Category Archives: Fermentation

Cider vinegar titration to ascertain it’s suitability for pickling raw fish.

As alluded to in a previous post I would like to use my wildcrafted cider vinegar to pickle raw fish, as in herring rollmops. In order to do so free from the risk of botulism the vinegar must contain at least 5% acetic acid. I purchased a Ritchie’s brand, wine and beer titration kit. It cost about £8. The instructions provided are used for wine and will test for sulphuric acid whereas I want to test cider vinegar for acetic acid.
Below i’ll describe the few, simple processes I went through to do so.
The kit contains: 2.5ml syringe (labelled as 2ml, but graduated up to 2.5ml), 114ml sodium hydroxide, 28ml acid indicator solution, standard sized test tube (roughly 23ml capacity).
I didn’t think the test tube would be large enough so I used a regular drinking glass.
1. To the glass I added 2 ml vinegar.
When filling the syringe I made sure to line up the fluid at eye level, by lining up the black line on the outside of the jar with the bottom of the stopper. I’ve noticed that it’s quite easy to rub the black lines out on the syringe. They’re probably only made to be used once and discarded.
2. Added 20 ml water from the tap.
3. Added 3 drops of indicator solution. Easy because the bottle has a dropper on it.
4. Added 1.5ml of standard base, drop by drop, swirling with right hand, dropping with left. Each drop turns it a little pink till you mix it in. It turned completely pink after 1.5ml.


Adding the standard base drop by drop whilst swirling the glass.

Finished the titration, now for the calculation.

Finished the titration, now for the calculation.

1.5ml  x 0.6 = 0.9% acetic acid. Not enough for pickling raw fish then.

Next step: i’ll leave the vinegar longer to see if more acetic acid will form, then test again in a couple of weeks or more.

This is a copy/paste from the link I got my info from.

Vinegar Titration Procedure

    1. With the 10 ml syringe, measure out and add to the test container 2.0 ml of homemade vinegar. Then clean out the syringe.
    2. With the 20 ml syringe, add 20 ml of water to the test container.
    3. Add 3 drops of indicator solution to the test container.
    4. Fill the cleaned 10 ml syringe to the 10 ml mark with the standard base.
      Dispense the standard base solution slowly into the test container one drop at a time. As you add the base, gently swirl the test container to continuously mix its contents, and stop adding base when the vinegar solution turns pink.
    5. When the sample has changed color, note the amount of base solution used in the 10 ml syringe.
      • (If you started at 10 ml in the syringe and finished at 1.6 ml then the amount of base used would be: 10.0 – 1.6 = 8.4 ml.)
    6. Calculate the % acetic acid in the vinegar sample by multiplying the volume of base used by 0.6.


      If 8.4 ml of standard base was used to titrate the vinegar sample then the amount of acetic acid in the sample would be: 8.4 x 0.6 = 5.0%

Ginger Beer and Licorice

After my recent hypothermic escapade I took a trip to the shop and slapped down £10 for a bagful of ginger. I grated it, mixed it with water in a gallon demijohn and drizzled a good lot of honey into it. I then left it uncovered on the kitchen counter. After a day or so I started drinking it, in great need of it’s medicinal effects. After a week or so it was more like the ginger beer that you can buy, but of a different quality, not as sweet (as Crabbies anyway.)

Grating ginger by hand.

Grating ginger by hand.

Drizzling honey.

Drizzling honey.

Finished ginger beer in the demijohn. (Le demi-Jean)

Finished ginger beer in the demijohn. It just remains to strain it after a few days. Careful not to overfill, even this is pushing it. All the trapped CO2 makes a raft of the ginger and it can overflow.

Recently, I bought another wonderful book ‘Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers’, by Stephen Harrod Buhner. Coming to the section on ginger beer I read that ginger is widely used, by herbalists and native folk alike, for improving peripheral circulation (hands and feet), for the libido – wahey!, and for colds and flu. Which is wonderful. I was also struck by the fact that it’s a source of Aspergillus mold. That’s the same mold used in koji, for making the traditional Japanese ferments: miso, sake and amazake. Aspergillus is used to break starch down to simple sugars. Exciting for me because koji is expensive to buy and making it is beyond me whilst I’m living with my folks. So i’d like to experiment using ginger to kickstart a rice beer perhaps.
In the little section on licorice there’s another little gem, which is that “licorice contains a saponin glycoside, glycyrrhizin, that is 50 times sweeter than sugar and non-fermentable. It adds a wonderful sweetness to some beers”. I’d love to be corrected if i’m wrong but I think only carbohydrate sugars will ferment, which is why Stevia leaf can’t be used to ferment a brew. Glycosides are a sugar molecule bound to a non-sugar. Stevia contains steviol glycosides.
It would have to be licorice root, from the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, not the gummy sweet, all-sorts type. I bought some recently: pure, dried, in a stick form, it’s strong stuff! Quite brittle. I’ve also bought the root itself in the past, good as a toothbrush once the ends are chewed. It also states that licorice is used to give a good foam, or head to a beer. Multi-purpose, I like it, makes a head and leaves a residual sweetness. Well worth an experiment or two.
The book is worth a read, for those interested in the history of pre-hops, herbal and medicinal beer and ale. He’s no great fan of hops, “why would you want to go to sleep every time you drink beer?”. Besides which, it is a source of estrogen, making it an anaphrodisiac, leading to the common condition of Brewer’s Droop. The thought of brewing herbal beers witha whole range of intoxicating effects is very attractive to me. Many herbs are stimulating compared with hops’ depressant action.
Who’s with me?! Let’s brew beers that make us want to dance and sing.

