The Kraut Collar

I prefer to make cabbage kraut in jars: wide mouth quart and 2-quart size.  (if I make larger batches, I use a ceramic crock.)  A challenge is keeping the cabbage submerged, especially when the mouth of the jar is smaller then the jar’s body.  I make something I call a kraut collar. (It reminds me of a collar worn by choristers over their robes.) I make mine from food grade plastic tub lids.

I cut the collar the same size as the inside of the body of the jar. Then cut to the center and take out a small hole (Looks like a doughnut now.)  This collar can be pushed into the mouth of the jar by overlapping the two radial edges. Once inside, it expands back to its original form to fit the inside of the jar.

Then, I place a shot glass atop the collar and put on the lid.  The lid pushes the collar down below the brine.  (I stack shot glasses depending on the level of the kraut.)

For a larger jar, you’ll need to find a larger plastic lid, but it should work the same.

Snuggled Eggs, or Miso-fermented Egg Yolk

The end result of this ferment is a creamy, rich and delicious ball of goodness.  And with a texture and flavor much more reminiscent of a soft stinky cheese than of egg yolk.  I first read of this process in The Book of Miso, by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi.


It’s fairly straight forward: bury egg yolks in miso, wait, recover yolk, and enjoy.


I ferment a dozen or two at a time, and my method was inspired by the playing with fire & water food blog [].


Materials: fermenting vessel, miso paste, soft boiled or raw egg yolks, and cheese cloth.  These are layered in a crock in a sandwich-like fashion. I start with a 1-2” layer of miso, and then place a single layer of cheese cloth on top.  I use a handle of a wooden spoon (it has a very bulbous end) and push divots into the miso the size of the yolks, pressing the cheese cloth into the miso as I go.  Next, I carefully set the yolks into the divots, and cover with another layer of cheese cloth. I then cover it all with another layer of miso paste. I repeat this process until I run out of yolks, or room in the crock.

An important detail is to keep the corners of the cheese cloth visible on top of the layer of what is on top of it , so that you can lift out what is on top of it, either a layer of miso, or of yolks, easily and cleanly. The whole purpose of the cheese cloth is to be able to recover the yolks as whole discrete balls, and not as mushy smashed blobs full of miso bits. And it works really slick, too.  Here are some photographs.


Putting divots into the miso on top of a layer of cheese cloth.


Adding a raw yolk.


Five soft boiled yolks wrapped in cheese cloth and ready to be covered in miso. I’ve pulled in the corners of the cheese cloth so they will be revealed after I remove the layer of miso that will sit on top of them.


Adding a top layer of cheese cloth and miso.


These yolks are ready to harvest.  I’ve removed the top layer of miso (bowl on left) and exposed the  yolks beneath.


Here is the layer of yolks removed inside their own cheese cloth, and a solo yolk about to be tied for drying.


These yolks have been tied in cheese cloth and draped over a beer bottle. They’ll stand in the fridge for a couple weeks and dry out to a crumbly or even a grate-able texture.


These yolks went into the smoker still inside their cheese cloth.  They are amazingly delicious!


My first batch of yolks I let ferment 6 months.  One week seemed way too short to me.  Having done both, the one-week yolks achieve a very sour taste, but lack the complex flavors of the miso from a longer ferment.  Both are very good. When I ferment a dozen or more, I use a crock and pack the top with a plate and weight, just as though I were making miso.  I’ve made one-week yolks only in a small jar, and it sits on the counter in the kitchen until ready.  I think either could go in the fridge for the ferment, though it might take longer.  Which ever method you use, remember to leave head space in the top of the vessel for some CO2 expansion, and liquid/tamari collection.

My favorite way to enjoy the yolks is as a spread on good bread or crackers.  They are also great blended in salad dressing, spread on top of poached eggs (with a little tekka miso sprinkled over), or tossed with fresh noodles or pasta.  They are also a fun food for a potluck, as they seem to push the limits of the culinary frontier, and the flavor of this ferment nearly always wins over a hesitant doubter.


Fermented Hot Pepper Sauce


In mid-September peppers were in full swing at the local farmers market.  I purchased a dozen ghost peppers, and two large red bells. Time to make fresh hot pepper sauce with four easy steps:  Chop. Salt. Pack.  Wait.

(Chop & Salt) I removed the stems and whirled in a Cuisinart until thoroughly blended, and then added a pinch of salt toward the end.

(Pack) I poured the slurry into a quart jar and covered with fly-deterrent cloth (not shown).  As soon as the ferment gets going, the solids float and get pushed up by the CO2 production.

Stir twice a day to submerge the solids and to prevent mold from forming on the surface of the ferment.  If it does (see below), stir it in and stir more frequently.  The mold is harmless, but can impart a flavor I find distasteful. So, keep stirring.

