Fermentation 101

fermented-veggies

One of the many benefits of a community garden is-community! The most interesting people can become friends and relationships that help facilitate learning and growth can enter into the everyday things that make life wonderfully abundant.

An example of this is the other day, when I was visiting one of my new found friends, she suggested that we try one of her pickles from a jar she had been fermenting on her kitchen counter for a couple of days. Now, I have been curious about fermentation, and tried my hand with some kefir curds but those soon became so plentiful I had to stop for lack of people to share them with. Anyone who has harvested kefir curds knows this dilemma. I have also heard about the digestive benefits of fermented foods for years, but the only thing that came to mind was Kim Chi, which was not at all interesting to me, so I  just never investigated any further than that.

But, I had tried this friends fermented string beans a few months back, and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be safe and possibly satisfying. Lo and behold the fermented cucumber I tried was the single best pickle I have ever eaten in my life! It was unmistakably a dill pickle, but it had a flavor that rocketed beyond mere dill. Being a novice at spice experimentation I wasn’t sure what was in the brine, but my palette had never been happier.

Needless to say I got the recipe, and have a jar fermenting on my counter as we speak. If this works for me I will have an answer to the many cucumbers that are waiting for my attention.

A word about fermentation and its history: Fermenting happens naturally and predates humanity, however humans took control of the fermentation process and have been using this method from as far back as 7000 BCE . In short, fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates or sugars into alcohols and carbon dioxides using yeasts and/or bacteria under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.

This process is employed in the making of wine and beer, or for foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Fermentation is also what happens during the pickling process however, with the common techniques of canning the fermentation process is ceased when the jars are boiled and sealed. With straight fermentation the process is halted when the jar is placed below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The jars are not subjected to heat or pressure, which allows the lactobacilli to remain in tact and give our digestive systems the some of the healthy enzymes it needs to function properly.

I am sharing my friend’s recipe with you, I am sure you can use whatever spices you like.

A note of caution: there is always a risk of botulism with the consumption of canned foods, so take care to not use plastic containers when making fermented foods and follow all directions carefully. Glass canning jars are nice and greatly reduce the risk of illness.

Fermented Cucumber Pickles

1 t. coriander seeds

½ t. ground black pepper

1 t. yellow mustard seeds

1 t. dill seeds

1 t. caraway seeds

1 t. celery seeds

9 cloves fresh garlic

6 dry bay leaves

6 T. Kosher salt

1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes

Dry dill heads & stalks

Take 1 quart boiling water; add salt & dissolve. Place 2 bay leaves, 3 garlic cloves & cucumbers in quart jars. Add 1 1/3 c. salted water to each of 3 quart jars, add 1/3 of combined spice mix, top off with fresh filtered water, leaving 1” head space.  Cover jars and shake to distribute salty water within jar, & make sure all veggies are still submerged. Place glass cup or custard cup into jar as needed to make sure all garlic and cucumbers are completely submerged.  Leave in dark, cool place for up to 2 weeks, checking and tasting as needed till pickles are as tangy as you like. When taste is right, cap tightly and store in refer or root cellar for 6 months or more, or till pickles are tangier than you like.

If this information has tantalized your curiosity please make a note of our Basics of Fermentation Workshop coming up October 7, 2017 at 11am at Red House restaurant located in downtown Renton at 410 Burnett Ave S Renton, WA 98057

This workshop has a $5 suggested donation. All proceeds go to support Sustainable Renton projects.

Acts of Resistance

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When I am at work at one of my favorite places, Sustainable Renton Community Farm (SRCF), I have a tendency to think a lot. It is my form of contemplative motion. I would like to think that this type of thought-action could be considered a meditative practice, it has indeed become this way for me.

During the past year my soul has been exacerbated and overwhelmed with the grinding division of politics. I have found myself needing, more than ever, a way to act in honor of hope and in recognition of a meaningful revolution. Facebook shares, likes and rants are not enough “action” for my mind and heart to be at ease. Twittering is unintelligible and useless in my world.

I require an avenue to express my desire for transformation, my need for feeling engaged and a place where I can work towards being the change I want to see in the world. SRCF has become that place for me.

Yes, I am doing mundane gardening chores. I am turning the compost pile, readying the soil for planting, laying burlap and topping it with woodchips, chopping the wood and carrying the water, so to speak. These are the ordinary tasks that can make the extraordinary elements of life more apparent.

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The idea that planting a seed is an act of hope and that saving a seed is an act of rebellion are not new to me but those thoughts have been in the forefront of my mind recently. These actions, among others, are the very things that make doing service with Sustainable Renton my chosen path of resistance.

In this global economy, building a local economic infrastructure is even more innovative than ever. In this world where corporations achieve more power than people, the development of cooperative community endeavors could not be more disobedient and I love it.

