Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World


Suddenly Sauer Sells!
September 20, 2010, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Pickled Anything

Packed, Labeled, and READY TO EAT!

Just a quick note, I had my first sale of pickles at yesterday’s Corktown Community Brunch.  Not only did my Indian Style Dill Pickles (a recipe torn from the pages of ADAMAH dills) sit pretty alongside the Indian Style Huevos Rancheros menu, Delicata Sunshine’s Peach Chutney, and Detroit Evolution’s ground cherry and tomatillo hot sauce, but I also managed to peddle my first few jars of suddenly sauer product!

This occasion even led me to get my mom involved!  She has run a stationary store out of our basement since I was 10 yrs old and last week she and I sat down and designed these labels

Thank you Invitation Station!

And, because I can’t resist, I want to mention what’s currently “in the crock,” (meaning, in progress, of course!)

literally fermenting:

Dilly Beans
Sweetly Spiced Shredded Beets
Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish
SauerReuben (a turnip based sauerkraut)
Butternut Squash and Asian Greens Kimchi
Fresh Turmeric and Fennel Cauliflower

figuratively fermenting:

The products I’ve jarred so far are just the beginning of what I’m planning to eventually amount to 25 jars each of 12 experimental varieties, all crafted with much love and care in my kitchen.  I’m planning to amass these creations into a winter pickle share, for 25 eager pickle eaters to sample at the rate of 2 jars a month for 6 months.  The jars are small, but the share would be as much about getting a sneak peak of some really special pickles, as about supporting said pickles and their bright and fizzy future in Suddenly Sauer’s first year.

I plan to use this blog to let those who sample my product know about the process behind each variety, as well where the food that goes into the pickles comes from.

I’m going to be putting together more information about this share in the coming weeks, but if you’re interested in being on Suddenly Sauer’s e-mail list, either comment on this post with your e-mail or e-mail me directly at blair@suddenlysauer.com.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive community for getting me this far, and I’m looking forward to discovering all the ways we can support eachother in the future!



Dilly Beans and A Happy New Year!
September 8, 2010, 1:30 am
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything, Producers

Alright… it might be a little far fetched to claim that lacto-fermented Dilly Beans are the perfect treat for this year’s Rosh Hashannah festivities, but they’ll be gracing my family’s table where dates, beets, and honey occupy the spreads of Jews across the globe.  And I’ll give you one simple reason why… they’re totally delicious.

I first learned to make Dilly Beans at ADAMAH: the Jewish Environmental Fellowship run out of Falls Village Connecticut’s Isabella Freedman Retreat Center.  I apprenticed at the Fellowship’s pickle kitchen for a spell in 2008 and, needless to say, my life has never been the same.  One of the many things I was introduced to there was a deep respect for the rhythm of the seasons, and the way that Jewish Holiday’s beautifully capture the ebbs and flows we all experience in a year.  Rosh Hashannah, a holiday that celebrates the New Year with sweetness, freshness, and all things at their burst blooming peak of life, is full of delicious food traditions.  The mass consumption of apples dipped in honey is the one most strongly crystalized in my memory.

But this year, alongside the sweet things that will fill our table, I’ll be setting a little bowl of dilly beans with all their fantastic flavor just within arms reach of my family.  I love these beans, not only because they’re complexly sweet and sour, or because they never fail to impart the perfect crunch, but also because they’re simply the best thing to come out of the crock lately.  They’re ready NOW and NOW is the time to CELEBRATE!

I picked up the beans for these dilly’s from Earthworks Urban Farm‘s Medlrum Fresh Food Market

Then I brought them home, and fermented them with gusto.

Dilly Beans

(2 Gallons)

1 gallon+2 cups H20
1 cup salt
8 quarts green beans
1.5 cups peeled garlic
10 dill flowers
20 cayenne peppers
Spice mix (bay, cinnamon, orange peel, anise, clove)

I chopped the stems off all the beans, mixed a brine with the salt and water, placed all the ingredients in the crock, and poured the brine over them until they were submerged.  Then I put on one of my lids with a boiled stone for a weight, and put the whole crock in the basement (68 degrees) to ferment.  I plan to let them go three weeks, after two weeks they’re already divine.

I am really looking forward to sharing these beans with my family and friends.  I know it’s a little late to ferment them for this years’ holidays, but I highly suggest it for the future!  Nothing says new year like a batch of bright tasting pickles that are sure to keep you fed in the months to come!



Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish
August 3, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything, Uncategorized

Green tomatoes and their accompaniments, soaking in cold water pre-fermentation

Last week’s makers faire, a nationwide series of events highlighting DIY projects in cities across the country, kicked off with an event called Can Do Camp, where Detroiters with a “can do” spirit were invited to mingle and listen to speakers all day long.  They were also invited to feast, and feast WELL at that!

The event was catered by Detroit Evolution, an organization that provides scrumptious catering among their many offerings.  My friend Angela is the caterer, and her ability to make magical food has been proved to me, time and again, through her catering as well as her work organizing and head chef-ing the monthly Corktown Community Brunch.

Angela got in touch with me and asked if I could make a couple of Suddenly Sauer Delights for the Can Do Camp event, and I happily obliged.  Besides 2 gallons of yogurt (with calder dairy milk) and 8 pounds of my oil free/date sweetened granola, she also asked for some pickles.  and pickles I provided!

I sold her one gallon of the pickled baby beets, and as we sat in the kitchen debating the crowd appeal of a batch of pickled turnip greens, my mind wandered to the 10 greatly oversized pickling cucumbers my friend Rachel had just pulled from her garden and gifted to me.  I instantly proposed to Angela a cucumber and green tomato relish (the green tomatoes were coming on strong in my own garden) and she heartily agreed that it had great potential.

The next step was figuring out what it was I was actually going to make.

I decided to brine the cucumbers and green tomatoes whole, with traditional pickling spices, garlic, and dill flowers, and some hot peppers to give the relish a mild kick.  My plan was to let them ferment for as long as possible, realizing that meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 hours.  When we made pickles at the Adamah pickle kitchen where I apprenticed in 2008, we would brine our half sours for 48 hours and our full sours for a full week.  Operating on that principle, I hoped 48 hours would be enough to give these fatties a bit of sauerness while preserving their cucumber nature.  I planned to chop them into relish after the 48 hour period.

Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish

(in a 3 gallon crock, yield: 1 gallon relish)

Brine:

1.5 cups pickling salt (with NO additives/preservatives/anti-caking agents)

1.5 gallons water

Add salt to crock, add 4 cups hot water and whisk with salt until dissolved.  More hot water might be necessary for total dissolution, but keep track of how much you’re adding.  Once salt is dissolved in hot water, add the rest of your water cold to bring the temperature of the brine down to room temp.

Then begin to add your ingredients:

2 cups (fresh from my garden) garlic, smashed

5 dill flowers (the flowers make great pickle seasoning!)

6 hot peppers

1.5 Tbs pickling spice (in a spice sock, which can be bought in most brewing stores)

8 overgrown cucumbers

2 quarts green tomatoes

Measuring the garlic to throw in the brine

Peppers, dill, spice sock, and garlic, all afloat in the brine

and the green tomatoes, the last thing in before the cucumbers.

I only added the cukes and green tomatoes until there were at least 2 inches of head space in the crock.  At that point, I put one of my seasoned wooden crock lids on top, weighed it down with a ceramic bowl filled with bagged dry beans (obviously just an improvisation, you could use whatever you like!) and let it sit in my kitchen for 48 hours (hotter than usual because I wanted it to ferment quickly, more like 80 degrees rather than my usual high 60’s/low 70’s).

At the end of two days, I chopped all the cucubers and tomatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, placed then in a 1 gallon jar, poured brine over them, and let them sit out overnight with the lid slightly ajar to let their flavor develop a bit more and allow the newly exposed inner parts of the cukes and tomatoes to soak in more brine.  Also, because the cukes were so overgrown, their seeds were pretty nasty so I cut the insides out of all the cucumbers before slicing them for the relish. 

Ultimately, I served the relish at the event in these nifty little dishes and i think it looked pretty swell.  I felt grateful to Angela for giving me the opportunity to showcase my pickling prowess and I’m really looking forward to more pickling adventures in the coming months, as we get deeper into the harvest season.

Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish at the Can Do Camp Event



The Great (Mint Soda) Debacle
July 26, 2010, 2:11 pm
Filed under: beverages, Pickled Anything

For the last month or so, my soda making has been at a standstill.

Those who’ve innocently inquired as to “how it’s going” have been greeted with an earful about my insufficient scientific method, my failed attempts, confusion, research, lacto-bacilli, CO2, whey, and so on and so forth.

what was holding me up, in truth, were the 12 bottles of MOROCCAN MINT TEA SODA, idly fermenting away in one of my kitchen cupboards.

