Homestead Junction

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


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.  



Picnic Basket Fermented Vegetables (by Emillie of August 15, 2016 14:25

Quick Fermented Veggies: A Guide

Fermented snacking vegetables are the one thing that I always have bubbling away on my kitchen counters.  I love them for so many reasons.

  • It's a great way to make sure that I'm getting my daily dose of probiotics.
  • Everyone loves them.
  • They are hugely flavourful, salty and perfect to eat without any dips or sauces.
  • It allows me to "process" my farm box ahead of time so that nothing goes off before we get a chance to eat it.
  • But the main reason why I always have fermented snacking vegetables kicking around is because I'm lazy.

Delicious Fermented Vegetables - Perfect for Packed Lunches!

I know that seems backwards, how could anyone who is devoted to fermenting be lazy?  But... at 6:30 in the morning when I'm scrambling to fill my kids lunch boxes, it is so awesome to have already prepared vegetables in the fridge ready to dump into the lineup of waiting snack containers. Or when we all get home at the end of a busy day and we're starving for something to eat, I can always reach for my jar of snacking vegetables in the fridge!

However, since the season is switching from the hectic school year to summer vacation-land, I have named this recipe Picnic Basket Fermented Vegetables, because in the summer there will always be a jar of fermented veggies in my picnic basket!


  • 1 L glass jar (I usually use a fido. You could also use a mason jar with an airlock or pickle-nipple lid.  Or if you want to go low tech, just use a mason jar with the metal lid floating on top, without the screw band.  The goal is to allow gasses to escape without letting any unwanted bugs into the ferment).
  • Mixed firm vegetables. Softer vegetables are great to ferment too... but they will go soggy, and are better off eaten with a fork than with your fingers. I recommend using: carrots, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, green beans, sweet peas and cauliflower. You could also use pickling cucumbers, but you won't end up with a pickle with this recipe!
  • Water (filtered to remove all chlorine)
  • 1 tbsp of salt (non-iodized or pickling salt)
  • 1 tbsp of starter culture (cultured whey, sauerkraut brine, purchased vegetable culture, or kombucha.) You don't need a starter to get vegetables to ferment, but you want these veggies to ferment quickly in order to avoid going soft, so a starter is recommended.
  • Optional flavour additions: you can add any herbs or spices that you want. In general you want 1 tsp of a spice or 1 tbsp of a herb. My favourite flavours are garlic & dill for a traditional pickle flavour, or garlic & ginger for something tangier.


  1. Wash and cut the vegetables into sticks.
  2. Pack the vegetables into the jar making sure that they are 1" below the top.
  3. Add in the salt, whey and any additional flavours that you're using. Then cover with the filtered water.
  4. Use a weight to keep the vegetables below the brine.
  5. Place the jar in a bowl (to catch any liquid that might bubble out) and allow to ferment for 3 days. It's best to ferment somewhere around 18C and out of the light. I usually stash my ferments in a cool closet.
  6. After 2-3 days the vegetables will have developed a nice flavour, and they will still be crisp.
  7. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy!

Fermented vegetables make delicious snacks. 

By Emillie of

Kombucha: A Comprehensive Guide August 15, 2016 13:36 1 Comment

Kombucha: A Comprehensive Guide

Kombucha is a probiotic beverage that has been consumed for centuries, perhaps millenia, by people in China and Russia. It is made by fermenting sweetened green or black tea with a culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast); the result is a tart and delightfully effervescent beverage loaded with beneficial microorganisms. Kombucha can be served warm or cold and custom flavors can be created with the addition of different fruits or fruit juices.

The Basics 

Make a pot of black or green tea, add sugar and a scoby, and wait while the scoby microorganisms convert the sugar into acids and effervescence.

