Homestead Junction

Roast Your Own Coffee November 22, 2016 14:51

Roast Your Own Coffee Beans!

According to CBC, Canadians rank third in Coffee consumption per capita. We drank an astonishing 152 liters of the delicious brew per person in 2015. Even though we consume a lot of coffee, many people (including myself) probably don’t know much about its origin, how it was processed or what the factors for great taste are.

Coffee starts losing its flavour just after a couple of days after it has been roasted. So drinking store bought coffee is like eating a stale bread. Well, maybe not as bad. But still, we are probably missing out. If you want to read more about why and how you should roast your own coffee, I recommend giving this gem a read. I decided to give it a try and for once roast my own coffee rather than buy a new pack.

There are a number of techniques you can use. Some people use a fancy coffee roaster, a skillet, or a popcorn popper to roast the green beans. I used a coffee roasting screen and my oven.

DISCLAIMER: Make sure your windows are open and your ventilation in the kitchen is running. I triggered my apartment's fire alarm and there wasn’t even visible smoke. So just get that fresh air into your kitchen.

The picture below shows everything I used to roast, grind and brew my coffee.

Coffee roasting tools


The equipment consists of the following:

  • Coffee Roasting Screen
  • Green beans (available in bulk at Homestead Junction!)
  • Manual coffee grinder
  • Coffee sock
  • Hario drip decanter

First step is to pour some beans in the screen without layering it up. The beans can cover the full area but should not stack up. Next, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Getting ready to roast coffee beans

Place your roasting screen in the middle of the oven and after a few minutes you’ll hear crackling sounds. As soon as you hear the sound, you should open the oven and move around so that the beans turn. Don’t leave the oven open for too long though, or the temperature will drop.

If you see chaffs coming of the beans, don’t worry. You’ll remove those later.

Roasting coffee beans in the oven


Repeat this shaking step until you have the desired grade of roasting. You have to take into account that the beans will continue to roast after you take them out of the oven. So take them out just before they reach the darkness that you want them to be after the whole process is over.

The more often you shake the screen, the more even your roast will be.

Home-Roasted Coffee Beans

After the roasting was done, I went on the balcony and tried to blow away as many of chaffs as possible.

The best time to drink your coffee is about 4 hours to 14 hours after you roasted them. Beans should be stored away from direct sunlight and in a airtight container. Let the coffee sit for about 12 hours before you seal the container.

So after you wait and enjoy the coffee smell in your kitchen, go ahead and grind the beans and brew yourself a delicious and well deserved cup of coffee.

Finished Coffee

Hmmm! Enjoy!

Home-roasted Coffee!




By Reni Diggelmann

Winter Craft Fair November 03, 2016 15:44

Vendor registration is now open for our second annual Winter Craft Market, running for a full weekend this Dec 17-18. This year we’re partnering with Hidden City Records to tap into an even more awesome community. We love seeing a variety of crafters, makers, and DIYers in our bringing their awesome creations to sell, so we’ll lightly curate the vendor list to make sure there’s not too much overlap between vendors offering really similar stuff. Other than that it’s first come, first served, so don’t delay! Vendor fee only $50, table rental available. Apply by November 27th using our simple web form here.

Touring a Parmigiano-Reggiano Factory November 03, 2016 12:11

I was recently privileged to visit a Parmigiano-Reggiano plant outside Bologna, Italy. I've often remarked that visiting a cheese factory doesn't really convey an understanding of how cheese is made. The rows of gleaming vats and stainless steel machinery on display at large facilities (I'm picturing the Tillamook factory in Northern Oregon) could be confused with any other sort of food production.

For this reason I had tempered expectations about the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory tour. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while production of this cheese is thoroughly modern, it's still very traditional.

The curd is developed in these copper-lined vats. One vat yields two wheels of cheese, and the curd is still cut and handled by actual humans!

cheese hanging

The twin muslin-wrapped curd masses are then raised by a ceiling crane and slid into the next room...

cheese vats

Where workers guide them into forms on draining tables.

cheese forming

The forms carry a "parmigiano-reggiano" imprint that will later appear legibly on the rind.

cheese wrapper

The cheeses are held in forms until the shape stabilizes.

cheese rest

Then transferred by crane into this series of brine vats, where they'll remain for a month.

cheese brining tanks

The brine vats are kept at the correct salinity with salt from this "salt locker."

salt locker

Once removed from the brine, the wheels are allowed to rest and "sweat" out excess salt. Then the young wheels are transferred to racks for ageing.

young cheese

Lots of wheels of cheese!

lots of cheese on racks

The racks were reinforced after a major earthquake caused significant damage a few years ago. Now they have triangular bracing in place.

ageing cheese

The cheeses darken considerably over the first year - you can also see how they're reduced in size as moisture escapes.

cheese contrast after ageing

The aged cheeses are individually tested and graded - only perfect wheels get the (literal) stamp of approval.

