Starfruit Preserves

“Starfruit has been a very underutilized commodity. It grows like a weed and produces endlessly. The jelly is very marketable. There is nothing like it. People go somewhere just because of a sauce or jelly. How bout a glaze for fish or chicken? There is nothing out there like it.”

My neighbor shared these kind words after loading me up with a huge baskets of his starfruit, which were on the sour side this year. This was my second gleaning from his tree, and I had just dropped of a jar of the starfruit preserves I made. One of both of our favorite things about this preserves recipe is that the stars stay intact, so it’s a treat for the eyes to spoon the honey-colored sweet stars onto your toast!

It took some searching to find what looked like a promising starfruit preservation method. I suppose it is just because of the uncommonness of this fruit in nontropical regions. I finally found this Ghanaian study, which was a great place to start! The Preparation of Jam: Using Star Fruit. I modified the recipe somewhat, and I’ve made it twice. The first batch needed far less pectin than the second, so be sure to do the plate test to check that the jam will set before spooning into the jars.


Yield: About 10 half pint jars.

750 g sugar
1 1/3 c. water
1 kg starfruit
1 organic/homegrown lemon


  1. Wash all starfruit, making sure to get between ribs. I used a cloth to get any debris off of the waxy surface.
  2. Cut edges of ribs and each end off.
  3. Slice horizontally into star shaped slices, removing seeds as you go.
  4. Weigh out sugar and mix with water in a large pot, set to simmer to a light caramel color.
  5. Add 1 kg sliced starfruit.
  6. Add about 3 T. lemon zest.
  7. Add about 2 T. lemon juice.
  8. Simmer about 30 minutes.
  9. Add about 4 T. pectin. Stir in for 3 minutes.
  10. Perform cold plate test to ensure liquid is set. If not, repeat adding pectin until cold test shows accurate setting.
  11. Spoon into sterilized jars.
  12. The rest is just typical processing of jam or preserves, so it’s easy to find detailed instructions. Basically…
  13. Be sure to wipe any preserves from rims of jars to ensure the lids make a good seal.
  14. Heat lids on low to soften sealing agent.
  15. Place lids and rims on filled jars.
  16. Process in water bath canner with boiling water about 8 minutes. Leave to set for a few hours until cool.
Jasmina shows off the pre-jam bounty in our yarden!

Food Value – Gleaning

Here in Sarasota, when you hear gleaning, the local Transition group and Jessica’s Organic Farm come to mind. “Since October 2010, we have donated over 130,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables,” states Transition. 

While this effort is thrilling and encouraging, it’s heartbreaking to think that up to 40% of food produced in the US ends up in landfills. Not going to hungry people, not feeding animals or even compost… landfills. I learned about Food Shift through an article about gleaning, and I’m hoping they’re the start of a paradigm shift in which food is more highly valued – because it should be. Food Shift, in San Francisco, recovers and redistributes food that would otherwise go to landfills to those in need. They charge for it too because, as founder Dana Frasz states, “We’re paying people to remove our trash and we’re paying people to remove our recycling. Why aren’t we paying people to recover this incredibly valuable resource of food?” And Food Shift is being hired. They know the routine and they’re reliable, so they make it easier for companies to donate excess food. Seems like a great way to begin valuing food properly to me.

Food Fermentation at the Food Forest

The second food fermentation workshop at the Food Forest was small, cozy, and… awesome! Due to the wet weather we’ve been having (thankfully!), I decided to hold the class inside this time. There were some new and some familiar faces, which was great to see. We made sauerkraut, sour pickles and sourdough, and I did receive a suggestion that I should have had some fresh-baked sourdough ready for the class to try. Definitely next time! It was wonderful to be able to pick fresh dill from the garden and oak leaves from our trees for the pickles. It will be amazing to hold fermentation classes again the late summer, when we can use our farm fresh cucumbers, peppers and whatever else we can find to ferment! Thank you to everyone who came out to the first and second classes –  you are what made them awesome! Check out the pictures below to see how the sourdough ended up…

Marsha, Jay and I working on pickles.

Marsha, Jay and I working on pickles.

Look at all that kraut-to-be!

Look at all that kraut-to-be!

Thanks for taking the awesome pictures, Anthony Pagillo!

Pickles! Thanks for taking the awesome pictures, Anthony Pagillo!

The onion caraway sourdough sponge.

The onion caraway sourdough sponge.

Check out those bubbles!

Check out those bubbles 24 hours later!

