When I shared my raspberry soda recipe last week I was focused on the raspberries that I have been harvesting a handful at a time from my garden. I mentioned that I have used three different methods for making naturally fermented sodas. I forgot about my dalliance with kombucha, so really there were four. In the raspberry soda recipe I really just gave up some hints about how to start with a starter… but I’m not trying to keep my romance a secret. So let me shed a little light on how I’ve been spending some of my time these past few months and how you can get your own relationship going with fermentation.
When I was growing up my mother told me to replace the friendly bugs in my stomach, after taking antibiotics, by eating yoghurt. That’s probably still good advice, but it’s not the only way to get your gut right. And really, if you have a bad feeling in your gut, you should trust what it’s telling you about your intimate relationship with food. I’ve also previously talked about learning the forgotten ways of making bread. Well, commercial yeast is to bread what carbonation is to soda. Before instant rise yeast we had sourdough starter. Before carbonation (and vinegar) we had fermentation. One is like a big box of cheap chocolate and the other a petite package of tasty truffles.
It would be nice if I could smile sweetly, or tilt to one hip, or whisper promises to this pile of dirt to get itself in the bed of the garden cart, and then remove itself again onto my strawberry bed… but it ain’t happening. There’s a shovel in the shed with my name on it.
I grew up hearing hints about the hidden meanings in Beatles songs like Strawberry Fields Forever. But for me the literal imagery of strawberry fields forever is a tantalizing and worthwhile goal. Fields of pickable strawberries for jams, pies, pancakes, juice, maybe even dye, sounds like heaven to me. Adding to that idea is my recollection of a piece of information from somewhere that the island of Manhattan, under the stewardship of its original inhabitants had been described by them in similar terms. Just imagine Central Park as strawberry fields… Essentially, I just don’t think that you can grow too many strawberries!
One of the pleasures of cooking, for me, is that food is simply beautiful. Many times I feel like stopping chopping to take a picture. Most of the time I don’t actually stop, except to appreciate the unmatchable art of Nature. The color combinations and hues, the textures and arrangements are, to me, what tubes of fresh paint must be to a painter, pure pleasure. The benefits of home cooking are numerous, and if we are earnest, we can remind ourselves of them in moments of weakness. Handling exquisite beauty should be one of those things on the list of benefits!
On Monday of this week I made a resolution to use gloves when I’m gardening, but on Thursday I was thinning out and transplanting strawberries without gloves on. It seems like a small thing to talk about, but perhaps I have not been giving my humble hardworking hands the respect they deserve. Since my little golf cart is broken (again), and I didn’t feel like walking up the hill to get my gloves when I remembered my resolution, I just went right on working without them.
I love the smell of the lavender bushes when I’m working in the garden. The exercise helps me keep my girlish figure. The sunshine makes me happy in the early morning. But my hands, my dependable hands, busy and productive and indispensable, they get dry and cracked from gardening. Clayish dirt gets stuck under my nails and stains them a brownish color. I can’t cook with dirty hands, but I garden and cook almost every day.
About a year ago I started making naturally fermented sodas from a non dairy brew of kefir grains. I purchased the dry kefir grains in a package. I keep them fed in a quart bottle of water sweetened with a quarter cup of sugar. I use a fermentation lid inside the screw band, and fill the bottle to the very top, so that there is no air, but the gas can escape. I make a new batch every couple of days. Or if I can’t keep up with all that, I stash the bottle in the fridge until I get around to making a new batch. The quart of strained sugar water, which I pour from the bottle after 24 or 48 hours with the kefir grains, is what I use to make a variety of sodas.
I do have one tomato vine in my garden right now. I always try to have fresh tomatoes for as long as possible. Once I still had a fresh tomato to slice for Thanksgiving, but I don’t think that will happen this year. I have a couple weeks left, maybe, of fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes off the vine.