It’s the beginning of December, and the holiday season is fully upon us; however, with the warmth and joy of the season often comes stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed when it comes to holiday shopping and gift giving. Well, we’re here to help, with some great gift ideas for the foodies in your life!
A great DIY holiday gift idea that is simple, fun, and unique is making fermented gifts for friends, family, and loved ones (and is a great gift to send in the mail!). From bottles of homemade kombucha, to fresh sauerkraut or kimchi, there are endless DIY fermentations that would make the perfect holiday gift.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “but I’ve never fermented anything in my life!” Well, surprisingly, fermentation doesn’t always have to involve complex measurements or fancy, expensive equipment. With some basic fermentation knowledge and a few simple tools, you can easily create delicious fermented beverages, sauces, fruits, vegetables, and more.
So, what are the basic “tools of the trade” needed for the most common simple ferments?
- Glass Jar or carboy – Fermenting in a glass vessel is one of the most common ways to ferment things like vegetables, fruits, or beverages like jun, kombucha, or mead. Here at Fifth Season, we have many different types and sizes of glass jars for any size ferment. Our Gallon pickle jars are a great option for larger vegetable ferments like a batch of kombucha, while smaller 12-32 oz jars can be used for kimchi, pickles, or any other DIY mini-fermentations to give as individual gifts. Carboys are typically used for liquid ferments like mead, cider, and wine. Consider one of our Fermentation Kits if you plan to make one large batch and then give the finished product in jars (but the kits themselves also make great gifts!)
- Ceramic Crock – Ceramic fermenting crocks are a much more traditional method of fermenting, and can feel homey and comforting to use. This method is extremely simple – all you’ll need is a ceramic crock, a ceramic fermentation weight (both sold at Fifth Season), and some sort of lid or plate to put on top (essential to prevent mold and harmful gases from entering the crock). If making something like sauerkraut in a ceramic crock, simply follow your own recipe and then place the fermentation weights on top of the vegetables to weigh them down. Then, simply place a lid or plate on top and ferment!
- Drilled Lid or Gum Stopper – Depending on the kind of ferment you are making, you will need to seal your ferment in some way to prevent contaminants from getting in while still allowing CO2 to escape. If using a glass carboy, drilled gum stoppers are used along with an airlock (such as to make mead, cider, wine, etc). If you’re fermenting in a widemouth glass jar of some kind, you can either use just a traditional metal mason jar lid (with a piece of parchment paper underneath to prevent rusting), or (better yet!) a plastic drilled lid with a grommet to fit an airlock.
- Airlock – While not always necessary but definitely always useful, an airlock can help release CO2 gases in your jar, helping to prevent oxidation and other fermentation issues that can arise. At Fifth Season, we offer 2 different types of airlocks: the Twin Bubble airlock, or the Econolock airlock. Once you choose your airlock, you simply fill half of it with water and place the lock into the lid or bung of your vessel. If using a jar for your ferment, Fifth Season offers pre-drilled grommet lids for wide mouth Mason jars.
- Sanitizer – Undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of fermentation – sanitation! To prevent any harmful bacteria from getting into your ferment, it is essential to clean and sanitize all materials before using them. Basic soap and hot water is often fine, but to really make sure that your materials are as clean as possible, a sanitizer is extremely useful. At Fifth Season, Star San is our most popularly used product for sanitizing fermentation materials. At 1oz to 5 gallons of water, one bottle can go quite far.
DIY Mini-Fermentations as Holiday Gifts
If you’re wanting to make fermented gifts for the holidays this year but don’t have the time to wait weeks or months for your project to finish fermenting, making “mini-fermentations” is fun, easy, and can even be done as a last minute gift. Instead of making your ferment in a large vessel (like a gallon sized pickle jar), you can make smaller amounts in 12, 16 or even 32 oz jars, and give them as gifts while they are still fermenting. Here is a great recipe for a simple and delicious mini-ferment you can make this year.
Immune-Supporting Mini Fire Cider
If you’ve never heard of fire cider, it’s your lucky day – this magical health elixir is one of the most potent immune boosting medicines around, and makes the perfect gift to support our immune health during the winter. The best part is, it’s super easy and very inexpensive to make!
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Onion (Yellow or White)
- Garlic, peeled
- Horseradish (used in most traditional fire cider recipes, although I usually omit this due to dislike of the taste)
- Elderberries, fresh or dried
- Ginger Root
- Cayenne Pepper
- Honey (optional)
- Chop up as many veggies as desired. Place into a small glass jar, and fill with enough apple cider vinegar to cover the veggies, fruits and herbs. Seal with either metal lid with parchment paper underneath, or plastic grommeted lid with airlock (if giving as a gift, not using an airlock may be easiest). Then, let sit for a minimum of 4 weeks (shaking often); strain out veggies, add honey to taste, and enjoy! If using this recipe for holiday gifts, giving a small jar of honey along with the fermenting fire cider is a great idea (for gift reciever to add when the ferment is done).