Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

Hibiscus Soda Floats
March 31, 2010, 11:57 am
Filed under: beverages, Pickled Anything

In the slow uphill climb toward realizing my dreams, I made progress today akin to landing on the moon.  I tasted the first of, hopefully, many truly delicious cultured soda and cashew based ice cream floats.  Sound strange? I wish you could taste the goodness for yourself.

Cultured Hibiscus Soda and Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream

I photographed this with one hand while pouring, hence the stylized angle

The finished product.  Yum.


30 hibiscus flowers
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1/2 gallon water
1 cup whey

First I brought the water to a boil, then I turned off the heat, added the flowers, and let them steep for 15-20 minutes.  Then I strained out the flowers, allowed the mixture to return to room temperature, added another 1/2 gallon of water, and 1 cup of whey.

I poured the mixture into my lovely new blue glass grolsch style bottles (see image below) and then set it in the fermentation cupboard.  After 4 days, it wasn’t carbonated, but I let it sit through the weekend (a total of 6 days I believe) and then refrigerated it.  When I opened it, it was perfectly fizzy and pleasantly tart. yum.

Non-Dairy Vanilla Ice Cream

6 medjool dates, soaked in water
1 cup cashew pieces, soaked in water for 1 hour
1/2 Tbs coarse sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the ice cream, I blended the cashews in a blender with some of the soaking water from the dates, gradually adding more water as the mixture became smoother.  Then I added the vanilla, salt, and dates, and I kept adding water until there were 4 cups of goodness.  Then I threw the whole thing in the ice cream maker and voila…  Ice cream floats!

I used hibiscus flowers from Honey Bee Market, a grocer in mexicantown that sells all manner of latino stock grocery items.  The birth of my hibiscus tea love affair began at Pilar’s Tamales in Ann Arbor, an amazing business (food cart and shop) run by a woman named Sylvia who makes inspired tamales and traditional El Salvadorean food.  Her hibiscus tea is sweet, citrusy, and tart, and I was hoping to capture that same essence in the soda.  Mostly, I made the hibiscus soda because my friend Hannah requested/suggested it.  Any requests and/or flavor ideas are always appreciated!!! I’m a firm believer that just about anything can be made into soda, or ice cream, or both.  bring it.


The Pickling of the Mustard Green
March 22, 2010, 1:57 am
Filed under: Pickled Anything

Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed Mustard Greens

may the image speak for itself.

This pungent delicacy was one of the only remnants I had of my day spent working at the cultured pickle shop in Berkeley.  I toted my little 6oz jar all the way back to Michigan in my carry on luggage, swearing to place a hex on any unsuspecting  security official who attempted to confiscate my admittadly suspicious container.  No amount of rearranging would have squeezed it into my toiletry ziploc.  After weeks of covetousness and allowing myself only the tinniest of bites, I decided to take matters into my own hands, embarking on an experiment in, hopes of recreating this most supreme pickle in my own kitchen.

It’s been at least two months since I actually started the ferment, so I’ll need to consult my trusty notebook to review what actually went into the bowl.  When I say “trusty” it should be noted that if I’m actually hoping to label myself as a scientist, my scientific method is deeply flawed.

Pardon my mess.

Nonetheless, I did manage to keep track of the quantities of ingredients used, and I have the process in my head, so I’ll now attempt to elaborate on what can only be euphemistically described as my “short hand.”

PICKLED MUSTARD GREENS: with Fresh Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed

Chop 1 bunch mustard greens into 1 inch strips

Sprinkle with 1 Tbs salt and mix until greens begin to wilt and exude juices (won’t take very long)

add 1/2 Tbs fennel seed

grate 1 inch fresh turmeric into mixture

finely chop 1-3 cloves garlic

I mixed all the ingredients and then packed them into a small jar (only made about 6 oz) and put it in my cupboard with a water seal*

I let it ferment for about 7 weeks, tasting it about every 2 weeks.  At first it really wasn’t very good… but I put it back in the cupboard and let it keep going.  I was thinking it might be a lost cause, but when I checked on it most recently, it was GREAT!  The sourness had developed and helped blend all the strong flavors.  It’s still really pungent, but in the best possible expression of the word.  And the experience helped to remind me of an important lesson, which is: patience!  Thinking something tastes too strong or weird is often resolved by allowing it to just keep fermenting.  Bacteria are amazing, they get up to all sorts of crazy shit when given ample time to do so.  Often, they create masterpieces.

*A water seal is just a ziploc bag, filled with enough water to press on the entire surface of the greens and force brine up the sides of the jar.  This creates a pretty airtight fermenting environment, meaning minimal/no mold.  Remember to use food grade plastic!  This is a great method for  weighing down (topping) small batches!

I’m going to eat my pickled mustard greens on homemade sourdough bagels with cashew butter.  I learned to eat pickles with nut butter from the masters (i.e. the people at cultured).  If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it highly.

Also, and I’m putting this in writing in hopes that it will manifest, Greg from Brother Nature Produce agreed to grow me some mustard greens for the express purpose of pickling them.  A half a year from now, pickled mustard greens could be coming to a kitchen near you!

When Life Gives you Lemons… Pickle Them!
March 11, 2010, 1:41 am
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

Coincident with the first truly sunny week of spring (always a risky thing to say in MI), I set out to preserve some of that brightness in a jar.  I’ve had Moroccan preserved lemons on the brain ever since I visited the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA, where I ate some of the most magical fermented foods on offer in this here world.  Turnip Tangerine Kombucha, Mustard Greens with Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed, pumpkin kimchee… the list went on and on.  But sometime around lunch, when the employees sat down together for a cultured smorgasbord, I tasted a true delight.  A single sardine waited unassumingly in my shallow bowl, sprawled languidly aside one small quarter of a pickled lemon.  The two tasted fantastic together, I was instantly hooked by the oily, tangy, sauerness.  Which brings me back to my experiment… I want some pickled lemons of my own!

So, for better or for worse, here in Detroit the only place lemons grow on trees is at the Belle Isle conservatory (a beautiful place to visit, but not exactly a place for foraging).  So I swallowed my pride and bought a bag of organic California lemons from whole foods– I’m especially diligent about using pesticide free produce when pickling, I’m wary of the pesticides becoming even more concentrated as they ferment (yuk) and I think pesticides are meant to be anti-bacterial/anti-microbial, which is really no fun for the little guys doing all the dirty work.

The process, stolen from the internet, was easy:

Preserved Lemons

9 lemons

non-iodized, additive-free salt

Wash lemons well.  Slice off both ends on the lemon, leaving some of the rind intact, and then slice the lemon into quarters, BUT taking care not to cut all the way through the lemon on one end, so that the quarters stay together and you are left with a lovely sort of lemon flower.

Add 1 TBS salt to a 1 quart jar.  Rub generous amounts of salt over the insides of the lemons and squish them into the jar, packing them tightly.  Squish until enough lemon juice has been pushed out to cover the lemons completely.

Place the lid on the jar lightly, so that some air can still escape but no bugs or dust can get in.

Place in a cool dark place and allow to ferment.  I’m not sure how long for because I’m posting this a day after I put them in the fermentation chamber (i.e. the cupboard next to my fridge).

I’m so eager about my lemons that I couldn’t wait until after they were pickled to make a post about them.  I’m thinking maybe I’ll edit retroactively with more info about length of ferment and some photos of the finished product.  For now, I’m adding pictures of the process up to to the point of fermentation.





As you can see, there is nothing quite so sunny as salted lemons.  With spring in the air, it seems like an appropriate sort of celebration.   There has also been mention of a possible pickled lemon and mint sorbet.  More on this to come.