What to Ferment with Leftover Fermenting Liquid

If you make the doogh recipe I posted earlier this week, you may have some leftover bulgur liquid (depending on what kind of yogurt you use to make your fizzy, minty, dairy drink). If you do, don’t dump it! There are so many things to do with fermented liquids. You’ll find it a useful liquid for there 5 recipes.

Spiced, Fermented Ketchup – Use 1/4 cup of freshly fermented bulgur liquid in place of the sauerkraut juice called for in this recipe. Since the kraut juice is salty and the bulgur liquid isn’t, include a 3/4 teaspoon of salt with the spices.

Cultured Ketchup with cloves

Culture the ketchup, cuz it’s cooked.

Vegan Cheese – Do a 1-to-1 sub of bulgur liquid for the millet rejuvelac called for in this recipe. No other changes are necessary.

Vegan cultured  cashew cheese

Mmmm…cashew cheese

Strawberry Basil Soda – Alright, so maybe strawberries are kicked for the year (at least where I live). If you’ve got some in the freezer, though, why not make some soda? Sub 1/2 cup of bulgur liquid for the culture (or yeast) in the recipe.

Strawberry soda with straws and lemon

This is what summer tastes like at parties at my house.

‘So Peach Soda – Since you’re already in soda-making mode, why not whip up a nice batch of this seasonal peach soda, again, with 1/2 cup bulgur liquid in place of whey or yeast.

Peach and purple shiso soda

Perfectly seasonal soda. Naturally fermented.

Bread Kvass – I usually use sourdough starter to kick off my bread kvass, but 1/4 cup of fermented bulgur liquid per quart of kvass would be a very fun substitute with a less yeasty flavor profile.

Cinnamon Toast Kvass

Bread kvass is normally a yeast ferment, but it works with other fermented liquids, too!

Doogh: Sparkling, Refreshing Drinking Yogurt

Doogh persian drinking yogurt

It’s easy to adjust the texture of this drinking yogurt. Just use more fermenting liquid for a thinner consistency.

This recipe is part of a series of posts generated from the Sandor Katz Fermentation Residency.

Since I love all things fermented dairy, I am always eager and excited to make a new yogurt ferment. In this heat, especially, a fizzy and refreshing yogurt drink really hits the spot! I also love Middle Eastern food (it my very favorite cuisine, as befits a native Detroiter), a cuisine in which yogurt almost invariably plays a role. This particular yogurt drink is especially fun for the fermentation obsessed because it combines a dairy and a grain ferment. I had never made this ferment before (and had only been marginally aware of it) before attending Sandor Katz’ fermentation retreat. My notes were sketchy and there was so much going on that I honestly can’t tell if we finished making it or just started the grain ferment part of the process. I have a single, not-so-great photo of a bottle of dough sitting on the counter.

Naturally Fizzy Doogh Persian Drinking Yogurt

Doogh gets very effervescent, but you won’t see it bubbling like soda pop, due to the thickness of the liquid.

Katz says that his method is very traditional and that makes sense. It also differs greatly from many other doogh (sometimes written dugh) recipes I’ve seen, most of which go like this: Stir carbonated water into yogurt. Add dried mint. Enjoy chilled. Even the FAO instructions for making doogh mention the potential to use yeast to ferment the yogurt, but they don’t mention this bulgur method.

Shocker Alert: I like Sandor’s version best. Although yogurt is a ferment, adding carbonated water to yogurt isn’t fermenting (obvi). Katz’ method is active fermenting, which, I think we can all agree, makes it more fun!

world's best drinking yogurt

Here’s another thing: I think mint and dairy were meant to be together, and although most recipes I’ve seen call for dried mint, I ran out after a few tests of this recipe, but I had some fresh, chocolate mint growing and may I just say, yum. This is the mint chocolate chip ice cream of drinking yogurts. I can’t get enough of it.

For yogurt, you can use whatever you’d like, but if you choose a greek or other strained yogurt, go closer to half bulgur liquid/half yogurt than the 1/3 to 2/3rds this recipe calls for.

adding mint to doogh or dugh

Using chocolate mint in doogh is my new favorite mistake.

