Fermentation

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10 articles in category Fermentation / Subscribe

beans
It all started early this summer and I have to say I had an accomplice. Up until that point, in order to actually can foods I had to borrow a friend’s canner. Well then my father-in-law dropped one off when he visited the family so I guess if my quickly filling cabinets have anyone to blame it is him.

After a new gasket the canner saw its first use in a while and I quickly became smitten. Organic potatoes we purchased in bulk at a deep discount were the first victims. The boys peeled and chopped, I packed and processed. It was just too easy now that a pressure canner lived right in my own kitchen.

And the gardens happened – the most productive garden we’ve had since inhabiting this land. Both green beans and squash were fermented and dehydrated, until I just couldn’t keep up with it and threw a couple of baskets full into the canner. These were the first jars of homegrown, home canned produce we’ve seen here in Texas.

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I took a break through August when my manuscript was due and September too as I finished the photos. But then I found a stash of dried beans so old no amount of boiling seemed to help. Our neighbor who’d been over helping with housework (hiring help when deadlines loom has been a win!) mentioned how her mom pressure canned them and they were soft and tender. Dozens and dozens of quarts later is when my hobby started to turn into a… situation.

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Then apple season happened and bulk organic apples at a good price means applesauce. But then two large boxes of longhorn bones showed up on our door and desperate times called for desperate measures so several more cases of jars came home with us… and, filled with broth, now join the collection taking up just a bit of space in our cabinets.

So, I thought I’d wait until we took a bull to the butcher before I filled any more jars. The many quarts of meat and broth would surely be enough to deter me from filling more jars and more cabinet space, right?

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Well, potatoes and apples and beets came into season once again. So now one hundred pounds of potatoes and forty pounds of apples and twenty-five pounds of beets are hollering for help and who am I to say no?

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Canning lots of food was really never on my to-do list, but when you live off-grid and are still working on that root cellar and have no refrigeration for produce, it certainly helps. The gallons of turnip kimchi on the counter indicate that my dedication to fermentation has not waned, I’ve simply added to the many, many jars we go through around here.

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I’ll probably need more jars… and cabinet space… or better yet, a root cellar! I’m rallying for a huge potato patch in the spring, more squash, and bushels of green beans! Surely, I don’t have a problem here, right?

Oh, and if you stop by, sorry for the slowly decaying food odor – kimchi always tastes better than it smells. Come back in a month and it will be spot on tasty… and after another turnip harvest, Lord willing, I’ll only have added to my reeking counters and sagging cabinets.

Anyone know if you can purchase jars by the pallet load?

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The first draft of the cover.

When Joshua was two weeks old, Stewart walked in to the room to find me laughing, baby in arms, laptop open in front of me. I had been in that dreamy first two weeks where nothing really exists except babies and food – ya know, cuz you’re feeding another human. This was the day I was finally willing to fully delve into my inbox.

The email that made me laugh came from an Editor at Page Street Publishing who I now know as Elizabeth. She said she was a fan of Nourishing Days and had shown her publisher our site and he recommended exploring a book option with us.

I laughed for so many reasons. Because I sat nursing my two-week old baby. Because we’d talked to other publishers before and it was never a good fit. Because I was already feeling that guilt you get when you have a new baby and you’re sure all of the other children are feeling neglected. (In reality they don’t, I realize. They get to spend more time with Daddy which is pretty much always way more fun.)

Stewart encouraged me to set up a call and so I spent an hour talking to Will who runs Page Street. No other publisher had offered to sit down and talk to me, and certainly not for an hour, so that was encouraging. He asked what I wanted to write about. He asked why my take on fermentation was different. He told me he wanted to get goats too and that he and his family were interested in going to solar and maybe even homesteading. I could hear his baby girl cooing in the background.

After much prayer and discussion, we signed with Page Street and I got to work. Jars and jars and jars of vegetable ferments filled the earliest weeks. Dozens and dozens of wheat and gluten-free sourdough baked goods came out of my oven shortly thereafter. Milk kefir and yogurt and wild kvasses filled my summer. Hot sauces and fermented vegetable brine-based sauces and salsas ended in August.

I handed in the manuscript, including 80+ recipes, August 30th and celebrated with a huge glass of water kefir. Huge.

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A photo outtake including various recipes from throughout the book.

One of the sticking points for me, having fermented a lot of these foods for over a decade now, was to make sure that the photos accurately represented the reality of fermentation – yeast strands in kombucha, bubbles in kvass, the funk along with the pretty. To that end, after a crash course in basic food photography, they signed me on as the photographer for the project. In this respect, they really took a chance on me and I am grateful.

On September 30th I handed in 90-some photos of the 80+ recipes. I celebrated by nursing the baby and picking vegetables from the garden.

The thing that was different about Page Street – and one of the reasons we signed with them – is because they seemed to believe wholeheartedly in allowing me to write the book that I wanted to write. For the first time I was not being shoved into some fermented foods book mold made generically to throw another book on the shelf. Elizabeth and Will cared about my vision enough to let me write about the sustainability aspect of fermented foods, the science behind making fermented foods work in your kitchen, how to use and store these foods without refrigeration, and recipes that go beyond the usual suspects you can find on the internet.

I’m finishing up some edits this week and, in reading back through it all, am so grateful for how this has turned out. I am really excited to share it with you all!

Lord willing, Traditionally Fermented Foods will be available May 9, 2017.