yardgyal extra spicy

UPDATE: i have achieved fizziness. the plastic bottle expanded and was hard as a rock. i bunged it in to fridge #2 and in a few hours opened it up – fizzy, slightly boozy, delicious. i would like to know what the alcohol content is. the process seems wildly complex. investigating.

the ginger beer smells and tastes fantastic but it is not fizzy whatsoever. i am a bit confused about open fermentation vs closed fermentation. for some reason i thought that the ginger brew in the open crock would get all fizzy and boozy but no. what i am coming to understand is that to achieve CO2 and alcohol you need a closed vessel along with the sugar and wild yeast. this is called in beer-making circles “bottle refermentation” or “bottle conditioning.”

i’ve decanted a portion of the brew into a 3 liter plastic bottle (the contents of which had been generic tonic water  – i know – THE HORROR – poured it down the sink – how did it even get into the house??? whatever.) and have closed it tightly and stashed it in a dark corner. the plastic bottle technique seems much safer at this stage than the bail-top glass bottles i bought last week. who knew that this soda-making was so dangerous with the fizzing and the exploding in one’s face and whatnot. i also topped up the original brew with more ginger bug, a bit of fresh water (it was overly sweet, i have adjusted the amount of sugar in the recipe below) more lime, more black pepper and cardamom, some chunks of ginger and…. a dried habanero pepper from last years crop.

with this foray into beverage-making, frank and i have been discussing the idea of habanero soda. it will be the next project once i get more ginger bug going. i have to admit i have been considering boughten yeast. cheating, i know. i guess the ginger bug just needs to be stronger… yeastier.

i’m thinking of calling the ginger beer “yardgirl” as an homage to my jamaican roots (mon.) the derivation of yardie is all very sociological but in essence it refers to the housing projects in the kingston ghetto of trenchtown where people had nothing better to do than hang out in the courtyard. chav with more flavor. “yardwife” was also considered and discarded. seemed too much like “fishwife.” i picture a label sporting a big-bottomed girl in poom poom shorts: a bit r. crumb, a bit russ meyer, a bit bettie page as a dancehall queen. frank’s tattoo artist friend is contemplating drawing it for me.

dude had some serious mother issues.

i’ve also thought up a name for frank’s yet to be created beer: “silverlake peckerwood ale.” i nearly fell over laughing. oh come on, have a sense of humor. if i can be  a jamaican yardie in poom poom shorts, frank can be a peckerwood.*  this is actually how we plan to dress for our wedding.



* frank can trace his cracker lineage from the 17th century. “As early as the 1760s, this term was in use by the upper class planters in the British North American colonies to refer to Scots-Irish and English settlers in the south, most of whom were descendants of English bond servants. A letter to the Earl of Dartmouth reads: “I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode.” – wikipedia (which is always right.)


ginger bug aka the exterminator

here’s the pitch:

ok so it’s 2039 and the world is ruled by humans set upon exterminating what remains of a robot race. they are  controlled by a sort of sentient global defense system, earthnet. and like, one of earthnet’s human minions is sent to kill the mother of a girl who will eventually leads a resistence movement against the humans and destroy earthnet. at the same time a robot assassin is sent from the future to protect the woman and her unborn daughter. it’s called THE EXTERMINATOR. whaddaya think?

it’s not that i thought i was the only person interested in food, or blogging for that matter, but as they say, there is no story that hasn’t been already told.

with sandor’s book back in service, i’ve taken to reading it like a nightstand novel and became intrigued by the section on fermented beverages. frank bought a beer-making kit at whole paycheck as a part of our post-apocalyptic sustenance program. he hasn’t ventured into it as of yet but he’ll get there now that the pantry isn’t housing every pickle on the planet. at bäco mercat they have a bunch of great cocktails (not to mention the food which is amazing) that use a shrub. let’s just say i had no idea what that was until reading sander’s book. i also read about ginger bug: the base for lacto-fermented ginger beer. long story short: i made the ginger bug (which consists of ginger, sugar and water left to ferment) and it was fizzing and frothing away nicely until yesterday when i added some more ginger and sugar and somehow killed it. it stopped frothing and only has a light, sort of pathetic fizz about it.

