Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Gardener, Not a Chef

The trick with fermentation is to remember that you are a gardener, not a chef.  A chef can control ingredients, preparation techniques, the heat of the pan, the length of cooking, the presentation of the meal.  The gardener creates a set of conditions and waits to see what happens.

And sometimes this happens:

That's a "bloom."  The conditions weren't quite right to make any mold/ fungal spores die off on their own.  Garden failed this time.  This is only the second "off" batch of anything I've made, and it's a good lesson to share.

Some people say that you can scrape off the top layer and eat the rest.  I don't recommend doing that, because the filaments of the fungus can sink pretty deep.  Yick.  The cabbage will go in our compost heap, which eventually feeds our garden.  The rest of the equipment will get washed in very hot soapy water before storage, and again before the next use.

What caused the bloom?  I think there was too much "headspace," or too much distance between the cabbage and the top of the jar.  More oxygen to be displaced by carbon dioxide means a longer period of time before anaerobic conditions are established.  And anaerobic conditions are the key to tasty, consistent results.  More on the science of lacto-fermentation next time!

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