Category Archives: Fermenting

Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough Bread Baking

I was beginning to think I was never going to get this post written and  some of you may have been wondering as well. So without further ado let’s return to the “Sourdough Mystery Tour” (as one of my readers dubbed it.)  If you have missed my previous sourdough posts you can find them here and here. While I have been baking sourdough bread at least once a week since the second or third week in January I had yet to get a loaf that I was completely happy with. It seems it has taken longer than I expected for Trixie (my sourdough starter) and I to get acquainted. I am ecstatic to tell you that, while it is not perfect, the last loaf I baked was darned GOOD!


Rather than make you painfully read about each of my not so good loaf (pictured above) stories, I decided to just highlight some of the things that I have learned along the way.

The Recipe: I started with this recipe for basic white bread and have continued to use the same recipe throughout.  A couple of things that I think are important to mention about this are:

  • It is best to feed the starter several hours before making the bread. This will assure that the starter is active and will give better rise during the proofing time.
  • The amount of water in the recipe should be taken as a estimation only, as it is dependent of hydration level of the starter. If a starter is super thick (less hydrated) the recipe will require more water than a starter that is thinner (more hydrated). It is best to add the water in small amounts and mix it in until the dough is the proper consistency.

Proofing Time and Temperature: Proofing is the time that the dough will take to rise. During this time the sour flavor also develops.

  • The amount of time it takes the dough to double in size is largely dependent on the temperature. Since our house is cooler (between 65 and 68 degrees F) this time of year it has been taking 12 or more hours for the dough to proof. I am sure this amount of time will be shorter during spring and summer when the weather is warmer.

Baking: How to bake the bread so that the inside was not doughy but the outside was not burned or rock hard was my biggest challenge. I eventually learned that the bread needs to be baked in moist heat. Here are the methods I used to create moisture in the oven.

  • Placing a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven and adding water to it. This seemed to work to some degree but as I mentioned I was not getting the results I hoped for.
  • Baking the bread in a cast iron Dutch oven was recommended but I do not own a cast oven Dutch oven (at least one designed to use in the oven).
  • Eventually I realized that I had something that might work as well as a Dutch oven. It is a stoneware roasting pan. It is made by Pampered Chef. I have had this dish combination for probably 25 years and while I occasionally use the pieces as individual baking pans I can’t remember ever using the two together as a roaster.
  • Stoneware,  like cast iron, can withstand the high temperatures required for baking sourdough bread.
  • It is necessary to preheat the baking dish along with the oven before baking the bread.
  • Having the lid on the baking dish creates steam as the moisture cooks out of the bread.



This is the results of baking in my stoneware roasting pan. The inside was fully cooked and wonderfully chewy. The outside was crusty and a little too dark for my liking so I will still be experimenting with reducing baking times and temperatures until I get it right.

Planning: While making the bread doesn’t require a lot of direct contact it does require that certain things be done according to a timeline. So far this is what has worked for me.

  • First thing in the morning (between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.) feed Trixie.
  • Wait at least 3 hours but probably no more than 5 hours to mix up the bread (between 10 a.m. and 12 noon).
  • Allow bread to proof until at least double in size. Since this has been taking 12 or more hours the bread may not be ready to bake until I am ready to go to bed. If it has doubled in size I before I go to bed I put it in the refrigerator to slow it down over night. If it has not doubled in size I leave it on the counter to continue proofing overnight.
  • The following morning I preheat the oven with my stone roasting pan with lid in it for about 40 minutes.
  • I then remove the roasting pan and lid and place parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle corn meal, then place the bread in it.
  • I cut a slit in the top of the bread. I put the lid on the casserole dish and put it in the oven I check the bread for doneness at about 45 minutes. If it looks done I then test it with a thermometer. If the temperature is at least 208 degrees F the bread is done.

In the past I have had a hard time justifying the expense of purchasing sourdough bread and while I will forgo that expense by making my own this experience has given me a whole new appreciation for these artisan breads and great respect for those who create them.