Alternatives to Vegan Cheese

For those of a vegan mindset i’ve discovered 3 alternatives to processed “vegan cheese” that warrant a serious look. Bearing in mind that directly switching from dairy cheese to one or more of these alternatives won’t fire all the same neurons in one’s brain.
Richness and velvety smooth texture are possible. Subtle, cultured notes too. The convenience of having a dense block of nutritious protein ready whenever you want, maturing and improving whilst you idle, totally do-able. And if you’re vegan already, chances are your taste buds are ready to embrace the new, without needing to compare it to dairy.
Some indigenous non-cheeses.

  • Tofu no misozuke.
  • Kishk / Keckek el Fouqara.
  • Cultured nut cheese

Tofu no misozuke
A creamy, luscious, indescribable joy for all vegans, omnivores and non-labellers. A lip smacking sensual delight.

The good people at Rau Om have developed a recipe, based on a single encounter with tofu no misozuke whilst travelling in Japan, and what’s more they have been good enough to share it on their website. I have had the best results by following the recipe. It’s difficult for me, I like to adapt as I go, but this requires trust. They’ve done the frustrating recipe development so we don’t have to. And for all that it’s actually a very simple recipe, with only 5 ingredients: tofu, miso, sugar, sake (although vodka fills the same function and works well), and time.
The key to the texture are the enzymes in the miso, breaking long protein chains down into flavourful and rich, unctuous oohs and aaahs…but now we’ve got to wait 2 months for the next batch!IMG_0129 

Cooked grain, mixed with salt and a starter culture, then kneaded every day for around 7-10 days, then stored or eaten. I’ve used various grains and cultures. My best batch so far was millet and coconut kefir (made with a water kefir starter). It was tangy, fizzy and absolutely delicious.
It can also be stored in olive oil, which worked well, but i’m not sure it’s necessary if you’re going to eat it quickly.
On the kefir front I’ve dried some water and milk grains to take with me on my travels, to share with folks. I’ve read that they re-hydrate really well, and aren’t too affected by the process. I’ll give that a practise run before I go. Here’s a good link with more info.
Cultured nut cheese
Very simply, soak cashew nuts (for example), grind or blend in some way till smooth, then culture, again with kefir, buttermilk or sauerkraut juice. Miso is a great addition. Taste it when thoroughly mixed and add more salt if you like. You don’t want to add too much liquid. Then culture it somewhere warm, and leave it somewhere cool when it’s reached your personal level of readiness.
I use a suribachi, a Japanese mortar with grooves that seem to grind better than a Western pestle and mortar. I’ve also a tried a brazil/cashew/miso cheese, very nice! I’d like to try adding sesame/tahini. As i’m not vegan I might try adding kefir butter to it, for richness and tang.

Creamy porridge

I’ve developed a great routine for porridge. I soak my oats for 24 hours to leach out anti-nutrients (phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors), then drain the water and add fresh. A pinch of salt, then slowly it cooks on the fire while I stretch and wake myself up. (After soaking the next day’s). Occasionally i’ll stop and use a small whisk to break up the oats, turning it milky. When the sun has been suitably saluted I give it a short burst of heat on the gas hob, add a good knob of butter, stir, stir, stir then enjoy the velvety, smooth delights of oat cream. Milk + Fat = Cream. I think people might be horrified by the amount of butter I use, but I feel really nourished and well eating it. I don’t buy the anti-saturated fat thing. Death to margarine, it’s not real food.
The other day I bought 5 blocks of butter. St Helen’s goat’s butter, beurre d’Isigny PDO, Jersey, Wensleydale and Yeo Valley Organic. Pip and I tasted them and declared the goat’s butter the finest, followed by Wensleydale. These two had a luscious flavour, creamy, rich and satisfying.

I have made my own butter at times, cultured with kefir. An ancient and stable community of yeasts and bacteria, kefir adds both zing! and a whole host of beneficial bacteria. It sits for a week or so, and is then churned by hand for 5 minutes. The buttermilk is kept for other things, and the resulting butterfat: tangy and delicious.