Packaging is still very hands-on too. They use a machine to help break the wheels into manageable chunks.

cut the cheese

But they still sling the wheels around by hand, and individually pack the wedges into shrink-wrap.

packaging cheese

I was impressed at how they've been able to bring in machines to help with heavy lifting, without compromising the tradition of very hands-on human involvement. 

So, props to the Parmigiano-Reggiano consortium for making their product economically viable and consistent without loosing the artisanal character. On the other hand, we saw hints of the dark side of consistency - pretty much 100% of dairy cattle appeared to be confined indoors. I asked around a lot about this, and the best answer I got is that the cattle feed needs to be tightly controlled in order to produce consistent cheese throughout the year. Makes sense - but denying access to pasture is at odds with what I normally associate with ethics or quality.

Bulk Grain Order is Back October 27, 2016 12:49

Bulk Grain Orders!

Anita's Bulk Order

It's that time again - we're bringing in a pallet from Anita's Organic Mill in Chilliwack. Here's how it works:
  1. Take a look at our price list here and decide what you want
  2. Submit your orders using this Order Form. You have until 9pm on Sunday, November 6th to place an order.
  3. After you order, we'll email you an invoice. Please pay online (credit, etransfer card or Paypal), or in person before 8am on Wednesday, November 9.
  4. Pick up your grain from the store within a week of its arrival on Saturday Nov 19 and Nov 25 (earlier is better please!)

    Note: we have to order in whole bags and cases. If you don't need that much, we encourage you to post on our Facebook page and perhaps find someone to share a bag or split a case with you! We will need one person to pay for it and be responsible for picking it up, and then you can work out payment between you. Anita's orders are pick-up only, no shipping.

    Layered Soap from Scratch October 25, 2016 16:57

    Layered Soap - From Scratch!

    The time of the rainy days has begun, and with it the challenge of finding fun stuff to do indoors. But don’t worry; we’ve got ideas for loads of fun DIY projects here at Homestead Junction.
    My friend is a big fan of soap bars but has never made soap herself. We decided to team up and make some two-coloured soap together.

    How to Make Layered Soap


    Here’s what was on our shopping list (for approx 500g of soap):

    We calculated our recipe with which might seem a bit overwhelming at first but is actually really easy to use. All ingredients except for olive oil are available at our store.

    Ingredients for layered soap


    1. Melt Oils
    Weigh all of your oils, add them together in a pan (stainless steel!) and put it on medium heat on your stove. I recommend using old kitchen tools or utensils and pots you only use for diy projects as it can be difficult to get some of the residue off.
    As you can see in the picture below, I’ve already put in my thermometer out of habit but you’ll only need it later on.

    Melting together the oils for layered soap

    2. Mix Lye
    Working with lye requires some safety measures. You will want to wear gloves to prevent any contact with your skin. Seek out a well ventilated area. If you have them, wear safety glasses (or your regular glasses). Use a container that has a number 5 on it (see image below). NEVER use a aluminum container. Stainless steel containers also work.

    After you weigh your lye, add the right amount of distilled water - never the other way around! As you mix the two ingredients (preferably with a stainless steel spoon or fork), the liquid will start to heat up. Make sure not to hold your head directly over the container as you don’t want to breathe in the fumes that escape from the mixture. If you get lye on your skin use lots of water to wash it off. If you spill dry lye, sweep it thoroughly, mop it really well, spray vinegar on it and preferably mop it again. Sound like a lot of work? It is. Better to be careful in the first place.

    Mixing together the lye for layered soap

    3. Mix Everything Together
    Once your oils and the lye liquid have both cooled down to 100°-110° Fahrenheit you can add your lye to the oils. They do not have to be the exact same temperature but should be within 3-4 degrees. Remember to use a non-aluminum thermometer to measure the temperature. I used this one right here.
    Grab your blender and start mixing the two ingredients together with short bursts.

    Mixing everything together for layered soap

    Once you have reached trace (oils & lye have emulsified), you can add your essential oils. Make sure your soap batter is quite thick. It will get thicker with more blending. This is important because this soap will be layered and has to be thick enough not to just blend together.
    Once you have that thick batter, go ahead and add the clay. We have used a LOT of clay which makes the soap really nice and creamy. It also causes the darker colour. So if you want a lighter result, reduce the amount of clay used. After mixing in all the clay remove about a third of the batter and mix the activated charcoal into the removed part.
    Lastly, add the spirulina powder to the ⅔ remaining in the pot and mix it well.