Quick Reference

Batch Size Tea Sugar Starter Tea
1 qt. 2 bags (or 2 tsp. looseleaf) 1/4 cup 1/2 - 1 cup
1/2 gal. 4 bags (or 4 tsp. looseleaf) 1/2 cup 1 - 2 cups
1 gal. 8 bags (or 8 tsp. looseleaf) 1 cup 2 - 4 cups


The Perfect Kombucha Guide


  • fermentation vessel (glass jar or plastic pitcher)
  • breathable jar cover
  • large pot for brewing tea
  • steeping bag or strainer (if using loose leaf tea)
  • stirring spoon (preferably wooden or plastic)
  • tea (black or green)
  • sugar (real cane sugar, no artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes)
  • starter tea reserved from previous batch or vinegar
  • swing-top glass or plastic soda bottle(s)
  • funnel with tip narrow enough to fit bottlenecks
  • SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast)


  1. When using a dried scoby, follow the manufacturer's instructions for activation. (The first few batches will require the use of vinegar to acidify the tea, since sufficiently acidic starter tea won't be available.) Once you have a fully active scoby, you may proceed to brew regular batches with the following instructions.
  2. Make pot of tea using water and tea amounts according to desired batch size.
  3. Add sugar while tea is still hot and stir to dissolve.
  4. If using loose leaf tea without a steeping bag, strain leaves out once tea has steeped.
  5. Let tea cool to room temperature. Cover if cooling overnight, or place pot in large bowl of ice water and stir to cool quickly.
  6. Once tea has reached room temperature, combine it with reserved starter tea and SCOBY in fermentation vessel. A SCOBY can ferment any size batch of tea, it just might take a little longer for larger batches.
  7. Cover with breathable jar cover (or use muslin held in place with a rubber band) to keep out dust and flies and store at room temperature, out of direct light.
  8. Allow to ferment undisturbed for 7-14 days, depending on how tart you like it. If you're totally new to this, pour off a small amount after 7 days and every other day after to taste it.
  9. When the balance of sweet and sour is to your liking, it's ready to drink! Or, if you prefer a bit of fizzy effervescence, funnel kombucha into swing-top glass bottles or plastic soda bottles and leave out for another 2-3 days. Remember to save some of your completed kombucha to use as starter tea for your next batch! As the tea continues to ferment, carbon dioxide (carbonation) will build up in the bottles.
  10. Refrigerate the completed kombucha and enjoy!

The Perfect Kombucha Guide

Where to Find Your SCOBY

Often, people who have a thriving batch of kombucha will be overjoyed to cut a chunk of their SCOBY off to share with friends. So ask around - perhaps some friend or acquaintance in your life is a benevolent kombucha-brewer.

If that is not practical, you can always pick up a SCOBY from homestead junction! Come by our physical location at 649 East Hastings in Vancouver.

Those of you outside of Vancouver can have a dried SCOBY shipped to your doorstep. We have entire kombucha-brewing kits that can be happily mailed to any address around the world. Check them out here!

Kombucha Kit - Everything you need to brew your own kombucha!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use alternative sweeteners to make kombucha?

Understandably, many people are trying to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets, but SCOBY microorganisms are not in this camp. They depend for their survival on an intake of real sugar (not sucralose or saccharine, etc.) and they're the ones actually consuming the sugar, not you. Depending on how long you allow it to ferment, your finished kombucha will only have a gram or two of sugar per cup; it will become progressively more sour the longer you let it ferment, as more sugar is converted to acid.

Is there any risk of glass bottles shattering due to the pressure of carbonation?

Glass bottles are plenty strong enough to contain a few day's worth of built up carbonation pressure. However, if you forget how long they've been out, you can't gauge the pressure inside except by opening them, which can lead to an explosive mess on your kitchen ceiling. When in doubt, open bottles outside. With plastic bottles, you can give them the "squeeze test." When they're firm, they're ready to refrigerate. If you forget to refrigerate carbonated plastic bottles in time, the seal in the cap is more likely to fail than the bottle itself and you'll just end up with leaky tops.

Can I use fruits or fruit juices to flavor kombucha?

Absolutely! To avoid possible contamination or damage to the SCOBY, it's recommended to brew the kombucha as described above and add fruit or fruit juice when you bottle it for the second stage of fermentation (carbonation). As a rule of thumb, use 1 tablespoon fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or fruit juice for each cup of kombucha.

What's the starter tea for?

The starter tea is already acidic from being previously fermented and serves to acidify the new batch of tea, which prevents contaminants from moving in before your SCOBY microorganisms have time to take hold. If you don't have enough starter tea, such as when starting with a dried SCOBY, vinegar may be used to acidify the tea. Starter tea also boosts the number of microorganisms: the more starter tea you use, the quicker your kombucha will ferment.  Vinegar does not add microorganisms.