I do imagine that porridge/oat cream made with raw kefir butter will be an order of magnitude greater again. I have started a batch this week and i’ll update as it develops.


A couple of years ago I went wwoofing for the first time, and stayed with a lovely couple called Nick and Sarah in Lincolnshire, who have the distinction of being the first holding, small or otherwise, to be included in the LAND Network of the Permaculture Association (UK).

One thing in particular I took from my week with them was that Nick took notes of everything he did in the garden, how many hours he spent doing a task, observations, a diary essentially.  He impressed upon me the importance of being able to document and to review your observations in later years, to build a body of knowledge right? So I began taking notes of all the things I was foraging ‘in the wild’ ie. down the woods, weeds from the garden, walking on the moors etc.

That diary now tells me that on the 16th October a local farm in Marsden held an Apple Day at which I washed, chopped, ground and pressed a heck load of apples! (I didn’t weight them) I gathered them from 5 local trees in Marsden. It took me about a day gathering, then half a day processing. I ended up with about 8 demijohns of raw apple juice. The apples themself were pretty tart, not quite crab apples but not exactly dessert apples either – wildings. But let me tell you, the juice! So sweet.

So I gathered my demijohns, cleaned them up, bunged an airlock in each and fermented that apple juice into cider. I believe in the trade it’s known as hard cider, or maybe scrumpy?

So here we are in January 2013 and the story continues. I find myself making herring rollmops. You fillet the fish, brine them in 60g salt per 500ml water overnight, then pickle in a vinegar of at least 5% acidity. That last is crucial to the process, if you want to avoid the risk of botulism, and who doesn’t. A fatal illness brought on by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

So I find myself thinking hey! i’ve got some cider vinegar, 2011 vintage, but here’s the rub, I don’t know how strong the acid is. The standard advice is not to use homemade vinegar for rollmops because of this, but there is a way round it. I’ve purchased from a homebrew supply shop an acid titration kit. This explains more precisely for those interested.

For my first batch of rollmops I bought some 5% acidity cider vinegar, until I can give this process a go, and see if my vinegar is suitable for botulism killing duty. I’m not entirely sure to what extent it’s the salt, or the vinegar, or both, that kills the botulism. But there we go, that’s where i’m up to with it.

The cider itself, by the way, is delicious, but it sure packs a punch! At the moment I have about a 20/25 litre plastic keg full, maturing in my parent’s kitchen. If i’d known i’d have put it in a keg with a tap on the bottom. As it stands now, I need to open it when I know it’ll all get drunk. (Despite the rollmops I don’t have much call for the vinegar) You know what that means! I need to organise a big party. Well, for now it’ll be there, waiting and maturing.

Ahh, fermentation!

PS I said to fillet the fish, “but what about the heads and guts!”, I hear you cry. I chose to start a fish sauce, what is called in Thailand ‘nam pla’,  and by many other names throughout South East Asia, but more on that in another post…

Sauerkraut – lacto-fermented cabbage

As my first post I thought i’d introduce a really easy lacto-fermentation technique. The book that first got me interested in fermenting was ‘Wild Fermentation – the flavor, nutrition and craft of live-culture foods’ by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s an empowering, inspiring read. He hosts a website and forum at

  1. ChopIMG_0019_zps03a2b7e6
  2. Salt and squeeze, to break open cells and bring the moisture out.th_IMG_0031_zps58bbfa04th_IMG_0035_zps2de8e9f3
  3. Pack it tightly into your container, again to break open cells and make sure the cabbage stays under the brine.
  4. th_IMG_0037_zpse9cc4a14When it’s full put your jar or bag of water on top to hold the cabbage under the brine. th_IMG_0039_zpsea161f27

I like to chop my cabbage quite finely, it pleases me that way but you can do it however you like. A head of white or red cabbage works best. Kale goes stinky. Add it to a mixing bowl and salt as you go. More salt keeps it crunchy, less allows it to go soft, both edible and delicious. A higher level of salt will preserve it for longer, especially if you make it in a heat-wave. Being winter I add 4 or 5 decent pinches of salt per head of cabbage. It’s intuitive and forgiving, which is why I love it! Just keep an eye on it as it develops.

Pack it down tightly in a ceramic, glass, stoneware or wooden container. Avoid metal as the acid will corrode it and contaminate your food. You can use your hands or a stick. You can then place something on top like a glass jar, or zip-lock bag filled with water to keep the cabbage below the level of the brine. As with all ferments pressure can build up if it’s airtight, as it gasses off carbon dioxide. Not as much as alcohol ferments, but some.

Let me know how it turns out if you fancy giving it a go. 🙂