Doogh Drinking Yogurt Recipe

Yield approximately 1 L

Adapted from Sandor Katz

A word on bulgur: bulgur is mostly (only?) sold parboiled in the US as far as I can find, but for some reason, it has still reliably fermented for me in every test of this recipe. If you can’t tolerate gluten, you could try a different grain, but I haven’t yet. There’s absolutely no reason it wouldn’t work, but you may want to go more in a rejuvelac direction, which is tried and true.

Soaking bulgur for doogh

The bulgur liquid should be cloudy and a little beige in color. It should smell a little yeasty. If it’s fermented a little too long (for my taste) it will have a very slightly cheesy aroma. Still fine to use at that point.

  • 1 quart jar (optional)
  • Small funnel (optional)
  • 1 liter bottle capable of trapping carbonation, preferably plastic* (I like recycled seltzer bottles)
  • Scant 1/2 cup (70 g) cracked bulgur
  • 3 1/2 cups (825 ml) filtered water
  • 2 3/4 cups yogurt (see post if using Greek or other thick, strained yogurt)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried mint or three 3-inch sprigs fresh mint (I prefer chocolate mint, but any peppermint will work well)
  1. Place bulgar in a quart jar and add filtered water. Close lid tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. I like to keep the lid tight, because this doesn’t get fizzy enough to blow the lid, but when the lid is puffed, I know it’s ready.
  2. Once the lid is puffed up, or you see a layer of carbonation at the top, your starter is ready. Strain the bulgur and reserve the liquid. You should have about 2 cups of liquid. If you want to make a little bit more doogh or you’re using Greek yogurt, press lightly on the bulgur with a wooden spoon or spatula to release the maximum amount of liquid. Compost the remaining bulgur.
  3. Using a funnel, pour the yogurt into your 1 liter, sealing bottle and add mint and bulgur liquid, until bottle is mostly full. Carbonation is helped by a little breathing room, so if you like it fizzy, leave at least two inches of headspace. If not, one will do.
  4. Place the bottle in a room temperature spot away from direct sunlight and allow it to ferment until the plastic has become rigid, about 24 hours. Depending on the temperature in your home, this could take only 12 hours, or it could take a couple days. My house is about 77 F (25 C) and 24 hours seems to be about right. Keep tabs on the bottle the first time you make it to get an idea of how long yours takes to carbonate.
  5. Once it’s fully carbonated (it should have no give when you squeeze the bottle) pop it in the fridge for a couple hours to fully chill before serving. The thickness of the yogurt means that it won’t be bubbly the way soda is, but you will have some nice effervescence on your tongue.
ball jars with fermenting bulgur

Left: Scant, 1/2 cup bulgur in a quart jar. Center: 1 hour after water was added. Right: 2 day fermented bulgur water.

*If bottling in glass, always be extremely vigilant. Any trapped carbonation could explode, but in glass, this poses a genuine risk to the safety of anyone in your home. Even in plastic, I recommend keeping very close tabs on trapped carbonation to avoid potential big messes. Doogh isn’t like soda; it’s not insanely carbonated. Still, there’s always a risk and it’s something to remain aware of.


Saturday Market at High Street on Market

Plowshare Farms Farmer’s Stand at High Street on Market

The first thing I do when I get to the farmers’ market is scan the stalls for unfamiliar vegetables. Some are similar enough to vegetables I know don’t ferment well that I feel comfortable passing them by. Then there are others, total weirdos I’ve never encountered before (or never noticed before; you know, like when you learn a new word, and suddenly the whole wold is saying that word a ton?). Those I usual try to ferment because I’ve come across some serious pickling gems that way. I don’t always share those here because I know that while most people can buy, say, bell peppers in the grocery store, lemon cucumbers can be harder to come by.

celtuce not cucumbers

Nope, not cukes! Peeled celtuce. Don’t peel yours, though.

I kinda changed my tune on that recently, though. The nature of new-to-you ferments could well be that finding the ingredients to make them is challenging, and maybe, if you come across some of the fun veg I play with, you’ll buy it because you’ll have an idea of what to do with it. So in that spirit, look for all the normal veg ferments you see here in the summer, but please don’t leave annoyed comments about how you can’t find the vegetable in your area. If you don’t have these ingredients in your area, just think of these posts as inspiration for you to ferment the things you find in your area that I may not ever have had access to.