with the festival of yeasts i have come to love all of my starters and cultures like pets. i feed them and shake them and decant them into clean jars when they get icky. but i seem to have killed or at least deactivated the ginger bug. so i turned to the interwebs and found that everyone and their mother is making ginger bugs, roots beers, fermented sodas, fermented everything, and generally living the post-apocalyptic sustenance program. there are oodles of  blogs concerning wild fermentation, home bread-making, cheese-making and general housewifery (which doesn’t mean they are all written by women by any means.) many of them are cute, a few of them highly irritating and twee. i really have no desire to be highly irritating and/or twee but i am afraid i am falling into a very specific category: the person-with-far-too-much-time-on-their-hands. i do have a bit of a twist with the movies and such but i really don’t want to become a sort of dog-lady of the interwebs.

i feel like every girl in eastern los angeles has got some sort of ferment going. or home farm. or loom or something. probably in venice too. the rest of the city is a hideous hive of slick consumerism, velvet-roped nightclubs and chain food. frank has a funny joke:

q: how many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

a: it’s a really obscure number and you probably haven’t heard of it.

this amuses me to no end for some reason. when i was a kid i always thought that a “hipster” was a person who liked jazz. a sort of bohemian, quintessentially cool and kind of classic in a miles davis meets the ramones, PORTRAIT OF JASON sort of way. wrong again marge. todays hipster is a post-post-modern creation, an aggregator, a co-optor,  a skinny-pants-with-a-low-crotch-wearing/chloe sevigny-looking ironic scourge upon humanity. they live in silverlake, echo park or downtown (guilty); they wear horn-rimmed glasses (x2 guilty ’cause frank has them too) they drive vintage cars, drink vintage drinks and are “locovores” (guilty on all counts.) thing is, both frank and i have been all of these things and more for YEARS (yes years, as in decades.) so what do we call ourselves? hipsters? i think not. we are un-definable, un-marketable to, un-catagorizable. we are generation x.

ginger beer

the juice of the ginger bug

ginger – a lot, sliced

peel of two limes

2 cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 peppercorns



make a ginger bug. try not to kill it. for a gallon of beverage, boil a half gallon of water. add the sugar (about 3 cups for a gallon) ginger, peel and spices. let it cool until tepid. pour it into a gallon jar or crock. top off with cool water. strain the bug into the jar, retaining the ginger (add water and start another.) give it a stir and cover with cheesecloth and set in the pantry. i want to see how alcoholic i can get it – a dark and stormy in a bottle. stay tuned for adventures in carbonation.

kitchen aid

the oven is kaput . she will not start. she beeps forlornly at me, patently ignoring my need to bake the loaf of all-rye, whole grain, essene-style sourdough bread that i just invented because these freaking starters are beginning to drive me insane.

sander’s book is almost fully dry, if a bit… puffy. the freezer schtick worked. as expected he had sage advice on sourdough starters which in essence is: don’t freak out, they just need to be fed regularly and discard more than you think you need to discard before feeding. he does a bit of the measuring and weighing but nothing extreme. i think of the prospectors heading west during the california gold rush and cannot imagine that they spent time weighing and measuring and marking their mason jars with tape. the starter probably lived in a can in some hairy old codger’s spare boot in a cool spot in a filthy wagon. so i’m not overly fussed.

a bit of research reveals that the famous san francisco sourdough DOES stem from the gold rush era and that boudin bakery can trace its starter back to 1849. sourdough has been a form of leaven since the dawn of time – or at least the dawn of bread. in france pain au levain has been made by the poilâne family since 1932. (another fine example of a family craft business.) rye bread has traditionally been leavened by sourdough because rye lacks sufficient gluten and the acidic nature of the starter does something or another to do with amylase that allows the dough to gel and therefore rise more effectively.

