Fermented Beets with a Homemade Air Lock System

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fermented red beet slices

photo by vsimon


I am in love.

With my fermenting husband, and these fermented beets.

Vibrant, colorful, crunchy, tangy, salty, probiotic, raw.


Last summer he experimented with sauerkraut, the old-fashioned way. In a ceramic crock, with a rock as a weight. It was beyond gross. Under the rock was blue, green, gray, and white mold. Supposedly, this is to be expected. Nothing wrong a little (or a lot of)  mold, they say. My response? “Yuck, no!”

So I bought some glass crocks with loose fitting glass lids. And tried fermenting diced beets. They were equally disgusting. The brine became as thick as honey and everything turned brown. These were dispatched to the compost bin.

We learned about fancy-dancy German crocks with air locks in the lids. They are lovely, prevent mold and spoilage, but cost three figures. That would make for some expensive veggies.

Then Vince’s engineering nature kicked in. And his frugal streak. I will let him explain from here.


fermenting jar with air lock

air lock lid on a canning jar

photo by vsimon


Simple Raw Fermented Sliced Beets

The recipe is simple enough, but I wanted the fermentation process to be just as simple.

Normally fermented pickles are done in a crock or glass container with a weight on top to keep the contents below the brine level. And then you have mold and scum that needs to be occasionally and regularly removed. This is not a nice task, and rather off-putting for some.

Another common practice is to use a large plastic bag filled with additional brine as a weight and a seal against mold and scum. But it doesn’t always work and can spring a leak.

The method I like best is to use an air lock to keep out the exchange of air during fermentation. Off gassing is allowed by the air lock during fermentation while maintaining an air seal, thus eliminating almost all mold/scum growth.

To begin with, you will need the right equipment. Any size jar will work, just adjust the recipe to fill it. But the jar cap is not typical. I made the air lock cap by purchasing a simple inexpensive air lock from a beer and wine making store. It cost less than $1. Then I fitted it to a standard jar lid by drilling a hole and sealing the air lock into the hole with silicone caulking. I’ve made several of these for different size jar lids, regular and wide-mouth. You will also need a small weight to keep the beets submerged in the brine. We went weight hunting at a local re-sale shop and found small round glass coasters that just fit into my jars. The weight has to be made of materials that are not reactive with the brine. Glass works great. Marble, and the previous rock, started to dissolve in the brine.

Half-sour pickles. What?

My recipe is based on the basic Half-Sour Brine recipe from Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, with a couple of added ingredients.

Half-sour pickles are not pickles stopped half way through the process. They are pickles that are fermented in lower salt brine.

Classic full sour fermented pickles are fermented in a brine of 5 to 8 percent salt to water ratio by weight. Half-sour pickles are fermented in a 3.5 percent salt brine.

Half-sour pickles also do not take as long to ferment as full sour pickles. These beets will be ready to eat after about 2 weeks in a dark location at room temperature.

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light streaming through paper thin fermented beets

photo by vsimon

Fermented Red Beet Slices


1 quart jar

1 air-lock cap

1 glass weight


fresh beets – thinly sliced. Estimate 6 to 8 medium beets.

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


2 cups water

1 tablespoon pickling salt

Begin by thinly slicing your washed raw red beets. Do not remove the stem end, use it as a handle while shaving off the very thin slices. I use a mandolin to slice the beets, but you could slice the beets with a knife.

Pack the beets into your jar until you are within about 1-1/2 inches from the top. Add the ground cloves and cinnamon. Place your weight onto the sliced beets.

Mix brine in a separate container until the salt is dissolved. Pour the brine mixture over the beet slices until it completely covers all the slices and yet is below 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Save any unused brine, you will need it later.

Install the air lock cap and fill the air lock half way with additional brine mixture. Set aside in a dark location at room temperature. Place a saucer or plate under the jar to catch any possible spillage as the fermentation process “breathes”. Bubbling should start within days and slow after a couple of weeks. Keep the air lock half filled with brine during the process adding more if needed.

At the end of 2 weeks, remove the weight and replace the air lock with a regular cap. I found the top layer of beets where a bit off color, but where easily removed. Refrigerate and enjoy.


3 kinds of garden beets

fresh beets

photo by lsimon

More notes from Linda:

Use organic veggies. Fermenting cultivates bacteria and yeast that come with your veggies. They will have more if they aren’t sprayed with killing chemicals.

Vince talks about room temperature. That will vary of course. We put our ferments in the basement when our temperatures are over 85 degrees. If your veggies are bubbling vigorously and so much brine has overflowed that the beets appear “dry”, move them to cooler quarters. And add more brine.

We have used this equipment for sauerkraut with caraway, shredded carrots with thyme, cucumber pickles, and hot radishes. The cabbage, carrots, and cukes where as wonderful as the beets. The radishes were musty and nasty. So far, four hits and a miss. We are waiting on green beans and garlic.

What delicious fun!

Are you fermenting yet?

Teff Date Nut Coffee Quick Bread

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teff date nut coffee quick bread photo by vsimon

Is this temping or what?

I like to play with my food, and new ingredients. There was a bag of teff flour in the freezer, calling me.

There were a couple of ideas floating around in my head. And I searched online for other ideas. There aren’t many recipes online for teff. Maybe because teff is hard to find, it is expensive, and it is brown.