More Resources An awesome reference for all things culinary. Easy-to-follow instructions from the author of True Brews, Emma Christensen. A detailed guide to using fresh fruits, fruit juices, and dried fruits to customize the flavor of your kombucha. Also discusses the use of extracts, infusions, and medicinal herbs in kombucha.

Christensen, Emma. True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home. An excellent reference for making all kinds of fermented beverages. Great ideas for fruit flavor combinations, as well as instructions for growing your own SCOBY if you can't get one from a friend and/or don't want to buy one.

How to Make Tempeh at Home August 10, 2016 14:30

How to Make Tempeh at Home

Traditionally made from soybeans, tempeh originated in Indonesia and is used in many dishes to replace meat such as burgers, stirfrys, or on it’s own. The fermentation process of the soybeans give tempeh a higher protein content and more dietary fibre and has a subtle mushroom-y flavour. Yum!

Ingredients for Making Delicious Homemade Tempeh


Tempeh can be made from soybeans, chickpeas or other legumes if you feel like experimenting. Some people don’t like to use soybeans for various reasons and other beans give different flavours and textures. For example, chickpeas are slightly firmer and drier, whereas green peas make a very soft, almost mushy tempeh.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 ½ cups dry legumes (chickpeas)
  • 1-2 tbsp vinegar (apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 packet of tempeh starter
  • Glass baking dish/plastic container
  • Perforated aluminum foil or plastic bag
  • Cube shaped dehydrator or low temp oven
Soaking Chickpeas for Delicious Homemade Tempeh
  1. Prepare beans by soaking them overnight or cooking on low in a crockpot for 6 hours.
  2. If the beans were just soaked overnight, boil the beans for 1 hour to cook.
  3. Lightly crush the beans and place in a bowl with water to scoop out as many of the hulls as you can. Don’t worry about this too much or else you’ll be spending 2 hours manually hulling chickpeas like I did the first time I made this.

Hulling Chickpeas for Delicious Homemade Tempeh

  1. Strain the bean chunks and let cool until about skin temperature and mostly dry.
  2. Thoroughly mix in vinegar and tempeh starter.
  3. Spoon into containers so there is a 1 - 1 ½ inch layer of beans and cover with perforated aluminum or plastic bag (it’s important to have holes in the cover so there isn’t too much moisture in the container).
  4. Take out all the trays in your dehydrator and put the containers on the bottom.
  5. Set to 88°F and let it run for 24 hours.

Incubating Tempeh in the Dehydrator!

  1. Check after 12 hours since the fermentation can cause enough heat that the tempeh can be incubated without a heat source (I left mine on top of the running dehydrator for another 12 hours).
  2. Once there is a dense coat of white mycelium you know your tempeh is fully incubated and ready to eat raw or cooked!
Mycelium Growing on Homemade Tempeh!

Storing Tempeh:

  • In airtight containers, fresh tempeh can be stored in the fridge for 1 week
  • If you steam the tempeh for 20 minutes and store in an airtight container it can keep in the freezer for 3 months

Amazing, Beautiful Tempeh

POSTPONED: Salty Brine Fermentation Fair! March 17, 2016 13:42 1 Comment

Salty Brine Fermentation Fair

***UPDATE May 11, 2016***

We are sad to announce the Salty Brine Fermentation Fair is postponed until further notice. Unlikely timing would have it that new Vancouver Coastal Health food policies were put in place during the organizing of this event, which caused a bunch of hiccups and ultimately, many of our vendors were not accepted. VCH is apologetic for the confusion and has offered their time to guide us through the application process when we re-submit our application. So with that, we apologize for the disappointment and inconvenience, as we know a lot of folks were hoping to make it out to this event.


Fermentation is one of the oldest known food preservation techniques which, to this day, continues to be practiced by cultures all over the world. Even here in Vancouver, many of our favorite foods are fermented, like cheeses, kimchi, many types of tea, chocolate, and of course, beer. We want to celebrate this age-old aging process by bringing together diverse fermentation enthusiasts and food lovers, and give tribute to the probiotic relationships that have existed in our guts since the beginning of human time.

Come celebrate with us, and meet local fermenters! There will be workshops, demonstrations, a speaker’s panel, and of course, lots of delicious, locally fermented eats for sale!