Today’s special vegetable is celtuce. Celtuce is my new best friend. It’s a “stem lettuce,” which is not a thing I was aware existed before I stumbled across it at the Plowshare Farms market High Street on Market on Saturdays. It was a fortuitous stumble, though, that got me all hyped on cucumber texture with hazelnut flavor. Seriously, that’s what celtuce tastes like. I fermented it with normal, basic starting recipe and I did it plain so I could see how the flavors changed during fermentation.

Celtuce slices

Slices of celtuce make some tasty, nutty pickles. Some towards the center of my celtuces (celti?) were whole-y. It didn’t affect texture at all.

Fermented Celtuce Pickles

Because I was only able to get my hands on celtuce a couple times, I haven’t tested this “recipe” as thoroughly as I usually would. It’s just a basic pickle, though, and I’ve made enough pickled vegetables of all varieties this way to know that it works. One thing I did differently between batches was to remove the peel (but include it in the jar), but include it during fermentation. It wasn’t necessary, and in fact, the outer area was the sweetest and most delectable part of the vegetable. In a few bites, the inner celtuce was a touch bitter. So leave those peels on, minus and discolored or soft parts. If you get a bit of peel that’s tough when you’re chowing down, consider it extra fiber or discard it.

  • 1 pound (460 g) stem celtuce
  • 2 1/4  teaspoons (16.5 g) kosher salt
  • 1.5 cups (355 ml) filtered water

(If you need more brine, mix 1 tablespoon salt to two cups of water, or a 4.5ish% brine)


Wash celtuce and remove leafy part. Cut out any soft parts or anything that seems super tough.

Slice celtuce into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds (think cucumber slices). They’ll weep a little milky liquid. It’s NBD. Place celtuce slices into a quart (1 L) jar, but be sure to leave about 1 inch (5 cm) between the top of the vegetables and the rim of the jar.

Stir salt into water until it’s pretty much dissolved. Pour liquid into jar and apply your favorite weight to celtuce. The brine should cover the vegetables, but just barely. The vegetables will release more liquid, and the natural fermenty bubbliness can cause overflow if you overfill the jar.

Cover the jar. If this is your first time at the pickling rodeo, start here for tips on weighting and covering.

I stopped the batches I made at 5 and 6 days, and I thought they were very ready. I know it’s a short ferment, but this is a lettuce stem, after all, so we can’t expect it to stay crispy forever.

Remove the weight, secure the jar lid and store in the fridge. Enjoy within a couple weeks for best texture. If you’re still liking the texture after a longer fridge time, keep on enjoying them!


Celtuce from Plowshare Farms at the High Street on Market Farmers’ Market

Keep Your Cultures Happy at Home, Even When You’re Not There

Sourdough starter keeps well in the fridge for a really, really long time.

Sourdough starter keeps well in the fridge for a really, really long time.

I’m headed off to Alaska for what I’m predicting will be a wonderful vacation. My beloved parents will be married 45 years this week (Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) and so we’re spending 2 WEEKS with them to celebrate. My last no-work vacation was in 2012, so needless to say, I am extraordinarily excited to be leaving my kitchen, my lovely, new office and my laptop behind.

You know who’s not that excited? My microbes. They’re a little irritated, I’m sensing, that they’re going to be thoroughly neglected, but they’ll survive and be ready and waiting for a hearty meal when I return. There’s more than one way to do this, but elaborate freezing and drying schemes aren’t for me, especially when I’m prepping to be away from my business for two weeks (I’ve got enough to do!). I’ve had other cultures to worry about in the past, but the busy-ness of book-writing shaved my collection down to the stuff my husband and I eat very regularly.

Kombucha SCOBYs: I feed before leaving and do not give a second thought. SCOBYs tolerate the high acid medium they create very well. I’ve left mine for months at room temperature, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED, and that was an inferior SCOBY to the great one I have now. If you’re going for months, make sure to leave your SCOBY in a large container with a lot of brew. The only reason for that is that they’ll eat all the liquid and become enormous and can, theoretically, dry out. I’ve heard stories of this drying out, but I’ve never witnessed it or seen photos, so I take it all with a grain of salt.