    Adding the Clay to Homemade Layered Soap

    4. Fill Soap in Mould
    Pretty much anything can be used as a soap mould that is properly sealed. I recommend using some kind of plastic or parchment paper to line your moild. This will protect the container used and make it much easier for you to get the end product out.

    Next go ahead and fill in about half of the green soap batter into the mould. We didn’t fill it in completely flat since we wanted to create a layer that is a little bit more interesting than just a straight line right in the middle. Then layer your secondary colour on top and finish with the remainder of the first colour. We made sure the top layer ends in a flat plane but you can leave it pretty uneven, too. This will get you a soap with some structure on one end.

    Creating the layers in the soap

    5. Curing & Cutting
    The soap needs to be left alone for about 24 hours. Go ahead and wrap your mould in a way that insulates it a little bit. As you can see below, we put some parchment paper around it and then covered it with towels.

    Curing Layered Soap

    After waiting for a full day, you can unwrap your soap and take it out of the mould. Grab a large kitchen knife and cut it up the pieces. We cut it right on the parchment paper and on a cutting board since we didn’t want to have lots of soap trapped in little cuts in the cutting board.

    Cutting and Aging Layered Soap

    Lastly, you’ll need to let your soap age for 4-6 weeks. Leave them spread out in a place with air flow but not in direct sunlight. This will ensure that your soap lasts longer. If you use it right away, it will still do the job but it will also literally be washed down the drain in no time. The longer you wait the longer your soap lasts, however, the smells of the essential oils will also decrease.

    Layered Soap








    By Reni Diggelmann

    Applesauce Cake October 18, 2016 16:16

    Applesauce Cake

    I went to a pumpkin patch with my family last week and did not expect to have so much fun!

    Picking delicious apples!

    I picked about 50lbs of apples with no idea what to do with them, so I figured I might as well bake things.

    I went through my large library of cookbooks and picked out my three oldest and most loved books because I figured they would have the best suggestions for apple based baking. They did not disappoint! I can see myself making this applesauce cake recipe again in the future.

    Odd food arrangements from an antique Martha Stewart cookbook

    I mean who doesn’t want to follow recipes from a cookbook that features saturated images of powdered doughnuts and hot dog roles?

    The recipe I used goes as follows:


    Applesauce Cake Recipe


    • 2 ¾ cup cake flour
    • 1 ½ cup sugar (¼ cup less if you’re using sweet apples)
    • ¼ tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • ¾ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground cloves
    • ½ tsp allspice
    • ½ cup soft butter
    • ½ cup water
    • ½ cup walnuts (optional)
    • ½ cup raisins (optional)
    • 1 ½ cups applesauce*
    • 1 very large egg (or two very small eggs)


    Mix everything in a bowl until smooth and bake for 35 min at 350°F.

    To make the apple sauce:

    1. Cut, core, and quarter 4-5 small apples into a pot
    2. Add ¼ cup water
    3. Boil until the apple chunks are soft enough to mash and then use a masher to mush the apples into a sauce texture.

    Picking a delicious apple for baking

    Sauerkraut - a Comprehensive Guide October 04, 2016 17:41

    Sauerkraut: a Comprehensive Guide


    The practice of fermenting cabbage to create sauerkraut has been recorded in history as far back as Roman times.  More specifically, sauerkraut is a product of lacto-fermentation (so-called because the microorganisms involved create lactic acid, not because of any association with dairy products).  These days, most commercial sauerkraut gets its tangy flavor from vinegar and is heat-treated for shelf-stability, whereas lacto-fermented sauerkraut is a live cultured food, teeming with beneficial bacteria that not only enhance flavor, but aid digestion as well.

    The Basics 

    Cabbage is shredded and submerged in a salty brine for several days to several weeks, depending on how sour you want your sauerkraut.  

    Quick Reference

     Batch Size Cabbage Salt

    1 qt.

    2-3 lbs. 1 tbsp.
    1 gal. 8-10 lbs. 1/4 cup
    5 gal. 40-50 lbs.

    1 cup



    • fermentation vessel of desired size (glass, food-grade plastic, or non-leaded ceramic)
    • green or red cabbage (one medium-sized cabbage, approx. 2 lbs., yields about 1 qt. sauerkraut)
    • non-iodized salt
    • kitchen knife or grater/slaw board
    • large bowl
    • tamper (optional)
    • weight
    • (optional) reCap mason jar lid and airlock with rubber stopper

    Make your own delicious sauerkraut!


