Aronia berry Kombucha

Fresh fruit is an easily available and delicious ingredient for kombucha during summer months.  The aronia berries are at peak ripeness right now, and tonight I made 2 gallons of kombucha and added 1 gallon of fresh berries.

aronia berries washed


Aronia berries are uncommon in the PNW.   The berries are not too sweet when ripe, are astringent, and are reported to be one of the most powerful antioxidant berries in the world. (They are rather similar to salal berries.)



My usual recipe for kombucha is 4 bags of green or white tea, and 1 cup of sugar for a gallon size vessel.


ferment and motherFor this kombucha I use a 5-gallon glass jar, and, as you can see, the mother is bright red (and weighs about 10 lbs.).









Here is the batch ready to start fermenting.  I put the berries in first, and sweet tea and place the mother over top, but these berries are floaters.  After a few days they’ll begin to sink, and I’ll scoot them under the mother.

ready to bubble


Using fresh fruit in kombucha speeds up the ferment, reducing the time by as much as one-third. (And it colors the mother depending on which fruit you use.)


Other fresh fruits that make tasty kombucha include raspberries, tamarind, blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb.

Cobbler time – Sweet Garbanzo Miso

This miso paste is young, only 2 months, and is so delicious in a very different kind of way.  It is sweet and mild, full and very satisfying on the palette.  This is how I made this batch:

A spoonful of miso.

A spoonful of miso.

8# cooked garbanzo beans

7 # 6oz rice koji

4% sea salt (10 oz)

Garbanzo bean miso starter miso

(This filled 2 1-gallon crocks)









The tamairi is incredible but scant.  Sweet almost like honey, not too salty and so luxurious.












One of my favorite uses for sweet miso is pies and cobbler.  My daughter and I went u-picking blueberries yesterday.  Then I foraged in my garden for the ripest blackberries, and added three ripe apricots from the farmers market.

mixing the fruit


Other ingredients include:



Vanilla extract

And, of course, sweet garbanzo miso paste, which is the source of salt and a lot of yumminess (umami).

(Stir together and pour into a baking dish.)






The crust is simply almond meal, vanilla, safflower oil, and some sweet garbanzo miso.



(Mix together and crumble on top of the fruit.)










Bake @ 350 °F until fruit is bubbly and the crust is browned.

cobbler time




Naturally it’s gonna go well with some ice cream.



Searching for Koji in Paraguay

I received the following email from William Mathis, a Peace Corps volunteer from the U.S. serving in Paraguy who is also a fermentation enthusiast:

For some time I have wanted to try my hand at fermenting my own miso, but have not for one reason or another. Now, as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Paraguay I have plenty of time to pursue endeavors of fermentation, even the most time consuming like miso. However, despite the many blessings of life in the South American countryside, the availability of Japanese products, knowledge of fermentation practices, and ingredients are not exactly common. I knew that tracking down koji here would not be a simple task, but I still wanted to try.

After a few months living out in the far east of the country, I discovered a small community called Colonia Yguasu, home to Japanese immigrants and their descendants, only a thirty-minute bus ride from where I live. I figured that if there were anywhere to find koji in Paraguay, it would be there.

On my first attempt to find the elusive koji I went to the Japanese grocery store and began asking around. I saw a group of middle-aged Japanese ladies shopping for produce. I approached them and asked if they or anyone they knew made their own miso. The women were slightly baffled and quite a bit amused that a young, obviously foreign young man would be asking them about a practice that only their grandmothers had undertaken. Basically, they told me, they were sure some old ladies in the community still made their own homemade miso, but they were not sure who or how to find them. They directed me instead to a Japanese cultural center nearby for more information. I went and inquired at this Asociación Japonesa, but the staff there had basically the same reaction: surely there are people, old women, who make miso, but we do not know how to find them.

On my next trip to the colony I was having lunch at a Japanese restaurant and asked the owner, who had served a delicious miso soup, if she knew where I might find someone who makes their own miso as I was interested in making it myself. At first she said no, she did not think anyone did, and then she changed her mind. “Yes,” she told me. “There is still one woman here who makes miso. Her name is Señora Seki and she sells it to the grocery store in town.” She wrote down the name for me on a small piece of paper and also gave me the name of the supermarket’s owner to whom I should inquire. After lunch I headed to the grocery store, intending to talk to the manager about this Sra. Seki. But before I did I noticed in the refrigerator in the far back of the store a package with a simple label that read “Homemade Miso” and listed a phone number below. After purchasing it and leaving the store, I immediately called the number and spoke with a woman who said that it was her mother who made the miso and that while she was not currently in town, would be happy to meet me another time. Finally, I had tracked down the source, the last woman in Paraguay to make miso, and my last chance at finding koji.

Later that week I headed back to Colonia Yguasu and called the woman, Miriam, again. She met me in an old Toyota pick up truck and drove us out of town down a long dirt road. I felt like I was meeting a rare, mythical creature, a kind of miso unicorn. Miriam introduced me to her mother and left us to talk. Her name is Hiroko Seki and stands just over five feet tall, with large glasses and was carefully bundled up in numerous layers on this rainy autumn day. A widow, she lives alone about a kilometer down the road from her daughter’s farmhouse. We spoke for a long time about her life and family, getting to know one another a little bit as we sat on a set of miniature chairs on the patio. After a while she looked at me with a curiosity in her eyes and asked, “So you want to learn how to make miso?” She then led me through a long discussion of how to make koji and miso, and then showed me the room where she has about seven 200L barrels of miso in various stages of fermentation. At the end of our meeting she asked if I would like to try her food, an offer I eagerly accepted.

Hiroko Seki with a bag of her homemade koji.

Hiroko Seki with a bag of her homemade koji.

I have adopted her method, which is usually for a 200L batch, for a 20L bucket or crock and want to share it. It is as follows:

5 kilos soy

3.5 kilos salt

3 kilos koji

Wash the soy and leave to soak overnight in water. The next morning cook until it is soft and then grind up into a paste, saving the water used to cook the beans. Mix the koji in the soy water and add 3.3 kilos of the salt. Put this mixture into the crock or bucket. Then cover this with a CLEAN cloth. On top of the cloth she puts a bag, like the kind that onions are sold in, filled with clean stones to weigh down the miso mix. This makes sure the weight is evenly distributed and full across the container, without having to find a plate or top that is the perfect size. Cover this with another cloth. After 3-4 days she removes the top cloth and the stones and adds the remaining .2 kilos of salt on top of the lower cloth, replaces the weight and the upper cloth and then covers the whole thing with some kind of plastic, fastened tightly around the outside with a rope or something to keep it in place and keep any bugs or other cultures out.

This recipe is essentially the same as that found in Wild Fermentation, except for a few slight differences, such as the bag of stones for weight, that I thought were interesting. Plus it is always great to hear the specifics of a technique developed through time and tradition!

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.

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.