Fizzy drinks and sauerkraut

A few months ago I went to a workshop by Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, right here on the Big Island at a farm community called Dragon’s Eye in Pahoa.  Two days of spirited talks on how to capture the yeasts, bacteria and fungi that are already on our foods and in the air, and all we need to do is leave our food out and let it get funky!  Basically!  It’s the complete, polar opposite of my upbringing, as guided by my mother the microbiologist, who instilled in me a fear of anything left out, gone moldy, smelling sour (except sour cream) (or her aunt’s Passover borscht), or otherwise not sterile.  Next I expect to hear that it’s GOOD to eat food the dog has licked.

So, I’ve been liberated.  I now understand that sure, you have to be careful of colorful molds (blue, pink, green – no good), but that under anaerobic conditions, ie as long as you have liquid on top, you’re not going to get these molds growing on your fermenting foods.  The white and grey molds are okay and can even be stirred in… in fact some are tasty, such as blue cheese and tempeh.  (This is what Sandor Sez, if someone wants to correct or refine, fine; he also says he knows of no food poisoning in all the years of his wild fermentation experiments.) It’s hard to find a gourmet food that ISn’t fermented… as he said, go into Zabar’s (New Yorkers can do this more easily than Hawaiians) and just try.  Yeast breads, cheese, yogurt, kefir, tofu, miso, sauerkraut, beer, wine, chocolate, tea, fish sauce, soy sauce, creme fraiche, kim chi, coffee.  All fermented!

Everyone all over the world ferments and has done so without fancy equipment for thousands of years. Fermentation helps make food digestible and brings out its nutrients, and colonizes our guts with beneficial bacteria.  So, I’ve been applying the ideas to eating locally.  Mainly I have been making fizzy drinks and sauerkrauts.  Here’s how easy the fizzy drinks are…

Beverage from da farm - banana, jackfruit, and cane syrup.

1)  Cut up banana, lemon, grated ginger, jackfruit, orange, turmeric  – whatever fruits or roots you have – leaving at least some rinds on, for thereon lie the fermenters.  Bananas, even peeled, help the drink fizz up especially fast! For 2 quarts, I would use 1-2 cups of fruit. So scientific and exact 🙂

2) For 2 quarts, mix 1/2 cup sugar or cane syrup* into 2 cups or so of water.  Stir well.

3) Add fruit and cover with more water if needed. Leave a little space at top of jar.

4) Use canning-type lid to cap, to allow some pressure release.

5) A few times a day, open to release pressure, and then close and shake around to cover any fruit on top with water.  If nothing seems to be happening, add more sugar.

6) In Hawaii, after 3 days it’s bubbly enough and I strain and put it in the fridge tightly sealed to keep the fizziness.


A sample combination:

This one was like a health tonic – 1/2 lime, 3/4 lemon, 2 T grated ginger or ginger bud (which is simply ginger that has fermented with sugar for a few days), 3-4″ grated ginger root, 3″ grated turmeric.  Used 1/2 c. sugar +2 T and 1/2 c. cane syrup + 1 T.

I am currently working on fermenting cacao from 12 of our cacao pods.  When I get further in the process I will post how that turns out.  It’s more complicated than fizzy drinks.

*cane syrup is cane juice that we have pressed from our purple sugar cane and boiled down to a concentrate.  Cooking probably destroys some of the nutritional benefits but makes it easier to store and use in recipes.  If you want more nutritional value, don’t cook it but then you have to use more for the sweetness factor.