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A great way to take advantage of local orchard apples or a bumper crop from your yard is to make applesauce, and then preserve it in one of several ways. You can freeze applesauce, prepare shelf stable product by canning applesauce, or stock up on delicious homemade snacks by making fruit leather from plain or flavored applesauce.

Apples, along with pears and quince are pome fruits—fruits that have a tough core encasing a group of small seeds. The core is surrounded by fleshy edible fruit. One pound of apples, pears, or quince is equivalent to 3 medium fruits or 1-1/2 to 2 cups sauce. Use any of these pome fruits interchangeably in the following recipes.

Basic Applesauce Recipe


• 2-1/2 pounds (7-8 medium) apples*
• 1 gallon soaking solution**
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 to 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon, or to taste (optional)
• 1 to 4 tbsp sugar or honey, or to taste (optional)
• salt to taste (optional)

*Some of the best apples to make applesauce are Cameo, Gala, Fuji, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, and Mutsu (Crispin).

**Prepare an acidic soaking solution to hold cut fruit and delay browning. Use one gallon water and 3,000 mgs crushed plain ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) tablets OR 4 teaspoons (5 grams) citric acid. Or, use one gallon plain apple juice.


1. Wash apples, cut into quarters, and remove the peel and core. (A countertop apple corer/peeler can be purchased for around $20; a good investment if you plan to make applesauce in quantity.) Place prepared fruit in the soaking solution, allow to soak no more than 5 minutes, and then drain in a colander.

2. Place drained fruit and water in a saucepan, cover, and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, or until very soft. (Hard, unripe fruits or quince can take up to an hour to soften completely).

3. If spiced applesauce is desired, add pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon to taste before pureeing sauce. Using a potato masher, hand blender, food processor or stand blender, puree softened fruit until chunky or smooth, as desired. Add sweetener to taste. Some cooks also like to add a pinch or two of salt.

4. Cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage. For shelf stable product, process in a boiling water canner. Applesauce may also be used for making fruit leather. Makes about 1 quart applesacue; recipe may be multiplied.

Recommended variations: For Quince-Applesauce, use 1/4 quince and 3/4 apples. For Pear-Applesauce, use 1/2 pears and 1/2 apples.


Three Ways To Preserve

It’s Easy to Freeze Applesauce

Make applesauce recipe and cool it thoroughly. Package applesauce in freezer-safe containers, such as freezer-safe plastic that won’t crack at freezing temperatures, canning jars or other tempered glass jars with straight rather than tapered necks that won’t crack in the freezer, or thick zipper-style plastic bags designed for freezer use. Freeze applesauce up to 12 months.

Canning applesauce in a boiling water bath canner.

Make applesauce recipe and while apples are cooking, wash pint or quart canning jars in the dishwasher and hold on a heated cycle. Alternatively, wash and rinse canning jars, fill with hot tap water, and place in a boiling water bath canner.

With or without water-filled jars in it, fill the boiling water canner about half-full with hot tap water. Place the canner over a large burner, put the lid on, and turn the heat on high. Heat the water to 180 degrees F (not quite simmering). When the water reaches the correct temperature, turn the heat down and maintain it.

Keep applesauce hot while filling hot jars; remove air bubbles and adjust headspace to ½-inch. Clean the rim and secure the lid with a screw band. Place filled jars in the canner.

Be sure jars are covered with water by at least one inch. Cover the canner and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat and process pints for 15 minutes or quarts for 20 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet). After processing time has ended, turn off heat, remove canner lid and cool 5 minutes.

After cooling period, place jars at least one-inch apart on a dry towel or wood surface away from drafts. Cool the jars naturally for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove the screw band, hold the jar steady and try to lift the lid off using your fingertips. If you cannot lift the lid off by pulling on the lid, the seal is good. If jars do not have a good seal, refrigerate and use the product within 3 days.

If the jar is sealed, wipe with a clean damp cloth, including the bottom, sides, threads, and lid. If there is a lot of sticky deposit, it is sometimes easier to rinse the jar under warm running water. Dry the jar. Label each jar with the product and date (for example, “Sweetened Applesauce Oct 2015”). Store jars in a cool dry place (50 degrees F to 70 degrees F). Best used within one year.