(Wait) After two weeks, I transferred the sauce to a jar with an airlock.  No more oxygen means no more mold forming on top. (And no more stirring.) The sauce keeps fermenting with the airlock and it’s pH lowering. It’s normal for there to be continued separation of solids, top and bottom, and clear liquid in the middle.  

After 6 weeks from step one, I filtered the sauce through cheesecloth to remove the seeds and then added vinegar to stabilize (meaning, the pH drops even more from the acetic acid and the sauce won’t mold on top if left out of the refrigerator).

My yield was 14 ounces of ferment, and i added 6 oz. of vinegar for a total of 20 oz. of fermented hot pepper sauce.

Black bean Miso with Smoked Salt


5 lbs. rice koji (10 cups volume of uncooked rice)

10 lbs. cooked black beans (5# dry weight)

Salt (8%  by weight), plus 5 T. smoked salt

Hijiki seaweed  (2 oz.)

Garlic; fresh crushed (2 heads)

Red pepper flakes (handful)

I started this batch of miso in May 2011.  I harvested the tamari after 6 weeks, and replenished with salt brine.  This miso formed no mold during its ferment, and I harvested tamari again when I harvested the miso last week.  The second harvest of tamari tasted just as good as the first, which, for some reason, surprised me.

Under the plate.

This batch of miso was also very wet, and it might be because I did not smash the beans well in the beginning. As you can see from the pics, the beans and koji are still intact (and the beans very tasty to eat whole).  I used about half the miso to ferment duck and chicken egg yolks.  They’ll be ready in about 6 months.  I then used an immersible blender to homogenize some of the miso into a thick uniform paste.

Black Bean tamari harvest.

Fermented Bloody Mary Cocktail


Fermented tomato juice (tomato juice and smoked salt; 12 months old)


Salt and Pepper

Hot pepper sauce (fermented 2 yrs)

Worcestershire sauce, (fermented by Lea & Perrins®)

Loveage stem (straws)


Fermenting vegetable juices is extremely easy, and the results are exceedingly delicious.  Last summer I started with two cases of organic roma tomatoes.  I sliced them in half, sprinkled on some smoked salt, and let it ferment in a crock for a week.  After 2 days, the tomatoes were reduced to a thick slurry. After a week, the pulp was removed from the seeds and skin.  I stirred 2 or 3 times every day to reduce mold establishment.  After a week I strained the seeds and pulp out, and filled narrow sauce bottles with the juice.  I added a tablespoon of olive oil on top of the contents of each jar to prevent oxygen from contacting the juice.  Then waited a year.  Fantastic flavor!

Last week we finally got our typical week or two of hot daytime temperatures and warm evenings here in Seattle.  Perfect weather for cocktails in the garden.  Drinking the cocktails from Loveage stems for straws was an added flavor, especially if the stem was chewed slightly.  They were so delicious, we had to open another bottle of tomato juice and keep going.

Addiing a finishing splash.

If you’re up for fermenting your own cocktail mixers, this is the best resource in know: Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante, published in 1999 by Chelsea Green.

I’ve fermented carrot, beet, celery, radish, cucumber, tomato, and various blends of green vegetable juices, all with rewarding success.  Add a little salt and let time do its magic.  I remove the olive oil from the narrow neck of the jar with a turkey baster.  I’ve also used airlocks with success, or just let the top mold and pull the ‘plug’ out when it’s time to use the juice.  The pulp and pigments typically settle to the bottom of the jar, leaving clear liquid.  Stir or shake as desired.  These juices are also great in soup, or to deglaze a pan when sautéing.  (Photographs by Kwai Lam.)

Bloody Mary time.



What’s older than its Mother?

My grandma told me that riddle while we were pressing apples in the orchard when i was 13. We had just filled a 50 gallon wooden barrel with the cider we pressed, and covered it in place in the root cellar to let it ferment. We wanted the vinegar.  It never occurred to me that the riddle might have more than one answer.

After fermenting water kefir for several months, I noticed a faint translucent mother had arrived on the surface of the finished ferment.  It looked just like the young mother on vinegar or kombucha: thin and gelatinous.  I fished it out with a scowl and discarded it after 4 or 5 harvests. The next time I went to harvest the kefir, there she was again. This time I saved her in a separate jar. As i replenished the sugar water over the kefir grains, I withheld a little of the solution for the young mother, covered both jars over and put them on the shelf to ferment. Ten days later, both had new mothers floating on top: small and thin (compared to kombucha or vinegar) but very much present.

For the past year and a half, I’ve repeated this process when i harvest the original elixer: skim off the mother from the jar with the kefir grains, and add it to the jar now full of mothers. I now treat both jars (1-gallon size) the same, and I can’t tell any difference in the resulting beverage. I feed each batch one-half Meyer lemon and one-half dried fig each time I make a new batch. This flavor combination is really over the top.

The jar with the kefir grains continues to form only a thin mother each time, where the jar full of mothers now forms a thick white mat, not  unlike white wine vinegar mother.