Dave de Basque

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since May 08, 2015
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Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Recent posts by Dave de Basque

Rebecca Norman wrote:What I remember from Sandor Katz, the fermentation deity, is that it's usually safe to have a taste, and if it smells or taste yucky, pitch it. Otherwise, give it a go.

What you are describing sounds like it might be fine, or might be going bad (maybe because of low salt as mentioned above).

If I were you I'd try a little taste.

Thanks, Rebecca, I had no idea about Sandor Katz but I do now. We all need a fermentation deity in our lives!

So in the end, I threw out the jar that seemed kind of suspicious-smelling, even after adding more salt, a touch of sugar, starter, and a cabbage leaf late in the process.

The other jar, I whizzed up in the blender with a lot of its liquid, and it is now one of our official house (mildish) hot sauces. It's just sitting in the fridge in a pretty full jar with a lid. It seems to be fine. It still doesn't smell what I would call great, maybe I just need to get used to fermentation smells, but it tastes good in food and is highly digestive, so I think it's safe to say disaster was avoided.
4 months ago

S. Bard wrote:Hi Dave,

The white mould, if it’s not three dimensional/hairy, sounds like Kahm yeast. Still edible, but it just produces some off flavours when left in the brine too long. As long as the smell is fine and you do a little taste test, it should be ok just scooping it off. You can always do a Ph test if you want to be sure (ph strips are cheap but not super accurate, ph-meters can be very accurate, but they do leave a nice hole in your wallet).
Cloudy brine and white residue on the bottom are indicators that your ferment is active, so combined with the bubbles it sounds like your ferment is going well 👍

[...lots more great observations and advice...]

Hope that helps!

Thanks so much, S., for helping me identify a lot of what I was seeing and setting my mind at ease! This is gold.

Any advice for when you want a ferment to last longer -- 6 months or a year?
4 months ago

Kate Downham wrote:
For brine ferments, a brine of 20g-50g of salt to 1 litre of water is more reliable, this works out to be between 2 and 4 tablespoons. I usually use around 2 or 3 tablespoons.

I thought the original recipe seemed too low, and I think my fermentation process bore that out. I will try your proportions next time, thanks!

Kate Downham wrote:
Starter culture
Brine ferments are trickier to do as a wild ferment than kraut - there's more chance of other stuff getting in and turning it bad before the good bacteria has had a chance to grow. I use around 2 tablespoons whey for each litre of water. Juice leftover from a successful ferment is also good as a starter.

Ahhh... the advantages of being a goat farmer! You're a lucky woman, Kate! I have a source of sheep whey from a friend's farm for about 4-5 months in late winter and spring, but unfortunately I have few veggies to ferment at that time of year. Maybe I need to make friends with a cow farmer. Or break down and use the "starter culture" I have.

Kate Downham wrote:Other things that weren't specified:
Did the salt have any additives? These can interfere.

I'm pretty careful about my salt. Atlantic sea salt, no additives, artisinally sun-dried on clay pads... you get the picture. Pretty much unprocessed, like it should be.

Kate Downham wrote:
Did the water have any additives? If it's standard town tap water it might contain stuff that will stop the good bacteria from growing. If it's raw riverwater/rainwater etc it might contain some spoilige bacteria that will compete with the good bacteria, I often use boiled creek water that's cooled down.

I'm even more careful about my water. I go up to a local mountain spring every once in a while with a bunch of saved screw-top 1L glass bottles, and that's where I get my drinking (and fermenting) water from. But maybe I should have boiled and cooled it before using. Since fermentation depends on bacteria, I'm never really sure how "sterile" to try to make things. I guess the idea is to give the good bacteria a head start and to knock back the bad bacteria. Next time I'll try boiling the water, and boiling-water-sterilizing the jars and rocks too as you suggest.

Thanks for all your recommendations!
4 months ago

Mk Neal wrote:I can't tell exactly what is happening with your peppers, but if they are slimy and in anyway unappetizing, probably best to chuck them. Fermented vegetables don't usually slime.

In my own house, I have noticed that vegetable fermentation did not go well at "room temperature" in the warmer months in my un-airconditioned house; things get soft and unappetizing.  I actually get better results fermenting in the refrigerator.

Hmmm... I wish it was so definite. The sliming really only lasted a couple of days, now it seems to be in a holding pattern and is pretty clean. Just a few little blobs of whitish mold that accumulates every 2-3 days and I clean off. OK, the mold is part of a bit of a jelly-like blob. The peppers themselves are not slimy. They don't smell really great, but then again, I open up a jar of locally produced (but commercially bottled) sauerkraut or kimchee, and they don't smell so hot either. Actually one of the jars doesn't smell much at all now, and the other is still a bit rank to be honest. I will probably end up chucking it. But for now I'm letting it sit around to just see how the experiment goes.

Interesting about fermenting in the refrigerator. I would think that takes forever. Doesn't it? Is this mainly good for producing things like crispy pickles?
5 months ago
Hey, never get tired of replying to yourself! Thoughts from anyone who knows anything about fermentation would be appreciated.

In any case, after waiting for a week or 10 days to see how things went, lately I've done the following, basically grasping at straws, to see if I can make this fermentation less scary.

