Strawberry-Lemonbalm Fermentation

Hello again plant lovers.

Hooray for Strawberry Season!! 

They are definitely one of my strongest Comfort Foods.  I have countless fond memories from my childhood of eating my fill in my mother's strawberry patch in our yard.  I'd just park myself in the grass and gorge.  Then the feast would move to the kitchen where she'd start the long afternoon of processing her famous (at least to me) jam.For a whole weekend our kitchen was full of canning jars and that heavenly sweet aroma.  I'm sure I tried to help, but I mostly remember the taste of Freshness and Sweet Summer, all the while my face was smeared with red juice.Now that I'm a parent, I savor the experience of watching my son do the same.  And I've learned just how slow it is to go berry picking with a 5 year old!But I've learned a couple of my own twists.First, I've learned that I don't have the patience to do the whole jamming and canning process.  Which is ok because I've been playing with Wild Fermentations for the last few years and this brings huge smiles to my face (and my son still gets to eat his fill).Many people don't realize that lacto-fermentation can be done with more than dairy (yogurt).  It works wonderfully with berries too!And on a hot summer day, there's not much that's more refreshing than a glass of cool Strawberry-Lemonbalm soda.  See the history of soda is actually a story of food preservation, increased nutrition and delicious health tonics.Lacto-fermentation, especially Wild Ferments, introduce micro-organisms to our digestive systems that really improve our digestion and absorption, especially when taken on a regular basis.If you've been reading this blog or attended a workshop, you'll know how enthusiastic I am about taking in Wild Plants as a way to increase our (inter)connection with the Living World around us.  Wild Fermentations like this are a great addition to that, a way to connect to the invisible microorganism in the air, on our food and in the soil.Here's 2 links that I think you'll really enjoy...

  • Wild Fermentation - this is also the name of a Fantastic book by Sandor Katz.  It covers dozens of recipes.  It's great for the beginner or the most experienced home fermentor.
  • a Blueberry Soda recipe - there's a great little video and very clear pictures showing 1 of the ways to make a fermented berry soda.

Now, being so passionate about Both wild fermentations And herbs, I can't help but combine the two.  And they work really well together as a fun way to deal with the heat of long summer days.Here are the basics...

  1. Take a pint of strawberries and blend them. (this can be a great use for any older, sad looking berries that get passed by in favour of their more robust neighbours)
  2. add 1-2 Tbs of Lemon Juice
  3. Separately, make 1 L of Lemonbalm tea (with a good handful of dry or fresh leaves).
  4. Steep this for about 15 minutes, strain and add 1/2 cup of your favourite sugar (maple syrup or honey can replace the sugar, but quantities need to shift too)
  5. Let the tea cool to Luke Warm (too hot and you'll kill the wild yeast on the berries) and add it to the blended strawberries
  6. give it a quick blend and pour into a clean bottle
  7. **Don't cap the bottle** Instead, cover it with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin (it needs to breath).
  8. Now it needs time to ferment.  I like to put it outside in the Sunshine to catch the rays and some more wild yeasts.
  9. On a hot day, you should see it start to bubble in a couple of hours.  If you don't have a hot day or if it doesn't "kick" right away, don't fret.  Keep it somewhere warm and check it for the next couple of days.  It will start to bubble - this is a sign that the yeast are eating the sugars and doing their thing.
  10. After it's been bubbling for a while (taste it repeatedly until it's at the sweet/tart balance that works for you), strain out the strawberry bits
  11. Serve chilled and enjoy!  (store in the fridge for as long as it lasts)

That's it for today.  The last thing I'll say is that I'll be doing Wild Herbal-Berry Fermentions throughout the season.  See the Workshops page for details about July's Strawberry class.