The final sourdough rise in the loaf and cast iron pans.

The final sourdough rise in the loaf and cast iron pans.

The finished loaf! It is pleasantly sour, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle.

The finished loaf! It is pleasantly sour, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, all with the help of the wild yeasts living in our home and on the organic local strawberries added to the sourdough starter!

I’m greatly anticipating the next series of fermentation classes I’ll teach at the Florida School of Holistic Living beginning April 19. It should be a fun, relaxing Friday night of fermentation learning and practice! I am also busily brainstorming future classes to be held at the Food Forest. What interests you in the realms of food, nutrition, sustainability and gardening? Leave a comment to make a suggestion or contact me. Thanks and enjoy the the lovely cool spring weather!

Introducing Fermentation Fridays!

I am so very honored and excited to announce that I’ll be teaching at another venue – The Florida School of Holistic Living! In April, we will begin the Fermentation Fridays series. It will be so perfect to relax into the weekend with a fun evening of  talking fermentation and making delicious aged foods. We’ll be making two new ferments during each class, and participants will get to take home samples of our mouth-watering creations! You can register for the classes through the School at their site. Make sure to bring your jars! See class descriptions below.

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

Vegetable Ferments: Sauerkraut and Kim chi, Friday, April 19th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Become a master at the classic vegetable ferments – sauerkraut and kim chi! It’s not the canned, bland kraut you’ve seen at the store, and kim chi just might become your new favorite side dish. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring two pint glass jars and lids and take home the kraut and kim chi we make in class.

My crock of homemade kim chi!

My crock of homemade kim chi!

Cooked Ferments: Tempeh and Sourdough, Friday, May 10th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Learn to make fermented delights tempeh and sourdough! Store-bought tempeh will never taste the same again, and your homemade breads and crusts will pack a new flavor punch with sourdough. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of these traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring a pint glass jar and lid and take home some sourdough starter of your own.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Condiments to Savor: Fermented Pickles and Aged Hot Sauce, Friday, June 14th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Spice up your dishes with delicious fermented condiments – fermented pickles and aged hot sauce. Many store-bought pickles aren’t fermented at all, but preserved in vinegar. You’ll learn how to make dill garlicky pickles the fermented way! All the best hot sauces are aged, and we’ll learn the techniques for making a savory, spicy treat. Bring a pint glass jars and and cup-sized jar and lids to take home the ferments you’ll create!

What will become aged hot sauce.

What will become aged hot sauce.

I hope to see you at one or more of these fun new classes, especially if you’re near the Orlando area. Don’t worry, we’ll still be doing classes at the Food Forest regularly, but it is fun to be able to teach at a new place and get the chance to meet new folks. Check out my class calendar to see the details on all of my upcoming classes!

Teaching My First Food Fermentation Class

Another dream came true this week. I finally taught my first food fermentation class! Held here at the Food Forest, we made kombucha tea, kim chi and aged hot sauce. With about twenty-five people in attendance, I was a bit nervous to begin, but once folks started talking a little, questions popped up, and before long I felt as though we were all friends learning together.

What a great crowd!

What a great crowd!

Ever since I did my first fermentation workshop/apprenticeship (of two) with Sandor Katz, I have wanted to share this knowledge and my ever-growing love of fermented foods and the culture that surrounds and is exuded by them. It seemed that I was always too busy, distracted or off on other adventures to do it. Finally, with the timing and setting ripe, it was easy to plan and execute, as well as being extremely gratifying. You know how it feels when you finally get to check a long-procrastinated item off of your list? This was like a life-goal check mark off my list! I feel so honored that the wonderful attendees were receptive to what I had to share and were willing to listen, ask questions and share their own experiences and knowledge. Thank  you to all who shared your presence; you are amazing!

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

And the best part… I have already planned fermentation class number two! March 23rd (my younger brother’s birthday) it will be sauerkraut, sourdough and fermented pickles. I hope to see some familiar and some new faces then, and I can’t wait for the new insights you share with me that day.

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!

Crockin’ Kimchi!

I calculated I’ve been a food fermenter for roughly six years now. For some time, I’ve had my thrifting eye on the lookout for a ceramic crock for making sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha or anything else you can ferment in a large ceramic vat. I’ve spotted them at antique stores, for which they charge a pretty penny, much out the range of my frugal budget. Well, my maternal grandma came for a visit last weekend, and what did she bring but the most perfect crock ever for me! I tried to contain my excitement as I helped unload it from her car, not wanting to assume that it was for me. As an “Oooh” came from my mom, my grandma told me she had found it for me.

