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21 articles in category Fermentation / Subscribe

Homestead ‘Chi, a simple combination of homegrown ingredients. Recipe found on page 37 of Traditionally Fermented Foods.

I realize that this may be a widely debated topic, both on the internet and in various fermentation books. So I want to preface my take on it by sharing where I am coming from. I see vegetable fermentation as an absolute gift to the homesteader. It creates a food rich in enzymes and probiotics, is a quick and simple means of food preservation, and can be done on any scale with any amount of harvest. Most critically, for those of us interested in sustainability, it requires zero energy inputs from heat or refrigeration.

So while I am absolutely an advocate for eating a wide variety of ferments every single day for health reasons, I also see fermentation as I assume many of our ancestors did – as a practical means of food preservation. I now personally believe that refrigeration is not only not required for keeping fermented vegetables, it might actually be a hindrance in achieving well-preserved, tastier ferments. This has to do with the basic process of fermentation, the operational temperature of the bacteria needed for a full lactic acid fermentation, and the temperature control of the modern refrigerator. I detail all of this in Traditionally Fermented Foods.


Fermented Fresh Shelling Beans. Recipe on page 52 of Traditionally Fermented Foods.

It wasn’t until I was four to five years into vegetable fermentation that I began to hold this position. The first four years or so that I dabbled in vegetable fermentation, I lived on-grid. I made pickles and salsas and krauts, fermented them until they were active and bubbly, and then stored gallons of them in the refrigerator for six months or more.

Then I moved off-grid and while I knew theoretically that our ancestors stored fermented vegetables without refrigeration, I had no practical experience with it. Without a refrigeration setup that allowed for large quantities of fermented vegetables to be stored at or below 40 degrees, I turned to makeshift root cellars and good old counter tops to store these probiotic pickles.

And guess what? They tasted better. I had fewer instances of mold. And I know I’m not alone in this because I have spoken with other homesteaders with similar experiences. There were also some batches that did not keep as well. After a few more tests, I figured out that there are specific conditions necessary for the fermentative bacteria to do their job proliferating and preserving the vegetable. A read through of the biology of the process confirmed my findings.


Pear and Zucchini Mostarda, a fermented, piquant condiment. Recipe found on page 209 of Traditionally Fermented Foods.

How you put together your ferments and the conditions under which you ferment them is absolutely critical to storing ferments long-term without refrigeration. This can be done in crocks or jars; with cabbage or carrots or even shelling beans, but the keys to success seemed to lie not in refrigeration but in careful consideration and brine levels, fermentation temperature, and utilizing simple canning jars to create an ideal environment for lactic acid fermentation to take place.

I write about the details of all of these considerations and key steps in Traditionally Fermented Foods, including how long to ferment, how you really know when a ferment is ready, and giving your lacto-fermented vegetables exactly what they need to succeed.

But for those of you who are looking to sustainably store your garden or farmer’s market vegetables, I wanted to encourage you in knowing that you don’t need fancy equipment, starter cultures (including whey), or even refrigeration to create tasty, healthy, well-preserved ferments. With garden vegetables, salt, and a full understanding of the biological needs of lactic acid fermentation as it pertains to vegetables, you can store up your harvest simply and sustainably.


In feeding this family of mine, I can’t tell you how many times the sourdough starter has come to my rescue. We used to use fruit and nuts primarily as snacks but that can get really pricey with growing boys and whatnot. I’ve tried to stretch them out to stop snacking all together, putting loads of traditional fats on their plates and serving up who knows how many baked potatoes and sides of beans.

But here we are, these boys coming in sweating from a couple hours of work, still looking for snacks not long after a meal. Best to have a plan and a sourdough starter and get cracking, I say. So a couple of weeks ago when no loaves had been baked and no leftovers were still on the table, I decided to make sourdough crepes from the “discarded” starter.

There is a lot more regarding “discarded” sourdough starter, why discarding helps build up your starter for better bread, and how to use the “discarded” starter in recipes in Traditionally Fermented Foods. For now, I’ll just say that discarded starter is the starter you throw into the chicken scrap pale or compost directly before you feed your starter. Using that starter without adding additional flour gives you a fully fermented bread since the starter itself has already gone through a full cycle of fermentation.

So it’s nice to use it in recipes like this, alongside some jars of home canned applesauce or preserves, for a quick snack. Or, double or quadruple the recipe for a breakfast or dessert treat. Everyone, including Ruthie, seems to enjoy these sourdough snacks.


Sourdough Crepes Using “Discarded” Starter

Note: You can also find a recipe for wheat-free Sourdough Rye Crepes in 100% Rye.


  • 1 cup “discarded” sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, coconut oil, or lard for frying
  • Applesauce, fresh fruit, soft cheese, or whipped cream for serving


Heat a 10″ cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of the fat to the pan and allow to melt while the pan preheats. Meanwhile, whisk the sourdough starter, egg, and salt together in a small bowl.

Once the pan is hot and the batter mixed, ladle in approximately 1/4 cup of the batter. Using a hot pad on the handle, quickly rotate the pan to spread the batter into a large circle as thin as you can. Allow the crepe to cook for 2-3 minutes or until it sets around the edges and a bubble or two appears on the surface.

Carefully flip and cook 1-2 minutes more or until set. Transfer to a platter or cutting board and repeat with remaining batter. Once all crepes are cooked, serve with fillings of choice.

For more easy-to-make naturally leavened breads (both wheat and gluten-free) see Traditionally Fermented Foods, available for pre-order now and everywhere May 9th.