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Nopales and Hot Sauce

March 8, 2020

Paddle cactus strips (left) and chilis.

My first adventure in foraging!

The nopales are an experiment. It’s the same paddle cactus that you see everywhere that also makes prickly pear fruit aka tuna (spanish). I’ve also seen a local brand of moonshine made out of paddle pulp, sort of like tequila is made of agave. Projects for another day!

I also grilled a couple paddles, commonly known as green steak. The recipes I read said not to peel the waxy skin off… but ugh! That’s bullshit. They have a great tangy flavor, quite interesting, but the waxy skin leaves a woody mash in your mouth. I’m gonna try grilling again with peeled ones.

Because of this, I’m worried that the skin will be a problem for the fermented pickle strips. When I’ve bought them in a jar they didn’t seem to have that. Maybe the lactic acid will break it down?

Fingers crossed!

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Daikon Radish, Beets, Carrots

January 21, 2020

It’s spring, the time of rejuvenation and resolutions. I’m slowly rallying myself to restart various food related hobbies. Yogurt, cold brew, sauerkraut… spring pickles! Hopefully it’s not jinxing things to share the recipes before I see how they turn out.

Left to right: beet/carrot, diakon, daikon/beet

Tip: For spices, buy some re-usable tea bags. Cotton, nylon, whatever. This keeps your spices from floating to the top and getting moldy. Also much nicer when you fish out a pickle to chomp on. Remove the spice pack when you like the flavor balance.

Spicy Daikon

  • Daikon radish, enough to fill a 1 quart jar. 3/16″ slices
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mustard seed
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 packets crushed red pepper from the last pizza you ordered
  • 1/2 t fennel seed
  • A couple slices of beet for color.

2.3% salinity. 858g water + vedge, 20g seasalt.

After jarring everything up I got worried that the lactobacilli wouldn’t have enough sugar to work with in this higher salt solution with low-carb daikon. So I splashed in a teaspoon or so of sugary pomegranite italian soda. I seriously doubt any of that flavor will come through, I just did it for the cane sugar.

Spicy Daikon and Beets

  • 1/2 daikon, red 1/2 beets to fill a quart jar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mustard seed
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 packet crushed red pepper from the last pizza you ordered

Started 1/20 1.7 saline. 838g water + vedge, 15g sea salt

Beets and Carrots

  • 1/2 red beets, 1/2 carrot to fill a quart jar

1% saline. 1038g water + vedge, 10g sea salt.

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Pickled Eggs

July 27, 2019

Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Completely obsessed. Here are three clay ostrich eggs I made with the plaster mold from our last craft day:


Obviously, the next step is to bring together crafting and pickling!

I started with this recipe. It’s salt by volume (argh!) so I converted to metric and weight. 17g salt / 118 ml = 14%  Dang that’s very salty! I don’t think lactobacilli can thrive in that, can they? Another recipe said 1T  salt with 1c water, only 7% salinity. A third said 1T with 2c water! There doesn’t seem to be a standard amount.

Another mystery, all the recipes I found don’t have any sugar in them. Lactobacilli eat sugar, eggs have none, what do they eat to produce the acid that pickles the eggs?

Alrighty, I’m going to try my own recipe. Rather than add sugar, I’ll add sweet vegetables to provide food for the lactocritters. I have some leftover brine from a batch of beets, that’s going in too giving the brine a fermentation jump start and extra purple dying for the eggs. I’ll mix additional salt water at 3.5% saline, the lowest I found in recipes but higher than most vegetable ferments… this should still be salty enough to inhibit bad bacteria.20190727_100258

  • 9 cloves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 dozen eggs, boiled soft to medium and peeled
  • diced beets
  • diced onion
  • canned jalapeño slices
  • 200ml beet brine, completed fermentation with 2% saline
  • 500ml water, 3.5% saline

For the eggs, I put them in water, brought to a boil, turned it off and waited 7 minutes, then dunked in an ice bath before peeling. I’m shooting for softer yolks b/c I believe the acidic ferment will firm them up more and I don’t want them to come out dry.

Pack the jar starting with the garlic and cloves on the bottom. Add a couple eggs in and fill the spaces around them with beets, onions, and jalapeños. Continue this way up to about 2 inches from the top of the jar. I used one of those fatter mason jars to get more eggs in.

Pour in the beet brine. Pour in salt water up to the 2″ line. If using a pickling cup, fill just past the bottom of the cup. Screw on your airlock lid and set on the counter.