Before I close I will leave you with a link for a recipe for sourdough cinnamon rolls that I made at my husbands request because they turned out really well.

Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough (Part I)

My husband and I eat a lot of bread – toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, maybe even some type of biscuits or rolls to accompany whatever is on our dinner menu – but lets face it, the plain white bread that you buy in the grocery store has little to no nutrition to offer nor does it have any flavor, at best, as my husband would say, “it will make a turd”. I began buying some more expensive whole grain breads to at least increase my fiber intake, but even these breads are loaded with ingredients (oils and preservatives) that are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.

I have been aware that sourdough is a healthier option for a while now and if we shop at a place that sells sourdough bread we usually pick up a loaf, but most of our local grocery stores do not sell sourdough breads as it is not a convenient food. Now it’s time to make our bread.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a fermented culture that uses friendly yeast and bacteria. It is used as a leavening agent and replaces yeast in bread recipes. This article from Natural News tell us why sourdough is a healthier choice than yeast breads. The main points are:

  • Sourdough breaks down gluten allowing some people who may be sensitive to gluten to be able to enjoy it.
  • Sourdough makes starches more digestible.
  • Sourdough lowers insulin resistance while increasing glucose tolerance.
  • Sourdough allows for better mineral absorption.
  • Additionally sourdough does not require a lot of ingredients – this basic white bread has only three ingredients – flour, water and salt. It keeps well so it does not require preservatives.

Fermented Foods Are Not Fast  Foods

If you have been following my recent posts about fermenting foods you probably realize that these foods take a long time (days or even weeks) before they are ready. It takes much planning, time and patience to make fermented foods and sour dough bread is no exception.

Obtaining A Sourdough Starter

The first step in making sour dough bread is to obtain a sour dough starter. To do this I had a few options. I could purchase a starter – I would have had to order one online because this is not something that can be found in our local stores. I could make my own and there are many online tutorials for making sour dough starter, or perhaps I could find someone who makes sour dough bread and obtain some from them. Hmm.

It was in early January when I was visiting a friend who makes and sells sourdough breads, I began asking her about her starter. After telling me that she doesn’t sell her sourdough starter she gave me details on how to make my own. It sounded easy enough and I decided I would try it, but before the end of our visit she placed a couple cups of her started in a dish and gave it too me. I was thrilled!!!

My next stop was at Hobby Lobby so I picked up this container to keep my sourdough starter in. I chose this container for a few reasons – 1. I wanted glass so I could see though it. 2. It was large enough for me to build up a good amount of starter. 3. The opening is large enough that I can scoop out of it. 4. Although the lid had a plastic ring for a tight seal I was able to remove the ring so the lid sits on the jar but does not seal thightly.


When I got home I gave the jar a good rinse in very hot water before putting my starter in it.

Maintaining The Starter

Having a sour dough starter on hand takes commitment. Sourdough is a living being and  it needs to be fed daily. It’s not quite as bad as having kids or pets because you don’t have to clean up after it (usually).

Usually???   Let me tell you a story my friend shared. She keeps her starter in a plastic container with a snap on lid. The starter was growing in the container and she apparently was not paying attention to it. She showed me how the starter had exploded and blew the lid off the container. The sour dough splattered everywhere – walls, ceiling, counters, floors and everything in between. The plastic lid landed in a trash can about 8 feet away. Thus I learned an important lesson. Do not keep sourdough starter in a sealed container!! A loosely fitting lid is appropriate.

Once I put my starter in it’s new home I fed my it per my friend’s instruction – 1/2 cup of flour and a little less than 1/2 cup of purified water. I stirred it up and covered it. A while later I could see it bubbling. I then started reading about sourdough on this website. The website has lots of information on fermenting foods. I learned that perhaps I should be feeding it twice a day, and that the best way to measure the amounts of water and flour to feed it is to weigh equal amounts of each.