Making Applesauce Fruit Leather

Making fruit leather is a good way to use culls, ripe fruit, slightly bruised fruit, or fruit left over from making jam or other preparations. Prepare applesauce recipe and use any of the following variations:

• Leave the peels on during cooking and puree with the fruit.
• Use little or no sweetener, since flavor concentrates during drying.
• If desired, add 1-2 tsp lemon juice while preparing the applesauce to brighten flavor of fruit leather.
• In addition to spices, finely chopped nuts, coconut, or dried fruits are another nice embellishment. To one quart applesauce, add ½ cup finely chopped toasted almonds, toasted coconut or dried cranberries. If desired, add 1/8 tsp almond, coconut, or lemon extract. Stir ingredients until well combined.

Before making fruit leather, preheat an oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Line the drying tray with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Spread prepared sauce 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick on the liner.

Dry for 4-8 hours, or until leather is evenly pliable and firm with no soft spots. (In humid climates, or oven drying with low circulation, drying can take two or three times as long.) Peel fruit leather from liner while still warm. Cut and roll into serving pieces. Leathers studded with solid pieces (like nuts, dried fruits, or coconut) may not roll up without breaking; cut these leathers into strips and leave flat.

Cool thoroughly before wrapping pieces individually in parchment or foil. Fruit leathers stick together; be sure to wrap individually for storage. Store in an airtight containers in a cool, dry place up to 2 months. Freeze for longer storage.

There you have it. Several ways to enjoy applesauce — frozen, canned, and dried homemade snacks—for enjoyment throughout the season. Any of these preparations can also be used for pears or quince.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



This tastes like the absolute best apple pie you ever drank! Here is how I preserve the goodness of apples laced with sweet spices.

After the first of the crisp fall apples have started to soften, I love to have a sip of this for dessert on a cold winter’s night. You won’t waste anything here — all the apples eventually find their way into more delicious desserts.

Buy the tastiest fall apples you can find, but if they’re fresh, even windfalls and “seconds” are fine, because you can cut around any damaged spots. What really matters is the flavor. A mix is good: Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious and Honey Crisp, if you can afford them. If you are so fortunate to have apples from the Northeast, these have more flavor than what we can grow here in Texas.

Scout out some big jars. I noticed the half-gallon jars available this summer. If you can’t find or beg gallon jars, you can order them from ULINE. It’s an investment, but you’ll have them forever.

Be sure to cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap under the lid so the lid doesn’t corrode. And don’t even consider plastic gallon jugs from pickles or mustard; you never get the smell/taste out and everything will be ruined. Yields 1 gallon.

Spiced Apple Cordial Recipe


• 6 to 8 chopped large apples, or more if they’re small (you’ll want at least 3 quarts of chopped apples)
• 2 sticks of cinnamon, or about 4 inches
• 1 tbsp whole cloves
• 1 tbsp whole allspice
• 1 tbsp whole coriander
• 1 whole nutmeg, broken with a hammer into 3 or 4 pieces
• small, 1-by-1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, or 1 tsp ginger puree
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 2/5 bottle of gold rum (double bottle)


1. Peel the apples, core and cut into half-inch wedges.

2. Put them into a one-gallon glass jar or two half-gallon jars, interspersing the whole spices.

3. Dump the sugar on top of the apple-spice mixture, and then pour in the rum. (If you’re using the 1/2-gallon jars, divide as you go.)

You can make another jar with just the cores and — if the apples are organic — the peels as well. I usually make as many jars as I can; the cordial makes nice holiday gifts, poured into  empty wine bottles that I scrubbed the labels from and re-labeled in a festive manner.

4. Cover the top of each jar with a doubled layer of plastic wrap and then put the lids on. You need a tight seal.

5. Turn the jar(s) upside down, leave it a day, turn it right side up, wait a day and then repeat again until the sugar is completely dissolved.

6. Put the jar(s) back in a dark cupboard and leave it at least a month.

7. After a month has passed, strain out the apples and reserve them. Serve the apple cordial at room temperature in small cordial glasses. You’ll also find yourself adding this to other apple desserts, maybe a drizzle on Apple Bread Pudding?