For vendors interested in tabling at this event, please send your application to with the following information:

-what you plan on selling at the event
-a list of ingredients
-FoodSafe and/or  MarketSafe Certificates (not mandatory, but awesome if you’ve got ‘em)
-PH test results (if applicable, see Vancouver Coast Health Guidelines for details)
-If you plan on supplying your own table, please send us the dimensions

*Note: It is the vendor’s responsibility to provide documents that support risk-assessment of their products if requested by a local Health Authority.

Vendor registration is $30 if you are bringing your own table, or $35 if you request we supply you a table. Tables should be around the range of 4ft long x 2 ft deep.

Application deadline is Thursday, April 14 by midnight.

A Review: The Art of Natural Cheesemaking February 23, 2016 10:28

Review by Carmen Ostrander

Art of Natural Cheesemaking

On the list of considerations in your journey as a food revolutionary is milk, and in this case more specifically, cheese. As governments all over the world crack down on the ‘dangerous’ practice of consuming, acquiring, or shouting out loud about raw milk (or cheese), books like this are as subversive as they are delicious.

With foreword by fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz, “The Art of Natural Cheesemaking” opens with a manifesto, a call to arms to reclaim and reinvigorate what has been lost. This is counter cultural cheesemaking, low tech and hands on. With “Good milk, rennet and salt together with your capable hands.” A world of cheese awaits. There’s something very old & very new about these ideas that makes them satisfying and stimulating to read.

Cheese is one of many industries where quality of production has become impoverished by monocultures. Reliable, boring, diversity crushing monocultures, resulting in “corporate controlled, and chemically dependent” cheese.

Modern industrial cheese making relies on one or two pre-culture strains that restrict the interplay of microbes unique to the milk and its surroundings. The emphasis on raw milk, is based on the premise that microbial diversity provides its own balanced environment that keeps pathogens in check.

But don’t worry if you can’t find a cow, there are plenty of recipes that will work with the milk you have. Or rustle up a goat. So much more than “the poor persons cow” they are the activist’s animal of choice, due to their inherent refusal to submit to industrial dairy practices, and reduced carbon footprint. You can also side step the rennet part of the equation, and focus on whey and kefir. Kefir can be used to ferment soy, almond milk, and fruit juices to make probiotic drinks and cider among its many talents.

Surprisingly there’s very little out there in print or online about preindustrial cheesemaking methods, which provided a large part of the inspiration for Asher to produce this book. Asher is first and foremost an organic gardener who turned away from the energy
and material intensive practices of freezing and canning to explore
naturally fermented foods. You’ll be pleased to know once you’ve gone to the trouble to source good milk, the cheese does most of the hard work itself. You’ll need a watchful eye and keen nose as you embrace the funky edge of food, where a little bit stinky and delicious collide.

Beginner friendly with an intuitive approach, it how to’s over 30 cheeses, including washed rinds, blue and cheddar plus yoghurt, keffir and cultured butter, with stylish yet instructive photography by Kelly Brown.

“The Art of Natural Cheesemaking” is an excellent companion to and post workshop resource. Keep an eye out for cheese making workshops here at Homestead, (they fill quickly), or grab a signed copy and get inspired.

Delicious and Simple: Labneh - Yogurt Cheese January 13, 2016 09:02

Last fall, a friend gave me some of her homemade yogurt which got me started on making my own. I live with 3 roommates, one of whom is stoked on eating tons of yogurt (I started off making a gallon a week and we'd finish it). But these days, when it's time to make a new batch, I notice there's still a bunch of yogurt in the fridge. I want to keep my yogurt culture moving along healthily. If I wait too long to make a new batch, I'll spoil my culture and I'll have to buy more.