Since the starter does not speak up when it is hungry and I am afraid I might forget to feed it, it has been given prime real estate on my kitchen island. Thus far I have maintained my starter by feeding it 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water – one or two times per day.

Naming My Starter

This may seem a bit odd but it seems to be common for people to name their sour dough starters and I do think it is easier to refer to it by name than “my sour dough starter” all the time so my friends, meet Trixie.

She Does Tricks

To be honest getting and maintaining the starter has been the easy part.  Since baking good sour dough bread has been more of a challenge I have decided to share those trials and errors in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Have you ever eaten sour dough bread? Do you make your own?


Lacto Fermentation – Sauerkraut

I would venture to guess that there is not one pharmaceutical that can :

  • Help improve digestion
  • Improve immune function
  • Reduce inflammation and allergies
  • Support cognitive health and mood
  • Provide cancer fighting anti-oxidants

but according to this article  eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods can do all those things. This post is part of a series I am writing on fermenting foods and for anyone who has come across this post but has not read my introductory post – you can find it here with more information about the health benefits of fermented foods.

For those who are not familiar with it sauerkraut is fermented (pickled) cabbage. I have been eating and enjoying sauerkraut for as long as I can remember. Sauerkraut and sausage has always been a family favorite and a I have always loved a Rueben sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese stacked on rye bread and then grilled. Growing up our sauerkraut was purchased in cans or jars at the grocery store.

I have made homemade sauerkraut with some degree of success in the past, which also means some degree of failure. 😦 The major “failure” was a large batch that went bad during the fermentation process. I could tell it was “bad” because it had a rotten – putrid smell to it. Eww! I can’t say for sure what caused it to go bad, but knowing what I know now I’d guess it was that the salt I used had an anti-caking agent added.

The batch the was a success had the smell that is unique to sauerkraut ( I’m not sure how to describe it but it does make my mouth water). It also had the wonderful and hard to describe flavor of sauerkraut – tangy – somewhat sour – somewhat sweet – somewhat salty all in one and it still had a some of the raw cabbage flavor which seems to disappear once sauerkraut had been pasteurized or canned. During the fermentation process the texture of the cabbage softened some but it did retain some of the crunchiness. Since this batch was 3 or 4 gallons I found it necessary to can most of the sauerkraut in order to preserve it. Although we were able to enjoy it for months to come, and there is certainly nothing wrong with eating cooked sauerkraut, (at minimum it still provides some good fiber) it no longer contained the beneficial probiotics that developed during the fermentation process.

Remember probiotic food needs to be consumed raw.

After successfully fermenting our garlic I decided it was time to make some sauerkraut. Since cabbage is not in season this time of year I purchased one when I was doing my grocery shopping. I decided to make only one quart in a wide mouth canning jar and found a recipe that told me I would need about 1 3/4 lbs. (.68039 kg) of cabbage and 1 table spoon of salt. I again used the Pink Himalayan salt. I also decided to keep it simple – there are many recipes out there that add different vegetables and herbs to sauerkraut – but I really like just plain (fermented) cabbage.

The process for making sauerkraut is different than fermenting garlic  because instead of making a brine to pour over the vegetables, cabbage makes it’s own brine. I sliced the head of cabbage in thin strips and weighed out 1 3/4 lbs.  I put it in a bowl then I sprinkled the salt on the cabbage and worked it in with my hands. The salt helps pull the water out of the cabbage. I then packed all of the cabbage into a wide-mouth, quart size canning jar. It is a tight fit and needs to be packed very tightly. There are tools designed to assist in this process. They are called sauerkraut stompers or pounders and although they vary in design they are consistently some type of fat wooden stick. I don’t own a sauerkraut pounder but I do keep a rubber mallet with a wooden handle among my kitchen utensils. The wooden handle was perfect for pounding or packing the cabbage into the jar. The reason for pounding or packing it tightly is to squeeze the water out of the cabbage thus mixing with the salt and creating the brine. Once the cabbage is packed tightly into the jar there should be enough brine to fully cover the cabbage. It is important that the cabbage be fully submersed, so if I ever come up a little short I will make up some brine to add.

