Picture 1028What else are we doing here at Fernwood with all the early chinese cabbage and bok choi? We’re making kimchi. Kimchi is Korean in origin and involves fermenting cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, scallions and other vegetables in a ginger, garlic, and red chili pepper paste. Very yummy and very good for you.
Lots of things are fermented…..sourdough bread, yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickles to name a few. Fermentation is one of the very oldest forms of food preservation. There are many different ways to ferment food, and various ingredients that will help the process along; salt, whey, alcohol, wild yeast, and vinegar, can all be used to preserve and ferment foods. Aside from being a tasty way to preserve your harvest, fermented foods have terrific health benefits. Fermentation helps with digestion, promotes probiotic functions, and helps to release antinutrients ( compounds found in nuts, grains, and seeds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients) in the foods you eat.
This weekend, lots of food was fermented in the kitchen here at Fernwood. In addition to the jars of kimchi, we made our weekly supply of yogurt, a batch of cheese ( mozzarella, riccota, and a soft Bondon), as well as some sourdough bread. Now, we’ll wait a few days for the kimchi to ripen. Once it’s ready, we’ll slice some sourdough bread, top that with some homemade cheese, and finish it off with a healthy spoonfull of spicy kimchi. Yum! Picture 1029

Sourdough Bialys and Some Dyed Skeins

Picture 260With the nursery opening for the season, time spent in the kitchen baking bread or dyeing wool slides to the back burner. We will continue to have our bread customers through the summer, and much of the wool being processed will be available for sale as well. So everything needs to get done. However, squeezing in the time for these tasks becomes a chore in itself. Today I baked several orders of sourdough bialys. Bialys are a bit like bagels, but are not boiled before they are baked. Bialy is a Yiddish word for “chewy yeast roll”. The word originated from Bialystoker, referring to a city in Poland. Bialys were brought to America by jewish immigrants. They are basically a yeasted bun (in this case sourdough) with a place in the middle for onions, garlic, or poppy seeds. Typically, you bake them less than you would a traditional loaf in order to maintain a chewy texture. I baked dozens of bialys to send out to customers, and a few extra to satisfy hungry mouths here at home.Picture 254
At least twice a week, I try and dye fiber (wool) or yarn and then get some spinning in. We will be shearing sheep in the next few days, so a new batch of fleeces will be needing attention. Wool can easily pile up. Rick feels certain that we have enough at the moment to insulate an entire house. As if I’d let him use my wool for that! Ha. Picture 262

Sourdough At Fernwood

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday was a sourdough bread baking day. Usually, we bake off anywhere from 15-20  loaves at a time. It is a help having a 60 quart Hobart mixer and a commercial oven.  Believe it or not, these are just the things I wished for as a teenager. Back when most girls my age were pining away for fancy dresses or a racey car, I was wishing for industrial baking equipment. It must run in the family. When our son Noah was 16 and we asked what he would like for Christmas, his answer was …a welder and some scrap metal ( He got both and at 17, he’s already become a certified welder). This year he asked for a draft horse and a woodlot .We haven’t come through on this one yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been baking bread for a long time now.  My grandmother allowed lots of experimenting in her kitchen, so I developed a love for baking at an early age.  Bread baking has always been an interest and a bit of a passion, and the “doing” of it fits well into our self sustainable lifestyle.

The sourdough starter is now about three years old and has developed into a tangy and effective culture. I am still enchanted with the concept of live cultures being fed on a regular basis,  and then rewarding the baker with an abilty to give their dough a “lift”. A little kitchen chemistry, and pretty amazing. Most often we will make whole wheat or plain white sourdough, and then on occasion, trays of cinnamon raisin, rye, or pumpernickel. We have customers who buy bread from us on a regular basis ( our kitchen is certified ) . The extra makes its way on to our own plates or into the freezer, saving the day when someone in the family says “we’re out bread !”

The most difficult chore for me with regards to maintaining sourdough starter, is discarding some of the original sponge when it’s time to feed it. The process requires saving 1/4 cup of the starter, feeding this with flour and water, then discarding the rest. This is a bit like thinning carrots.  I have to coach myself through these chores knowing that if I don’t eliminate some of the bunched up little seedlings or chuck some of the glutinous sponge, I end up with a pathetic carrot crop or a refrigerator packed with mason jars ……..all filled with dough starter crying to be increased, again.  I’ve learned to be ruthless.

Well, we all know that spring is just around the corner. Onions, leeks, and some early brassicas have been sown in flats. We watch for swelling buds and shoots of green, paying attention to the plants that have been lying dormant, and are beginning to emerge.