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!

Gluten-Free Sourdough Buckwheat Bread Recipe

3 ingredient gluten free bread

Finished loaf. Crispy out layer, cake-y interior. Loads of savory panache.

Yup, this whole buckwheat bread is gluten-free. Better yet, it has only three ingredients, and you can get two of them at the normal grocery store (and the other one is water). No grain mill or expensive flour required and you don’t need any atypical kitchen equipment to make it. It makes for a great sandwich. It tastes fantastic (unsurprisingly, it tastes like rich, savory buckwheat), and although it doesn’t have the texture of bread with gluten—it’s a little cake-ier—it also doesn’t have any of the gross gums, sweeteners and fillers that many store-bought gluten-free breads have. It’s an easy win for the whole foods crowd.Loaf of gluten free whole buckwheat bread recipe

This is not my brainstorm. This is one of those delightful grain things we fermented at Sandor Katz’ residency, but I’ve tweaked the loose recipe we made, and broken things down into specifics. My soaking and fermentation times are significantly longer than those we used at the residency, but this is the end product that best fits my preferences, so this is how I’m making it.

Crumb on gluten-free sourdough bread recipe

This ain’t no gluten bread. You can tell because it isn’t exactly beautiful and the crumb is not airy and chewy. It’s dense and cake-y, though, which provides its own pleasures.

I am not gluten-free (I don’t eat a ton of carbs, though so my grain intake is very limited), but I am a little obsessed with this bread. It is one of those simply genius recipes that’s hard to believe until you try it.

Actively fermenting buckwheat gluten free bread

Those bubbles in the batter indicate that fermentation happened! Yay! You’re ready to bake it.

Gluten-Free, Naturally-Leavened, Whole Buckwheat, Sourdough Bread Recipe

Makes 1 loaf, adapted from a loaf made at the Sandor Katz fermentation residency

This is a pretty versatile bread. You can add a variety of seeds (sunflower is super tasty). I’ve been busy working on this basic recipe, so I haven’t experimented much beyond sunflower and sesame, but I’m betting you could throw other goodies in there with great success. Just make sure you add them before fermentation. You don’t want to disturb the batter too much just before baking. Also, make sure to check out the photos for hints on how things should look at each stage. Getting this to where I liked it took a several dozen pounds of buckwheat, and the visuals are the key.

dough consistency of gluten free bread

I call it batter because it’s way wetter than dough. Make sure to gently smooth out the surface. it won’t rise a ton, so what you put in will be similar in shape to what you take out. This is a smoother version of the dough/batter than I prefer.

  • 2 cups (375 g) hulled, whole buckwheat
  • 1 cup (235 ml) filtered water, plus more for soaking
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3-4 g) kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (45 g) sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Rinse buckwheat and remove any debris. Place buckwheat in a large bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Cover with a cloth and let it soak overnight.
  2. Drain buckwheat well in a fine mesh strainer. DO NOT RINSE! That slimy stuff is what makes this work. You’ll lose a little of it just by dint of draining off the soaking water. No worries on that.
  3. Pour the strained buckwheat into the blender or food processor and add 1 cup of filtered water, salt and sesame seeds. Pulse until combined, but not smooth. In a Vitamix, this is like 2 seconds of it running, followed by 2 to 3 pulses. In a food processor, it’s more like 10 pulses. Your goal is to integrate the liquid and grain so that they don’t separate when poured out of the blender, but also leave some of the grains relatively in tact. If it gets too smooth, no worries! It will be just fine, but it tastes nicer and has a way better texture when not fully blended. If you pour it and you’re seeing too much water separated, blend it again. Better over-blended than under-blended, but you can also toss it back into the blender for another pulse or two if it pours and separates quickly.
  4. Pour it into a large glass bowl (the same bowl you soaked it in is fine), cover with a kitchen cloth to keep dust out and let it sit for 24 hours at room temp. If your home is particularly warm, you may want to cut that time, or if it’s particularly cool, you could go up to 36 hours. I’ve tested this at room temperatures ranging from  64°F (17.7°C) to 78°F (24.5°C), (all in the same summer month! Thanks, climate change!)  and I was able to bake it after 24 hours of fermentation at both temperatures.
  5. If you want to measure how much your dough/batter has risen, place a piece of tape along the side of the bowl, even with the level of batter. This isn’t a glutinous bread that will double in size. It tends to rise between a 1/2 inch and an inch. You’ll be able to see the bubbles in the batter that tell you it fermented, though, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
  6. Once it’s ready, heat the oven to 425° F (218° C), and gently pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Since this bread doesn’t rise a ton, I prefer a deep loaf pan so that I get a more sandwich-worthy slice. It should be full to about a 1/2 inch below the rim of the pan. My best results have been in my 1.5 quart pyrex loaf pan.
  7. Place it in the oven, middle rack, and allow it to bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Mine is done at 38 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the entire surface looks like cracked desert sands. The edges should be lightly browned. The middle will set last, so if you see a wettish spot there, it hasn’t finished baking.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. It should release easily once cooled.
  9. This loaf will keep for 3-5 days at room temperature. Underbaked loaves will be wetter and won’t keep as long. You may want to store those in the fridge.
Gluten free sourdough bread with three ingredients