I then placed my smaller jar (see fermenting our garlic post) inside the wide mouth jar as a weight to hold the cabbage beneath the brine. I covered it with a jelly bag (again another type of cloth would work) and placed a rubber band on the secure the jelly bag.

I began tasting the sauerkraut on about the third day and by the seventh day I decided it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator. We have been enjoying a couple tablespoons as a side dish with either lunch or dinner usually every other day or so.

IMG_4759 (2)

Now I think it is time to start another batch. 🙂

Next up – sour dough bread.

What is your favorite way to eat sauerkraut? Do you eat it raw? Have you ever made your own?





Lacto Fermentation – Pickled Garlic

What Is Lacto Fermentation

Simply put Lacto Fermentation is a process that uses salt water also know as brine to ferment vegetables. For a more detailed explanation you can click here. Sauerkraut and pickles are probably the most commonly lacto fermented foods here in the USA. However not all pickles are made using lacto fermentation and although sauerkraut may be made using this process it is often pasteurized (canned) thus killing the probiotics and depleting the nutritional benefits of fementing.

Getting It Right

As I mentioned in my last post I have done some fermenting in the past. Sometimes they turned out good and sometimes they did not, so recently when I was reading about lacto fermentation I was mentally taking notes to see what I may need to do differently.

After reading this article , choosing the right type of salt seemed like something that could be a key to getting it right. In the past I had used either pickling salt or kosher salt. I had thought that they were pure salt and  varied only in texture. I did not realize that they may have anticaking agents added which may effect the fermentation process. It is also worth pointing out that some sea salts may have anticaking agents added.

When we visited our local health food store and I asked the sales person about salt she showed me the three varieties that they carry. They included Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt, and a product called Pure Salt. She told me she had used each of these salts and all of them work great for fermenting foods. I chose Himalayan Pink.


Water was another concern. I knew that I must use water that was not chlorinated for making the brine but what I had not thought about was the water I was using to clean the vegetables. I had been using our tap water (which is chlorinated) to clean my vegetables and probably killed off some or all of the healthy bacteria that was present. I have since started using filtered water to clean my vegetables.

The last decision I made was to only do small batches. Although I have fermenting crocks, (2 gallon and 5 gallon) for a couple of reasons fermenting in quart and pint size canning jars seems to be a better option. Since it is just my husband and I at home we  are not likely to eat two gallons (or more) worth of sauerkraut (or any other vegetable ferment) before it passes it’s prime. Additionally if I ferment a smaller amount and for some reason it goes bad I only wasted that small amount. Even if I want to do larger amounts it seems wise to use the canning jars as they are easier to store in the refrigerator and I could gift them to family or friends.

My Process

Since we still have some home grown garlic on hand I decided to start with fermenting a jar of garlic. As you can see in the photo above I used a wide mouth pint size canning jar. I (kind of) followed this recipe. I actually had to chuckle when I read their instructions for peeling garlic cloves. If you have been following my blog for a while you probably already know that I highly recommend using these silicone tube garlic peelers.


I peeled enough garlic to fill my jar leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top. I mixed two tablespoons of Himalayan Pink salt with one quart of non- chlorinated water and stirred it until all of the salt was dissolved. I the poured enough of the salt-water (brine) over the garlic to cover the cloves. Since the garlic cloves floated up and some parts were no longer covered with brine I needed to weigh them down. I had a smaller jar that nested nicely inside the wide mouth jar. Perfect! I then slipped a jelly bag over both jars and secured it with a rubber band to keep fruit flies out. Any clean cloth would have worked for this purpose I just happened to have a jelly bag. I then stored the extra brine in my refrigerator in case I needed to add more or to use for my next batch.