The rum-soaked apples can be put into the food processor and pulsed to make a coarse applesauce which will keep for months in the refrigerator. It’s delicious by itself, maybe warmed up, and even better with a scoop of ice cream.

Bonus Recipe: Rum Applesauce Cake Recipe

Here’s my favorite way to recycle those spicy rum-soaked apples.


• 4 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (grapeseed, sunflower or a nut oil)
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1-3/4 cups organic sugar
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1cup A/P flour  (or I use all King Arthur white whole wheat – 2 cups)
• 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1+ tbsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
• 1-1/2 cups chunky applesauce made from apple cordial apples (see above)
• 1-1/2 cups pecans
• Optional: raisins and a bit of coarse turbinado sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. This is easy with your food processor; you could also use a hand or stand mixer: Put the eggs in the work bowl, pulse a couple times, then add the oil and process 30 seconds.

3. Add the vanilla, pulse and then the sugar. Process another 30 seconds. You should have a foamy, light yellow mixture.

4. Measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl: flour, leavening, spices. Add these all at once, pulse a couple times, then add the applesauce, pulse a couple times and finally the pecans. Process another 30 seconds. The applesauce and pecans will nearly disappear into the batter.

You can add more if you want big pieces. If you add the optional raisins, just pulse once or twice or stir in by hand.

5. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with parchment. Turn the batter into the pan and give it a quick shimmy and a tap to level out. Sprinkle very lightly with the turbinado sugar, if you like, for a touch of crunch.

6. Bake about one hour. Ovens differ: watch after 45 minutes; when the cake is done, it will spring back from a light touch and start to pull away from the side of the pan. Be patient! Let it cool to just warm before cutting.

I don’t frost this cake. It’s already so sweet with all those apples, I think more sugar would curl my teeth. If you must, you must, but keep it light. A spoonful of whipped cream, labenah or crème fraiche works better for me.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Some of the complaints I hear from people about making their own bread are: “I don’t have time,” “it’s too hard,”  “I don’t like kneading,” “I’m gluten sensitive (intolerant, etc).” Well, I’ve finally come up with a solution: an easy, no-knead, minimal-ingredient Einkorn sourdough bread that’s easy on the tummy. It can’t get any better than this!

Bread has been around for a long, long time. For about 30,000 years, give or take a few, if I can believe what I read. But lately, at least in this new millennium, bread has become, while still exceedingly popular, the “problem child” of the modern diet. Ancient bread was made with whole, unadulterated grains. Prehistoric women did not have to rush to work in the morning or get the kids off to school, so they had the time to make their own. The nutritional value of our bread has plummeted. Wheat and gluten have become gut-irritants for multitudes of people and no one is sure why. Could it be due to wheat grains being hybrid beyond recognition? Could it be the USA’s practice of spraying Roundup on wheat before harvest? Could it be leaky gut syndrome? Commercial yeast is another issue: just one more unnatural component in our foods. There are even some indications that commercial yeast creates a yeast imbalance in our bodies. Longer rise times, done with sourdough starter, helps break down gluten.

Last year I became aware of an ancient grain called Einkorn.  Einkorn has never been hybridized. It’s delicious, bakes really well and a lot of people with gluten sensitivity DO NOT react to it, myself included. I buy mine directly from the Jovial Foods web site. Their grains are grown in Tuscany, Italy. And anything grown in a GMO free area is all right with me.

I’d been experimenting with sourdough (no added yeast) bread for more than a year. The final result is the easiest—and best—bread I’ve EVER made or tasted. I mean seriously, I’m so excited about this recipe!

I started by re-working an old no-knead recipe using Einkorn rather than regular flour and baking it in a great, economical, Ikea 3-quart no-stick cast iron covered casserole, which cost about $40 (take THAT Le Creuset $300 casserole!). The loaf was gorgeous: crusty, fragrant and delicious, but on the small side and the process included some work that I thought could be eliminated. The next time around I simplified the process by skipping two steps and was blown away at how perfectly easy this recipe had become. All it takes is mixing, rising (waiting) and baking. And this bread is to die for! So, here’s my recipe. I think I’m done improving it, there’s nothing I can think of that would make it faster, easier, more delicious or nutritious. If you come up with any suggestions, please let me know.