So this week, when it was time to make a new batch of yogurt, I noticed we still had about a litre too much of 3 week old yogurt. Too much to make a batch (which I've now reduced to a half gallon every 2 weeks), and too aged to want to eat for breakfast. After perusing David Asher's Art of Natural Cheesemaking, I saw a recipe for Labneh* - a simple strained cheese extremely popular in cultures all over the world. Also known as suzma, yogurt cheese, and strained cheese, I thought this might be a delicious way to use up the old yogurt no one in my house finds appetizing anymore. So with a little more research, I learned some things:

What You Need:

1 litre of Yogurt (fresh or aged, as long as it's still good!)
Herbs (optional - for taste)
Cheese Cloth

Here's how it works:

1. Pour the yogurt into a large piece of cheese cloth double folded (a du-rag also works really well here, in which case no need for double folding). If you like, add some salt. This will make your labneh taste a bit more flavourful, but more importantly it will act as a defense against contamination, and will pull out more moisture - which will allow your labneh to keep a little bit longer. This is optional however. Not adding salt will give your labneh a more mild taste similar to cream cheese with less yogurt-y sourness. You can also add any other herbs and spices to flavour your labneh.

yogurt hanging to drain

2. Tie your yogurt filled cheese cloth to something it can hang from. I tied mine to a wooden spoon and let it hang over a deep bowl for 8-12 hours (I did this overnight) at room temperature. As it hangs, whey will separate and drip into your bowl. For a more mild flavour, you can do this process in your fridge as it will hibernate the fermentation process. However, it may also take a bit longer for the whey to drip out.

labneh unveiled!

3. By morning (8-12 hours later), you'll notice your bowl will have caught quite a bit of whey, and you'll be ready to unveil your labneh. All you need to do is untie your cheese cloth and let it free. At this point you can also dry the sides of the cheese with some paper towel or dry cheese cloth.

Labneh is Ready!

The texture of your labneh will be a lot like gournay cheese, a little crumbly but very spreadable like cream cheese! The flavour has a hint of yogurt sourness which I find quite enjoyable. The presence of sour will depend a lot of on the freshness of the yogurt you use, whether you used salt, and whether you hung it at room temperature or in the fridge. Personally, I enjoy sourness especially in contrast with sweet!

Labneh Cracker

4. Enjoy! I had fresh labneh this morning on crackers, and later again on my raisin bagel. Pretty tasty! This batch of labneh even passed the roommate test! Yogurt is saved!

 *Yogurt cheese or strained cheese is known as labneh in the Arabian Peninsula where it is often stored in olive oil. It's also known as matzoon in Armenia, tsedeno kiselo mlyako in Bulgaria, chak(k)a in Afghanistan and Iran, suzma in many places in Central Asia, chaka in Pakistan, süzme yoğurt in Turkey, and it is the base of Greek Tzatziki.


by Kelsey Cham Corbett
January 13th, 2016


Demystifying Food with Todd Graham October 30, 2015 09:41

Todd Graham is a fermentation enthusiast who organizes a once a month pop-up dinner project called HandTaste Ferments, serving by-donation locally sourced meals consisting of mostly fermented foods. He also spends his Tuesdays hanging out at Homesteader's Emporium as a front of house staff (lucky us!). Here's what he's got to say about his passion for food, fermentation, and sharing with his communities in Vancouver, BC.

Todd Graham - HandTaste Ferments

Hey Todd, thanks for taking  some time to share a bit about what you do. Did you want to take a sec to briefly introduce yourself and what exactly it is you do? 

Hi, my name is Todd, i run a small fermenting focused project called Handtaste ferments. We do a variety of projects including pop up suppers once a month, teach workshops, do markets and sell fermented foods. I also work at Forage restaurant running a fermentation  project for them. We are also starting to do fermented focused brunches out of a restaurant on kingsway.
What do you enjoy most about feeding people your fermented foods?

I love that idea of people getting excited about food and the history of it.   The connections that food can have with learning about other regions and cultures in the world was a major reason i started to read and learn more about the history of fermentation. All cultures in the world have some history of using it as cooking style or for preservation.
What was the first thing that sparked you interested in fermentation? 

My background for years was working in a small craft brewery so i focused mainly on liquid ferments. A friend gave me a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz for a bday gift. I loved the book and [Sandor's] view on food politics. I was also having some health issues at the time and thought having more fermented foods in my diet may help.

Within 6 months i noticed a massive difference in my health.   Slowly my focus moved to mainly food and away from beer making and a few years ago i quit brewing. The big shift happened when i went to Sandor Katz' house for 5 weeks and studied fermentation with him. 
Preparing Mushrooms

Do you think fermentation as a practice has affected the way you exist in the world, or impacted your every day perspectives?