My new baby!

My new baby!

After visiting the huge Asian market in Orlando Monday night, I was equipped to make some traditional kimchi, a first for me. I usually make a “kraut-chi,” a term coined by fermentation author, Sandor Katz, which is a blend of whatever vegetables and spices you desire and have available. It doesn’t have to “fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi… my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity,” says Katz in his new book The Art of Fermentation.

The biggest kraut-chi batch we've made!

The biggest kraut-chi batch we’ve made!

So, on a very hungry aforementioned trip to the Asian market, I saw these beautiful jars of colorful kimchi, remembered a Richmond friend’s tasty recipe, and decided I needed to get the ingredients to make my own. I bought Napa cabbage, a daikon radish, two onions, and fresh ginger. I already had at home the other ingredients: garlic, hot chili peppers from the garden, carros, and sea salt. I followed the recipe in Sandor’s first book Wild Fermentation. First I made a brine of four cups water and four tablespoons salt. I washed and pulled apart the cabbage, used the mandolin to slice the daikon, carrot and onions and put them in the brine to soak overnight. Then this morning, I drained off the brine and added the ginger, garlic and chili peppers, all finely sliced. I transferred the whole mixture to the crock and added some of the extra brine to bring the liquid level up to the surface.


Kimchi mixture in crock.

You want enough liquid so that when you push a plate into the crock, the brine rises above the surface. See photo below:

Plate and jar weight method.

Plate and jar weight method.

I draped a dish towel over it all to keep out dust, kitty hair or any interested flying things. Now, as Tom Petty says, is the hardest part, waiting. The yummy fermentation smells coming from the kitchen already make it difficult. Luckily we still have about half of the kraut-chi left!

Homestead Happenings

We’ve been excitedly planning our fall garden, beginning with some stinky, succulent mushroom compost – 2 scoops! We chose to dedicate a sandy, patchy grass area next to the house as another garden, and Tim decidedly shoveled a load of mushroom compost there after he’d tilled up the sandy soil.

We had a great time on a trip to the Green Flamingo farm in New Smyrna, the first farm I wwoofed at for one month this past May/June. The farmer, Liz, was hosting farm tours and a fancy dinner to benefit some local group. The farm was beautiful, baby greens sprouting up everywhere! She gave us some baby tomatoes and pepper plants she didn’t think she’d use – what a treat! Hopefully we can keep them alive through the winter.

Inspired by what we’d seen at G-Flo, we decided to make raised rows for our plants. However, I remembered a permaculture tip I’d read in Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores: plants are happier in gardens that reflect Nature, and there are rarely rectangles and straight rows found out there… I then took to sculpting spirals and mandalas in our new beautiful dark soil.

before beds

And after a few hours’ work…

beautiful beds

As of right now, we’ve transplanted baby kale, mustard greens, and broccoli seedlings from another plot into the “kitchen garden,” and today we’ll be planting more kale (a different kind), arugula, rainbow chard, and maybe more seeds. I quickly received my seed order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a Virginia seed company which specializes in heirloom, open-pollinated (non-hybrid), non-chemically treated seed that are well-adapted to a southeastern climate. I have a feeling we’ll have more produce than we can eat in a few weeks! Behind the beds, in front of the porch you can also see the two small fig trees Tim planted there for easy fig-picking.

Other news on the home front – lemons! There is an old, untended lemon grove near our home, which we’ve been helping ourselves to. As fans of stevia-sweetened lemonade, we usually have a stock of bottled lemon juice handy. Well, yesterday I decided that we shouldn’t buy our lemonade anymore when there are literally thousands of organic (gone wild?) lemons dropping to the ground right down the street. I went down and picked four huge bags full.

lemon harvest

I then began the canning process, which I learned to do while wwoofing, with the aid of specific lemon-canning instructions I found online. I juiced them with a glass hand-juicer, which took about four hours and made me wish I’d found rubber gloves before beginning.

glass juicer

I saved the better-looking lemon rinds to try to preserve the zest. I think I’m going to try freezing it in some lemon juice, a suggestion I found online as well.

It took a long time to make this much juice!