-- remove the rocks holding the peppers down and replace each of them with a cabbage leaf (since as far as I know cabbage leaves have lots of helpful fermentation microbes)
-- drain off a bit of the fermentation water (one jar smelled a bit more suspicios than the other, so I drained more), and refill with
----saltier water
----a pinch of sugar (something I know ferments)
----a little bit of the vegetable fermentation starter I had in the fridge but didn't want to use (you know, the whole "using the local microogranisms" thing...)

For what it's worth, they smell better now.

I still don't know how I would tell if they're safe/unsafe to eat, or when they're done/not done fermenting...
5 months ago
Added note: I have water kefir crystals available and some sort of "vegetable fermentation starter" in the fridge that I was not going to use. I'm of half a mind to make up a little bit of new salt brine and add a bit of sugar too, so the fermenters have something to ferment, and mix it into the batches, perhaps with the addition of one or the other of these fermentation aids.

5 months ago
I had a bunch of not-very-hot hot red peppers last season and decided to ferment some once I learned that that was a thing.

I watched this Green Moxie video on YouTube:

So I stuffed a bunch of medium-large peppers with the tops cut off into a 1-quart mason jar and another smaller jar, and I whipped up the brine of 2 teaspoons of salt per liter/quart of spring water without any chlorine or other toxic gick in it. Put a kind of smooth not-too-porous-looking rock on top of each to keep the peppers submerged. Placed a loosely fitting lid on top and sat in a corner of our never-very-cold kitchen. That was a little over two weeks ago.

A few things have happened, and since my fermentation adventures in the past have been limited to water kefir and pickles, I'm not sure what is normal:
  • The peppers turned soft after about a week
  • They bubbled a little bit for a few days. Part of that was releasing air bubbles.
  • After maybe 5 days they started forming some scum at the top every day, which I've been removing with a wooden pallet once every day or two
  • The brine started turning kind of cloudy and red-brown-yellow-ish
  • Some white powdery-looking stuff started settling on the bottom.
  • The brine started tasting like hot pepper brine.
  • After about a week, what looks like some bright white powdery mold started appearing at the top every day, not much.
  • When opening the jars, just at first you get a little whiff of a kind of off, compost-scrap-bucket smell. But the brine still tastes good.

  • And now here's my problem: In the last 3 or 4 days, there is more stuff rising to the top. The light scum and the bright white mold have now been supplemented by a kind of clear slime maybe 2mm thick in places over the top. It's not so easy to remove, but I try. But I'm not really sure there should be slime. Or maybe it's some kind of mother or scoby or whatever that's forming? It's not as thick or solid feeling as a kombucha scoby at all.

    So my questions are:
  • Is this slime thing normal? Good? Bad?
  • How will I know when my peppers are done fermenting?
  • How will I know if my fermentation has gone wrong?
  • How do I cut the fermentation and store the peppers when they're done?

  • 5 months ago
    Not an expert, but aren't those just called French doors? i.e. two doors that meet in the middle, opening outwards.
    6 months ago
    Bemvindo, Danilo, to permies!

    I think a lot of what we could say about your garden plan is influenced by climate, and it seems like there is a lot of climate diversity in São Paulo state:


    Any idea which of the climate zones you're in? You can read more about Köppen climate classification here if you want.

    When placing trees, I would be very mindful of the shade they create. São Paulo is about 23° south latitude, so just at the edge of the tropics, so at the height of summer the sun will be straight overhead and the rest of the year it will be to the north. So I would generally try to place trees on the south side of your property and grow vegetables on the north side.

    What are the weather conditions where you are that cause problems in the garden? Sun too strong in the summer? Periods of very heavy rains and floods? Excessive heat? A very long and dry dry season? What natural disasters are there in your area? Those are good to keep in mind when designing.

    Shade can also be helpful in the tropics. Sometimes high shade from a stand of trees like palms can shelter more tender plants underneath them from the strong midday sun while allowing morning and evening sun from the sides. So that might call for a different design than what I was saying before.

    Do take into account the final height and canopy diameter of your trees and allow for that in your design. The Plants for a Future database is a good place to research that, even if they do have a lot more temperate plants than tropical in their database. As Eric said above, you don't want the trees to crowd each other out or shade out your veggies (unless you need shade, of course, it all depends!)

    It might also be really helpful if you could indicate the compass points on your map, and also which way the downward slope goes. And let us know some more about your climate. This will help other people make useful comments for you.

    Congratulations on a beautiful piece of land - I'm sure you'll do great things with it!

    6 months ago
    If sheep farming for other purposes than wool production is common in your area, I would seriously look into the wool option.

    Here our sheep are for milk, and our sheep's wool, which used to be used for clothing despite being a bit scratchy, is now considered a waste product. (A couple of sustainability projects are working on that at the moment.) In any case, you can go to any farm you're friendly with and get loads of it, they are starting to have to pay people to take it away.

    Our local wool, and I suppose wool in general, is indestructible. You can try to burn it, compost it, bury it, leave it outside in a pile for 10 years -- all to no effect. It will remain exactly as it was the first day. So that's a good insulation material in my book.

    I'm not sure about the process of going from shorn sheep's wool to ready-to-go insulation material, but here is a guy singing the praises, anyway:

    6 months ago