In the end I used 150ml of the beet brine and 100ml of the fresh saline.
((150 * .02) + (100 * .035)) / 250 = about 2.5% saline.
That’s lower salinity than recipes on the internet but I’m not worried. This should be enough to avoid spoilage and lactobacilli are really good at eating other microorganisms.

The recipes all say 3 days which again confuses me… vegetable brine pickles take a week to complete primary fermentation, lowering the pH to pickling strength. How could there be enough acid in the jar after only 3 days? I’m going to measure with a pH meter every day.

If push comes to shove, I’ll drain some of the brine and add vinegar to finish pickling the eggs in the refrigerator.

UPDATE Wednesday 7/31/2019

These came out great! I tasted an egg in Tuesday and it was tasty so I put them in the fridge. Surprisingly, the brine is tart so the lactocritters had enough time to do their job. Next time I think I’ll add a few cloves and use more jalepenos.



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Plaster Egg Mold

July 7, 2019

Way back in 2015 Kathy and Allan gave me a couple ostrich eggs. I’ve been semi-obsessed with them but slow to scratch my creative itch. A couple years ago I made a latex mold… and forgot to add keys so the two halves fit together properly! Har har.

Today K&A had us over for craft day so it was a perfect chance to play with eggs again. This time I made a plaster mold in three parts. I plan to use it to make slip cast clay eggs. The mold didn’t come out perfect, I forgot to use a releasing agent (soap) for the first section. Lost some texture and there are some tears in the surface b/c I was rushing. No worries, I can always make another mold if I decide I need perfection.




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Ginger Take 2 and Watermelon Rinds

July 6, 2019

The last attempt at Pickled Ginger went bad so I’m giving it another go. I believe I had two problems last time:

  • Low salinity
  • Too much brine

The recipes I found were by volume which should always be regarded with suspicion. A tablespoon of shaker salt has more actual NaCl in it than the same volume of course salt. To convert recipes I used this online converter and assume fine grained salt to calculate weight of 1 teaspoon at 5.69 grams, 1 tablespoon at 17.06 grams.

My lesson learned regarding brine amount is completely pack the jar with vegetable. The job of lactobacilli is to acidify your brine by converting sugars to lactic acid. Without packing the jar, there are fewer critters to do the work and they don’t have enough sugar to work with. Without enough food, the good bacteria simply can’t produce enough acid to suppress microorganisms that cause spoilage.

So, armed with fresh insights it’s time for new batches!



Because the last batch spoiled I changed some things. 3% salt this time and a half-quart jar so I could pack it full of vegetable. I also added a slice of beet to tint it all pink… only very young ginger has that pink color you might know from sushi restaurants.

Watermelon Rind

I used this recipe I found with a quick search: Lacto Fermented Watermelon Rind Pickles. It’s a salt-by-volume one so I did a conversion. It calls for 1 tablespoon of salt in a quart jar. 1 quart is 946ml, 1 ml is 1 gram, 1 tablespoon is 17 grams so… 17/946 = 0.0179. The recipe is 1.8% salinity brine.

For my batch the vegetable plus water weighed in at 919 grams. I’m doing 2% for more crispiness and to ward against spoilage.

919 / 100 * 2 = 8.4 grams salt

We’re out of mustard seeds so I made stuff up.

  • 1/8 tsp pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sliced ginger (snatched from the other jar)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed

Gardiniera and Beets

Nell wanted pickled cauliflower so I mixed them with some carrots. 2% salinity. I didn’t add any herbs or garlic b/c it’s been a long time since I did these and want to try their natural flavor. I did add a slice of beet. Later I might add a bit of stevia.

Beets are one of the easiest ferments around. I used a half-quart b/c we don’t eat them very quickly. Really good on salads.

2% salt.

Tip: Weighing and Measuring

The best way I’ve found is to first weigh the empty jar, making a note of the weight in grams.

Now stuff it. Use a tamper if you have one. For things like cucumbers, okra, and tomatoes, take care not to break them open. Fill the jar up to an inch from the top with filtered water.

Weigh the filled jar and subtract the weight of the empty jar. This is the weight of your batch. Divide by 100 then multiply by the % salinity you need.

Hold fingers over the top of the jar and pour the water into a bowl for mixing salt and spices.



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Pickled Ginger

June 1, 2019

Nell was wondering about this so I decided to give it a go. I scrounged around recipes online just to confirm that it’s no more complicated than vedge, salt, water, and time.

Fermented pickles are magic! Put your vegetables in salt water and lactobacilli will eat sugars to produce lactic acid. The acid and salt transform the vedge into tart, crispy pickles that last forever in the fridge.


Choose “young” ginger without big thick chunks or lots of “nubs”, they are too woody. You want it fresh as possible, the skin on the ginger should look taught and waxy.