I had put up the soda at the beginning of May.  12 bottles (roughly 1.5 gallons) and a week later, then another week later, and ultimately a full month later, their bacterial activity was for all intents and purposes dead as a doornail.

With each increasingly anxiety filled unveiling, I would hold the cobalt blue bottle to my face and gently pop the lid, cursing under my breath (and, finally, very much aloud) as only the tinniest whisper of CO2 escaped.

The mystery of the non-fermenting-nor-spoiling soda was heightened when one out of twelve bottles popped open with a perfectly fermented fizz and a fantastic flavor to boot!  Why would one in 12 bottles successfully carbonate while the others were all, with certainty, dudds.

Cursing the gods, I poured the unfermented sodas into ice cube trays and popsicle molds and defeatedly sucked on them through the hottest days of summer.  I left one jar in the cupboard, however, and when it had still failed to come to life 6 weeks later, I decided to top it off with a bit of extra whey.

two weeks later, I returned from a road trip, popped the top, and was delighted, yes overjoyed, to find that the soda had finally carbonated!

it is thus my pleasure to report the following lessons:

1) I think the whey settled a bit out of solution and the one bottle’s success was a result of its containing more whey than the other bottles.

2) I think some simple syrups, particularly those made with potentially anti-microbial ingredients (green tea? mint?) require more whey than others.  Knowing exact amounts will take some experimenting… but it’s good to have the variable at least pinpointed.

3) Moroccan mint tea soda is yummy.  I think I’ll give this one another go WITH the extra whey from the start.

MOROCCAN MINT TEA SODA

1 gallon water

3 cups sugar

1/2 lb fresh mint

2 Tbs gunpowder green tea

1/2 gallon cold water

2 cups whey (note** this is an estimate of what i think might be a more accurate amount.  I’ll update this recipe once I’ve made another successful batch of soda)

IN a large pot, bring the water to boil with the sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved and the water has boiled, turn the heat off and add the fresh mint and green tea.  Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.  Strain the mixture into a large bowl.  add the cold water and let cool (cover with cheesecloth to keep it clean).  Once mixture has cooled, add whey, stir, and bottle!  Should take 1 week to ferment*** again that is subject to further experimentation.



roots in a brine, it’s springtime!
June 28, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

Baby Root Veggies in a Brine

Spring has sprung and the summer solstice is truly upon us here in Detroit.  The weather here has fairly consistently been a couple degrees above sweltering and there has been some severe weather afoot, coupled with intense daytime humidity, and a lot of sweaty faces.  Why bother mentioning the weather in a blog post about root vegetables and fermentation?  Quite simply put, these baby veggies are my first pickles of the season made from garden produce (as opposed to store bought veggies).  And the things that made them possible, other than a broadfork, compost, the sweat of my brow, and some open space, was a lot of rain and some early season heat.  Yes there’s no looking back now, it’s growing season!

Part of my work with The Greening of Detroit is managing a 1/2 acre plot in a park in Southwest Detroit.  We (the other apprentices and myself) have an acre under cultivation, which  is split into two plots.  One half is used for nutrition education and the other is grown primarily for market, I manage the market half.  Mostly, I grow salad mix and other greens, but in a couple beds very near and dear to my heart, I am growing golden beets and chioggia beets.  These two beet varieties are stunning and delicious, golden beets being the most brilliant variation of bright orange yellows, and chioggias displaying concentric circles of magenta and white (think Target).

The other day I set about the task of thinning these lovelies, a task which involves pulling beets up so that there is only one beet every inch or so, giving the roots room to grow larger.  This process left me with no small number of baby beets, none more than a 1/2 in diameter, which needed a new purpose in life.

ENTER FERMENTATION!

I decided to return to a brining method, since lately I’ve only been making “kraut-style” ferments.  This means, rather than salting a vegetable and allowing it to sweat out its own brine, you first mix up a salt water solution and then pour it over  your veggies.  still simple, just slightly different.

The first step in this process was cleaning all my baby beets.  It took forever, and as you can see in the photo below, I had to remove a lot of beet matter to get what I was looking for.  I didn’t want to remove the skins completely because they’re not only home to much of the veggie nutrients, they’re also the most brilliantly colored part.

The roots, stems, and leaves I cut away to be left with….

These beauties!

Once I’d trimmed, rinsed, and packed all my baby veggies into a 1/2 gallon jar, I mixed up a spice mix and a salt water brine.