    1. Wash all utensils thoroughly with warm water and vinegar.
    2. Shred cabbage using a grater or slaw board.  Or, for coarser-textured kraut, cut cabbage in fourths, remove core pieces, and slice across grain.
    3. In large bowl, combine cabbage, salt and desired seasonings and let stand for 20 minutes.
    4. Massage cabbage for about 5 minutes.  Brine is created as salt pulls water out of the cabbage.
    5. Pack cabbage mixture into jar or crock and tamp down so that brine rises about 1" above cabbage.  Leave 1-2" of headspace at top of jar to avoid overflow (carbon dioxide production will push cabbage and brine up).
    6. Place weight on top of cabbage to prevent it from floating to the surface and being exposed to air.
    7. Cover fermentation vessel.  Airtight is best for keeping dust, molds, and stray yeasts out, but as long as the cabbage stays well below the surface of the brine it shouldn't be affected by any air-borne contaminant.  Traditional crocks use a water-filled rim and notched lid combo to allow fermentation gas to escape while remaining airtight to the outside.  We use a reCap lid with an airlock and rubber stopper to achieve the same results.  
    8. Let stand in a cool, dark place (around 68°F or 20°C) for 2-4 weeks.  As fermentation proceeds, the flavor of your sauerkraut will get increasingly more tangy and complex.  After 2 weeks, taste your sauerkraut to see if it's to your liking.  Don't double dip and don't open it too often.  Every time you do, you're creating an opportunity for outside bacteria or molds to get in, which can lead to contamination.
    9. When you think it's done, move it to the refrigerator for long-term storage.  Fermentation will slow way down, but will not kill the beneficial microbes you've cultivated.  Enjoy!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How does fermentation work to preserve food and keep it safe?

    Simply put, beneficial bacteria break down the starches in fresh food and create lactic acid, which lowers the pH so that spoilage bacteria cannot survive.  In reality, the process involves successive waves of different strains of bacteria, each producing the conditions for its successor.  The first bacterial strains do not have to be added to the mix; they arrive in the folds of the cabbage leaves because they come from the environment outside.  But, adding the culture-rich brine from a completed batch can get a fresh batch off to a quicker start.

    Can I make sauerkraut without using salt?

    The purpose of salt in making sauerkraut is to keep the cabbage from getting too soft and to create an initial environment that favors the growth of certain strains of beneficial bacteria (including lactobacillus, the bacteria responsible for turning milk into yogurt) while preventing unwanted bacteria that lead to rot.  Preferable to a no-salt sauerkraut would be a low-salt sauerkraut, although its shelf life won't be as long as that of a fully-salted sauerkraut.  Low-salt sauerkraut can be made with as little as 1 tsp. salt for a 1-qt. batch.   For a truly salt-free sauerkraut, fermentation guru Sandor Katz describes three methods in his book Wild Fermentation: 1) pour 1 cup of wine over tightly packed cabbage so that it rises like a brine, 2) use 1 tablespoon each ground caraway, celery, and dill seeds mixed in with cabbage, or 3) soak 1 ounce  dried seaweed in hot water, chop and add it to grated cabbage, and use the water it was soaked in as a brine.

    What if there's not enough brine to cover my cabbage?

    The fresher your cabbage is, the more moisture it holds and the easier it will be to work a brine out of it.  If you don't have enough brine to cover the cabbage by at least 1 inch, you can make more by dissolving 1 tablespoon salt (15 milliliters) in 1 cup water (250 milliliters).  It is important for the brine to completely cover the cabbage because fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning it takes place in the absence of oxygen.  Cabbage that floats to the surface can come in contact with contaminating organisms.

    What can I use to keep the cabbage from floating if I don't have fermentation weights?

    Fermentation weights are just ceramic disks (some are divided into half-circles or two interlocking pieces, which is convenient if you need to insert them into a container whose opening is smaller than its cavity is wide).  However, if you use a crock or other container with straight sides, you should be able to find a small plate or saucer that fits reasonably well inside.  You can place additional weight on the saucer by topping it with a rock (sterilized in boiling water) or a plastic bag or jar filled with water.  If you're using a wide-mouth quart jar, a small (125 or 250 ml) jelly jar will fit inside.  To keep the cabbage from floating up around the bottom of the inner jar, cut a disc of plastic out of the top of a large yogurt container to fit the inside bigger jar and place it over the cabbage.  A drawback of these kind of improvised set-ups is that you may have a jar or other weight sticking out of the top of your fermentation container, so you won't be able to put a lid on it.  In that case, cover it with cheesecloth to keep out dust and flies and use a rubber band to keep the cloth in place.

