor Katz recommends non-chlorinated water and non-iodised salt. Chlorine and iodine inhibit the fermenting bacteria.


July update

August 1, 2014

It wasn’t the sort of month you’d write home about….cold, wet & windy, so I spent much of it hibernating inside by the wood fire. I did manage to get some inside jobs done, the most important being making and finishing the new chook coop for the new girls I hope to get in spring. I also did some work (necessarily outside) on the new secure run to house them and the coop. There’s an ongoing post about the process in the drafts folder, which I’ll post when the whole project is finished.

I wasn’t picking much in the way of food. There are just a few tamarillos left and I need to keep some of those for seed. In the greens department I picked silver beet and also warrigal greens. This has taken off again thanks to the rain:


I haven’t used it much in the past, but I must say I’m warming to it as a steamed green. Plus it makes an excellent groundcover and the rabbits don’t touch it, which earns it 10/10 in my book. I saw a recent TV program where an aboriginal chef steamed it lightly in butter and added a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, something I’m going to try (for those who may not know, it’s native to Australia).

The yacon finally died back and I dug it up. There isn’t a photo, it was so bad. Just one decent-sized edible tuber and almost no vegetative tubers. Lack of food and summer watering was probably the reason. I’ve replanted the meagre lot of vegetative tubers in a spot where they’ll get shade and more summer water. I don’t want to lose it altogether, or I’ll have to buy more tubers. This is the harvest in better years:

The edible tubers are the elongated brown ones and the vegetative tubers are the knobbly pink ones with the white tips, which are the developing leaf buds.

My delivery of shiitake mushroom spore plugs finally arrived during the month, thanks to Bernie from Not Something Else blog who contacted the supplier on my behalf through their Facebook page (I don’t do FB). I had selected a couple of logs from recently-fallen large eucalypt branches and set about drilling the holes for the plugs (the instructions said, “using the drill bit supplied”. Oh, right…only it wasn’t).

Easier said than done. The drill labored and stopped. I thought it had died. I tried again with a fully-charged battery. No go. No wonder they call them hardwoods. Eucalypt and some softer timbers are nevertheless recommended for shiitake logs, but I don’t have access to poplar, elm, willow or birch, so this needs to be rethought. If I use a partially rotted, therefore softer log (plenty in the firewood pile), then I run the risk that it will already have been colonised with foreign fungi which will out-compete the shiitake. Maybe all the problems I’ve had are telling me that growing shiitake mushrooms is not my thing. I’ll do something with it, just don’t know what, yet. In the meantime, the spore plugs are languishing in the fridge.

The solar panels produced 110.4 kWh for the month, 16.4 kWh more than for June. I’m hoping it will keep going up from now on. I still managed to send 75.6 kWh to the grid and imported 91.3 kWh from the grid. All up cost for the month, including credits, service charge and GST was $36.45. That service charge is the real killer. I need to send a bit over 3 kWh per day to the grid just to cover it. My April bill, which was wrong (again!), still hasn’t arrived with the corrected amount of credits and I was due for another meter read on 28th July. What’s the betting that will be wrong, too? I’m heartily sick of dealing with energy retailers.

I’m heartily sick of rabbits, too. I have a row of 10 wicking boxes placed up on polystyrene fruit boxes to keep them away from the long-eared pests, who demolish anything at ground level. It has worked up to date, but I’ve noticed a couple of very large rabbits running around. They’ve obviously been able to jump right up onto the wicking boxes and have demolished about 2 dozen plants…mainly celery, bok choy and kale. I was absolutely ropeable and now have to put a wire fence around all the boxes. What really irritates me is that there’s a huge breeding burrow on a neighbour’s property and he won’t fill it in. I’ve managed to stop them breeding here by filling in every attempt at burrow-digging. It’s bloody annoying when others just don’t care.

The bok choy was looking so good, too. This is the best of what was left and will probably recover:


So will the celery:


And maybe the kale:


It continued to rain. Melbourne’s average rainfall for July is 49 mm and we got 124 mm. Still very soggy right down the back.

