Fermented Mushroom Condiment

I received this email from a fermentation experimentalist named Amber, about a mushroom condiment she fermented:

I thought you might find interesting a project I did last summer. I was trying to figure out a substitute for soy sauce. With it being mushroom season and me being
highly influenced by the constant fermentation projects happening at my house, I thought a fermented mushroom sauce could turn out really good with a similar flavor to soy sauce.


I harvested big bags full of hawks wing mushrooms. I thought their savory flavor would be adequate. I’m interested what flavors other mushrooms would bring to a sauce. I added fresh ginger, garlic, seaweed, and maybe horseradish. and poured a salt brine over it. I used some extra brine from some pickled beets I had going.


It turned out amazing!! Very much the flavor I was hoping for. It would have been closer without the beet juice added, but it definitely couldn’t be considered lessened by it. My brain/stomach is going crazy imaging how the same combination would taste if I was using Lobster mushrooms instead of hawks wings!

Bold Experiments in Vegetable Fermentation

This past weekend I taught a workshop at the Rowe Center in Rowe, MA. One of my students, Sasha Kellner of Ithaca, NY repeatedly blew my mind with her creative experimentation. First, she pulled out dehydrated sauerkraut, which she had made to salvage a batch that had started to get mushy. The dehydrated kraut (with apple and hops!) was crispy and delicious, like a probiotic answer to potato chips.



Then she pulled out more flavors: sunchoke (pre-cooked)-cabbage-caraway; vanilla bean-mustard seed-nasturtium; apple-cabbage-carrot-rosemary. All were delicious and distinctive.


Here’s to bold experimentation!

Raw Tomato Preserves

This summer I got my hands on a case of fresh roma tomatoes and ventured into this ferment.  I’d wanted to try it for a good while, and when Sandor’s latest book came out, I decided to get to it.  I followed the recipe as is on page 117 of The Art of Fermentation. . I did this in July and with warm temperatures, the ferment went quick.

First I halved the tomatoes, added salt and stirred with my hands.  I did not attempt to get anything submerged at this stage. After 1 day, I could stir it down to where all the halves were submerged.  (I have fermented tomatoes before for the juice [to make bloody marys], and I knew that if I let this go even a day too long the bacteria would strip and  all the pulp from the skins, leaving me only the skins and a thin slurry of what was the pulp at the bottom of the vessel- and this time I wanted the pulp.)

tomato halves readyI stirred two or three times a day.  Each morning a black spidery-looking mold would have formed atop the floating tomato halves.  I would quickly stir this into the mix, and get everything coated in the bubbling liquid. After a couple days, the Kahm yeast would try to get organized in pools of juice around the floating halves, but again, a quick stir would dispel them. Once the rapid bubbling was over, and while there was still pulp on the skins, I strained off what juice there was (about 2 gallons), and processed what remained of the halves, separating the skins/seeds from the pulp. Here are the tomato halves ready to strain.

processed pulpAnd here are the tomatoes being processed in a slick little device I borrowed from the neighbor. Tomatoes in the hopper upper right, paste into the hotel pan on the left. and skins/seeds into the container lower right.




draining juice from the pulpI then put the pulp in a cotton bag and let it hang over night, twisting it to get as much juice out as I could.  At no time did a thick layer of mold appear on the cloth, only a very thin slight white bloom, likely yeast, and I saw no need to attempt to remove it by scraping it with a spoon.


kahm yeast on tomato juice


I put the juice in a vessel, and within a couple hours a lovely rich layer of Kahm yeast had formed.   Since I know this can influence the flavor, I poured the juice into glass jugs with airlocks to keep out the oxygen. I ended up with 2.5 gallons of juice that are now fermenting for next year’s cocktails.



ready to pressNext, I took the ball of paste that had dripped overnight and placed it into a clean cotton cloth and tied the corners. I set this to press inside a stainless steel hotel pan with a concrete block on top, further squeezing out more liquid. I put dry towels beneath and on top of the wrapped ball of paste, and changed these a couple times a day as they wicked out juice from the paste.

salt added


After 3 days I removed the paste and marveled at the color. Gorgeous!  I added salt, 25% by weight, and kneaded it into the paste.  But this proved way too much salt for my palette.  If I use the paste now in a quantity where I obtain the tomato flavor I desire, it is inedible because of the high salt content.  But is it ever beautiful?  Beauty has its limits though, so, frustrated, I formed some of the paste into 1-inch balls and cubes and dehydrated them.  I now use these to grate the dried tomato paste over foods I want to salt, and beauty comes right along with it.  The red color looks spectacular on poached eggs, roasted chicken or steamed cabbage. So, I use it as I would salt, with a little elegance.  The final yield was 1 pint of paste.

completeNext time I’ll use half the salt. (Or I’ll add a batch of unsalted paste to what I’ve already made and see how that goes.)

