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It’s Frickin’ Freezing!

Fermenting in the Winter

It’s winter here. And when I say winter, I mean it’s cold. Like frickin’ freezing. Like negative frickin’ freezing. We get actual temps of -20F on a fairly regular basis and sometimes as low as -40F. And then it can be windy which drives the “feels like” temp down to -50 to -70F.

Do you know what -70F feels like? Neither do I. I refuse to leave the house when it’s that cold. Ask my husband. He’s made it a tradition to sleep outside on the coldest nights of the year. Don’t worry, he’s a survival expert and is just fine (though some may question his sanity).

Our house heat can usually keep up with the cold when it’s not windy. When it’s windy, it struggles. I’ve woken up to it being below 50 in the kitchen. Even on an average winter day here, it’s still pretty chilly. It’s on the north side of the house so it doesn’t get good sunlight and it’s just colder than other areas of the house. But it’s also the best place for me to keep my ferments so I’ve had to improvise.

Even in cold temps like that, ferments will continue to do their thing, it just takes a lot longer depending on how cold it is. My water kefir can take up to a week, sometimes longer.

When I am impatient, I use seedling mats to keep my ferments happy. One wrapped around the back and a towel on the front to keep the heat in.

Fermenting in the Cold

Left to right: Spiced Cranberries in honey (recipe coming), milk kefir, water kefir, spiced elderberries in honey (recipe also coming).

Fermenting in the Cold

Happy ferments = happy me!

A cabinet would be ideal and if you have the space, it would help keep the heat in very nicely.

Another option that works great is to use a cooler and pack hot water bottles around your ferments. Use a thermometer to keep track of the temp. You don’t want it to get too hot. 68-72F is ideal.

Happy winter fermenting!

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Let’s Talk Pickles!

The Fermentation Podcast Episode 17: Melanie Hoffman of Pickle Me Too


I’m generally not the most talkative person on the planet but if you ask me the right questions, I might talk your ear off. Fermentation is one of those topics.

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Paul from The Fermentation Podcast. Yes, an entire podcast devoted to one of my favorite topics, fermentation.

We talked about everything from airlocks, favorite ferments, the difference between water kefir and kombucha, to more personal things like our little homestead and our experience with homeschool.

Take a listen here,

**This post may contain affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps support Pickle Me Too, allowing me to post and store all of my free recipes. Thank you!**

What’s that Stuff Covering My Pickles?!


Sediment on Pickles

A very common question I get asked and one I see on many ferment groups on Facebook is, “What is this stuff covering my pickles? Is it mold and do I need to throw them?”

No!!! Don’t throw them! It’s not mold. Mold needs oxygen to grow (which is why you see it on the outside of foods and not on the inside). If it’s under the brine, it ain’t mold.

Sediment on Pickles

So what it is? It’s yeast. Yeast is a natural part of a ferment and it will settle on the pickles and the bottom of the jar. It’s actually a good sign that your ferment is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Yeast is microscopic but when enough of it gathers in one place, we can see it as a sediment. If you see a white sediment on your pickles, it worked!

If it bugs you, makes you squeamish, wipe it down, rinse it off, and enjoy.

**This post may contain affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps support Pickle Me Too, allowing me to post and store all of my free recipes. Thank you!**

Chipotle Pepper Hot Sauce

Chipotle Pepper Mash and Sauce

What’s better than homemade hot sauce? Homemade chipotle pepper hot sauce! Smokey hot goodness in a bottle.

Last year I sold various fermented items at my local farmers market and my hot sauces sold like wild fire. Even though I’m not selling at the market this year, I still have people asking  begging for more hot sauce. It’s good stuff. My most popular sauce was this chipotle pepper hot sauce. It sold faster than I could make it.

It’s hard to keep up with demand up north here because peppers aren’t not the easiest thing to grow during our short warm season.  This year has been especially trying since it’s been abnormally cold. So far, most of my ripe peppers have come from gardens with hoop houses and high tunnels. I ended up picking all of my peppers a couple weeks ago. We had 2 nights where it dropped to 32F killing my plants. I put the green peppers in paper bags and they’ve been ripening up just fine. Enough for me to make a few small batches of red pepper mash.

What Kind of Peppers Should I Use

You can use most any hot pepper to make hot sauce. Jalapeños are great because they are a very fleshy pepper and make a nice thick sauce. Thai peppers and similar smaller peppers don’t work quite as well because they have thin flesh. Using a mix of different peppers works great. Scotch Bonnets or Habaneros make a great sauce too (remove seeds for a less fiery sauce if you would like).

For the chipotle peppers, this is the kind I have, Frontier Whole Chipotle Peppers. They are whole, dried chipotle peppers. You can substitute chipotle chili powder or canned chipotle peppers just fine. Chipotle peppers are smoked red jalapeños. Because they are smoked, they have no live lactic acid bacteria on them to help the ferment get started. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure your pepper mash contains about 3/4 fresh peppers and only 1/4 smoked peppers. So if you want to scale the recipe up or down, keep that ratio in mind; 1/4 smoked peppers to 3/4 fresh.

How Much Salt?!

My pepper mash and chili sauce has more salt than most recipes I see out there. Peppers are much more prone to mold than other veggies so to keep mold at bay, you need more salt. And because there is so much more salt, it takes longer to ferment. You might not see the signs of fermentation that you normally see. The mash sometimes doesn’t heave and you might not see a lot of bubble activity.