 I think on many levels i have been affected by focusing on doing these projects. I have met many amazing people and connected in ways that would not have happened if we didn't have food to connect on. I get a great joy from watching people eat at table and try foods they have never had or were unaware of the process in making it.

I really want to play a small role at least in helping to show people that they can make food themselves and they can move away from a food system that, at times, uses food as a weapon.  

A lot of us just beginning to learn about fermentation by experimenting and making mistakes. Do you have a funny fermentation experiences you can share with us, you know, to help boost our confidence?

I have for sure had my fair share of mistakes. Have come home a few times to a kitchen full of exploded bottles of kombocha, or a dog covered in a crock of kimchi.........

HandTaste Ferments Courses
Photo cred: S.J.T (Regram)

Anything else?

Thanks for your time, the last thing i always tell people about food is that no one way is right. To make something, try a bunch of different ways and see what works for you.

Don't be afraid of food. Someone in the world is making something you like and with a little work you can make it too......lets demystify food..........
by Kelsey Cham Corbett
October 30th, 2016

Why to make kombucha in a wide-mouth container September 16, 2015 06:30

Kombucha Scobies

Kombucha recipes usually encourage you to use a wide-mouth container... but why? The culture needs oxygen, but not *much* oxygen - the amount that comes through the neck of a cloth-covered bottle is plenty. Here's the reason: your scoby will get stuck!

I had a jug of diluted elderflower syrup and an interest in fermenting it into something nice to drink. I'd poured near-boiling water over the flowers, so I wasn't sure if there would be wild yeast or bacteria still active enough to do the job. So, I poured in a splash of kombucha as an inoculant.

After drinking the resulting tart, effervescent brew, I went to clean out the growler. What's that in there?

kombucha scoby at bottom of bottle

I guess I didn't think a scoby would form, since I've always understood kombucha to need caffeine for scoby formation. Obviously, I was mistaken. That's a nice scallop-shaped scoby in the bottom of the jug. It's very light and nicely formed. It look almost appetizing. Perhaps a starter for my next batch of brew?


kombucha scoby won't come out

It won't come out! The scoby formed lower down in the neck, so is far too wide to come out the narrow mouth of the growler.


scoby from kombucha tea

Here it is peeking out. I tried to extract it with a knife, fork, and hot water pressure to no avail.


kombucha scoby finally out

Finally I remembered I have an old v-threader from my ice climbing days! I was able to hook the scoby and pull it out bit by bit. It felt a bit tragic to spoil the nice round shape, but it's out!

I guess that's why we use wide-mouth jars. Anyone have another reason?

Make your own Vinegar Mother August 26, 2015 05:30 1 Comment

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is incredibly versatile - drinking cider vinegar is great for your health, and once you make it yourself, it finds all kinds of other uses around the house, from pickling to washing your hair. The trouble is, Bragg's and other beneficial live vinegars aren't cheap. That's one reason I love making my own vinegar! I also love the versatility of making different flavours of vinegar from nearly anything that has sugar (think fruit!) alcohol (think beer or wine) or both!

What is a vinegar mother 

A vinegar mother is a SCOBY - a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast. It looks like a gelatinous blob. It forms in layers near the surface of whatever is turning into vinegar. In that respect, it's similar to kombucha. The bacteria and yeast in a vinegar mother work together to perform two key chemical reactions:

  1. yeast turn sugar into ethanol
  2. bacteria turn ethanol into acetic acid (vinegar)*

*this second reaction requires oxygen. That's why beer and wine won't turn into vinegar in a closed bottle, and why it's possible to wild ferment either without them turning into vinegar, so long as you use an airlock. On the other hand, if you wild ferment grains or fruit for long enough and leave them exposed to air, most of the time you'll get vinegar. The yeast and bacteria you need are naturally present all over the place - on your skin, in your kitchen, and on the grain and fruit you're fermenting.

