Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

Web Launch!
September 29, 2010, 1:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Suddenly Sauer has a new website!  You simply must check it out

thanks to thermitic for the incredible web design

and if you subscribe to this blog, or bookmark it, or whatever else, be sure to switch over to the new site as thats where the blog is now hosted and where I’ll be doing all my updates!


August 24, 2010, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

check out some of Suddenly Sauer’s upcoming Detroit events:

brought to you by Urban Ecology Detroit and NEIGHBORHOOD NOODLE


Join Suddenly Sauer @ Urban Ecology Detroit‘s latest event–>

I sCREAM (without cream): ICE CREAM creation and consumption 101

Ice Cream in mid churn, yum.

this class, brought to you by URBAN ECOLOGY DETROIT, focuses on the making (and consumption) of unique ice creams!

We’ll be using non-dairy ice cream bases (cashews, coconut milk, etc.) to help us understand the fundamentals of ice cream flavor and texture! Non-vegans and vegans alike will leave confident in their knowledge of how to build an ice cream using a variety of bases and ingredients. We’ll also be tasting everything we make, so come prepared to eat!

visit Urban Ecology Detroit’s facebook page for more details



This Monday, August 30th Suddenly Sauer will be selling asian inspired ice cream through NEIGBORHOOD NOODLE

Special Dessert! Handmade tamarind-coconut (no-dairy) ice cream — Tamarind ice cream with a coconut milk base, Edgeton community farm egg yolks, agave sweetener, and toasted coconut flakes (by Blair of Suddenly Sauer).

tamarind ice cream with a coconut milk base

check out the dessert, as well as the super sweet noodle bowls @ NEIGHBORHOOD NOODLE

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)


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

’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.

Poached Eggs
February 22, 2010, 9:01 pm
Filed under: food, Uncategorized

This post has nothing to do with fermentation.

2 days ago, I had only ever poached an egg using this fancy silicone invention called a “poach pod,” which I got from R.Hirt Jr. last year.  They’re green and flexible and nicely designed… but honestly, they made me feel like I was cheating (I was) and the eggs they produced were just a little bit too perfect.  none of that charming pillowy whiteness that is a real poached egg.

But for the Corktown Community Brunch Angela was envisioning poached eggs nestled atop a bed of curried 5 potatoes (redskins, fingerlings, Yukon golds, Japanese sweets and yam sweets), and 3 dozen attempts later, that’s exactly what she got.

Myself and a team of two other highly skilled food scientists undertook this mission with zeal, and three hours later we were rewarded with the knowledge that poaching eggs is A) difficult B) more difficult in a cast iron skillet and C)not for the faint of heart.  oh yeah… there is also a lot of vinegar involved.

in a nutshell, here is what we learned:

Eggs poach best in water just under boiling (around 202 degrees).

Water should be still, but it’s good to give it a stir and then allow it to settle back down, just to be sure the heat is well distributed.

Add a lot of vinegar and a good amount of salt to your water before you add the eggs.  don’t be shy with the vinegar, it makes a world of difference and the flavor washes off when you place the freshly poached eggs in cold water to stop the cooking process when they’re done.

Crack your eggs into little cups or shallow dishes first, and ever so gently lower them into the water.  putting them in along the sides of the skillet can help them keep their form.

Those are all the tips I’m going to include, both because I honestly wasn’t the one who actually excelled at poaching, and because my primary motivation for posting this was to make a MUCH SHORTER and LESS COMPLICATED recipe for egg poaching than all the verbose internet info we had to work with.  The downside is that I’m probably missing a lot of important detail.  oh well, you can’t win every battle:)


and try serving your poached eggs with some sauerkraut.  I promise the combination won’t disappoint.

HB 5837
February 19, 2010, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I got this letter in my inbox today.  whoop whoop!

(If this passes, I could legally sell pickled food made in my kitchen… as long as fermented food makes it onto the list of “non-potentially hazardous foods.”  I e-mailed all the state reps I could get my hands on.  keeping my fingers crossed.

HB 5837 was introduced yesterday by State Representative Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea). The bill would amend the Food Law of 2000 to define a “cottage food operation” and allowable products of such an operation, and make those operations exempt from the licensing and inspection provisions of the Food Law. The exemption does not include an exemption from the labeling, adulteration, and other standards in law.

In addition to existing labeling and disclosure requirements imposed, the bill would require a cottage food operation to place on the label of any food it produces or packages a statement that substantially complies with the following:

Sale of allowable foods by a cottage food operation would be limited to homes, farm markets, or roadside stands; municipal farmers markets; county fairs; and town celebrations, festivals, and events.