Sustainable Renton is a very small non-profit working with a shoe string budget; however, with the generosity of Celebration Church and the fortitude of some tenacious folks we have created and sustained an amazing community “farm”. This is a place where people can get their hands dirty and get connected to the earth again or perhaps for the first time; a place where gardens are planted for the sole purpose of fighting against food insecurity and injustice in Renton.

20130924_150614 Rebellion comes in many forms and can be present in a variety of acts ranging from small to explosive, from daily to one time grandstands.

It is my hope that if Sustainable Renton continues to engage in the small, daily acts of rebellion that one day we will create an explosive grandstand towards change whose effects will linger in Renton for generations to come.

 

If you would like to get involved please contact us at sustainablerenton@gmail.com or visit our website www.sustainablerenton.org

Hope to see you at the farm!

Everybody is doing it, why not Renton?

Issaquah does it, Seattle does it, Redmond does it, Kirkland does it, how about their neighbors just to south, Renton? No, we are not doing it-yet. Sustainable Renton is working with the city’s Solid Waste department to move towards a plan to pass a plastic bag ban in our fair city. The ordinances that have passed are different in every city. Some have laws that focus only on retail businesses, others give businesses a time period to use their current stock of bags before having to comply with the law, and still others charge patrons a small fee for every bag given out at the time of purchase. Renton is working toward adopting its own ordinance.

The first step is “evidence gathering”. What this means is that we need evidence of plastic bags that have gone rogue. We are all familiar with the plastic bag in the tree, the lone bag in the storm drain and the bag in the parking strip. Your job, as a Citizen Investigator , is to take a photograph of said bags, document where in the city the bag was seen and send it to us.  

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For example, while walking to the local library branch and there happens to be a plastic bag in a tree. Take out a phone or camera, snap the shot, mark down where  in the city it is, include the photo and location in the email and send it to sustainablerenton@gmail.com.  

When we gather enough evidence we can proceed to the next step of the plan of action.

Please help us  take Renton into a more sustainable future.

Urban Beekeeping Basics

This workshop is taught by local South Renton Neighborhood beekeeper, Shelby Smith. Shelby has been beekeeping in Renton for a number of years and is passionate about the plight of the honeybee.

At this workshop we will share information and answer questions. We will sample honey made by bees living in the North Renton neighborhood!

Topics include:
Why keep bees in the city? • Equipment •
Choosing a site • Buying bees • Capturing a
Free Swarm • Local Beekeepers Associations •
Benefits and Challenges in Beekeeping •

Screenshot 2017-03-13 at 3.06.15 PMThis workshop is FREE and open to the public

We will be meeting at the downtown Renton King County Library location at 100 Mill Ave S Renton, WA 98057this Saturday March 18th, 2017

Workshop starts at 11:00 am

Now What?

Is this a question that has been plaguing you for the past few months or even prior to that? What can I do now to empower my community? What can I do now to empower myself? Now, more than ever people are feeling hopeless and helpless.

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However, I have found a remedy, a prescription if you will, for the nauseating feeling that creeps into my throat.

It’s called ‘involvement’.

Involvement doesn’t just mean getting out on the streets and marching, while that always has its place to show presence and importance of a cause, there is also other work to be done.

Now What?  Well, I’ll tell you what now.  Join or help a local group!  Get involved.  Being a part of Sustainable Renton has really helped me these last few months because instead of feeling like all the Jenga pieces won’t keep the structure of humanity standing, I feel that I’m still holding onto one piece and putting it back in.  Instead of hearing about the good work that schools, local charities, and non-profits do every day; be a part of the good work.  Environmental causes, education, the arts, whatever your calling is; go out and find something to be a part of and fight for.

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Sustainable Renton is always in the search of volunteers to help carry out our mission to fight for food justice and education on environmental issues. There are literally hundreds of projects that we would like to start or get the help with, but need the human power.

The power of involvement might be the only power left.

Every group and cause has this problem, but we don’t have to live with the problem.  Rather, we can cease the opportunity.

Now is the time to stop saying ‘they’ll’ take care of it.”  Who’s ‘they?’  You are now ‘they’, because we need you.

Now, more than ever, we have to remind ourselves that there still exist good people.

Our today’s, “what now” will only guarantee tomorrow’s what might have been.

If you would like to help Sustainable Renton or sign up to become a volunteer please email us at: sustainablerenton@gmail.com

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Written by Mary Bakeman, Sustainable Renton Board member

Journey to Zero Waste-Part One.

zero-waste            America, we have a problem, and that problem is waste!

On December 3rd Sustainable Renton held a discussion about how cities and individuals can become more sustainable in their waste practices. Many may not be familiar with the term ‘Zero Waste’, and a year ago, neither was I. Zero Waste is the practice and lifestyle change of well, not throwing anything away that would end up in a landfill. Anything that can be reduced, is reduced, anything that can be re-used is re-used, and I think you know where I’m going with this…anything, and I mean anything that can be recycled is recycled.  The goal of many ‘Zero Waster’s’ is really to refuse items that will end up being thrown away so their mantra is really ‘refuse, re-use, and recycle’. This post will focus on how cities can become more responsible by exploring single use plastic bag consumption, as well as how you can personally start your journey to becoming ‘Zero Waste’.