    What if I see mold or white scum on the surface of my sauerkraut?

    If you monitor your sauerkraut every day, you should be able to catch something like this at an early stage.  White "scum" is a residue of yeast formation.  It is completely normal (like the lees in unfiltered beer), though unappealing so you can simply skim it off whenever you see it.  The same goes for mold, if it's an isolated spot that's easily removed.  Molds form just on the surface where they have access to air, so if your cabbage is well below the surface of the brine, it may not be affected at all.  If any part of the cabbage does appear affected or discolored, you can try salvaging the sauerkraut by scooping out the affected portion and pushing the remainder back down below the brine and weighting it down.  If the contamination returns or if the sauerkraut smells "off," discard it.  Fermented foods should smell tangy and sour, but pleasingly so.  Rotten or putrid smells indicate that something has gone wrong and the sauerkraut should not be eaten. 

    Additional Resources

    Katz, Sandor Ellix.  Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods.  2003.  (order here)   Our go-to reference for all things fermentable.  Beginner-level info that is easy to follow and plentiful recipes that are easy to execute with success.  Regularly updated with new and interesting ferments to try at home, as well as Sandor's workshop tour schedule.  A wide range of recipes for all sorts of cultured foods for when you're ready to go beyond sauerkraut.

    Katz, Sandor Ellix. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World.  2012.  (order here)   Lots more information than Katz's first book about the history and cultural practice of fermentation around the globe.  Recipes are more advanced and more unusual.

    Spicy Fermented Plums September 22, 2016 13:21

    Spicy Fermented Plums


    A while ago there was a friendly gardener who came by and dropped off a bag of plums because he had too many and he had finished canning for the day and didn’t want them to go to waste.

    Unfortunately I forgot about them in the fridge and had to compost the majority of them (my worms were happy though!).

    By the time that was done, I didn’t have many left; but I still wanted to make something with them. My first thought was to ferment them. If it worked with cherries, why not plums?

    There aren’t too many recipes out there for fermented plums that aren’t umeboshi. I love umeboshi, but I didn’t have the right kind of plums or the patience to make it. So I used the few other recipes I could find and mashed them into one.

    All the necessary ingredients for delicious fermented plums!


    • Plums
    • Kombucha/water kefir
    • Salt
    • Mustard seeds
    • Cloves
    • Black pepper
    • cinnamon


    • Jar
    • Plastic lid
    • Weight (optional)

    To start, make sure all your plums are clean and free of mold. Then, thinly slice them and discard the pits (or leave them in - I didn’t want to).

    Chopping up plums to ferment!

    Next, mix in the salt and spices.

    Add mixture to the jar and cover with your choice of fermented beverage (kombucha/water kefir). You can push down on the plums a bit so they’re completely submerged. If you have a spare weight handy, go ahead and put that on top.

    Let it sit on the counter for 2-3 days and enjoy!

    Fermentation supplies


    DIY Lemon Lavender Room Spray September 19, 2016 13:10

    Do you deal with delinquent smells on a daily basis? Here's an ultra-simple, uber-delicious lemon lavender room spray! No harmful chemicals - only the wonderful essence of an all-natural creative endeavor. This recipe can be adapted to any essential oil combination.


    Country Wine - A Comprehensive Guide September 01, 2016 13:43

    Country Wine: a Comprehensive Guide


    When you hear the word 'wine,' what do you think of?  Something fancy, expensive? Something imported from France, or California?  And it's definitely made from grapes, right?  How limited is our concept of wine!  In fact, wine is so much more than all that: wine is whatever you make it.  Making your own wine is easy, inexpensive, and a great way to preserve summer's abundance in whatever form you have it.  'Country wine' is the term for a wine made with any fruit other than grapes.  Berries are particularly well-suited for wine-making due to their vibrant colors and inherent sweetness, but great wine can be made with any fruit, vegetable, flower, or combination of the three.

    The Basics 

    Country wine is made by fermenting sweetened fruit juice.  After steeping fruit or berries in water to release their flavors, yeast is added, which converts sugar to acids, alcohol, and carbon dioxide.  Sugar is usually added to feed the yeasts because fruits and berries don't contain as much natural sugar as grapes. 


     Batch Size Fruit Sugar
    1/2 gal. 2 lbs. 0.75 - 1 lb.
    1 gal. 4 lbs. 1.5 - 2 lbs.
    3 gal. 12 lbs. 4.5 - 6 lbs.
    5 gal. 20 lbs. 7.5 - 10


    Home-Brewed Country Wine!