The rule of thumb I use for pepper mash is 1 oz of salt per 1 lb of peppers. So if you have 2 lbs of peppers, use 2 oz of salt. Easy peasy. Now my recipe below might not be exactly 1 lb. Don’t shoot me. If you are concerned about the recipe being exact, weigh your fresh peppers with the rehydrated chipotle pepper. The potential difference in weight I felt wasn’t enough for me to adjust the recipe. Keep it simple.

Chipotle Pepper Hot Sauce


  • 1 oz unrefined salt (sea salt or himalayan salt is best)
  • 3/4 lb hot peppers
  • About 4-6 dried chipotle peppers, rehydrated (can sub 2 tbsp chipotle chili powder)
  • boiling water, about 1 cup


  1. Put on gloves. Don't forget the gloves!
  2. Put chipotle peppers in a small bowl and add boiling water, just enough to cover them. Cover and let set until peppers have cooled back down to room temperature. Reserve the liquid.
  3. Prepare you peppers by trimming off the stem. You can leave the tops on. For a more mild sauce, cut peppers in half and remove seeds and veins. You can adjust the heat of the sauce by add peppers with or without seeds. For a good medium sauce, use about 1/4 peppers with seeds, 3/4 without seeds.
  4. Roughly chop peppers and rehydrated chipotle peppers and add to food processor with salt and reserved liquid from chipotle peppers. Process until smooth.
  5. Pack pepper mash into an airtight jar (preferably with an airlock). There will a lot of air from the blending process so use a spatula to press it down, removing as much air as possible.
  6. Seal jar, don't forget to add water to your airlock if using one. Let set at room temperature for about 7-10 days.
  7. Move to cold storage, 32-55F.
  8. Now the hard part. The best sauce has been allowed to age at least a year. You can use the pepper mash sooner than a year but I would suggest letting it age as long as you can stand.
  9. Use pepper mash as is or run through a food mill to make chili sauce.
  10. Sauce will keep for at least another year or so refrigerated.
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Roasted Tomatoes with Cheese

Roasted Tomatoes with Cheese

It’s finally that time of year when the tomatoes are beginning to roll in. I’ve been harvesting tomatoes every 2-3 days and I bring back a big bucket full of them eat time. I love this time of year. We live pretty far north so we usually don’t get ripe tomatoes until August. This year has been particularly cool so we didn’t get any ripe yumminess until the end of the month. But they are finally ripening up.

Each year I garden, I do a little experimenting with methods. Last year I had vining tomatoes that I pruned religiously and tied up. One bed was a regular tilled garden bed and the other was a “lasagna garden” method that used layers of mulch. The tilled garden did ok but mulch garden produced significantly more. I was planning on expanding my mulch garden this year but time got away from me. We ended up planting an herb garden, strawberry garden, and asparagus garden (don’t worry gardening experts, the asparagus was not planted where the tomatoes were. I know that’s a no no) in the mulch bed instead. I ran out of room for my tomatoes.

This year, we did go back to planting tomatoes in the tilled garden bed but instead of vining tomatoes (indeterminate), I bought bush tomatoes (determinate). I didn’t mean to buy all bushes. I just mixed up the terms indeterminate and determinate. Why can’t they just say vining or bush? I never get it right. So I planted bush tomatoes which ended up being a blessing because they need less care than vining tomatoes. This summer ended up being busier than I anticipated and I didn’t have as much time as I did last year to devote to gardening. With the bush variety, I didn’t have to worry about pruning as much. The only trimming I did was in August .I just plucked off  all the flowers because I knew there wouldn’t be time for them to turn into berries and ripen before the frost. The plants were then able to put more energy into the fruit they had on the vine. I also took off a few leaves so the sun could reach more of the tomatoes.

My plants are heavy laden with large beautiful tomatoes that are ripening at a steady rate. I think this will be my best yield yet.

Next year I plan on trying out a few beds using the straw bale gardening technique from this book Straw Bale Gardening.

Enough gardening talk. On to the recipe!

This is one of my favorite ways to eat paste tomatoes. A fleshy paste tomato like Roma, Amish Paste or San Marzano works the best for this recipe. I’ve tried it with the round tomatoes and they just end up a wet mess. They still taste good but the paste tomatoes hold up their shape better and the cheese is less likely to slide off since they lay fairly flat.

This is a ridiculously easy recipe, I almost feel silly writing it up. You can switch it up by using different cheeses. Cheddar and Swiss are great. I made these with gouda once and they were a big hit. Most any fresh or dried herbs work as well, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram…

Roasted Tomatoes with Cheese


  • Paste Tomatoes
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Garlic Salt
  • Basil leaves


  1. Turn oven on to a low broil. Move top rack down making sure there is at least 2" between the heating element and the tomatoes. You want to roast them, not incinerate them.
  2. Slice tomatoes in half and lay skin side down in a glass baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle the tops with garlic salt.
  4. Lay a slice of cheese over each tomato.
  5. Top with a couple leaves of basil.
  6. Place tomatoes in oven for about 7-10 mins, keeping an eye on them.
  7. Remove from oven once the cheese is slightly browned. Tomatoes should be hot but still firm.
  8. Serve warm.
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**This post may contain affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps support Pickle Me Too, allowing me to post and store all of my free recipes. Thank you!**