If you’re new to keeping a sourdough starter, you can get an idea of what’s involved here.

Easy No-knead Einkorn Sourdough Bread

This recipe is especially great for people who work full time, it takes 10 minutes in the morning to throw this together and then it's ready to bake 8-12 hours later. You could also throw this together at night, and bake in the morning.


Makes one 3-1/2 lb loaf of bread

•  1 cup or more* proofed/bubbling sourdough starter
•  6 cups Einkorn flour
•  2 to 3 cups room temp filtered water
•  1 tbsp sea salt
•  1/2 tsp citric acid, totally optional, it’s to increase the sour flavor. You can also add some flavoring ingredients such as rosemary, asiago… whatever. Get creative!
*1 cup is all that’s needed, but if you add more, you’ll get a more sour-tasting bread. Just use a little less water if you’re using extra starter.


1. In a large bowl (preferably one that has a lid), add the flour, sourdough starter, water and salt and mix until blended. It should be a gluey thick batter, a little thicker than brownie batter.

2. Cover and let it rise in a warm spot for about 8+ hours, or until bubbly and doubled in size. In the winter, I turn my oven light on for warmth and keep the bowl in the oven for rising.

3. Once the dough has risen sufficiently (8-12 hours, depending on ambient temps), remove it from the oven. Place your empty covered casserole in the oven and set the oven temp 450 degrees F.

4. Once temp is achieved, remove your casserole from the oven. CAUTION: HOT HOT HOT! Remove the lid and gently pour the dough into the casserole, being careful to not disturb too many bubbles. Cover and bake for 60 minutes. PLEASE NOTE: You may have to experiment with bake time due to altitude differences. Being at almost 6,000 ft., I bake for 80 minutes.

5. Remove the bread from the oven and remove lid. After 10-15 minutes, dump the bread out of the casserole, place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing and serving. I usually leave it on the counter over night to cool and dry a little and then cut it in the morning with a meat slicer. If it makes it through the night, lol. Don’t forget the Kerry Gold!

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado.  When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban Farmer.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


If you are thinking of starting to make your own cheese, then you will need to be familiar with the tools of the trade. This excerpt from Gianaclis Caldwell’s latest book, Mastering Basic Cheesemaking, explains the functions of the tools a beginner cheesemaker needs in order to make their fromage foray.


A stainless steel screw press with pressure gauge.


Very few cheese types need the extreme pressure that a mechanical press provides. Most cheeses can be made by using other weights, such as water jugs or barbells. A cheese only needs as much weight as it takes to press the rind closed and tighten the paste (as the interior of the cheese is called) to the desired texture. If the curd is salted before it goes into the press, as with cheddar  and some other cheese types, then the tremendous force of a mechanical press is required in order to get the curd to knit back together. Similarly, curd that is very dry by the end of the process, such as with Parmesan-type cheeses, will likely need a mechanical press. Small screw-type presses that will make about a five-pound wheel of cheese can be purchased from a cheesemaking supply company. They are relatively expensive.


A ratcheting strap press can be made for under $10.00 and will work with any straight-sided cheese form and follower. Pictured here with a large tomme form capable of making an 8 lb (4 kg) cheese.

Mats and Racks

Mats and racks are needed to set draining and drying cheeses on. They allow for air circulation around the cheese and let any dripping moisture fall away from the cheese. Cheese mats are made of food-grade plastic and look almost identical to plastic cross-stitch mats (available in craft stores). In fact, I know several commercial cheesemakers that use these craft store mats with no problem. Plastic sushi mats are another nice option. Stainless steel or coated cooling racks (also known as baker’s racks) are great to place underneath the plastic cheese mats to help increase drainage and airflow.


A cheese air drying (top right) and others aging vacuum sealed in Canadian cheesemaker Ian Treuer’s home aging unit. For more visit Much To Do About Cheese.

