In the spirit of reducing waste and reusing food that would otherwise be thrown away (and the fact that San Francisco is a foggy, moldy place), we present some simple ways to make fermented goodies. These are just some really easy starts. If you want to become a fermentation pro, try reading something like Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter is great to make from left-over cooked grains and extra bits of flour. The recipe is really simple, more or less equal parts flour/grain and water. You can use the stuff for all kinds of breads, from the traditional sourdough to biscuits, pie crust and pancakes.

  1. mix flour and water in a jar or other container.
  2. cover the container with cheesecloth and place it somewhere relatively warm.
  3. wait…. stir your mixture regularly (maybe once-twice a day)
  4. after 2-4 days your mixture will be nice and bubbly and have a distinctly sour smell. It’s ready to use!
  5. every few days “feed” the sourdough with a little more flour and water. If you use the starter, replace the amount you’ve taken and wait ~24 hours before using again!

If you are an infrequent user you can store it in the fridge. yeasts act slower and you’ll only need to feed it maybe once a week or so. If your starter hasn’t done anything after a few days, you can speed the process along by adding a pinch of bakers yeast or by dropping a piece of unwashed fruit in to the mixture (of course you should probably remove this after a few days). In San Francisco I’ve found this isn’t really a problem!

Fruit Vinegar

Another simple thing to make, although this one takes a lot more time, about a month. You don’t need much, just damaged or scrap fruit, water, and sugar or another sweetener. Things like strawberry tops or apple parts or pineapple shavings are great.

  • Assorted fruit scraps
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4-1/3 cup sugar or sweetener
  1. mix scraps, sugar and water in jar or container. stir vigorously.
  2. cover with cheese cloth and wait.. stir every day or so.
  3. Colors and flavor will change over time. After about 4 weeks you should have something which is distinctly vinegar!
  4. Strain and place in a sealed container

By the end of this process you should see a sticky, weird-looking bacterial ‘mother’ at the bottom of your jar. You can use this to jumpstart the process of making more by adding scraps, water and sugar. Apple cider or wine left out also works to make decent vinegar. Again if you are not having any luck getting things to ferment, you can try the pinch of bakers yeast…


Garlic Chili Sauce


  • 1 – 3 Heads (not cloves) of Garlic
  • 10-20 Thai (red) Chili Peppers, stemmed.
  • Vinegar (White, Cider, Fruit, etc)
  • Pinch of Salt

Optional (but recommended):

  • 1-2 Tomatoes
  • 1-2 Carrot
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar/Sweetener
  • Other assorted Hot Peppers to taste

Peel garlic cloves, and stem chilis, place in blender with a pinch of salt. Fill remaining space with vinegar, leaving some headroom so the blender won’t overflow and saturate your kitchen with a hot-pepper disaster. Blend. You can add other types of peppers (jalapenos work well), as well as tomatoes, carrots or sugar to mellow and balance the flavor. Dilute with more vinegar or water if it’s too hot, add more chilis if you’d like more spice. Refrigerate.

Shake well before serving, unlike some commercial sauces this has no jelling agent and so it WILL separate.

— more recipes coming soon! —