Calling all fans of fermented and cultured food! I received an email recently from our 2009 Farmgirl of the Year, Carrie Williams, telling me that her first attempt to create Kombucha was a huge success. That got me to thinking …
Do you savor sauerkraut,
yearn for yogurt,
hanker for true sourdough bread?
If so, you’ve probably considered creating your own cultured cuisine.
Maybe you’ve already given it a whirl.
Whether you’ve just begun a foray into fermentation or are itching to try it, lingering March cold weather can prove challenging to the unseasoned culturist.
Fermented foods thrive in warm temperatures. Warmth makes all of those good little yeasts and bacteria happy and helps them grow, creating the healthy and delicious effervescence that delights our digestive systems.
Cold temps, however, keep cultures from “doing their thing.” When kept too cool, yogurt and kefir can end up thin and bitter. Kombucha can take an extra week to ferment or may fall flat. Veggies can end up moldy instead of flavorful and fermented.
But don’t get discouraged—March is a fine time to ferment; you just need to know how to work around winter’s lingering chill.
Clever Ways to Keep Your Cultures Warm
- A seedling mat can be set to around 75°F, which will encourage yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk to culture like crazy.
- A culturing box can be created by placing a jug of hot water in a plastic or foam food cooler. Check the cooler occasionally and refresh the hot water to maintain a temperature of at least 70°F.
- Your oven may be able to work up enough heat to ferment with only the inside light on. Test it first by turning on the light and placing a jar of water in the oven. Check the temperature of the water over the course of several hours to make sure the temperature hovers around 75°F.
- Try placing your culturing crock in warm places around the house—near a lamp, on a warm refrigerator, or even on top of the VCR (just make sure to place the crock in a catch pan in case it spills).
- Insulating your jar of fermenting food with a towel or blanket may be enough to help it retain enough of its own heat to keep culturing.