Trays and Tubs

During draining and pressing, you may need a tray to collect or divert the whey that is pressed out of the cheese form so that it does not pool around the base of the cheese. A glass baking dish, sink drainboard, or a tray will all work fine for the job. For some cheeses that we will make later, you will need a good-sized plastic food tub with a lid to hold the cheese during brine salting or drying. If you don’t mind working with a bit of harmless mold, cheeses can be aged in a plastic tub or a bag to create a natural rind and more distinctive flavor. The tub will help keep the humidity high enough around the cheese so that it doesn’t dry out. This method of aging requires quite a bit more vigilance and work on your part than when the cheeses are aged in a vacuum-sealed bag. We’ll cover the techniques for aging in more detail in chapter 8.

Vacuum Sealing Equipment

A vacuum sealer is handy for storing and aging cheese. Any home-quality vacuum sealer can be used as long as the bags that fit it are large enough to hold your cheese wheels. If possible, choose a sealer that will put a double seal on the bag, or seal it double in two steps. For small wheels, I like to use the resealable zipper-lock type vacuum bags and the handheld vacuum pump that works with them. They have the advantage of being reusable, but the size choices are more limited.


Cheese professional and home cheesemaker Gisela Claassen vacuum seals her original bourbon cheddar.

Aging Spaces

Cheeses can be aged at home in the refrigerator or in a wine/beverage cooler. Refrigerator temperatures range from 40 degrees (4.4 degrees C) to just above freezing at 33 degrees (0.5 degrees C). Even within the unit, the temperature can vary. All cheeses will age, as long as they aren’t freezing, but generally do best between 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees C) and 55 degrees (12 degrees C). Wine/beverage coolers are designed to keep things at a very cheese-aging-friendly temperature, so if you can get one of these units, your cheeses will thank you. If not, go ahead and use whatever fridge you can — it will still work!

Preparing Cheesemaking Tools

The equipment preparation for all cheeses is similar, so we’ll cover it just once. I won’t include this very repetitive process in the recipes, but you should follow it every time you make cheese. When I work in our licensed creamery, I use a lot of hot water, a lot of cleaning solutions, and a lot of elbow grease. I also wear scrubs, a hair cover, gloves, and boots that are only used in the creamery. When I make cheese in our home kitchen, I am pretty relaxed by comparison. Cheesemaking equipment should be very clean, of course, but I don’t keep a sink filled with bleach and water ready to rinse and re-sanitize all of the tools and my hands.

A thorough hand washing and vigorous scrubbing with dish soap of all of your equipment will remove almost 100 percent of any dirt, residue, or microbes of concern. After each cheesemaking session and wash-up, be sure to allow everything to air dry thoroughly. Bacteria need moisture to grow, so keeping equipment dry between uses is a great way to prevent contamination. An automatic dishwasher can be used to clean equipment instead of hand washing it. Before use, it is a good idea to rewash anything that has not been used and washed in some time, say a week or so. If you are going to use it right away, you don’t have to let it air dry. You can sanitize your equipment just before use if desired. For the home cheese kitchen, my favorite sanitizer is boiling hot water. You can fill or partially fill your main cheese pot with water, bring it to a boil, then dip all of your tools into the water. Pour a bit of the water over a tray and lay your tools on this tray. Use the same hot water to rinse your already-clean forms and cheesecloth as well. If you are going to use them immediately, they don’t need to air dry.

Photos by Gianaclis Caldwell/New Society Publishers/Arne Claassen/Ian Treuer

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Hot pepper season is on. It is time to preserve the red, yellow, green, small, large, mild or hot peppers that have been growing in the garden all summer. These tips will help turn your peppers, whatever the variety, into pickled peppers. You may use any combination of peppers and even add some dried cayenne or other super hot peppers if you want to make the flavor complex.

I cannot think of pickled peppers without hearing the tongue twister in my head — Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers… This maybe more information than you want to know but this will swim around in my head dodging the words that I am trying to type while I write this — like background music, but irritating. I do know that you have all been there—the show tune that won’t leave.