According to Recycle Across America, almost half of the food in the United States is thrown out, which equates to about 3,000lbs a second being tossed! Other disturbing facts that haunt me is that American’s recycle less than 22% of material that can be recycled or re-used, and in less than 15 years the US will double its waste production. But there is hope. By being an informed individual you can take action and make steps towards becoming more conscience about your own waste.

Individuals don’t only hold the responsibility of being more sustainable; cities could also take a hint. Just in the last few years there has been a movement to reduce the number of plastic bags that are used at groceries and retailers. Cities across Washington State have been responding to this issue. What’s so bad about plastic bags you ask? These bags are basically a huge nuisance to our recycling system since many aren’t recycled properly, and most don’t even get the opportunity to be recycled in the first place and end up in our landfill, our storm drains, and then eventually travel into our environment where they can then be ingested by wildlife. The New Yorker reported in 2014 that single use plastic grocery bags were the 7th most common item found on costal clean-ups.

Renton currently has no policy or ban on plastic bags, while other cities surrounding our area do, like Kirkland and most recently Issaquah.  After looking at these policies around our state, I wondered if plastic bag bans even work to help clean up our cities and help the waste problem. In researching this topic a study on the city of San Jose’s plastic bag policy found that it can reduce plastic grocery bags in storm drains and on beaches by 89% with a ban, and up to 60% with a fee. I would say that seems pretty worth it. For Renton to place a ban on plastic bags more research needs to be done, but hopefully looking towards other local cities we can strive and work for this in the very near future! In the meantime if you use plastic bags- please bundle the bags and return them to a local grocery store where you can then properly recycle them.

Does all of that make your head spin and feel a little helpless? Well, here’s what you can do right now.

At our talk local ‘Zero Waster’, Alison Love, gave really great advice on how to start the process to reduce ones own trash consumption. The first step is to really evaluate what you really need, and how to use it possibly in different ways. Grocery shopping for example is a great place to begin. Bringing, and using reusable bags, not only to bag everything when you’re done, but even using individual reusable produce bags can really help in the long run on cutting down waste. Buy in bulk! So many things can be found in bulk, from dry goods, spices, and even shampoo! Most local grocery stores have a bulk section, some more extensive than others, but I bet you would be surprised on what you can get and ultimately forgo most packaged products. Going Zero Waste can also be extremely financially beneficial.  In my own personal journey I haven’t bought laundry or dishwashing detergent for over a year because I now make my own. I also save my vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock for really great tasting homemade soups. Finding ways to do things differently can also be a fun challenge. Every time you run out of an item that you would normally throw in the trash, stop and think, can I reuse this, or once this item is thrown away how do I replace it with a more sustainable solution?

Resources, research, and knowledge can be your best tools as well. Apps like iRecycle use your current location from your smart-phone to help you navigate what and where you can recycle. Need to recycle used batteries, carpet, Christmas Trees, or audio equipment, use the app!

There are so many ways to re-think how you shop and re-use things and hopefully this blog is just the start that you need to explore a whole new way to really live.

In Part Two, Journey to Zero Waste, Zero Waste DIY recipes and more step by step guides will be revealed.

 

Here are links to articles that were used in this post:

Are plastic bag bans good for the climate?

http://grist.org/climate-energy/are-plastic-bag-bans-good-for-the-climate/

Recycle Across America

http://www.recycleacrossamerica.org/recycling-facts

 

 

Until next time, refuse & re-use,

Mary Bakeman

 

Could your house be a ZERO WASTE house?

Join Sustainable Renton for a wonderful workshop on practical solutions for moving towards zero waste!

December 3, 2016 – 11AM

Blossom Vegetarian

305 Burnett Ave. S., Renton, WA 98057

zero-wasteAllison Love Sheller, Renton resident and mother of two, will share her experience and knowledge about living a zero waste lifestyle. The average person creates 4.38 pounds of trash every day – that’s half a ton of garbage per year. While zero waste may seem like a high bar in our consumer culture, this workshop will provide simple, practical tips and ideas on how to reduce and reuse everyday items to dramatically reduce your household’s trash output.

This workshop comes just in time for the holidays! Allison’s suggestions on gift giving and wrapping will help you reduce your trash impact this holiday season.

Following the workshop, Sustainable Renton Board Member Mary Bakeman will talk about Sustainable Renton’s efforts to eliminate plastic bags from Renton’s resources. Just like our neighbors to the North – Seattle, Redmond and Issaquah – we are looking to initiate an ordinance to promote a plastic free city! Find out how you can get involved in making Renton a city that is truly ahead of the curve and make this ordinance come to fruition.

There is a suggested $5 donation for this workshop. Any donations received will support the continuation of Sustainable Renton projects.