    Materials and Ingredients

    • Pot or food-grade plastic bucket (or 2) with lid 
    • potato masher
    • Pot to boil water 
    • 1 packet wine yeast (available at homebrew supply stores) 
    • Sugar
    • Mesh steeping bag or cheesecloth-lined strainer
    • Siphon Hose (flexible plastic tubing)
    • Carboy or glass jug that will take a rubber stopper
    • rubber stopper and airlock
    • (option for 1/2 gal batch: 1/2 gal mason jar with reCap lid)
    1. Remove stem and hulls from fruit.  Wash fruit by rinsing small batches in cool water and pouring off debris with excess water.  If you're using soft fruits like peaches, plums, or berries and you have a mesh steeping bag, place fruit inside it and place bag in pot or bucket.  Mash fruit with a potato masher.  Pour enough boiling water over the fruit just to cover it.  
    2. If using hard fruits or vegetables like apples or carrots, it is best to boil them in the water until they soften up.  Then, place in mesh bag and mash. 
    3. Cover bucket with lid and let cool to room temperature.
    4. When fruit/water mixture is cool, remove 1 cup water from bucket and sprinkle yeast over it.  Let it sit out until it gets foamy, indicating that the yeast is active.  (A single packet of commercial yeast can be used for 1 to 5 gallon batches.  For 1/2 gallon batch, half a packet will suffice.)
    5. Pour yeasty water back into bucket with fruit and stir well to distribute yeast evenly throughout.  Set aside for 2-3 days, stirring occasionally to oxygenate.  (Note, no sugar has been added yet; the yeast should have a chance to feast on the natural fruit sugars before table sugar is added, as described in Sandor Katz's book Wild Fermentation.)
    6. Combine sugar and an equal amount of water in a pot; heat and stir until sugar dissolves into a syrup.  
    7. Let syrup cool to room temperature.  Pour cooled syrup into the fruit/water mixture and stir until completely mixed.  
    8. Re-cover with lid (loosely) and leave to ferment at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.
    9. If fruit is in a mesh steeping bag, remove it and squeeze excess fruit juice out.  If not, strain fruit solids out of wine by pouring wine mixture into second bucket through strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin.  Siphon wine into carboy or jug.  At this point, the amount of wine isn't equal to a full batch.  
    10. If you used the steeping bag and already squeezed remaining fruit juice out, then just top up the carboy or jug with room-temperature water.  If didn't and you now have a strainer full of fruit, then 'sparge' remaining fruit flavor by estimating the amount of water needed to fill the carboy of jug and pour this additional water through the fruit-filled strainer.  Siphon the resulting liquid into the carboy or jug until full to the neck. 
    11. Place rubber stopper and airlock into opening of carboy (or jug) and fill airlock with water.
    12. Place carboy in a cool, dark place and leave to ferment for 6 months or more.  Fermentation will gradually slow down, but it may be vigorous enough in the beginning to bubble up and leak around the airlock.  To prevent a mess, place a tray under the carboy to collect any overflow.  If it does happen, simply remove the airlock, clean it and the opening of the carboy with a clean cloth, and fill and replace the airlock.
    13. Bottle your wine!  You can recycle commercial wine bottles if you have access to a corker (there are hand-held and larger floor models).  Swing-top bottles are a also an option, albeit a non-traditional one.

    Fermentation Supplies

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I determine how much sugar to use?

    The first consideration is the type of fruit you plan to use: how sweet or tart is it?  Naturally-occurring fruit sugar (fructose) is fermentable and contributes to the production of alcohol, as does the added sugar.  The amount of sugar added (plus the fruit sugar) will, therefore, determine how alcoholic your wine is... to a point.  

    The other thing to consider is whether you want a sweet or dry wine. As the level of alcohol increases, the environment becomes inhospitable to the very yeasts that create the alcohol and they start to die off.  Any unfermented sugar that remains simply makes your wine taste sweet.  Using only as much sugar as will ferment before the yeasts die off results in a 'dry' wine, which has no remaining sweetness.  To ensure a balance of sweet and tart flavors in the end product, some people will "back-sweeten" their wine, meaning they add some sugar back after it's done fermenting.

    Can I make wine with honey instead of sugar?

    Absolutely!  Any fermentable sugar--honey, sorghum, rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses--can be used to make wine.  However, alternative sweeteners such as these have unique and quite strong flavor profiles and will impart their own character to the wine, potentially overwhelming the fruit flavor you're really after.  Besides being neutral in flavor, plain sugar has the added benefit of being cheaper than the others by far.

    If I don't have a siphon hose, can I just pour the wine from the bucket into the carboy or jug using a funnel?

