I spent Thanksgiving weekend doing a house-purge that would almost have made a fantastic episode of Hoarders. It was truly horrifying to see the weird stuff we have inexplicably been storing in our basement for years. For instance, there was an box fit for a large appliance just full of newspapers and toilet paper rolls. And I know exactly what purpose I had intended for those things three years ago. Sadly that isn’t the only example of unnecessary stuff that was cluttering up my space and irritating both my husband and I each time we went downstairs. For the first time ever, my feelings of being so glad to clear out the space greatly outweighed my feelings of guilt at getting rid of stuff (yes, I watched the Hoarders where they explained that people who feel emotional attachment to their items might be hoarders. You can call me “basement-only hoarder” if you want.). It was extremely liberating. We filled the entire front sidewalk with recycling and trash, delivered two carloads to our local charity shop and another carload to a used bookshop (besides the basement, the bookcases were the other main focus of our purge). I normally feel a little anxious when so many things leave the house, but this time, I just felt good and free, which I think it how one is supposed to feel when shedding the weight of unwanted material goods.
So fresh off my healing house cleanse, my gift guide for you is made up of the kind of things I would never get rid of, and the kind of things just about any fermenting type would be very happy to recieve.
Gifts for Fermenters
A crock of beauty – Crocks made by Jeremy Ogusky are things of beauty. This Boston-based potter is also a fermentation guru, which means he knows what we want and need in a crock. My personal favorite is the one-gallon crock in chalk white with a built-in chalkboard! Pretty enough to sit at the center of my table and functional enough to be in constant use.
Jars, jars and maybe some other kinds of jars – Fermenters who work on a smaller scale tend to be pretty happy to get their hands on new jars. Ball jars are great, but Fido or Le Parfait jars are preferred by many fermenters, and they’re quite lovely. A larger sized Fido will win you the heart of just about any fermenter.
Metal-free strainers – Have a kefir or kombucha maker in your life? Fine mesh strainers are cheap and they make the fermenter’s job much easier! Just make sure and get one that either has no metal, or is made of restaurant-grade stainless steel.
A sexy, sexy cheese guide – Looking to impress your guests with a top-notch cheeseboard? Or perhaps you just want a little bedside cheese reading? In either case, Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage, a self-named cheese courtesan, has fittingly written a guide that can be enjoyed just as easily in the bedroom as it can in the kitchen. DiBruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes and Pairings is as functional as it is beautiful and would make a worthy addition to any cheeselover’s library.
Some gorgeous, hand-crafted pickle weights – I have been obsessively using these jar weights since I bought them a couple months back. They are handmade by a fellow fermenter, beautiful, effective and perfect for your Fidos or standard-mouthed Ball jars.
Gear for booze brewers - For my vegetable ferments, I like to keep it simple, but for some things, like alcohol fermentation (think beer, cider, wine) a little bit of equipment is essential to keep air out. Airlocks and stoppers are cheap and don’t take up a lot of space, so I don’t mind them too much. I get mine locally from Philly Homebrew Outlet, but if you don’t have an awesome local fermentation store, they are available on-line at shops like Midwest Supplies.
DIY Gifts from Fermenters
Whipped Creme Fraiche in a mason jar – Philadelphia’s City Paper was kind enough to include this idea in their piece on DIY food gifts. A ribbon tied around the outside of the jar with a little recipe card makes this festive and pretty. Check out my crème fraîche recipe here, the whipped crème fraîche recipe here and the article, which includes some great (unfermented) DIY ideas (linked above).
Preserved citrus – The most versatile types of preserved citrus to give are definitely preserved lemons (meyer or regular) and preserved limes. They are dead simple to make, but need to ferment for about a month (so get cracking, and put a little card with a date on it that says when it will be ready). I highly recommend including some recipe suggestions or a list of ideas where to use it, since the concept of eating the whole fruit, including the peel, is foreign to some. Preserved lemons are fantastic in any pasta or grain dish, whereas preserved limes add an unexpected flavor to Mexican and Thai dishes. Both can add some serious goodness as garnish on cocktails or puree in them. Or, you can make delicious, complex preserved citrus curd with them!
For health-oriented friends: Cultures, cultures and more cultures! A kombucha SCOBY and kefir grains are great ways to get health-concious friends started on the road to a healthier gut. Unless you have access to a high quality source of kombucha (store-bought is a very last resort), a SCOBY is best obtained from a friend or purchased from a trusted provider. If you don’t have a kefir-making friend with extra grains, you can order them live from Yemoos or GEM cultures or dehydrated from Cultures for Health.
For the baker: Making sourdough starter at home is a great way to ensure that you’re getting quality flour and your own community of beneficial microbes in the mix. Once you have it going, there’s always plenty to share. Rye flour starter is my favorite when gifting: it smells amazing, it’s a very vigorous fermenter (lots of impressive bubbles) and even devoted bread bakers are more likely to have just a plain ol’ white or bread flour levain. Here’s a great tutorial from Serious Eats on how to get one started. It takes about two-three minutes a day for seven days to get one started.
For your friend who just went Paleo – Those new to the Paleo diet have been told lots of times that they need to incorporate fermented vegetables into their diets. Making lacto-fermented pickles is about the easiest thing ever, and it can be done with just about any vegetable. Root vegetables like beets, turnips, rutabaga and radishes are great to start with, and you can be their hero and maybe even help them get started making their own, once they die of pleasure from eating the beautiful jar you gifted to them.
For the heat lover - Fermented hot sauce has tons of complexity and flavor. It’s relatively easy to make, and you can adjust the heat level for your giftee’s taste preference by selecting different peppers. A traditional napa cabbage kimchi is also a great choice for spice lovers. It will seem difficult and impressive to anyone who hasn’t made it before, but the secrets to great kimchi are simply high quality ingredients and time.
Cookbook Gifts for Fermenty Types
Looking to gift a cookbook or two? Here are some lists that look pretty awesome for all sorts of diets:
- Cookbooks For Vegans - I especially love my copy of Great Gluten-Free, Vegan Eats From Around the World, by Allyson Kramer
- Cookbooks For Paleos - And don’t forget your guide to Paleo fermentation, Fermented, by Jill Ciciarelli
- Gluten-Free Cookbooks
And Most importantly, Fermentation Cookbooks. My current favorites, in order:
- The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz
- Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz
- True Brews, by Emma Christensen
- Real Food Fermentation, by Alex Lewin
What fermentation-flavored gifts will you be giving this year?