My spice mixture was: 1 Tbs pickling spice, 1 cinnamon stick, about 10 cloves, and 5 cardamom pods.

Pickling spice being measured into a muslin spice bag (can be purchased from any brewing supply store)

Once I’d made my spice mix, I tied the muslin bag and packed it in with the jarred beets.  I tried to get it into the middle rather than just setting it on top to make sure the flavors infused throughout.

Roots packed with the spice bag (you can see it on the right hand side of the jar)

Once all the roots and spices were packed in, I mixed up a brine using the same ratio I use for cucumber pickles: 1.5 Tbs salt to 2 cups water for a 1 quart jar of pickles.  Since my jar is 2 quarts, I doubled this, first dissolving 3 Tbs salt in about 1/2 cup hot water, then adding the rest of the water cold and 1/4 cup whey to make 4 cups total brine.

I poured the brine over the pickles until the jar was full, stuck a pint jar full of water one top to keep the beets below the brine’s surface, covered this with cheesecloth and a rubberband, and then stuck it in my basement where it’s about 65-70 degrees.  The brine overflowed a bit as the roots began to break down and compress, allowing the pint jar to sink in further and displace the solution, but this has little effect on the effectiveness of the brine.

One week later, I uncovered my jar, removed the pint jar water weight, and tasted my baby root pickles!  They were crunchy and delicious, well seasoned and zingy.  Unfortunately, the magenta dye from the chioggias totally took over and died not only the white rings of the chioggia beets, but also muddied the golden beets and the turnips.  Now, instead of the brightly colored veggies I put in the brine a week ago, I have a jar full of delicious root vegetables that are a slightly unappetizing shade of mauve.  yuk.

My future plans:  to repeat this whole process making one jar of just golden beets (in hopes that they retain their brightness) and one jar of dark red beets (cultivating that rich red color).  I’d also do some turnips with the goldens or the reds, or separately.  Their spicy undertones were a nice thing to discover amongst the sweet beets.  The flavor and crunch was a total success, but the color and overall appearance of the veggies definitely needs work.



’tis the season (to season your wares)
May 28, 2010, 3:58 am
Filed under: Pickled Anything, Uncategorized

On an unseasonably warm day in May, I stood in the back yard garden of my Southwest Detroit home watching a bottle of food grade wood conditioner melt from semi-solid to liquid in the heat.  My birthday gift to myself was to finally purchase 3 wooden kraut boards from Lehman’s non-electric, an amish catalog that sells exactly what it says–non-electric everythings.  I’ve been ooogling these boards for a year now, and when I grew my collection of ceramic crocks from 2 to 4 for my birthday, I decided it was finally time to take the plunge.

In the past, I’ve compromised to some pretty creative solutions when it came to the niche these puppies fill.  Basically, when making krauts and other fermented pickles, you need to keep your vegetables submerged below their brine.  A ceramic plate, a food grade plastic bag, or a wooden board are the items of choice for distributing weight across the veggie surface.  Metal corrodes and plastic leaches so these materials can’t be used.  Beyond those requirements, however, you can get pretty creative, and up until a week ago, I had been doing just that.

I am, however, a strong believer in the power of investing, which is a notably different consumer strategy than that which I was raised with.  Rather than buying things somewhat willy nilly, I’ve gotten in the habit of making note of the tools and items that repeatedly occur as those that could be of use to me.  Generally, I passively seek these things through a few different channels over a period of time.  With these kraut boards, I’ve looked into making them myself (cost of materials and necessary equipment ruled that out) and I talked to a local hardware store busy bee hardware, about building them for me.  With both of those options forever on the back burner, I simultaneously pursued my third option, buying something shiny and new.  I may be a traitor to my generation for saying this, but all the DIY training in the world doesn’t replace a real live artisanal good.  So I try to do my research and I try to buy to last.

These particular objects, which fit inside 5 gallon and 3 gallon ceramic crocks respectively, are made from poplar.  And, as of Monday May 24th, they’ve been sealed with food grade wood conditioner.

I plan to use these lids in my crocks to keep my fermentations below their brine, placing a water/stone filled mason jar on top for weight.

I also like to ferment smaller batch items in glass 1/2 gallon jars, with water/stone filled pint jars used as a weight.  The pint jars fit perfectly into the mouth of any wide-mouth mason jar and the glass makes for easy viewing of the fermentation magic happening within.