The edges are browning, so it could be tempting to pull this out of the oven. Don’t do it. Wait until that wet patch in the middle is as craggy and dry looking as the rest of the surface.

Cauldron Ferments Giveaway!

Cauldron Ferments Logo

Cauldron Ferments is Kickstarting a brand new Fermentation Company

To me, community is one of the most important aspects of fermentation. There are communities of microbes involved in every ferment, yes, but the community aspects of fermentation include much larger multi-cellular beings, too (aka humans). If you’re involved in the fermentation community, you’ve probably had the joy of seeing “competitors” collaborate along with a remarkable amount of shared food and knowledge. It makes me feel fuzzy and it makes me proud of the fermentation community.

Cauldron Ferments Carrots

Spicy Carrots in your belly!

I mention this in part to explain why, although I’m a DIY kinda girl, I am always so happy when I discover new (or new-to-me) fermentation companies popping up, and why I want to do whatever I can to support them. When I spot a fermenty kickstarter, I’m almost sure to contribute (if free of fear-mongering, of course). When the Kickstarter is from one of my new BFFs* (Best Fermentation Friends, of course) I will for sure contribute and I will also recommend that others do the same!

You, dear reader, are one of the “others” in that equation today. I’m very happy to recommend Cauldron to you, since I had the chance to eat and drink some of Bethany’s (one of the three co-founders of Cauldron) ferments at Fermentation Fantasy Camp and they were mighty tasty! Believe me, you want this company to be successful, and you probably want to be a part of that success. Cauldron will be kicking off their Boston-based line of ferments with a few delightfully probiotic, pickled products, and now you have the chance to win them!

Black and White Sauerkraut. Simplicity at its best.

Black and White Sauerkraut. Simplicity at its best.

In honor of the final week of their already nearly successful Kickstarter, Cauldron is offering up a 26 oz. jar of one of each of their initial line of pickled products to one lucky Phickle winner! Those products are:

  • Black and White Kraut: A black pepper sauerkraut.
  • Dilly Beans: A classic for good reason.
  • Firecracker Carrots: Spicy goodness for your (healthy) guts!

Cauldron Ferments Launching Product Line

So be part of the community movement and pay yourself back with a gut full of happy, healthy probiotic bugs. The Cauldron Ferments Kickstarter ends in 5 days, so make sure that you join the many who have already supported Cauldron before Sunday, June 14th! They have awesome rewards, and any amount would be appreciated.

This contest is for Continental United States-dwellers only, but everyone can (and should) support Cauldron’s efforts to probioticize Boston! Also, please be aware that this prize will not be shipped until Cauldron has their commercial kitchen space. The recipes are thoroughly tested and ready to go, but you know, legally, they can’t give you food they made at home (I know, I know, fermented vegetables are the safest. This is dumb. But it is what it is and they want to get it to you as soon they can, but be prepared to wait a few months until they’re up and running!).
a Rafflecopter giveaway

caudron ferments dilly beans

Something about fermented green beans is just unbelievably difficult to resist. I bet you’ll eat this jar in one sitting.

All photos courtesy of Cauldron Ferments. I was not paid for this endorsement, but Cauldron will be supplying the fermented prize for the winner, free of charge to me or the winner!