the whole thing started with the idea of adding sprouted rye berries to the eventual rye loaves for which i was making all of this @#&%@ starter. having gone through a raw phase that involved much sprouting and fermenting and dehydrating (way too much. four days to create a meal…. hmmmm. hey! no.) i am familiar with sprouting grains. so i soaked and sprouted a mass of rye berries. lovely. this is when the starters began to look a bit peaked. so i gave them a big fat feeding in preparation for using them…. and then the oven went down. so the rye sprouted a bit more than i actually intended. remembering my raw days and… rawing… classes, (at OHI in lemon grove, ca – perilously close to san diego) i decided to make rejuvelac, a probiotic beverage made by adding water to rye (or wheat) sprouts and letting it ferment for a few days. it is apparently quite good for you but somewhat nasty tasting however it is…. essentially a starter.

i decided to add rejuvelac to one of the starters for giggles. et voila, it went berserk. so now i have two starters going, one rejuvelac-based and one conventional one. oh and the one in the fridge made of the leavings from maintaining the other starters. the house is a fiesta of yeasts.

while waiting for the kitchenaid oven repair guy who is conveniently scheduled to come between 1 and 5PM today i decided to just make a bloody bread, in a quasi-essene (look it up) style. which is to say, i ground up the sprouted rye berries with rejuvelac. then i created a dry mix of 1 cup rye flour with 1/2 cup flaxseed meal, 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt, one teaspoon of xanthan gum and two teaspoons of tapioca flour (the latter two for stretchiness in the absence of the tons of gluten from wheat.) into the wet i dumped half of the rejuvelac starter from the fridge (after warming it up) a glob of barley malt, some soaked golden flaxseeds (for more gooey-ness.), a bit more salt and i chickened out an added a packet of yeast. mixing it by hand and adding rye flour as needed it became decidedly… stretchy! and it is proofing really nicely! huzzah.

an all-rye, mostly sourdough, whole grain, essene style dough

i’m thinking it can proof for a couple of hours and then i can form and rest the dough and maybe even shape the loaves by which time the oven will be fixed and we will have bread for dinner. if not i will have to make it into crackers and dehydrate the fucker. stay tuned.

the bread came out well. i like the nutty chewiness of the rye berries. it is truly a peasant bread of the old world – one slice is pretty much a meal. frank has asked for a non-grainy one – more like the rye bread of his childhood. i’ll indulge him. meanwhile here are the first loaves:

a meal in a slice


an update on the rye bread mission. i made two plain rye loaves a few days ago and they got the frank’s-childhood-seal-of-approval: moist, dark-crusted, pale grey… it too is really good. and all without a recipe. i am pretty psyched.

i love anything that comes in a tube

we had ham and rye sandwiches last night after we got back from the la cienega gallery scrum. and luckily the german mustard arrived last week. all is right in the world.

the lion of mustards



the haggis

haggis has been the source of much amusement and conjecture throughout my life:

 The doorbell rings. Sal opens the door: Pam, Cletus and Bam Bam,

carrying a large covered pan. Bam Bam

thrusts the pan at Sal, who passes it to Pam who passes it to



We brought you a haggis! Happy – what is it again, darlin’?


(The horror) Thanksgiving.

Peter inspects the haggis.


I get the offal up in the Bronx – an Italian butcher up there saves the choicest bits for me.


So, lungs –


Heart, tongue, spleen. Choice.


And you cook it with the porridge first?


Aye. Then ya cram it all in the stomach like a righteous pudding.


How do you season it?




Onions? Garlic….Salt? Pepper?


