Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fermented Fraken-'shrooms (with Beet Kvass recipe)

I should have known not to marry a man who'd been in Intelligence in the military. He seemed so sweet. I never suspected the plots fermenting behind those gorgeous guileless, green eyes.

Before marriage: 

Me: What in the world is that stinky pile of garbage doing in the far corner of your yard?

He: It's a compost pile.

Me: That's disgusting! You can buy soil and fertilizer.

He (agreeably): If you don't like it, sweetheart, then I'll get rid of it.

Nice, right? Oh, no. The brainwashing already began.

After marriage:

He: Wouldn't it be great to have a few backyard chickens, sweet pea? They're low-maintenance, and I could offer you fresh eggs for breakfast, my love.

Me (basking in the endearments and thinking about breakfast in bed): I guess that sounds reasonable.

See what he did there? I didn't. 

Until it was too late.

As I wrote in one of my most popular posts, gradually and with great skill did Jay con me into raising chickens, organic gardening, organic composting, making organic lotion, and grinding GMO-free wheat to make homemade bread. 

(On second thought, I take back "with great skill" because it took him nine years to get me started.) If you don't know what I'm talking about, please click here to read Hen Hazards before continuing so you'll understand the depth of my city-girl demise.

I have now been sucked even further into the homesteading quicksand.

Jay has been subtly lobbying for a beehive, so I agreed to take an introductory class at a local farm (www.whisperinghopefarm.com) just to inform him that bees are too much work. The class was cancelled, and I ended up in a class on fermentation.

You heard me. I said, fermentation.

I was hesitant, but as soon as we arrived, one of the farm's nanny goats lulled me into lowering my defenses. 

Gentle, little Gertrude and me
I'm obsessed with goats, so I couldn't think with all the goat-love floating in the air.

Then the sweet and earnest teacher gave each of us a swig of pineapple kefir (a drink made without dairy that contains more beneficial strains of probiotics than yogurt) that naturally has a dash of alcohol.

My body is completely unused to any alcohol (I gag at the alcohol content in mouthwash), so I can only conclude that the merest drop in the kefir impaired my judgment.

Why do I think so? Because I took copious notes and then drank a shot of kombucha.

What is kombucha?

Let me enlighten you. It's the liquid from something that is not a giant mushroom but looks like a giant mushroom that grows in organic tea. The tea is drained after a few days, added to juice, and left a few days longer to ferment into a fizzy drink. 

Photo of the non-mushroom 'shroom from a Craigslist ad

Yet below is a photo of me willingly consuming 'shroom juice.

It doesn't matter that it tasted good because look at that non-mushroom mushroom thing growing in the jar! 

I. Drank. It's. Juice.

Why? Why would I do such a thing if I wasn't brainwashed?

Don't give me all that jazz about anti-oxidants, liver cleansing, joint care, intestinal health, candida fighting, immune system support, etc. because it looks like a giant mushroom is growing in the tea.

Then I made beet kvass. (In my defense, see how tipsy I look in that first photo?)

It's a jar (I had a pint jar, but you really need a half gallon size) nearly filled with chopped organic beets (leave the skin on and don't scrub when you wash it because that's where the good cultures are), two tablespoons of unbleached sea salt mixed in distilled water (either I'm turning into a hippy or I was indicating the salt content in the second photo), and either 1/8 cup of whey or 2 tablespoons of starter culture (if you don't have whey or a starter, then just leave the kvass sitting for three weeks instead of three days.). It's covered with a coffee filter or cheesecloth (never metal--metals will kill your culture) and left in a warm room to lacto-ferment for three to five days. The beets must be strained out (with a plastic strainer) and discarded before drinking the kvass. The kvass can then be refrigerated for weeks.

How does it taste?


And smells like a sweaty baby. 

I hate beets and it's salty. (I understand it's supposed to taste better if you ferment it with a bit of onions and cabbage. Of course, then it will smell like sweaty feet.). But am I choking down a couple of tablespoons a day? Of course. That's just how brainwashed I am. (I mash it in with squash, potatoes, or scrambled eggs to disguise the flavor. I'm wimpy.)

And don't give me all that rockabilly about it being full of probiotics and enzymes, used for 2000 years in Europe and the Orient to prevent against infectious diseases, and touted to regulate blood sugar, clean the liver, and help with digestive issues. That doesn't take away from the fact that it's fermented beets, people!

I even took home my tiny tupperware of kefir grains and have been diligently fermenting my own dairy-free probiotic-powerhouse kefir mixed with organic pear juice and sealed for a day until it gets fizzy.

How is it?

It smells disgusting. 

But it tastes way too good for me to pretend otherwise.

Okay, it really doesn't smell bad either (I just got on a roll with writing disgusting.). 

It's incredibly easy to make and tastes like pear champagne. I put it in a cobalt blue bottle (so pretty), which makes it even lovelier to drink. As soon as I get the milk kefir culture, I'm going to make milk kefir, too.

What's happened to me? I'm fermenting.

Remember when I pranked our pastor by gleefully forcing him to swallow what he thought was fermented mare's milk? Now I actually know how to make it! 

If anyone is so inclined to milk a mare for me.

You know, if someone showed me how, I could probably milk one myself.

Oh, help me.

Please help me.

I desperately need deprogramming.

Especially before I attempt to squeeze dairy out of a lactating horse.

Verse of the day: (Isaiah 43:18-19a) "
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" And that new thing happens to be a cheese-making class at Whispering Hope Farm where we'll milk a goat. Seriously! I'm going to milk Gertrude. And you'll hear about it, no doubt, in a future post...

For the story of our pastor and fermented mare's milk, click here.
For a story about an early chicken-owning mishap click on Daylight Nightlight.
For a story about how we almost were arrested because of my homemade body oil click on Our A-Bomb-Able Trip Home.
For the story about why to never, ever, ever get backyard chickens, no matter how sweet they are, click on Hen Hazards.


  1. There's a real homesteader in our family!! ;-) I'm so proud of you! But thanks for not making me drink the 'shroom juice or kvass... Linda

    1. Only because I didn't have the 'shroom when you were here. Next time, though, I'll have it ready! And I finally figured out how to make the kefir fizzy--it tastes better that way.

  2. The "thing" in the bottom of the jar is so creepy that I just have not been able to taste it, even though I KNOW it's supposed to be fantastic for your health.

    Bees would be very cool, too. But you won't be able to dress them like you do Zoey. Will you?

  3. I have NO interest in bees. But no doubt Jay will keep planting subliminal messages until I agree and nearly think it was my idea.