Fermentation Quality and Quantity

We made three significant changes this year to how we make our staples which have increased our production quality and quantity of fermented foods in our lives.

1. We now use 1/2 gallon mason jars. In this case it is a gallon of sour pickles on the left side and a gallon of kimchi on the right.

2. The kimchi is now hotter, stronger and has seasoning that is more evenly distributed. We blend all the additives red pepper flakes, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil before pouring over the shredded cabbage and carrot.

3. We use airlocks on all whey based ferments so that we can avoid refrigeration, mold issues and blowing up mason jars from CO2 build up.

I'm not sure what the ideal time for leaving kimchi out at room temperature with this setup. On the pickles I'm digging a 2 week room temperature ferment which makes them nice and sour.

This Time of Year It is all about the Bruschetta

Tomato, garlic, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper are all easy to come by this time of year. We grow most of them and make mozzarella cheese twice a month so this is a staple in our household. I love to drizzle a great balsamic vinegar over this dish and serve as a appetizer or half ass lunch. We have been eating it on our super sourdough sun oven bread.


Outdoor Tub Area Now with More Flagstone

After two years of looking at flagstone still sitting on the original pallets Wendy and I caved. We hired a crew of five to spread the crusher fines and lay the stone. It came out nice. I'm kind of glad we didn't take this one on ourselves as it would have taken us a month of back breaking work to complete.


Maker Faire Mini * ISEA * Globaquerque

A busy weekend for Albuquerque, NM. We attended three events in three days: ISEA, The Maker Faire (a mini), and Globaquerque. Mikey presented and gave a talk at the mini Maker Faire. Two good friends of ours presented at ISEA: Alyce Santoro and Scott Kildall. In three days we managed to send messages to outer space through Tweets in Space; enjoy a tour of the universe through Alyce's universal raisin cake theory and hear live throat singing. Crazy!


Crusher Fines

Crusher Fines by mikeysklar
Crusher Fines, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

One dump truck full of crusher fines was dropped off today. This is in preperation for a two day marathon of setting flagstone around our hot sprint tub.


Arial Play - Night Flyer

Last night we had an experience reminiscent of the kinds of evenings that were standard faire when we lived in New York City, an ariel performance group preformed a play in a warehouse in the industrial section of Las Cruces. The play, titled Night Flyer, was written by a new T or C resident, playwright Susan Melinda Dunlap. It was great. In New York style, the play was followed by a dance party in which local artists sold their wares, jewelry, paintings, stickers, silk screened shirts. It all felt so "old school" we kept saying to one another. Then the DJ played Michael Jackson's Thriller and I realized that it was me who was old! 

Tarantulas and Millipedes of Mescal Canyon

While walking the dogs in through our favorite canyon hike near town we came across a tarantula and several millipedes.

Tarantulas and Centipedes of Mescal Canyon #2


Three Condiments: Catsup, BBQ Sauce and Worcestershire

In need of the crazy whirling lab like energy of the kitchen I started three condiments from scratch today. The tomatoes are coming in faster than I can keep up with so it seemed a good time to make catsup, bbq sauce and Worcestershire.  They all came out pretty good. I used our red wine kombucha in place of vinegar. The BBQ sauce is a mustard base, and though I prefer sweeter BBQ sauces it's lovely.


15 lbs of Honey that Wants to be Mead

I spent $70 this morning at the grocery store. The first $60 went to buying 15 lbs of local, raw, New Mexico honey. The remaining $10 went to buying 9V batteries for Da Pimp kit we sell. I'm sure the checkout clerk was scratching her head at who buys a bunch of honey and batteries. The honey went right into the primary fermenter bucket and I added 5 gallons of city water. I'll let it sit unsealed overnight and stir it regularly before adding adding mead yeast tomorrow.


Fermentation Mania

Fermentation Mania by mikeysklar
Fermentation Mania, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Today seemed like non-stop fermentation work. We made cheese, sourdough bread, started pickles, started sake, racked the pinot noir and added the fruit flavors to two dozen bottles of mead.

Fermentation Mania #2Fermentation Mania #3Fermentation Mania #4


5 Gallons of Mead Bottled

5 Gallons of Mead Bottled by mikeysklar
5 Gallons of Mead Bottled, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
We just bottled a mead that we had started last April. It's drinkable as is, but I would have preferred a little sweeter result. I had used 1 gallon (11-12 lbs of honey) and I think this could have used as much as 1.5 gallons (18 lbs). We left room in the bottle so that tomorrow we can add a tablespoon or so of fruit juice to each bottle. This batch will be split into apple, pear and prickly pear mead. We will kick off the next 5 gallon batch this week!