From Russia, with Love, Solodukha and Ryazhenka

A letter from Russia with recipes for two new ferments I haven’t heard of before…

Dear Sandor,

Firstly, I really love your books, and thank you for helping keep traditions alive!

I have a recipe to share with you; I am from Russia, I grew up in the countryside, on what was basically a farm, and my family have a huge lore of recipes passed down generations (including a sourdough starter that predates the revolution…!)

It is a porridge known as Solodukha (from the word ‘solod’, which means ‘malt’ – the word ‘solod’ itself, in fact, basically means ‘sweet’) My granny often made this porridge for me, and its especially comforting on a chilly morning.

malted (sprouted, dried & roasted) rye, ground fine, around 50 gr per person
water, about 150 gr
1 tsp sourdough starter (preferably rye-based)
a few tablespoons squashberries (according to wikipedia, that is the english equivalent of kalina – a small red berry from the genus ‘Viburnum’) – if you cannot find these, raspberries or fresh ripe red currants work well too.
1/4 tsp salt

Grind the malted rye to a fine powder, add the water, salt, and starter, and leave in a warm place for at least 8 hours. Once fermented, stir in the berries, place in a clay, ceramic or cast-iron small pot, cover with the lid and cook overnight in a very low oven; for the last hour or so take off the lid. Or make a bain-marie in a slow cooker and cook on low overnight.

My granny would always put this into the Russian stove before bed, hot from a days’ baking, and the porridge would cook in the slowly falling heat. if I beat my granddad to occupying the top of the stove for the night, I would wake up to the aroma of roasted rye and berries wafting up from below…

Serve it with plenty of good, yellow butter, and a glass of fresh, or soured, creamy milk, or ryazhenka (recipe follows…)! Enjoy!

Here is also a recipe for ryazhenka, a fermented ‘baked’ milk.

Place fresh, creamy raw milk (I’m sure you know to stay away from the stuff labelled ‘milk’ in the supermarket…!) in a heavy, cast iron pot, cover with a lid and place in a very low oven overnight (not higher than 110 Celcius, lower if your oven can). In the morning you should have a beige to light-brown, slightly nutty smelling milk with a ‘skin’ on top – you can eat the skin now, or, if you can resist, leave it in for now! Once cooled to blood temperature, add a tablespoon of raw soured cream. Put in a very warm place (or in a thermos flask!!!) for about 8 hours, or till thickened and soured. If you left the ‘skin’ in, it will be deliciously chewy…*wipes drool from keyboard*


From Russia with love
Milla 🙂

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.

Bill Mollison’s Ferment and Human Nutrition

We are thrilled to be able to offer for sale copies of Permaculture founder Bill Mollison’s 1993 book on fermentation, which was out of print for many years. Published in Australia, the books cost $50 (a lot less than what it was going for online after a few years out of print, over $800). To purchase a copy, click here. This was the book that began Sandorkraut’s fermentation education, now expanded and revised. Topics covered include:

  • Storing, Preserving and Cooking foods
  • Fungi, Yeast, Mushrooms and Lichens
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Roots, Bulbs, Rhizomes
  • Condiments, Spices and Sauces
  • Agricultural Composts, Silages and Liquid Manures
  • Fruits, Flowers, Nuts, Oils and Olives
  • Leaf, Stem and Aguamiels
  • Marine and Freshwater Products, Fish, Molluscs and Algae
  • Meats, Birds and Insects
  • Dairy Products
  • Beers, Wines and Beverages
  • Nutrition and Environmental Health

In Mollison’s own words: “All the recipes given herein are traditional; they belong to humanity, even though they have been collected or tried by various authors, they have all been used for centuries by thousands of human beings. Only a few recipes are my own inventions (you may guess at these) but even these derive from my family or friends in their main ingredients or procedures.”

To purchase the book, click here.

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.