I’ve found a few good places for buying mason jars in Detroit, but my favorite is busy bee hardware on Gratiot and Russel.  They also sell pickle crocks of all sizes, and maybe if enough of us pester them about it, they’ll begin to cut some kraut boards too!  I’m planning on bringing one by there to show the guy I’ve nagging about them what I’m looking for, and to prove how serious I am.  While I love and trust Lehman’s… they are also far away, and I’d love to help move along this burgeoning preserves economy in my own town.

So, if you’re ever in Busy Bee Hardware, ask for wooden kraut boards, and in the mean time, use whatever you invent until you can’t stand it no more, or your birthday roles around and you’re feeling particularly acquisitive.



Would you like some culture with that dairy?
April 18, 2010, 9:08 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

I’ve heard the same story again and again, “I bought milk, it spoiled, I washed it down the sink as my stomach sank, then I cried.”

Ok, so maybe there were no tears involved, and maybe this is a bit more hyperbolic than most of your dairying experiences, but the point remains… that sweet fresh milk only lasts you a few days… and what then?  what to do then…

This past friday, myself and a gathering of individuals attempted to answer this question at the kickoff event for Urban Ecology Detroit, a group dedicated to urban ecology, an intentionally loosely defined topic, which hopes to draw enthusiasts of all sorts together for the common goal of learning.  The subject matter for this inaugural class was culturing dairy: what could be more universal than the desire to preserve our milk?  only the vegans were disappointed…

Quark becoming Quark (a cultured cream cheese)

Most simple dairy cultures are just a matter of adding things and waiting for things to change: sometimes 6 hours, sometimes 24, sometimes a few days.  In the class we talked about Cultured Butter, Buttermilk (both traditional and cultured), Clobber (wild cultured milk), Quark, and Yogurt.

I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details from the class, but there are a few introductory elements I’ll replicate here.

Culturing dairy is a timeless technique common in cultures where dairy animals have been a predominant part of everyday subsistence.  Culturing dairy (adding bacteria that yield certain desirable characteristics, or allowing the bacterial flora that naturally populate unpasteurized milk to flourish under ideal living conditions) yields a dairy product that is much easier for us to digest, and that is naturally preserved.  The ease of digestion comes from the fact that bacteria digest milk sugars (lactose) and convert them into lactic acid, and because the bacteria essentially begin the digestion process for us, leaving less work for our digestive tracts.  Lucky for us, cultured dairy also tends to be delicious: pleasantly tart, creamy, textured, sweet, and all other complex flavors abound.

I’m posting recipes for the items we discussed in class here– most of them are extremely simple, and, strangely enough, difficult to find instruction for.

Creme Fraiche

Pour cream slowly off the top of your non-homogenized whole milk.  If it’s raw milk and your kitchen is warm enough (about 70 degrees), cover with a cheese cloth and let sit until cream thickens (a few days).  For pasteurized cream, or for culturing cream at cooler temperatures, pour off cream and add 2 Tbs cultured buttermilk to your cream.  Allow it to sit and it should thicken in 24 hours or less.  Once the cream is thickened (regardless of method), scrape it out of the container it was setting in and save it in a jar.  Keep in the fridge, where it will continue to ripen.

Clobber

This is the stuff that’s left after you scrape off your cultured cream.  The milk that separates our of the heavy cream and sinks to the bottom also thickens up (after 24 hours when started with buttermilk, and after a few days when left to spontaneously ferment).  I read that clobber was traditionally eaten with molasses, nutmeg, and cinnamon for breakfast (by whom I don’t know), but I mostly use it to create quark

Quark

Quark is a German word, which until my recent google search I understood to mean cultured cream cheese.  Turns out, I’m not entirely correct.  Nonetheless, I like the name and feel that it works, so I’m going to choose to let it stick.  I make quark by simply straining the whey out of clobber.  I line a strainer with cheese cloth, allowing the whey to drip into the bowl housing the strainer, and I place the whole contraption in the fridge for a day, spooning out the quark once its dry enough.  I like to whip my quark with salt and sundried tomatoes, or lemon zest and honey.  But truly, the possibilities are endless.  I also save my whey at this step and use it as a starter for other ferments.