This post is about brine pickling peppers, which means that the peppers will be submerged in salt brine you make and add to the peppers. So let’s start with making a good brine. Making a great pickle starts with a high quality brine and this begins with the water. Make sure your water is un-chlorinated. The chlorine can inhibit fermentation. The other ingredient is salt. Use a high quality unrefined salt. No need to use kosher pickling salt; these salts are highly processed and contain anti-caking agents which are not only not needed but are not as healthy and tasty.

Always make a little more brine than you will need as sometimes during the most active first few days of fermentation some of your brine may bubble over and you will want to top off. Be sure to store the extra un-fermented brine in the refrigerator; it will keep for about a week.

If you want to add vinegar for flavor — wait. Don’t add any vinegar to the brine until after fermentation. The salt solution is perfect for promoting lactic-acid fermentation. Acetic acid (vinegar) too early in the process can impede the fermentation. Add any vinegar later in the process as recipes suggest.

Pickle Brine Recipe for Peppers


• 1 gallon of un-chlorinated water
• ½ cup unrefined salt


Mix well. Note: some unrefined salts do contain a few trace minerals which do not dissolve and will leave a little sediment on the bottom.. (I am thinking of Redmond Real Salt specifically.) That is okay.

Pickling Spice

Pickled hot peppers have a lot of flavor on their own. You can pickle them in the brine just as they are. If you want to add some flavors whole garlic cloves, whole coriander seeds, whole cumin seeds are wonderful choices, but I invite you to think of your favorite spice combinations and have fun. I have placed a handful of mint sprigs in pepper pickles for a wonderful flavor juxtaposition of cool and hot.

Brining Directions

1. Pack the peppers tightly into a crock or jar to just under the shoulder of the jar. If using large whole peppers, wedge these under the shoulder of the jar (this helps keep them below the brine). If using slices you can use a grape leaf or weight to help keep them under the brine.

2. Pour in the brine to cover the peppers completely. In a jar this may be quite close to the rim; in a crock you’ll need to leave room for the follower. (Remember: Submerge in brine and all will be fine.) Reserve any leftover brine in the fridge (it will keep for a week; discard thereafter and make a new batch if needed).

3. Place a weight on top of the ingredients to hold everything under the brine.

4. Set the ferment on a plate on your kitchen counter or somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight in a cool area. Anywhere that is between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit will work, but the cooler the better. Ferment for the time indicated in the recipe. Note: The plate will catch any brine that bubbles out; discard the liquid.

5. During the fermentation period, monitor brine level and top off with the reserved brine solution if needed, to cover. You may see foam on top; it is harmless, but if you see mold, scoop it out. Veggies peeking up out of the brine will quickly get soft, and spoil. If you see anything even a tiny bit out of the brine, just poke it back under with a utensil. If it has been out for a while and has softened or has yeast on it (white film), then pluck it out.

How long does this sit on the counter? At least a week — you will see the brine becoming cloudy and that is a good sign. You will also smell the distinctive smell of sour pickle developing. You can store them in the refrigerator as soon as they have soured (the magic number is acidity below 4.6 ph), but you will know when they are pickled. For more flavor development ferment longer — 2 or 3 weeks or even 2 or 3 months. Peppers are interesting in that the longer they ferment the more complex the flavors become as different aromas develop.

Enjoy the process and the flavor!

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life — but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and maintains the website Fermentista’s Kitchen.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Fig Salami is a unique substitute for the usual cured sausage on a cheese plate; because it’s fruity, it works as well before or after dinner. It takes minutes to make, but plan ahead so it has time to set up and “cure” four or five days — after that, it will keep weeks in the refrigerator. 

My inspiration for this yummy treat came from Patricia Wells’ book Vegetable Harvest about the fruits and vegetables of my beloved Provence in the South of France. For the wine used in fruit salamis, I used the last of my bottle of Figoun, for which I’ll give a quick recipe at the end.

Fig Salami Recipe


• 4 cups chopped dried figs (I used 32 large figs)
• 4 tbsp sweet red wine
• 2 tbsp whole fennel seeds
• small pinch sea salt, fleur de sel


1. Snip off the hard stems of the figs and then cut them in quarters. I used scissors to do all this.

2. Put the figs into the bowl of your food processor and pulse a couple times. Drizzle the wine over the figs and let them rest just a couple minutes to soak it up and soften a bit.