As I was working on the last of the lemon squeezing, I set the canning pot to boil about half-full of water and put the jars in to sanitize 10 minutes. I also put my lids and rings in a small saucepan to heat up. Once the lemon juice was squeezed and heated to a low simmer (I measured by mason jars into a large stockpot so I’d know I squeezed enough) and the jars sanitized, I began filling the jars. When the seven jars were full of fresh juice, I put wiped dry the edges of the jar mouths, used the magnetic wand to lift the hot lids onto the jars, screwed the rings on firmly but not too tight, and set them gently in the canner for 5 minutes, as my recipe prescribed.

All done! Lemon juice in a boiling water canner.

Voila! The first of many runs of lemon juice for our supply. Don’t worry, we definitely plan on using the fresh juice (non-canned) while the lemons are still in season, but we figured our own canned lemon juice is better than the alternative (store-bought) after the season changes.

Freshly canned lemon juice.

With half of lemons I picked still remaining, I see more lemon juice canning in my near future; however, this time I’ll definitely hunt down some rubber gloves before beginning. The lemony smell in the kitchen throughout the process was fresh and delightful, and I believe I got an upper body workout squeezing all those lemons!

Summer Reflections and Looking Ahead

After the long drive back from North Carolina to Central Florida, catching up with family and friends (some still yet to see), unpacking, resting, and taking care of overdue obligations, I catch my breath and think, “What now?”

Without much perspective yet, looking back on my adventures this summer, I am so glad I did everything I did with wwoofing, traveling and being a “wexer” (work exchanger) at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference. I feel I’ve learned so much, clarified my goals (somewhat), and appreciated even more what Mother Earth provides. I’ve rerouted my life, checked wwoofing off my bucket list, and while some things are still ambiguous at the moment (“What do I do now?”), I feel I’m headed in a more authentic direction.

Being a wwoofer for the summer has taught me so many practical skills and lifelong lessons, given me confidence in growing my own food, raised the bar on the meanings of “fresh food” and “sustainable” to me, shown me a diversity of lifestyle alternatives to mainstream society, and, among many other positive things, allowed me to spend a lot of much-needed time outdoors. My partner, Tim, met me up in Asheville for a wonderful two-week reunion. Four days of this time we spent hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Hiking along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

I’d like to share a couple photos of something I did get to make myself at Long Valley farm. After mentioning to the family that I was interested in food fermentation and had done two apprenticeships with fermentation author Sandor Katz in Tennessee, they asked me if I would like to make some sauerkraut. Of course I obliged! I spent a sunny autumn afternoon picking cabbage and carrots and used some already-harvested beets, garlic and cayenne to make this kraut-chi, a mixture of sauerkraut and kim-chi.

After chopping up the vegetables.

The finished kraut-chi!

The Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference was just as magical as it was at my first attendance last year. Again, I was able to secure a work-exchange position, this year as a teacher support person for the Intensive classes. This position meant I helped the teachers move their materials to the tent, set up, mic up, pass out papers and tasty samples, and anything else they might need an extra hand with. It was such a wonderful position to have! (Last year I did dishes and directed parking.) It was fun to get to interact with the teachers more and to help the Intensives run smoothly. I enjoyed each of the classes I attended and learned so much not only about herbal medicine and healing, but, like last year, felt such a sense of empowerment and sisterhood with the women there and everywhere.

The morning view of the conference grounds from my tent.

The big decision ahead for me involves graduate school. I’ve been accepted to attend Green Mountain College’s Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems program. Green Mountain College, located in Poultney, VT, was ranked number one green school by the Sierra Club in 2010. The program is mostly online, so I would be able to continue living in Florida. On the pros side are: I’d love to study all that the program has to offer on sustainable agriculture and food policy and history, I’ve always wanted to go to grad school, and it will set me on a path more in line with my values. On the cons side… well there’s really only one con: the cost and its implications. Since I’d rather not take out a loan, this leaves me currently looking for a full time job. I plan on applying for a scholarship offered by Annie’s foods; however, the results aren’t announced until April of next year; my program begins in January. I still think it’s worth a shot. Unfortunately, I don’t think my program, since it’s distance learning, offers any graduate assistantships or teaching opportunities. If anyone reading has any ideas for garnering scholarships or paying for grad school, I’d be grateful to hear them!

It has been amazing readjusting to life in Florida. I’ve relished in seeing my loved ones more often, enjoyed feeling summer turn to fall for the second time this year, and, maybe most of all, loved getting back into the kitchen at the Beautiful Bamboo farm, where I am living with Tim. I’ll leave you today with a couple pictures of recent creations.

homemade pizza

West African groundnut stew