First month of fermenting

Well, we’re now a little over a month into my Year of Fermenting and so far, it’s been going great. We’re starting to sample some of what we’ve made, we’re coming up with plenty of ideas to keep trying throughout the year, and (so far) only one cupboard in the kitchen stinks… and as long as we don’t open the cupboard door, you can’t really notice. So at this point, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what we’ve attempted and how it’s gone.

First up was a Brown Ale brewed on New Years Eve with the yeast pitched just after midnight (I wanted to start the year in correct mindset). I brewed a brown ale and someone suggested adding hazelnuts to make a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar clone. I sounded good so I looked around to see what others had tried and found that most people throw in a small amount of “hazelnut flavoring” when they keg it. The next time I was at the store, I wandered down the coffee isle and noticed hazelnut flavored syrup which it turns out is not what they meant by hazelnut flavoring. Oh well. I added a little to the keg before realizing what I’d done wrong then decided to just add a little syrup to each glass when filling pints. Turns out, I like the brown ale, but I’m not a huge fan of the hazelnut so I’ll call this ferment a success with a lucky accident.

Next up, I tried rice beer made with some qu balls we got a year ago at a local Asian market. I steamed some sticky rice, waited for it to cool and added a crushed qu ball. There didn’t seem to be enough liquid so I added a bit of water and eventually the rice started to break down and ferment. One site I saw recommended blending the rice and liquid once fermentation finished so I tried it… Not an approach I’ll try again. Still a pretty good drink but the small amount of rice-free beverage that floats to the top is definitely the best part.

After making a tasty ginger beer, I decided I needed to try something that wasn’t a beverage. We got some serrano peppers and decided to make hot sauce. I used the same technique I’ve used for kimchi (add the peppers and garlic to a jar with salt equal to 2% of their weight and mash it until enough liquid comes out to cover the peppers). It smelled so good while it was fermenting. I kept getting a hint of the peppers and wanting to eat them all. After about two weeks, I blended it all. It was a little too thick to pour so I added some cider vinegar. I’ve been putting it on everything recently and really love the flavor. Next time I’ll skip the vinegar and serve it with a spoon. The vinegar just dilutes the flavor a bit.

We’ve never been big fans of cauliflower in this house. It’s ok, but the only time we usually get it is in the fall to make cauliflower/garlic mash (like mashed potatoes). Well, a few weeks ago our veg box arrived with cauliflower which then sat in the fridge for a week or two. Finally I decided we weren’t going to use it for anything else so I might as well try lacto-fermenting it. I made one large jar with cauliflower, garlic, peppercorns and 3% brine, plus one smaller jar that also had some scotch bonnet powder and Korean chili flakes. They both fermented for a little over a week. We’ve been eating them for less that a week and both jars are almost empty. Cauliflower is on our list for the next veg box.

Finally, I wanted to try something with a longer ferment. I found several different techniques for fermented tofu. Some significantly stinkier than others. I went with a less smelly version and have had it going for about three weeks. From what I understand, after about four weeks, it will have the flavor and consistency of a soft cheese. I can’t wait to try it.

I’ve got many ideas for other fermentation experiments but I’m open to other ideas. Any suggestions for what to ferment next month?

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