3. Add the sea salt, then pulse a few more times until the figs begin to break up. Run the processor until the figs begin to form a ball and are finely chopped. Pulse in the fennel seeds, just a couple pulses; you don’t want to break the seeds.

4. Pull out the blade, then wet your hands and gather up the fig mixture. Wet your hands again as necessary to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. Knead in your hands a few times until you see that the fennel is well distributed. Wet hands again and form into 4 logs, about 1 inch thick and 5 inches long.

5. Set the fig salamis, unwrapped, on a piece of parchment, covered with a layer of cheesecloth. Set them aside in a clean place where they won’t be disturbed for two or three days, turning the rolls daily.

6. When the salamis have dried and gotten more firm, wrap them. Parchment paper is traditional, but plastic wrap will work. Place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. They will keep in the refrigerator for weeks. 

Serve your fig salamis as part of a cheese platter. Cut a few slices about a scant half-inch thick on the plate, partner with a selection of cheeses such as blue, Cambazola, and maybe a Stilton —  just pick your favorites.

Yields about one and a half pounds

'Figoun' Infused Red Wine Recipe

If you’d like to make your own Figoun, a spiced, figgy infused sweet wine from Provence, it’s very easy.


• 2 cups dried figs
• 1-inch-by-3-inch piece of orange peel
• one vanilla bean
• 2 tbsp whole coriander seed
• 1 tbsp whole allspice
• 750 ml red port wine


1. Buy an inexpensive port; you’ll add so much goodness to it, you can use the cheap stuff. 

2. Put the figs and the spices, peel and vanilla bean into a half-gallon jar, or divide among 2 quarts. Pour the port over, put the lid on and put your jar in the back of a dark cupboard.  Forget about it for a couple months.

3. When you’re ready, strain your Figoun through your finest strainer, funneling back into the wine bottle (I recommend scrubbing the label off first. Put on your own label, maybe a fancy one). 

4. Save the vanilla bean; it still has a lot to give.

Serve Figoun as an aperitif, perhaps with club soda over ice and a twist of lemon peel, or you can serve in cordial glasses as dessert.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



The somewhat-green sauerkraut on the left has just been made and fermentation hasn’t begun. The white sauerkraut in the middle was made 2 to 3 weeks ago and is ready to enjoy. The brown sauerkraut is over a year old; it is soft in texture and sour in flavor but still edible.

There is a foolproof method for making sauerkraut and other ferments and that is to use glass canning jars, filled to the very top with vegetables and brine. I adopted this method when I was doing a lot of recipe testing for my book, The Pickled Panty, and I haven’t had a ferment go bad or taste funky ever since.

Why is it foolproof? Glass, unlike crocks, never develop the hairline cracks that make a crock impossible to sanitize properly, and the cracks allow contaminants in. A glass jar with a lid and screwband excludes air without the need to weight the food to keep it below the brine. When you want to check on the ferment, you can see how it is progressing without opening the jar and introducing airborne yeasts and molds. And, when you want to taste your ferment, you open and taste from one jar, leaving the rest of the jars in your batch unopened and unexposed to air.

If you taste the unfermented cabbage, it will taste salty. As fermentation proceeds, lactic acid is produced as a byproduct of the microbial action, and the sour should balance out the saltiness. The more salt you use, the slower the fermentation and the longer the kraut will keep without softening; the less salt you use, the quicker the fermentation and the faster it will soften and discolor.

As the fermentation proceeds, you will see bubbles of gas – carbon dioxide – rising to the top of your jar. It will even push some brine out, which is why I always place my ferments on saucers to catch the overflow. If the fermentation is vigorous, it may even leave some some of the vegetables uncovered on the top. This isn’t a problem as long as the jar remains closed. When I open the jar to taste the ferment, I’ll top it off with more brine (or just water if the ferment tasted salty) to keep it all covered. Then the lid and screwband goes back on.

Potential problems? Just one: If you fail to loosen the screwband as fermentation begins and carbon dioxide begins to build up in the jar, you could get an explosion (It happened to me once with kimchi all over the kitchen; it won’t happen again!).