Use a good quality salt like sea salt. Kosher salt works too. Don’t use iodized salt, iodine is an antiseptic and will kill the helpful bacteria. Other table salt may have strange additives.

Don’t use tap water for the same reason, the chlorine will kill your helpful critters. Filtered water is A-OK or any flat bottled water.

Ignore recipes that specify the salt amount by volume. The salinity of your brine is the most important thing about pickling. A tablespoon of fine salt has more salt in it than a tablespoon of coarse salt. Metric measurements make it really easy to calculate the salinity of your brine.

This chart from Probiotic Jar is great!

Jar Your Ginger

  1. Peel your ginger.
  2. Slice it super thin with a mandolin
  3. Fill a mason jar up to 3″ from the top. It’s OK if you don’t have enough to fill the jar.
    1. UPDATE: No, no it’s not. Whatever you’re pickling, pack the jar. Get a smaller jar if needed. Otherwise the lactobacillus won’t have enough sugar from the vegetables to acidify the brine.
  4. Add filtered/bottled water to fill the jar.
  5. Put a bowl on your scale and tare it.
  6. Empty the jar, water and all into the bowl.
  7. Calculate the grams of salt you need for 2% solution: vedge+water / 100 * 2
  8. Weigh out the salt and mix it with the vedge+water
  9. Pack it all back into the mason jar.
  10. Add your glass weights, plastic bag, or my favorite: QRP Pickle Cups
  11. Screw on an airlock lid.

I’ll taste it in about a week when primary fermentation is done and report back.


Ginger at right, oniony kraut at left.

Ginger at right, oniony kraut at left.

Started a batch of shallots too.

Started a batch of shallots too.

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Pickle Party!

August 20, 2017

picklepartySome great ingredients at the store this weekend so I started a bunch of pickles.

For the brines this is the salinity I used…

  • Okra/carrot: 2.5%
  • Garlic: 2% with a splash of strong 20% distilled vinegar
  • daikon/carrot: 2%


A few days later… I have green garlic! I read about this a while ago and I _think_ the very acidic vinegar activated the sulphur in the skin of the garlic. So cool!

Purple daikon radish looks amazing when it's peeled, really interesting textures.

Purple daikon radish looks amazing when it’s peeled, really interesting textures.


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Cranberry Pomegranate Cider

August 6, 2017

CranberryPomCider1-1I’m starting to think that pumping up the ABV with honey is what causes oddball flavors in my concoctions. I’m going back to basics this time, no added sugar or honey.

Wheatsville only had 2 gallons of apple juice so I also bought a gallon of Knudson’s cranberry pomegranate juice. Like most juice blends this is mostly apple juice so this should be a nice, simple hard cider. Total cost of ingredients for 3 gallons is $40.

For yeast I’m using reclaimed champagne and red wine yeasts. The red wine yeast is from my recent experimental batches so I’m sure it’s potent and active. The champagne was reclaimed back in March I think so I’m not sure of its potency.

  • 2 gallons organic apple juice, $18
  • 1 gallon organic Knudsons cranberry pomegranate juice, $12
  • Yeast: Red Star Premier Rouge Wine Yeast and Red Star Premier Blanc (Pasteur) Chapagne Dry Wine, < 2$, reclaimed from prior batches.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pectin enzyme
  • 1 teaspoon LD Carlson Yeast Energizer

I kickstarted the yeast yesterday in a mixture of the same juices overnight. It’s bubbling away quite happily.

Brew Log

  • 2017-08-13: Racked it to a carboy. The must is pretty tasty, seems promising. I’m hoping it turns out like the bottle of mixed cranberrry and regular cyser from Cyser Experiments.

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Mango Cyser

July 3, 2017

Racked to a carboy 2017-07-16. Fingers crossed!

Racked to a carboy 2017-07-16. Fingers crossed!

Just seems wrong to have empty carboys sitting around. Brew time!


  • 1 1/2 quarts mango puree from SoCo Homebrew
  • 8 1/2 quarts apple juice
  • 2 quarts Clover honey. 6.5 or 7 lbs?
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon DAP yeast energizer
  • OG: 1.124, potential alcohol 14.96%

Yeast starter: White labs mead yeast, 1/4 teaspoon DAP, 3 cups apple juice (3/4 quart). This is reclaimed yeast from my mead batch. Not sure why I used mead yeast for this… :shrug:

Headed to 145° F then cooled slow-ish… didn’t feel like buying ice this time. Set the pot in cold water in the sink and changed it a couple times. Transferred to a primary fermentation bucket.