me squeezing lemon juice into my little quark whipping contraption

Cultured Butter

While making a successful batch of butter didn’t happen in the workshop, I did manage to make up a batch when I got home, and because it was my intention to make butter, I’m still going to include directions here.  Once I’ve saved  one quart jar full of creme fraiche, which usually takes about four gallons of raw milk, I make butter!  Take chilled cream and pour it into a food processor, press the on butter, and wait.  The separation will take longer than you expect, you may even panic and think it won’t happen, but after 15-20 minutes, an unmistakable change will take place– all the butterfat will begin to clump together and be suspended in milky white buttermilk.  When this happens, strain the butter solids out and save the real buttermilk (if you desire), then pour the butter solids into a bowl.  Press the butter mass with a spatula and watch how it continues to exude buttermilk.  Press the butter, pour off the buttermilk, and repeat this until the butter stops exuding milk.  You may dribble a bit of cold water over the butter and press again just to be sure it runs clean.  When you’re satisfied, place your butter in a container and enjoy!

Buttermilk (Cultured)

One of my favorite fermented dairy products is cultured buttermilk.  While traditional buttermilk comes from the butter making process (as explored above), cultured buttermilk is the result of a buttermilk culture being added to whole milk.  I like buttermilk not only for its delicate flavor, but also because it is an immensely helpful starter for other dairy ferments.  In order to make your own buttermilk that can be saved as a starter, you must pasteurize your milk.  This means you need to heat your milk to 190 degrees and then cool it down to room temperature before adding your culture.  If you don’t pasteurize your milk, the naturally present bacteria will eventually overwhelm your buttermilk starter.  Then you’ll just be making clobber.  yummy… but now quite the same.  You’ll need a buttermilk culture in the beginning.  I get mine from Calder Dairy, but you might also buy a starter online from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company if you don’t have a local supplier.  Once you have your cultured buttermilk starter, add about 1/4- 1/2 cup to a quart of pasteurized milk.  Let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, agitating every so often, then stick it in the fridge.

Yogurt

Yogurt has become something of a holy grail of dairy culturing for me, perhaps because I’ve been trying to perfect it for about 2 years now, and probably also because it figures so prominently in my diet.  In the class we made 2 quarts of yogurt.  First I lightly pasteurized the milk by heating it to 190 degrees, stirring it consistently once it began to form a skin on its surface.  One of the participants mentioned that she holds her milk at 190 for ten minutes when pasteurizing, which further improves the texture of her yogurt.  After using fully pasteurized milk for yogurt for the first time, I have come to believe that her suggestion is absolutely correct.  Whether you have the patience to keep your milk at 190 for ten minutes is another story.

Regardless of what you decide, the next step is to use a cold water or ice bath to cool your milk to 95 degrees.  The temperature at this step should range anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees.  On the lower end, your milk will culture slowly (6-8+ hours) and develop a less tart flavor. On the higher end, your milk will culture quickly (2-3 hours) and it will be more tart.  I would suggest cooling to 95 so that in the time it takes you to complete the next few steps, you loose a bit of heat but not enough to drop below 90 degrees.  Once your milk is cooled, take 2 Tbs – 1/2 cup of starter (can be store bought or saved from a previous batch) and add 1 cup of your milk to it.  Stir to homogenize.  Add mixture into the rest of the milk, stir, and then pour into your incubation vessel.  The yogurt now has to be kept between 90 and 110 degrees, undisturbed, until it has finished fermenting.  I use a fancy (read: Styrofoam) contraption called a yogotherm to incubate my yogurt, but you could also place yogurt in a yogurt container and put it in an insulated bag with a hot water bottle, or in the oven with the pilot light left on.  Experiment with your own kitchen and supplies.  When you think your yogurt is ready (based on temperature of milk when you added the culture), open the lid, taste what’s inside, and either let it continue to ferment or stick it in the fridge.  The yogurt will thicken up slightly once it’s refrigerated, so don’t judge it tooooo harshly.

There are a few things to keep in mind about culturing dairy, and they mostly have to do with the relationship between your homemade product and the kind of cultured dairy available in stores.  Many commercially produced dairy products have thickeners such as pectin or guar gum added to them to achieve their consistency.  This means that a) you shouldn’t necessarily expect your homemade products to be as gelatinous/thick as store bought cultures and b) you should be careful when buying dairy cultures as starters because some additives may inhibit your fermentation.  Choose products with live cultures listed in the ingredients, and avoid as many additives as possible.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the dairy culturing class was tasting all the dairy products perched atop Gwen’s whimsical sweet breads!  You should definitely check out her recipes, and consider baking up a loaf, to be enjoyed with a side of quark.

Thanks to Eve VanDalsen for the lovely photos, and happy fermenting!