"That you may ruminate"

…On Apartment Fermentation.

Posted by Steve on September 7, 2008

Apartments (with a few exceptions) lack basements. This is significant because it means apartments lack cool, dry, places where you can leave a five to ten gallon bucket for a few weeks, secure in the knowledge that its temperature will never leave the range of 50-75 degrees.

Why does this matter?

Simple: fermentation gets pissed if you try to make it happen at too high a temperature. Now, what “too high” a temperature means is kind of dependent on what sort of fermentation you’re after. Wine, I’m told, takes a 70-75°F fermentation fine, whereas lagers need to be fermented at <50°F. Sauerkraut can be done anywhere in the 50-75 range, with colder temperatures being slower but having less risk of infestation by yeasts or molds (it’s made via lactic acid fermentation, which means bacteria).

Actually, it’s sauerkraut that brought this to my attention, since I’d been thinking about making it. I looked for recipes, assuming it entailed boiling cabbage in vinegar with some sort pickling spices. Turns out, sauerkraut’s made by fermentation. It’s a lot less labor-intensive than some other fermentation products (beer, from what I remember of my dad’s homebrewing, is a pain to make), but it’s got that whole temperature regulation issue. So, most likely no sauerkraut-making for me, at least until winter.

Oh, of course, all the internet recipes I could find for sauerkraut assumed you’d be working with home-grown cabbages. As with many other things, you can’t grow cabbages in an apartment! At this point in time, I can, though, say conclusively that you can grow poblano peppers just fine. You’ve got to wait until August or September, “fertilize” with epsom salt, and manually pollinate using a Q-tip, but right now my two bushes have over a dozen peppers growing. I’m not sure if I want to try figuring out a way to dry them to make ancho peppers for chili, have a chile relleño feast, or treat them the way I would green bell peppers, but I’m gonna do something with them.


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