3-Closeup

Simple Lacto-Fermented Onions

My favorite type of pickling is lacto-fermentation, where bacteria break down sugars and produce lactic acid. These bacteria are not only incredibly healthy (they’re the same type that folks eat Greek yoghurt for) but they also add flavour to the food. It’s been a while since I’ve done any pickling, and I believe the last time was when I made corned beef right when I first started this blog.

Let’s start with a bit of biology. Normally, when critters, including us, use sugar for energy they need to take in oxygen to use in the reaction, and produce carbon dioxide. When the oxygen supply is cut off, the process comes to a screeching halt. For some organisms, lack of oxygen is no problem because they use a process called fermentation, which is simply the breaking down of sugars without using oxygen. We can use fermentation for short periods of time, when we are using lots of energy (say while sprinting) and can’t take in enough oxygen to supply all of the energy we need.

2-Onions

(Click to see larger view)

Yeast performs one of the best-known forms of fermentation. They break down sugars and release ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide. For obvious reasons, this is called ethanol fermentation. Lacto-Fermentation, or lactic acid fermentation, is similar, except that the byproducts are lactic acid and carbon dioxide. This is the type we use when we sprint. Lactobacillus, the bacterium that makes yoghurt, also uses this reaction.

1-Fermentation_Bucket(Click to see larger view)

To begin with, I built a new fermentation bucket. This is a food-grade two-gallon bucket with an airlock in the lid. The airlock allows carbon dioxide to leave the bucket, because the lid would pop off if the gas built up pressure inside. It also prevents oxygen from the outside air from entering, because as we covered, fermentation only occurs when there is no oxygen available.

We shredded six onions, three red and three white. I used this ratio before and liked the result, so I’m sticking with it. Using a mandolin makes the process quick and easy. Here’s Ace slicing onions.

4-Mandolin(Click to see larger view)

In the meantime, I prepared three quarts of brine. I got the salt/water ratio from this website, except that I used ice cream salt for one of the quarts and sea salt for the rest. The reason to use salt is that we don’t want ethanol fermentation in this recipe. Yeast is killed by salt, while Lactobacilli thrive in it. This is a simple way of selecting which form of fermentation we want. You can add spices, but I prefer not to, so that I can use the onions in any recipe I want.

5-Sliced(Click to see larger view)

The onions go into the bucket and are covered with brine. To keep the onions submerged, place a plate over he onion and press down. It is important to keep the onions submerged to keep it from spoiling. Next, place the cover tightly on the bucket, and let it stand.

6-Sunk(Click to see larger view)

The process can take over a month, so I will check on it every now and again. The easiest way to see that the reaction is occurring is to watch the airlock. If air is bubbling out you know that there is fermentation occurring.

~The Homesteading Hippy

5-Ground Meat

Making Jackrabbit Sausage at Home

A few posts ago I promised you a recipe for Jackrabbit. Having played with a few dishes, I decided today to try making Jackrabbit Sausage. Ace’s parents gave me a meat grinder for Christmas, and this seemed like a good way to try it out. Since I don’t have a sausage stuffer, I decided to make bulk sausage instead, but if you wanted to this could just as easily go into links. Continue reading

2-Landscape

Wild Flowers and Wild Greens

The weather has been unseasonably warm the last few days, and although we’re supposed to get some more rain soon, I enjoyed a hike though Catalina State Park last weekend. Because we’ve had such a wet winter, the desert is really springing into life!

Continue reading

7-Firepit

Carry Me Back to Old Virginia

The title is from the folk song “My Clinch Mountain Home” which describes how hard it is to leave Virginia permanently. Luckily, I have many reasons to come back to visit often.

Last week I went back to visit my family, where I spent most of my childhood. It was nice to see everyone again, and I got a little time to relax and take a break from work. Now that I’m back in Arizona, I’d like to share the few pictures I took while I was gone. Continue reading

5-Finished

Hunting Part 3: The Meat

This is the last of three articles on my hunting adventures in Arizona. Firstly, I had described how and why I got into hunting for food. After that, I described the hunt itself, and how I find and catch a rabbit. This time, I’ll explore how I prepare the rabbit once I’ve caught it. Continue reading

3-Hunting

Hunting Part 2: The Hunt

This is part two of a three-part series on my recent introduction to hunting for food. The first article explained my reasoning and purchase decisions. This time, we will focus on the process of hunting itself. The next article will be on preparation of the animals once they are caught. Continue reading

4-Crossing

Hunting Part 1: The Rifle

I’ve been holding off on writing about hunting, because I was unsure of how to do so in a tasteful manner. In the end, I decided to do a three-part bit on my recent move into hunting for food. This article, the first in the set, will cover my acquisition of a rifle and my decision to take up hunting. The second will cover the hunt itself, and the third will deal with how to handle the catch, from butchery to cooking. Continue reading

6-Male

Chasing the Enormous Hercules Beetle

I wrote last time about bug-hunting using a blacklight. It works very well, but sometimes it’s better to use other people’s lights. In this case, I’m referring to gas station and parking lot lamps, which are significantly brighter than anything I could put together. The beetle in question was Dynastes granti, the Western Hercules Beetle, and possible the largest beetle in the United States. Continue reading

11-Handle

How to Collect Insects with a Cheap Blacklight

Southern Arizona is known for many things, including the spectacular diversity of insects and the quality of the bug hunting. I decided to go a bit further than my usual haunts around Tucson, so I went to down to the Santa Rita mountains for an evening of bug-hunting fun! Continue reading

5-Scolopendra

Monsoon Season

The Sonoran Desert is one of the most lush deserts in the world, because of its unique pattern of rainfall. Not only do we get winter rains, which are slow and steady, but we also have a monsoon season in the summer, consisting of regular heavy thunderstorms. We had our second monsoon rain of the summer last night, so I decided to go on a nature hike this morning. Continue reading