I was given a couple of chokos a few weeks ago and I put them on the kitchen widow sill to see if they would sprout. One did:


I’ve put it in a pot to grow on a bit before planting out. This is my second go at growing chokos. I killed the first one, many years ago, probably by putting it in an unsuitable spot and forgetting to water it. I think the rabbits might have been implicated, too (when are they not!). I’ll try harder with this one:


I’ve had this patch of Queensland arrowroot down the back for ages. I’ve never done anything with it, cooking-wise. It gets little or no water in summer, so it doesn’t thrive, but then it hasn’t died either:


I’ve dug up a few tubers to propagate and will spread it around a bit more and experiment with cooking the tubers.

Well, that was July. Here’s hoping August brings some more warmth. Meanwhile I’m off to make another batch of kimchi.

Time for something new

April 4, 2014

I’ve done wicking boxes. I’ve done chooks. I’ve done swales and hugelkultur. I’ve done drying food. I’ve even done solar.

It’s time for something new.

I’ve had several major projects on the backburner for ages. They include:

Making cheese: I make cottage cheese; that’s easy. I want to do more involved stuff like hard cheeses.

Fermenting: I make kimchi and yoghurt; that’s the extent of my fermenting skills. I want to extend ferments to other foods.

Build a rocket stove: I have electricity and gas for cooking. Both fossil fuels. Both with a limited future. I have kindling wood coming out of my ears. A rocket stove would make me independent of fossil fuels.

Bees: There aren’t many bees in my garden any more, even when there are plenty of flowers. Pollination is an important bee service. Maybe I could improve that situation with my own hives.

Most of these need work to get up and running, some minor, some considerable.

For hard cheeses, I’d need a full cheesemaking kit, including a cheese ‘cave’—a small refrigerator with a thermostat able to be set to proper cheese ripening temperatures. The only bit of kit I have at the moment is a cheese thermometer.

Fermenting would be easier to get up and running. I already have Sandor Katz’s excellent book on the subject:

saturday 010

Rocket stove? Where to put it? I’d need a proper undercover outdoor cooking area. There’s only the carport at the moment and while there’s room, it’s not perfect and I don’t want to rush into anything without serious thought.

Bees? I don’t want to do beekeeping as it’s done at the moment. I want the bees to do what comes naturally and the closest thing to that is a top bar or Warre hive. I like woodworking and I reckon I could make my own top bar hive. I’d still need protective kit and probably should take some lessons.

There’s one other project that has taken my fancy lately, thanks to some excellent posts from Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture. Growing my own mushrooms. A shiitake log, to be exact. I have eucalypts and can provide fresh-cut logs. It’s only a matter of buying the special spawn, inoculating the logs and waiting for the mushies to grow.

Looks good doesn’t it? I can almost smell them cooking:

This week, Kirsten has another post about shiitake cultivation and increasing the vitamin D content of the mushrooms by putting them in the sun. People yes…but mushrooms! Who’d a thunk it?

And if I needed any more persuading, I opened my copy of Australia’s new permaculture magazine, PIP, which arrived yesterday, and there was another article from Milkwood about shiitake logs. Something is pushing me in that direction. I think I’ve found my new project.


September 22, 2012

Some weeks ago I bought Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’d just released a bigger, updated version with lots more information on fermented foods.

Look what arrived in the post yesterday:

The big updated version. It is sooooo comprehensive!

A complete surprise and generously sent to me by a reader of this blog, Fran from Serendipity Farm in Tassie. Fran’s blog is The Road to Serendipity. Apparently she had acquired two copies, thought I’d like one and posted it across Bass Strait.

How serendipitous is that! Thank you, Fran.

Spring things

September 2, 2012

While everyone seems to think it’s officially spring, I have to be different! My season changes go with the solstices and equinoxes, so I don’t consider spring will start until the spring equinox around the 21st of this month. Maybe climate change will eventually force an opinion change!

Anyway, here are a few ‘pre-spring’ things happening around the garden.

Red Russian kale and Purple Sprouting broccoli in a wicking box. I love the combination of colours:

Lacinato kale and parsley seem happy together in a wire ring bed:

First fruits on the loquat. Considering the number of flowers it had, not much fruit has set, but since I’ve never tasted loquats before, I’m looking forward to whatever I can get:

Native Philotheca myoporoides (formerly Eriostemon) in flower. This was in flower and covered in bees when Frogdancer brought her garden group to see the garden and she was so impressed, she went out and bought one for her garden. Sadly, there don’t seem to be many bees around so far, on this or any other flowers. I hope it’s not a bad omen for fruit set this season:

Another native, Grevillea sericea. Again usually covered in bees, but only a few on this occasion:

Nectarine in flower. This one was grown from seed (they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow from seed):

Another nectarine, this time a dwarf variety I bought at a local nursery. It’s still only 40 cm high and should get to about a metre:

A wicking box with Spinach variety Galilee from The Lost Seed. I just broadcast it over the top, covered the seed with a layer of sieved potting mix  and got excellent germination:

The Girls, heads down, bums up, digging holes (what else is new?):

Trays of seedlings inside, in a sunny window:

Wormwood. Nice ferny, silver foliage. I grow this because it’s supposed to repel insects. I’ve just pruned out all the top growth, mulched it up and spread it around the Girl’s nestbox:

Japanese radish (Daikon). First time I’ve grown this. If it’s successful, I’ll add it to my next batch of kimchi:

Wheat, growing in a wire circle bed. I want to be able to grow at least some of the chook’s food. This year I’m determined to keep the parrots off it!:

I’ve cleaned out one of the planter boxes and prepared it for a beanfeast, in other words it is going to be planted out entirely to beans. I’ll put climbing beans (Purple King) at the back and French beans in the rest of the box. I’m rather chuffed with the trellis I made for the climbers, in that the uprights are cut from melaleuca saplings which grow on the property:

Winter fruits & a new food

June 4, 2012

I’m picking 3 useful winter fruits at the moment. I’ve already written (at length) about persimmons and tamarillo, but the new one for me this year is Cherry (or Strawberry) Guava (Psidium littorale). In The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Louis Glowinski says, “this claret-red cherry-like morsel is the best of the guavas”.

The fruits are rich in Vitamin C (more than oranges) and, says Glowinski, more than most Vitamin C tablets.

I have 3 plants grown from seed taken from a bag of fruit given to me some years ago. They germinated readily, but grew very slowly. It’s been a long wait for the first crop.

I’ve picked all the persimmons (they will continue to ripen inside) and the tamarillos and the first of the guavas. There are plenty of green ones still to ripen.

The tamarillos are half their normal size because the plants were stressed over summer and didn’t get enough water to swell the fruits. I’ve planted more plants nearer to the water tank and will keep the water up to them this summer. They’re short-lived anyway, so I plant a few new ones each year. I can’t recommend them highly enough as an easy-to-propagate and grow plant, with a beautiful rich-flavoured centre (the skins aren’t eaten). They’re not readily available to buy and are expensive when they are (last year Coles had them for $1.75 each…I picked 100 that year!). And another bonus is that they usually flower and fruit in their second year of growth.

The Cherry Guavas will be interesting—I’m in the process of collecting recipes for guava jam and jelly.

The ‘new food’ is my first batch of kimchi; a result of buying Sandor Katz’s fermentation book:

I’ve used Wom Bok chinese cabbage, with some kale to provide the darker greens. There’s also grated carrot, red capsicum, onion, garlic and grated ginger, with caraway seeds because I love the flavour they impart to cabbagey meals.

I’ve packed the vegetables into a wide-mouthed jar and weighted them down with a smaller jar of water on top:

I’m looking forward to my first taste!

Re-trying fermentation

April 29, 2012

I just bought Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

Katz is an expert on the  fermentation of foods and his book was recommended to me ages ago. Fermentation is another method of preserving foods, by encouraging the right bacteria to grow at the expense of the ones that cause food to rot. We’re all probably familiar with yoghurt, cheese and beer as fermented foods, but there are many other foods that can be preserved by fermentation.

A couple of years ago I checked out Katz’s website and had a go at making sauerkraut by fermenting kale. I had lots of it in the garden at the time.

I chopped the kale and added grated carrot and caraway seeds, then followed his method. It worked well and I really enjoyed what was, to me, a new taste sensation. I’d never eaten sauerkraut before.

I ate my way through 2 batches, but something went wrong with the third. I think the wrong bugs got in and it eventually went off. The experience put me off a bit and last year I dried most of my excess kale.

This year I want to have another go, hence buying the book. I’ve put 3 varieties of kale in—Red Russian, Lacinato and Curly Kale. The chooks love it too, so I’m going to need lots.

Red Russian Kale

I also want to get yoghurt-making right. I’ve been making it in the Thermomix and some batches have worked and some haven’t. No doubt I’ll find out what I’m doing wrong when I read the book.

I’d also like to get a sourdough starter going and have a go at making apple cider. The book covers it all.