Basically what I’m saying is kombucha SCOBYs are extremely resilient and don’t need any fussing. Just let it sit there while you enjoy your sand and sun.

Matsoni Heirloom, Mesophilic Yogurt Culture: This cultured overnight last night and then was moved to the fridge. I know from experience that this very excellent culture will survive just fine for two weeks, but I’ve had other yogurt cultures lose their ability to reculture during the same time period. If you haven’t tested the strength of your culture, it’s best to have someone feed it at 10 days, but most heirloom cultures can survive, in my experience, so don’t stress too much about it.

Bulgarian Thermophilic Heirloom Yogurt Culture (from Cultures for Health): I cultured this today (leaving tomorrow) and I’m crossing my fingers. I haven’t tested this one, but I’m already asking my house-sitters to water my roof garden, I’m not asking them to make yogurt, too. I have high hopes! Dehydrating is an option for all the yogurt cultures I’ve kept, but that’s not something I have time to do before this particular trip.

Milk kefir grains do fine in the fridge while you're on vacation.

Milk kefir grains do fine in the fridge while you’re on vacation.

Milk Kefir Grains: Most milk kefir instructions say to store in the fridge and feed at least once a week. I cultured these today, and I’ll be storing them in the fridge for 2 weeks. They’ll be just fine. In fact, they’ll be better than fine; in my experience, milk kefir grains enjoy a little bit of a resting period in the fridge. They tend to multiply more readily after a rest.

I’m also taking a small amount of grains in my 3 oz “liquid” bag, and an empty pint jar, chopstick and fine mesh strainer in my luggage. I have the embarrassing distinction of being unable to swallow pills without a thick liquid (I always use kefir), so I need a bit with me to help me get my supplements down. Yes, yes, judge all you will. It’s completely mental, but whatevs, kefir does the trick for me.

Water Kefir Grains: This is where I’m glad I spent a bit more to get a bit more. I’ve had previous water kefir cultures die with just 10 days in the fridge without a feeding. My Yemoos grains (not sponsored in any way) are approximately 1,000,000 times more resilient to neglect than grains I had previously. While writing my book, I forgot about them/could literally not find 3 minutes to feed them for 2 months and, to my great surprise, they bounced back beautifully after just two feedings. They did smell a bit like beer when I first pulled them out, but honestly, the brew tastes just the same now, with lovely fizz, and healthy, plump grains.

To store these grains for 2 weeks, I feed them normally two days before leaving and let them culture. Once they’re fermented to my liking, I drain the finished water kefir and rinse my grains in filtered, room temperature water. I then put them in a clean jar, and fill it with filtered water. I secure the lid and store them in the fridge during my absence.

Some water kefir grains are very sensitive and need to be fed at least once a week. The grains I now have do fine for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Some water kefir grains are very sensitive and need to be fed at least once a week. The grains I now have do fine for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Sourdough starter: My sourdough starter got a final feeding and then moved to the fridge. It will undoubtedly accrue an unsightly blackish liquid in my absence, but once I pour that off and feed it, it will be as good as new when I return. Ready to pump out some truly excellent breads.

Ginger bug: I don’t use my bug that often, so it normally stays in the fridge for 2 weeks at a time between feedings. If you’re doing this length of fridge storage, make sure you have an active bug before you put it in the cool zone. I have had ginger bugs get a little vinegar-y in the fridge. If that happens, unfortunately it’s time to make a new ginger bug, which is pretty easy to do.

My vegetable ferments, booze and and other longer-term ferments are fine, continuing to culture while I’m away. I actually like to start a few batches of pickles or kraut right before I leave town, so that I have a tasty, healthful surprise waiting when I return. How do you care for your culture creatures while you’re out of town?

My matsoni will make it for 2 weeks. I will culture it pretty much the moment I get back, though.

My matsoni will make it for 2 weeks. I will culture it pretty much the moment I get back, though.


*PS – If you are a weird robber who somehow knows where I live, please note that there are two very protective dogs, one a pit bull, staying at my house with a couple (probably) tough humans. Robbery attempts may be met with chewed off limbs. :-)

PPS-As you probably figured out, I’m not here! I have posts scheduled for the next two weeks, so definitely stop by for your dose of ferments. I’ll approve and reply to any comments when I’m back from Alaska!