Gross sales of eligible products by a cottage food operation could not exceed $15,000 annually. The bill would allow the Dept. of Agriculture to request written documentation to verify the gross sales figure.

The bill defines “cottage food operation” as “a person who produces or packages non-potentially hazardous food in a kitchen of that person’s primary domestic residence.”

The bill defines “non-potentially hazardous food” as “a food that is not potentially hazardous food as that term is defined in the Food Code, which includes, but is not limited to, baked goods, james, jellies, candy, snack food, cereal, granola, dry mixes, vinegar, and dried herbs. Non-potentially hazardous food does not include home-canned low acid or acidified vegetables, home-canned salsa, or home-canned food; food service items; ready-to-eat meals, mean, sandwiches, cheese, or custard pies; garlic in oil; food that requires temperature control for safety; and bottle water, home24 produced ice products, and other beverages and products.”

Cultured Root Beer Floats
February 14, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: beverages, Uncategorized

Oh yes, you read that right… the cultured root beer (made with local sassafras from Holtz Farms, vanilla, molasses, and whey) was a rip-roaring success. I’ve been testing the same batch for the past three weeks, and I couldn’t figure out why one bottle had carbonated and the other had not–even though I actually had the same problem with my lavender soda. I finally got smart and poured the un-carbonated batch into the bottle that had carbonated, and viola, two successful batches of root beer later, I have problem solved myself to the point where one thing is now clear– I need to buy myself some reliable bottles.

But the flavor was delicious, more tangy than folks are used to, no doubt, but also deep and full bodied. like good beer, only it’s soda!

How to Make Cultured Root Beer

Brew a simple syrup: sassafras root, 1 1/2 cups sucanat (or organic cane sugar), full vanilla bean, and 1/4 cup molasses in 2 quarts of water

Allow the brew to cool to room temperature, add another 2 quarts of water and 3/4 cup of whey

***the whey is the starter for this fermentation, it contains the lacto-bacilli, which will convert the sugars (sucanat in this case) into lactic acid and CO2. This is how we get carbonation.

Pour the mixture into sealable bottles: bottles must be made of thick glass, and lids should be grolsch style, to reduce risk of explosions.

Allow to ferment in a warm place (around 70 degrees) for about 1.5-2 weeks. normally the ferment takes less time, but I think the bacteria takes more time to digest sucanat (a whole cane sugar with it’s molasses content still intact) than it take to digest refined sugar.

When you can shake the bottle and see LOTS of bubble activity, its a good time to stick it in the refrigerator, and pop it open when you’re ready for a taste. I would caution you about two things: 1) don’t forget about your fermenting soda, it could build TOO MUCH pressure and become dangerous. 2) don’t bring your soda to a party, promising root beer, only to then open it and discover it’s flat as anything and a little bit sour (the sourness will happen no matter what, but without the bubbles, it’ll be a hard sell for people who are expecting soda). Try to test the batch before you bring it around promising root beer. I’ve made this mistake a few too many times by now, always a disappointment.

For the float party, I made a batch of plain vanilla ice cream, my first time ever using fresh dairy. I always opt for non-dairy or fermented dairy bases because my body is much happier when I feed it cultured dairy. I’ve been making nut, rice, yogurt, etc. based ice creams for about a year now, and I think they’re spectacular and far from a compromise; the non-dairy cream base lends complexity to the ice cream, and the flavors you can create are adventuresome to say the least. BUT for a cultured root beer float party, something a bit more classic was in order. So I made a vanilla custard ice cream base (full fat organic raw milk from Hampshire Farms, vanilla, and egg yolks) and I sweetened it with agave. not only because I can’t leave my health food instincts behind completely, even when making heavy cream ice cream, but also because agave is a natural sweetener with the same syrupy quality of corn syrup, which makes for a wonderfully smooth ice cream.

And when it was time to crank out the Ice Cream, we procured our ice by breaking chunks off of the frozen 5 gallon bucket ice lanterns on the porch, with a hammer and chisel, which I observed was much more contemporaneous with the circa 1925 hand crank ice cream maker than buying a bag of ice from the corner store would have been anyhow.

When the cranking was complete (about 25 minutes) I scooped the creamy goodness into cups, crossed my fingers as I popped the top on my experiment for the 3rd time, and was greeted by the incredibly satisfying pop of a carbonated bottle of soda releasing its pressure. Yum. Cultured Root Beer over ice cream and some satisfied company… I love this city.