Amazake by mikeysklar
Amazake, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I'm proud to say we have finished phase 2 of getting into more obscure fermentations. We saved the mold spores from our last koji batch to produce another batch of koji. We then took the mold pre-sporelation mixed it with cooked rice and held a temperature of 140F for 24 hours to produce amazake. What's cool about this process is that the mold (Aspergillus orzae) that we are using is converting the starch in the rice to sugar. Now that we have made Amazake we need to find a good recipe for drinking this sweet rice as a beverage. Any recommendations? I'm thinking ginger, lime maple syrup to start.

Amazake #2Amazake #3Amazake #4

The Peaches are Falling

The Peaches are Falling by mikeysklar
The Peaches are Falling, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our peach tree dropped it's first half dozen peaches of the summer yesterday. Their size is significantly better than previous years. I attribute the improvement to the thinning we did in the spring. One fruit every 6".

Pickled Red Okra

Pickled Red Okra by mikeysklar
Pickled Red Okra, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
As we were seeding our fall vegetable garden Wendy was complaining to me that we were not eating the okra fast enough. I picked a handful of medium sized okra and placed them in a 1 pint mason jar. I then filled the jar 3/4 full of raw cheese whey, added some dill / salt / chipotle / minced garlic and mustard seed then vacuum sealed it. These should be ready to eat in 3 days and refrigerated at that time.

Local Art

Local Art by mikeysklar
Local Art, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We bought some local art during this weekends Art Hop. We picked up this black cat drawing by Susan Christie which has a lovely map background and sushi border. It's special.


Catch Up & Reset

I suppose the timing of autumn is kinda perfect. I'd been whining and moaning over the guilt of having ignored my gardens most of the summer because I was finishing my book. With autumn arriving this week and more than a 10 degree drop in temp it feels right to strip the beds down to soil and begin anew. These before and after pics reveal the severity of my neglect. Shame shame!

Bubbly Romano

Bubbly Romano by mikeysklar
Bubbly Romano, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

This week we made a nice size romano cheese wheel using eight quarts of raw milk. I cut the wheel before vacuum sealing it and saw lots of air bubbles which I assume are from our lively raw whey thermophilic culture I used to inoculate the cheese.

Bitter Orange Stimulant

Bitter Orange Stimulant by mikeysklar
Bitter Orange Stimulant, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I've was recently swapping stimulants with another programmer. I gave him some of our local mormon tea in trade for his pill of choice "bitter orange". Today was my first day on bitter orange which seemed like a pretty clear and smooth experience compared to the jerky nature of caffeine. Anyone else using bitter orange?


Tzatziki Perfect Summer Food

I can't believe we went through this entire summer without making tzatziki. It's such a simple dish and we always have such enormous amounts of raw yogurt in our fridge. This was made in a few minutes using strained raw yogurt, 1 peeled and de-seeded cucumber, crushed garlic, salt, olive oil and pepper. Our yogurt is super thick, not the thin goopy stuff so it lends itself to being the perfect tzatziki.

Vacuum Pickles

Vacuum Pickles by mikeysklar
Vacuum Pickles, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I love pulling a vacuum on my ferments. Simply using a mason jar adapter on any food saver vacuum sealer makes this easy to do. The vacuum allows the brine to immediately be absorbed into the vegetables and removes any oxygen which could cause molds to form. Some people are worried about botulism, but the acidic environment of the ferment makes that extremely unlikely. This batch of pickles was made with garlic, dill, cucumbers, salt and raw cheese whey. I'll give them a few days before refrigerating them.

Koji Sporulation

Koji Sporulation by mikeysklar
Koji Sporulation, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We have been working towards some more difficult ferments like Sake, Miso, Amazaki and Tamari. The first step for all of these ferments is to make koji with involves the use of a mold called Aspergillus oryzae. Koji takes 36-48 hours at roughly 88F to produce ideal mold growth. I let this batch go too far so that I could collect, dry and grind the spores for future koji innoculations.

Wine Festival Las Cruces, NM

We met up with some friends in Las Cruces for the long Labor Day weekend. The event we spent our day at was the Las Cruces Wine Festival. There were 17 commercial vineyards with all sorts of unusual wines to taste. We bought several bottles. My favorite was probably a pistachio wine and Wendy was all about the port wines.

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes by mikeysklar
Sun Dried Tomatoes, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

It's took over four days of drying to produce a 1 quart jar of sun dried tomatoes using our no frills dryer. I will cut the slices a little thinner on the next go around.


My First Mower

My First Mower by mikeysklar
My First Mower, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

It's a little ridiculous, but this $5 yard sale score is our first lawn mower. We don't really have a lawn just patches of bermuda grass and weeds. This device seems to overheat quickly, but it's a start.

Tempeh Correction

Tempeh Correction by mikeysklar
Tempeh Correction, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We had a few botched batches of tempeh. After taking Sandor's fermentation class I realized that I had been running the temperature a bit high 93F instead of 88F. Also I had not been drying the soy beans enough before inoculation. The last batch turned out great bringing back the amazing smell of fresh tempeh fermenting.