I left the jar of garlic sitting on the counter in the kitchen for about 10 days. I checked it every couple of days, by tasting it, to see if it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator where the fermentation process would be slowed down significantly. I determined it was ready when the garlic had developed a milder and a somewhat sweeter flavor and the brine was infused with the garlic flavor. The cloves had begun to soften but still had some crunch to them. Determining when the vegetables are ready really is subjective – if you like the flavor and texture then they are ready. 🙂 To refrigerate them I removed the jelly bag and small jar. Then I capped them with a regular canning jar lid.

Eating Fermented Garlic

We are now enjoying eating fermented garlic. In fact the jar is more than half gone. It has a pickled garlic flavor. I try to include a couple of cloves in our diet each day. Our home grown garlic has a stronger (hotter) flavor than any garlic that we have found commercially available and even fermented it has retained some of it’s heat. My husband, who will often eat raw cloves of garlic despite tears coming to his eyes as he chews it up, will eat a few whole cloves of the fermented garlic as a side dish with his lunch or dinner. I, on the other hand, prefer to slice the cloves and add them to a salad or a sandwich or throw a few slices on top of my spaghetti. However we decide to eat them it is important to keep them raw in order to reap the benefits of the probiotics.

Next Up

Sauerkraut! I originally planned to include it in this post but since this post is getting long I will dedicate a separate post to sauerkraut.

Have you ever eaten pickled garlic? Do you have a favorite fermented vegetable or recipe you would like to share?










January 2019 – Learning To Ferment Foods

Wow! Where did January go??? The good news about January being over is we are closer to spring, and while we are in the midst of climbing out of a brutally cold spell, spring is a most delightful thought. The other good news is even though the month seemed to be gone before I knew it, I did do some things that I am quite pleased with.

The one thing that I am going to share with you (it will  probably take in a few posts) is that I have been studying about and learning to make fermented foods. I have experimented with some fermenting in the past and some times it has been good and other times not so much. This time, although I am still experimenting, things seem to be going better 🙂

Before I start talking writing about what I am fermenting, I wanted to tell you why. You may recognize fermentation as a method of preserving food but it so much more than that. While canning, freezing, and dehydrating are all methods of preserving food which I practice none of them increases the nutritional value of the food. Fermenting does! Over the past month or so I have viewed many websites related to fermentation and I thought I would share just a few.

I choose the first article Seven Reasons Why Fermented Foods are Healthy because it cites case studies which support these claims. If you have any heath concerns, including depression, I recommend taking a look at this article. This article also provides a list of fermented foods and says some are commonly found in grocery stores. While that may be true it is important to know what to look for where to look for it. Some foods on the list like pickles and sauerkraut are often found sitting on the store shelves. These canned foods have been pasteurized thus killing off the probiotics. Fermented foods sold in the grocery store will be found in the refrigerator section. Some key words to look for on labels are “Raw”, “Perishable”, “Naturally Fermented”, “Live Cultures” or “Active Cultures”. This link pertaining to only sauerkraut explains and gives some brands that may be found in stores.

While the above article cites case studies the following video explains the health benefits of fermented foods in a way that I thought makes a lot of sense. Personally I have not watched the entire video as the later part teaches how to ferment foods and I have already read all about that.  I do highly recommend watching/listening to the first 16 – 17 minutes.


This last site has a plethora of information about fermenting and I keep going back to it. Since they do sell fermenting supplies I will tell you that I am not affiliated with them nor have I purchased or used any of their products (yet). I do find it most admirable that even though they sell starter cultures they also give instruction for making your own starter cultures. They also have many recipes and I will be sharing in an upcoming post some of the recipes I have tried.

I will close by telling you that over the past few weeks, since I began including fermented foods in my diet daily, I have felt some positive results. I have more energy, my digestion has greatly improved, I feel more satisfied by a small meal and don’t get hungry as often, I also don’t crave sweets and I have lost a few pounds. I am fairly certain there is more going on than meets the eye, but these are the results that I can attest to.

As always I thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you. Is your year off to a good start? Do you ever eat fermented foods? Do you ever make fermented foods?