(completely perplexed)

A wee bit o’ salt I suppose.*

haggis is a very close relation of scrapple – a pennsylvania dutch treat that my dearly departed, ramp-loving grandfather developed a taste for while growing up in scranton, pa. we would have it for breakfast with pancakes… or waffles… definitely something involving syrup. i remember it coming in a wax-paper wrapped, refrigerated slab that we would buy in some supermarket in sullivan county. this scrapple is related only in name to the platonic ideal of scrapple i purchased last week at lindy & grundy my new favorite butcher aka as the ONLY butcher in la. adorable amelia, in a chirpy, checkered head schmatta and tats explained to me that it is made from an entire pigs head cooked down with herbs and augmented with coarse cornmeal then put up in a terrine to firm then sliced to order. i fried up the slab this morning added a couple of runny sunny side up eggs and split it with frank. delis.

the whole lindy & grundy story has overtones of my life and my life with frank. amelia posada and her partner erica nakamura decided to open a business together after doing an apprenticeship at fleischer’s meats in kingston, ny. fleischer’s is definitely a part of new york history, opening their first shop in brooklyn in 1901 and is the epitome of a family craft business. amelia was a vegetarian with a taste for bacon and now both she and erika are committed to local, pastured and organic meats and taking the idea of family craft to a whole new level. love it. and she can get me giant veal cutlets für die schnitzel machen.

brooklyn meets los angeles

how does this relate to me and frank? besides my former vegetarianism and that we are both dyed in the wool food freaks, once frank finishes law school he’s going to join the family business… as a cucumber farmer. hah. no, as an entertainment lawyer. look out hollywood – frank is coming to getcha.


*from SALOMÉ’s LAST DANCE a screenplay i have been working on for far too long. it’s a romantic comedy of errors. i think it is hilarious. and that’s what counts, right?

whole foods vs home depot (aka vague hysteria)

writer x delivered the pilot yesterday. how many weeks late? let me check. ok the producer’s draft was due on april 30th… let’s call it ten. two and a half months. forty-six days (give or take, excluding weekends. ’cause who works on weekends, right?) 1104 hours. 66,240 minutes. 3,974,400 seconds. 3,974,000,000 nanoseconds. i could take it down to yoctoseconds but i was a comp. lit. major so big numbers make me nervous.

the combination of relief and vague hysteria i feel today is urging me towards a trip to home depot to buy a refrigerator, maybe two. one to hold all of the fermented pickles on the planet living in the pantry (except for the ones in the harsch crock which will be an ongoing experiment) and another for the eventual baby cheesus because the delivery of the draft does not necessarily obviate the possibility that i will some day soon be selling pickles and cheese at one farmer’s market or another to supplement my welfare check.

breathing deeply. it’s all good.

i am inveigling frank to accompany me on this whole foods/home depot boondoggle because my latest project is an all-rye sourdough starter. let me start from the beginning.

last week sandor ellix katz’s new book the art of fermentation:  an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world arrived. i am in love with this book. it covers the history of fermentation from acidophilous to zymase and is massively informative, entertaining and cool. kombucha-fiber garments anyone? (i draw the line at breeding kombuchas although i do like to drink their excretions. the one time i grew a kombucha colony i had nightmares for weeks that it would crawl from the fridge and gloop around the house and consume the dog and then me. this was pre-frank. and you need to wear gloves to handle it. frightening.) i love this book so much that i took it into the bath to read one night and the inevitable happened. now sandor’s book lives in the freezer in a ziplock bag – one technique for saving a waterlogged book. so i haven’t had access to it.

i’m sure sandor has essential information on culturing grains but i had to resort to the internet (who doesn’t?) when frank opined that although he is fearsomely wheat-intolerent, a little rye sourdough might not kill him and would be the perfect adjunct to our frequent germanic meals, i leapt into action. i came upon a blog called wild yeast written by a lovely woman named susan and have very sketchily followed her instructions and advice. i have two all-rye cultures going (they won’t be starters – i.e. ready to actually rise a bread for some time) but they are bubbling away merrily. the main thing is that you have to feed the fizzy  little suckers every 12 hours to keep the bacteria and yeast satiated. i am out of rye flour so off to whole foods and home depot we go.

frozen book. and gluten-free waffles.

frozen book. and gluten-free waffles.