You can buy airlocks for glass canning jars. They aren’t expensive and they do work well, but the only advantages they provide are that the airlocks remove the need for placing the jars on saucers to catch an overflow and they prevent explosions. On the downside, when you open the jar to taste the ferment, the air you let in will contain yeasts and molds that will form a scum on the top of the brine, which you will then have to remove. To remove the scum, you have to open the jar, exposing the brine once again to the airborne yeasts and molds. And so on. (This same issue occurs with expensive crocks.)

The method of making ferments in canning jars is only slightly different from the standard method of making ferments in crocks or other vessels. 

Here’s How to Make Sauerkraut

Step 1. Wash your jars and lids in soapy water. Rinse well and set them upside down on a towel to drain and dry.

Step 2. Trim the cabbage and weigh it. Measure out 1-1/2 teaspoons of canning salt or fine sea salt per pound of cabbage and place in a small bowl. Shred, grate, or chop the cabbage and place it in a large bowl or food-safe bucket. If you are working with multiple heads of cabbage sprinkle on a portion of your measured salt as you fill the bucket with the shredded cabbage.

I like to use a mandoline for shredding cabbage. Cabbage grated on a box grater or with a food processor looks chewed up to me and sauerkraut made from chopped cabbage doesn’t fit neatly on a hot dog.

Step 3. Mix the cabbage and salt. If you like, walk away and let the salt pull the liquid from the cell walls. If you want to wrap the job up, smush, smash, and massage the cabbage until you have mechanically broken down the cell walls and drawn water out of the cells. (A combination of both — time and massage — is fine.) The sauerkraut is ready to pack when it has a good amount of brine in the bowl.  Note: Sauerkraut made with freshly harvested cabbage generates brine easily; sauerkraut made with cabbage that has been pulled from the root cellar may need added brine (see step 4).


A few hours after salting the cabbage, the cabbage is wilted and brine has collected in the bowl. 

Step 4. Pack the cabbage into the canning jars, tamping down with a dowel or spoon. Fill the jar with cabbage to within 1 inch of the top of each jar, tamping down as you go.  At the top of the jar, you should have about 1 inch of brine, filling the jar to the very top. If you don’t, make some brine by combining 1 cup spring water (i.e., non-chlorinated water) and 1 teaspoon canning or fine sea salt and add as much as needed. Place the lid on the jar, place the screwband on the jar to secure the lid, and gently finger-tighten. Place each jar on a saucer or place all the jars in a plastic bin to catch the overflow.

I use a dowel to tamp down on the cabbage as I fill the jars.

I fill the jars to the very brim, then top with the lid and screwband, and place on a saucer to collect overflowing brine.

Step 5. Let the fermentation happen. Sauerkraut takes 7 to 14 days to ferment in glass jars at 60 degrees to 70 degrees F; it will be slower at colder temperatures and faster at warmer temperatures. I keep my ferments on the counter (or where I can see it) for 2 weeks.  If the lid bulges at any time, loosen the screwband. If there is no brine overflow after 2 days, loosen the screwband. After 2 weeks, the ferment should no longer be pressing out brine, and a jar tipped on its side will not show many or any gas bubbles rising up.

Step 6. Taste. The ferment should taste pleasantly sour.  If it does, it is ready to be stored. If it is still not sour, let it ferment longer. Remember to taste from only one jar, and to refill to the top with more brine (see step 4) if needed.

Step 7. Store. Keep never-opened jars in a cool place (a cool basement or a refrigerator) for up to a year. It can go even longer, especially if extra salt is used, but the longer it is kept, the sourer it becomes. Once a jar has been opened, keep it in the fridge. Try to avoid having anyone eat directly from the opened jar. If it ever turns out the sauerkraut is too salty to enjoy, give it a quick rinse under running water.

Andrea Chesman has written more than 20 cookbooks, including The Pickled Pantry, Recipes from the Root Cellar, Serving Up the Harvest, and The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How. She teaches and does cooking demonstrations and classes at fairs, festivals, book events, and garden shows across the United States. She lives in Ripton, Vermont. Read all of Andrea's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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