Making Bubbles

Pineapple mango hot sauce
Pineapple mango hot sauce

I think I’m hooked. It’s like a distant childhood dream of having a room full of jars bubbling has become a reality. Like an alchemist in a dim glowing room, mysterious contents gurgling away. I’m talking about fermenting stuff.

It started with hot sauces. A step by step process that is easy but so rewarding. You get to watch organic materials change before your eyes. You get to buy nice glass jars that look good in your living space. And in a short time, you see other entities come to life, if the brine or sugary solution suits their standards. And from there on in, it’s just wonderful fizzy bubbles, the sweet aromas of change, and much later–a finished product to share and enjoy.

img_3666Having finished my first batch of fermented pineapple mango hot sauce, I have since moved on to raw apple cider vinegar. Currently, I have about 30 liters of the stuff fermenting in a beautiful giant glass jar. Another jar that I know will bring forth some great things after this batch is done. I’m actually already thinking about buying another giant jar to start batch #2, since this first one seems to be going well. I read a lot of recipes, watched a shit ton of youtube vids, and figured out a few things that seemed very logical in the vinegar making process.

Before I share what I learned and decided to go with for the final recipe and process, I’ll share why I’m making it in the first place. Apple cider vinegar isn’t such a popular thing here in Taiwan. It’s available, and maybe it’s gaining a little traction, but if you want the good stuff, that is with the living ‘mother’, it isn’t very cheap. And also, I’m finding that I’m using it for a lot of other things than just salads. It’s good for the skin, hair, nails, and it’s a great healthy tonic shooter first thing in the morning, and even before bed. So, I figure I’m going to need a lot more of the stuff. And also, I want to offer a cheaper alternative to buying the imported products that come and go in Taiwan, infrequently. We should all have a good supply, I think. So that’s why I’m doing this.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of recipes out there. And like most, they all have good tips to follow. But the most important tip of all was this. Whatever size vessel you plan on using, you only need to fill it with about 1/3 apples (roughly chopped) to water/sugar solution. The whole point in making any fermented liquid is to get as much liquid out of it as you can. As it stands, my batch is about 8 days old with another 4-5 weeks to go before it will be ready. So after all that time, you really want a yield that’s going to be worth the time. Not that it’s hard or takes much effort, it’d just be nice to end up with a lot more than just a few liters. Which brings up another important point; if my ACV is any good and it sells, I’m hoping to start off this venture with a little more surplus so that I can correctly time the completion of my next batch(es).

The other thing I learned, after some late night digging, is that making ACV with the mother in it–that is the living scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), is as easy as adding up to 1 cup of any good ACV that already has the mother in it. I added a cup of Bragg’s just to be sure, and after only 8 days, I can see it growing at the bottom of my jar, as well as in and around the chunks of apples floating on the top. This leads me to the second good tip I read.

Roughly chop your apples. You are going to want to remove them after 3 weeks or so, and it will be a lot easier if they are big chunks you can simply ladle out. This also helps with collecting other strands of scoby that will grow among the chunks. These pieces can be saved in a jar of the same solution and used in later batches. I watched one video of a person who blitzed up all her apples because she believed it would quicken the fermentation. That is probably true, but if you want unfiltered dank vinegar at the end, and want to save any mother that has grown, it will be a lot harder to strain off a bunch of apple gloop.

Basic solution recipe I followed was quite easy. For ever cup of water, I used a tablespoon of organic white sugar, and when I ran out of that, I used organic honey. I also used good quality filtered water. You want to give your bubbly little pet the best conditions you can.

img_3667Also, make sure that you use a wide mouth jar. This will help when you remove the apples, and also it’s very very important that you place something in the mouth of the jar that will keep the topmost apples fully submerged in the sugary solution. This will keep out the nasty bacteria and mold. Use something ceramic. I found a glass jar that fits nicely in the top. I lined the mouth with parchment paper, and gently pushed the jar down onto the apples until I could see from the side of the jar that they were fully submerged. With any ferment, it’s good to avoid using metal or plastic. Ceramic, wood and glass are all fine.

Gas has to escape and the amount created increases daily. Parchment paper is porous enough and it creates a nice barrier that will keep fruit flies from laying their gross little babies in your batch, which would ruin the whole thing. On top of that, I bought a cheap pair of panty hose and placed that over the parchment paper and jar. They work nicely because there’s already some elasticity. Over that, I placed a bunch of rubber bands just to add some extra security.

fermenting apples

I’m pretty excited. I feel like I have a new toy. And if my eyes and ears and nose are correct, it seems to be going well so far. I’ll be sure to update along the way, and feel free to ask any questions or share any of your tips. My next project will be a passion fruit hot sauce, and kimchi. Probably sooner than later, I will be surrounded by bubbling jars of living goodness. That’s all for now.

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