    You could do that, but the agitation of pouring would expose the wine to a lot of oxygen.  Oxidation causes fruits to turn brown and the wine to age prematurely.  Siphoning is the best way to move a volume of liquid without disturbing its surface.  A brewer's siphon hose also usually has a tip on it that filters solids so the wine can be as clear as possible.  

    Some people use campden tablets (sodium or potassium metabisulfite) to prevent oxidation, as well as to kill stray bacteria and fungi that can cause off-flavors to develop in home-made wines.  



    DIY Reusable Food Wrap August 31, 2016 14:38

    DIY Food Wrap

    Who doesn’t know the problem: you have a million containers at home, but not the right lid! Using plastic wrap is not an option because it results in mountains of garbage.

    If you are like me and try to bring lunch to work every day you should consider making your own reusable food wrap for the daily sandwich. The days of disappearing containers and single use options will be no longer.

    All the tools you need to make your own wax food storage wraps!

    I have been very happy with the few Abeego wraps that I own. However, I'm a sewer, so I also usually have leftover fabric bits waiting to be upcycled. I thought I’d give it a try and make my own reusable food wrap.

    Here’s what you need to get started:

    • Beeswax
    • Pine Rosin
    • JoJoba Oil
    • Fabric (100% cotton, thicker & sturdy fabrics work better )

    You can buy all the ingredients (except for fabric) in bulk at Homestead Junction.

    Have the following tools ready:

    • Grater
    • Brush
    • Cookie Sheet
    • Parchment Paper
    • Clothes Hangers
    • Clothes Line

    Be mindful that it will be hard to clean the tools you’ve used after this venture. The ingredients are meant to stick to the end product so they will do the same to your grater and brush. Some people recommend using them for this purpose only but I find that a bit wasteful - I just give them an extra scrub after.

    To get started grate your beeswax and mix it with the pine rosin and Jojoba oil.

    Mixing all the ingredients you need for homemade wax food wraps


    Place the fabric on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet and drizzle the mixture evenly on the fabric.

    The process of making homemade food wraps

    Next, place the cookie sheet in your oven and set it to 225° Fahrenheit and wait for a few minutes.

    Cooking up a homemade food wrap

    Today was one of those days where I thought the sky was the limit. Turns out I was wrong and the size of your oven is the limit. So make sure to check if your fabric will actually fit in your oven before starting the whole project.

    As soon as the mixture is melted, pull the sheet out of the oven and use the brush to evenly spread the liquid. Push the fabric back in and repeat a couple times.

    Homemade food wraps

    After you feel that everything is melted and evenly distributed, pull the fabric out and immediately take it out of the parchment paper. If you allow it to cool, it will stick to the paper - so you'll lose some of the sticky stuff and your wrap won’t look pretty. Consider using tongs as the thing gets quite hot.

    As a last step you’ll need to hang the fabric to allow it to cool off and the liquids to solidify again.

    Hanging the homemade food wrap to dry

    When using your food wrap, use the warmth of your hands to ‘model’ the wrap into the shape you want it. Meaning that if you just wrap your food with it, it will likely unravel again right away. However, if you hold it in place for a few seconds when folding corners or edges, it will stay tucked in neatly.

    Wrapping up bread in homemade food wrap

    In case you have used too much of the wax-rosin-oil mixture, you can place your fabric on some paper or cardboard and cover it with some more paper. Then use your iron (no steam though!) to heat the fabric up again and get some of the liquids out.





    By Reni Diggelmann 

    Natural Soda: A Comprehensive Guide August 23, 2016 13:44

    Natural Soda: A Comprehensive Guide

    Making your own sodas at home can be as simple as adding carbonated water to a sweetened flavor base.  Fermenting sodas, while it takes a bit longer, results in more complex flavors accompanied by a soft effervescence and better nutrition.  The fermentation process harnesses the metabolic activity of yeasts to convert sugar into carbon dioxide (bubbles) and alcohol--but don't worry: homemade sodas contain less than 1%!  

    Making Natural Fermented Soda

    The Basics  

    To make your own soda, all you have to do is make a flavor base of fruit or herbal ingredients, add sugar, water, and yeast, and bottle it to produce carbonation.