In fact, if you have unpasteurized fruit juice, you'll need to go out of your way to stop it from turning into vinegar, as I discovered after a cider-pressing festival a few years ago. I accidentally made several liters of great cider vinegar:

homemade apple cider vinegar

Using a vinegar mother

Juicing organic apples and leaving the juice with a towel over it will get you cider vinegar because all the right microbes are there on the apple peel. But what if you're not starting from organic whole fruit? What if, say, you want to add the right microbes to make wine vinegar, or vinegar from fruit juice that's been pasteurized? In that case, you'll need to collect microbes from a healthy, successful vinegar, and put them in whatever you want to ferment. Just about any preservative-free juice or wine is a good candidate. A great way to do this is to add a piece of mother and some vinegar from your previous batch, but in my experience it has to be from a relatively *fresh* previous batch. This is one reason we don't (as of this writing anyway) sell vinegar mothers at the store. If you don't have a scoby or mother that's made vinegar in the last few months, you may want to try your hand at creating a new one from scratch. Here's a method that's worked for me!

Make your own vinegar mother

fresh organic grapes

1. Start with organic fruit. Grapes or apples are the classics. I had harvested these grapes from my backyard a bit early since I was moving, so they're a bit tart to eat, but perfect for vinegar! You want the bacteria and yeast from its skin, so you're not going to wash it. That means any pesticide residues will go straight into your vinegar, potentially harming the microbes... and you!

crushed grapes for vinegar making

2. Crush the fruit up really well. Using a juicer at this stage works well, so long as you don't heat the juice (i.e. no steam-juicers). I moved recently so most of my kitchen stuff is in storage, so I'm using this alternative method: crush the fruit and ferment it on the pulp. Let the fruit or juice ferment for at least a couple weeks. Use a tightly woven cloth or flexible paper (paper towel shown here) to keep out bugs but allow oxygen to seep through.

3. After a few weeks in the jar, strain the pulp through a fine cloth. Obviously, you can skip this if you juiced the fruit in step 1. If you're doing it by hand, you'll get more juice out after a few weeks' fermentation than trying to squeeze fresh fruit through a cloth.

4. if you strained it, return the juice to jars and cover with cloth or paper. Give it a sniff every few weeks to see how vinegary it is and skim off any white fuzz from the surface. Use a clear container so you can see when a gelatinous mother forms.

5. Once you have a mother, you can use it to inoculate more juice or wine! Be careful of wines as they frequently contain microbe-killing preservatives (e.g. sulfites). These stop the wine from carbonating (or turning to vinegar) in the bottle, but also can stop it turning to vinegar in your jar. If in doubt, don't put your whole mother into one jar of wine. Also, don't be tempted to ferment wine vinegar right in the bottle! You'll want to keep your mother for your next batch, so use a wide-mouth container for easy collection. See my counter-example here


Hey folks, I learned a couple lessons with this one! First off, in the future I will always use at least a full quart of juice. The two smaller (250ml) jars of proto-vinegar pictured above ended up evaporating through their breathable lids before they finished forming scobys (see photo at end).

It's also *much* easier to see what's going on with apple juice rather than grape. Take a look at this photo series starting after last apple season:

fresh apple ciderLeft over cider from the East Van Press Fest last October 30th. Nice and cloudy because it's extra fresh!

raw cider after one weekAfter one week, the cider is just starting to clear! I skimmed some of the debris off the top. I've been keeping a cloth over the top to keep out curious flies.

raw cider after two weeksAfter two weeks it's really clearing up nicely - and a white layer is forming on top!

scoby forming after two weeksAnother angle from the same day. That white scummy layer on top is great news - it's a vinegar mother forming!

five week old raw cider vinegar motherAfter five weeks, the cider vinegar is really clearing up and a solid scoby has formed on top. Note also the lower level in the jar! Some of that is from sampling and some from evaporation. It smells and taste like vinegar - funky vinegar! A few weeks or even longer helps the flavour mellow.

scoby on raw cider vinegar after five weeksAnother angle from the same day - note the *much* thicker scoby/mother on top. Nice uniform whitish color is good - any color is not good. If you get mould, colored or otherwise - scoop it off and hope a pure white one grows in its place.

the vinegar familyHere's the whole vinegar family, left to right: two sad dried-up vinegar jars, a three year old scoby (yes, it's thick!) and a 5.5 week old vinegar mother from this past October.

I keep a cloth over the top to deter bugs, but from what I can tell it's actually helpful to get some air flow in there from time to time. The culture needs oxygen to thrive, so disturbing it regularly seems to help. Tasting a teensy bit a couple times a week is a good way to build this into your routine. The only time I've ever had this *not* work was when I was very particular about keeping it covered and not disturbing the young scoby.

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