For secondary fermentation, I’m thinking of adding more mango. Chunks? Puree? I need to read about this.

Brew Log

  • 2017-07-04: I was impatient last night and pitched my yeast before I proofed the starter. Also the must was warmer than the pros say it should be… about 70° F. Bah. Anyhoo, this AM it was bubbling away so it looks like it’s all good. I swirled it a bunch to oxygenate and de-gas so the yeast will multiply really well before switching to anaerobic mode.
  • 2017-07-04: Later today our air conditioning broke down and was out for almost 2 days so the batch was subjected to 90° F temperatures. Not good! The primary fermentation was still in full swing, bubbling away during and after we got things cooled back down to 75° F. I’m hoping this didn’t stress the yeast and make it produce nasty flavors.
  • 2017-07-09: Racked the batch into a clean bucket. Didn’t keep the yeast this time b/c of the heat ordeal it went through. I juiced 4 mangos and added it to the batch for secondary fermentation. The “juice” is more like thick pulp… mangoes are weird. I punched it down over the next few days but bubble activity ceased after only 2 days. Either the mangos didn’t add much sugar to keep the yeast busy or it was weakened by the heat up last week. I’ll rack it again next weekend and put it in glass to condition it for a month or so.
  • 2017-07-16: Racked it. Cloudy as all get out. Just hoping the A/C failure didn’t ruin it.
  • 2017-08-06: Racked it and tasted it… it has subtle mango notes but also something off… maybe yeast? Anyhoo, I’m going to add some gelatin to clarify it then rack it to bottles for a few weeks of conditioning.
  • 2017-08-14: I never did add the gelatin. It’s starting to clear but still pretty cloudy.. ah! I didn’t add pectin enzyme when I added mango for the 2nd ferment. Not sure if that is common practice or not. I put it in the wine fridge to cold shock the yeast… get to flocculatin’ you critters! If that works I’ll go to bottles.

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Cyser Experiments

June 25, 2017

Experiments-1OK, I’ve had success with my other attempts… time to iterate!

Each batch below also has 1/2 teaspoon DAP yeast nutrient, 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme, and enough apple juice to top off a 1-gallon jug.

I’m using a new yeast this time, a plain old RedStar Pasteur Red. It has a reputation for promoting fruity esters in wines and also some residual sweetness so it should be a good match for these. Also, it is very cheap. 😉

Carrot Ginger Turmeric

Who knows? Could be amazing. Gorgeous color!

  • 16 oz honey
  • 32 oz Knudsons Carrot Ginger Turmeric juice
  • OSG: 1.085 @ 71 F, 11.1% potential ABV


Apple, cranberry, and honey seem like a natural combination to me.

  • 10 oz honey… whups, meant to do 1 lb but forgot.
  • 32 oz Knudsons cranberry juice
  • OSG: 1.076 @ 71 F, 10% potential ABV

Interestingly, this batch developed a layer of sediment at the bottom after only a couple hours on the countertop. I’m wondering if this is the pH level… I had planned to check this for all the batches but I forgot. I’ll do it when I rack them, assuming that primary fermentation is successful.

Plain Cyser

I want to see what changes when only the yeast is different.

  • 16 oz honey
  • OSG: 1.091 @ 71 F, 11.9% potential ABV

cyzer-experiments-3Notes / Log

  • 2017-06-25: Checked temperature today, all are at 69 F. Interestingly, the cranberry is actually about 1 degree warmer.
  • 2017-07-03: Racked them all and added apple juice to top them off… say about a cup each. I haven’t ever done that before… I figured it will help pump up the apple flavors and and provide for a nice long secondary fermentation. Will reduce the ABV a bit since all these batches had added honey. The carrot and cranberry batches are fairly clear compared to the plain apple cyser. The cyser also had more foaming going on still where the other two had slowed way down. Heh, I forgot to check the pH on them, I wanted to do that to see if the cranberry was unusually acidic. Whups! I’ll check it at the next racking in a month or so.
  • 2017-07-05: Our air conditioning went out for almost 2 days so all in-progress brewing was subjected to 90° F temperatures. I’m not too worried about these b/c the primary fermentation was already done.
  • 2017-07-16: Bottled them all and put ’em in a box. So pretty! We tasted a bit of all three. Lynell did not like any of them. 🙂 I like the cranberry a lot, the carrot is interesting and tasty, and the plain old cyser is pretty boring. We’ll see what happens after a couple months or so. I bought some sulphate to keep them from getting fizzy but in the end I decided I still don’t wanna mess with sulphites. So these are all organic which means it’s healthy! Drink all you want! Right?

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