     Batch Size Fresh or Frozen Fruit Lemon Juice Water  Sugar Yeast
    1 L (4 cups) 1 1/2 lbs 2 tbsp 2 cups 1/2 cup pinch
    2 L (8 cups) 3 lbs 4 tbsp 4 cups 1 cup 1/8 tsp
    4 L (1 gal) 6 lbs 8 tbsp 8 cups 2 cups 1/4 tsp



    • Large bowl
    • Fresh or frozen fruit
    • Lemon or lime juice
    • Water
    • Sugar
    • Salt
    • Champagne or lager yeast 
    • Fine-mesh strainer
    • Cheesecloth
    • Blender or food processor
    • Measuring cup
    • plastic soda bottle(s) 
    • Funnel
    • Mixing Spoon


    1. Remove stems, seeds, and peels from fruit.  Chop into bite-sized pieces (berries can be left whole) and place in bowl along with lemon juice and any other desired flavorings (ginger, vanilla, herbs, etc.).  When using botanicals (as in rootbeer), a cotton steeping bag will save you the trouble of straining out the root and bark pieces later.
    2. Bring water to boil and remove from heat.  Dissolve sugar and a pinch of salt into water and pour over fruit.  Let steep at least 10 minutes.  When using dried ingredients, simmer over low heat for 20 minutes to extract flavors, then stir in sugar to make a flavorful syrup.
    3. While you wait, rehydrate the yeast in 1/2 cup water.  Sprinkle it over the water and set aside until foamy and bubbly.
    4. If making fruit soda, puree fruit with juice in food processor in several small batches.  Pour fruit juice through strainer lined with cheesecloth into another bowl.  For a really clear, pulp-free soda, do not press or squeeze juice out of fruit solids.  If using dried botanicals, remove steeping bag or strain solids out of syrup.  What you have so far is a concentrated, sweetened flavor base.  You can simply store the flavor base and mix a little with carbonated water whenever you wish to serve it.  Or, proceed with the following steps to carbonate the soda naturally with fermentation.
    5. Measure amount of flavor syrup then add enough cold water to bring total amount to desired full batch size less 1/2 cup.
    6. When mixture cools to below 30 deg. C (bath temperature), then stir up the rehydrated yeast and pour it into the flavor mixture.  Stir well to distribute yeasts evenly throughout. 
    7. Funnel soda mixture into plastic soda bottle(s); divide evenly if using more than one bottle.
    8. If necessary, top off bottles with water, leaving at least 1" headspace from top of each bottle.  Surprisingly, the more full the bottles are, the less carbonated they will get.
    9. Place bottle(s) out of direct sunlight and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days, or up to 4 days at cooler temperatures.  Fermentation is greatly affected by temperature, so exact times will vary. 
    10. Check bottle periodically by giving it a squeeze.  When it feels rock hard, refrigerate it and consume within 2 weeks.

     Creamy Delicious Fermented Root Beer Kit

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I make root beer using this method?

    Absolutely!  The above instructions closely follow those of our Homemade Rootbeer Kit, which you might consider purchasing if you don't already have bottles, a funnel, sugar, yeast, and a reusable cotton steeping bag.  If you have everything you need and are just looking for a recipe, read on.  The amounts of sugar and yeast given in the instructions above will work whether you are making a fruit soda or rootbeer.  When making rootbeer, skip the lemon juice and simmer the following botanicals to make your flavor base: for a 2L batch, use 20g sassafras, 20g sarsaparilla, 1 star anise, 1 tsp wintergreen, 5 juniper berries and 1 cinnamon stick.  If you can't find these ingredients in your area, you can order the botanicals from us without having to purchase the whole kit; they're sold as a refill pack.  We offer the recipe for free to encourage you to experiment and play around with it so you get a beverage that is perfectly to your liking.  If you find our recipe too sweet, you can reduce the amount of sugar by up to 50% without effecting the fermentation process.  Enjoy!

    Can I use the same glass swing-top bottles that I use for kombucha and water kefir?

    Yes, with caution and experience.  It is recommended that you use plastic, at least the first few times, so you have a good idea of how long it will take to be fully carbonated.  But, remember, fermentation speed is greatly affected by temperature.  So, without being able to perform a "squeeze test," your decision as to when to refrigerate your soda will have to be based on experience and intuition.

    Can I use baker's yeast if it's all I have around?

    You can, but it's not recemmended.  The process will work with baker's yeast, but the resulting flavor won't be very clean.  Your soda will be noticeably more cloudy with yeast sediment and the flavor will be unpleasantly "yeasty."  It is highly recommended to use lager or champagne yeast because they will not taint the pleasant fruit or herbal flavors of your sodas.  Brewing yeasts can be found at homebrew supply stores and online retailers. 


    Christensen, Emma.  True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home.  (2013)  An excellent reference that belongs in the kitchen of every foodie-homesteader.  The instructions above were largely adapted from her master recipe (p. 22).

    Schloss, Andrew.  Homemade Sodas.  (2011)  Extensive manual of 200 recipes for fruit sodas, colas, root beers and more.