Yes, the flour is beautifully brown. I hear there is an ivory variety, but not at my store. Still, it is a highly nutritious gluten free whole grain. And it tastes good. Learn more about teff, seeds and flour, here.

Most often I use it for simple pancakes. Just teff flour, no mixtures. And the pancakes are brown. I think they are lovely, but some folks will object to the color.

I easily converted a wheat based date bread recipe from allrecipes. This uses just teff flour. Who wants to mix 15, or even three gluten free flours together?

And starches? Forget about it! They are as devoid of nutrition as sugar, so you won’t find them here. Also, there is only half as much sugar as the original recipe. The dates make it plenty sweet, I didn’t want a tooth ache.

Adding xanthan is a must. Using 3 mini tins instead of a regular loaf pan helps too.

The final dish must still taste great, have normal texture, and look inviting. This recipe does it all.

Teff Date Nut Coffee Quick Bread

yield 3 mini loaves

1 cup chopped dates

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1 cup very hot water

1 1/2 cups teff

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup oil

1 egg, beaten

Warm oven to 350 degrees.

Oil 3 mini loaf pans and put on a rimmed sheet pan for easy movement in and out of the oven.

In a small bowl: mix dates, coffee powder, and water. Set aside while dates plump and the mixture cools a bit.

In a big bowl: mix teff flour, pecans, sugar, xanthan, salt, and soda. Mix thoroughly so there are no clumps of xanthan or soda. Pinch any little clumps of soda with your fingers to break them up.

Add oil and beaten egg to the liquid date mixture. Stir it up well.

Add liquid date mixture to flour mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly. Allow mixture to rest for about 5 minutes so the xanthan can hydrate.

Equally divide batter into 3 mini pans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Completely cool before cutting.

These freeze beautifully, very nice for make ahead gluten free gifts.

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Or, if you must, chance warming in the microwave to thaw. Sans any metal tins of course.


You may like our Chocolate Angel Food Cake, also made with 100% teff flour. See that posting here.

There is a tasty gingerbread recipe by Jacqueline Mallorca here. Scroll way to the end. I made it in a 9” round pan for prettier presentation. And topped it with whipped cream and diced candied ginger.


This post was submitted to the January 2011 edition of Go Ahead Honey, It Is Gluten Free. Hosted by the amazing Lauren at Celiac Teen.

Earth Café Vegan Raw Cheesecake Review and Giveaway

Earth Cafe Raspberry cheesecake

This cheesecake intrigued me.

Making a cheesecake gluten free is easy, just use gluten free cookie or cracker crumbs, or nuts for the crust. 

And I have made many successful dairy free desserts (and more) with silken tofu.

But a vegan and raw cheesecake? No eggs, no baking? How do they do that?

Very well!

Vegetarian Times magazine Foodie Awards 2010 named it a winner in the Best Raw Goodies category.

The “cheese” part is made with soaked nuts, agave, flavorings of lemon, vanilla, and cinnamon. And fresh fruit for the fruit flavors. Ground nuts make an excellent crust. I’ve never met a nut I didn’t like.

The filling was creamy and firm. The crust was crunchy. Our taste buds were happy, so was my tummy. And this is super important to me.

Specifics, please.

We tried five flavors. All came individually packaged in recyclable clamshells.

Nutrition info on the back of the package states there are two servings per package. So we cut each piece in two. And it was a nice ending to a meal. Cheesecake is high calorie whether it is “regular” or vegan or raw. A little piece is just right. Each serving is just shy of 200 calories, around 15 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams fat.

Earth Café uses organic ingredients whenever possible.

Which did we like best?

Frist up was Who’s Your Daddy Carob Mousse Pie. This was my husband’s favorite and a top seller according to the company. It was light brown, very smooth, and sweet. My husband said it tasted like maple. I found it too sweet, but most people like things sweeter than I do.

Rockin’ Raspberry was my favorite. You can see how beautiful it is in the picture with the layer of whole berries in the middle. Fresh fruit is the first ingredient.  You could smell it and taste it. It wasn’t to sweet for me, and was sweet enough for my husband. A winner.

Find Your Thrill on Blueberry Hill flavor grabs you first with its beautiful color. Fresh Blueberries (first ingredient again) are pureed into the filling. It had blueberry scent and flavor. A hit with both of us again.

Cali Style Lemon had a bit of coconut aroma and tart lemon flavor. I don’t know what Cali style is, but I love lemon. Cashews were the first ingredient here and the filling was beige. Perhaps adding a bit of turmeric could make it a more appealing pale yellow.

Though we would not turn a slice down, Strawberry Fields Forever flavor was our least favorite. Strawberries were the first ingredient again, but we couldn’t taste or smell the berries. They were pureed into the filling, making it a lavender pink color.

You can visit Earth Café for five more flavors. They ship frozen whole cheesecakes in the U.S. for $34.99 plus shipping. Individual clamshells are available at select stores, with suggested retail of $5.29-5.99.


Leave a comment below by March 11 for a chance to win a free cheesecake. Two lucky winners will be randomly selected March 12, 2011.

Tell us which flavor you’d like to try. Will it be raspberry or Life is Sweet Potato Pie? Banana Cream or Cherry Dream?


My review policy is to only post about products I like, whether I purchase them or they are free. If I don’t like the product, I simply don’t write about it. Earth Café cheesecakes were sent to us free of charge.

Update 3/16/11. The giveaway is now closed. The lucky winners are Nina and Pat. Enjoy!