Monday, November 26, 2012


November 20, 2012:
I already know as I uncork one of seven bottles of  the pear that there is no hope. I had a couple of cups set aside after bottling that I would taste frequently and test in various simple recipes. I had thrown it out a while ago. I have been hoping the bottles would taste a sweet song of soured nectar.

Disappointed. Yet pleased with the history and growth I gained from the process. I am not quite sure how to describe exactly what I grew but through all the spoonfuls I consumed quite a bit.

Spoiled Rotten Pear, Batch #1 2012: Hopefully living happily in the SF bay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I was feeling pretty good about my creations one afternoon when I thought of the perfect reason to start another fermentation. The holiday season was on its way and if I was going to be sharing vinegar with loved ones then I should cover all the flavor profiles included. And only one palate stood out as a very specific need. Some like it hot.

                                                                                                                                                      Bill, my father-in-law usually  has a whole, raw serrano chile within arms reach during most meals. He is well versed in the varieties and scoville ratings of chiles and I have yet to stump him on any original brand of hot sauce out there. He does endure the heat and I believe he enjoys these fruits for their varied flavor.

His appreciation and palate is obvious when I eat his guacamole. One might think that a simple recipe like guacamole would be a trivial way to judge a deft hand of layering flavor but then one has not had his. I have.

I wanted to make a vinegar that was hot but that also embodied the fruity flavors of the chiles I would be using. I could want and wish but just like my pear vinegar nature would ultimately dictate the end result.

 I put cloves of garlic, chunks of fresh ginger and 5 varieties of chile peppers   (habanero, arbol, jalapeno, serrano and red bell peppers) into a glass crock with filtered water, covered it with a bandanna and hid it from the light.

Chile vinegar. Only 4. Bottled on 10/31/2012.

I could not believe the aroma that emitted from the crock in less than a day. I felt like I was standing outside the back door of a Mexican restaurant. Such a warm and pungent odor. Foods like refried beans, Spanish rice and heavy, long stewed sauces came to my mind every time I was remotely close. At times it was almost embarrassing as if I was producing an unmentionable tonic which smelled similar to it's symptom. And at times it was just too rich of an odor but quite the sensory experience. I could just imagine foods being fried and sauced rich and spicy. Finally a milky, silk-like mother made a home and the intense odor subsided and the acid began to cleanse the air.

Once a good acid base had set I skimmed the mother and added toasted annatto seeds, red chile flakes and apple wood. I sealed this and let it age for 3 weeks before pasteurizing and bottling. And timing couldn't have been better for I was able to bottle it on Halloween. Perfect!

I had set out to make just a little and that is essentially what I was left with. 4 bottles. As I was preparing to bottle I originally wanted to filter the mixture to rid the vinegar of the pureed chiles and seasonings. However as I blended the mixture, tasting along the way I realized I would be throwing away not only flavor and body but the elements of the vinegar that would continue to age and lend character as it aged in the bottle. So I used a fine mesh strainer to remove any unpalatable pieces.

Sure this would lead to a large amount of sediment in the bottle but this would become part of the experience for those who were able to enjoy it. Whether one wishes to pour the vinegar off the top and savor the sediment or shake it before use and enjoy it all now. It is up for debate. Just enjoy it!

Here is the official description:

Chile Vinegar. October 31, 2012.
Flavor: Inspired by capsicum aficionado Llib Sehguh, this original Shadow Creek recipe was made with Organic Chile Peppers, Garlic and Spices. While Spoiled Rotten Chile vinegar gets its flavor from 5 varieties of chiles, including Roasted Habanero, Jalapeno and Serrano Chiles, it has aged and mellowed developing a fruity acidity finishing with a pleasantly aggressive toasted heat. Use in vinaigrettes, marinades, cocktails, salsas and ceviches.

Method: The ingredients were thoughtfully chosen, combined and left to ferment in the traditional Orleans Method of fermentation. Over time, nature developed the flavor and acidity until just right, at which point, the vinegar was sealed as a single batch and allowed to mellow with toasted anatto seeds and apple wood from 2 to 4 weeks before it was strained, pasteurized, and bottled.

Spoiled Rotten Chile, Batch #1 2012: Fruity acidity of chiles finishing with a pleasantly aggressive heat.

Shadow Creek's Spoiled Rotten Vinegars to date.

De glaze for Sauteed Greens
yields enough greens for 2 side portions

*Beet greens, mustard greens, swiss chard and lacinato kale (dino) are great chopped up and sauteed.

1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons shallot, minced
1-2 Tablespoons Spoiled Rotten Chile or Maple Vinegar
1 to 2 bunches of hearty greens mentioned above. I am a purist but mixing varieties is good too. Wash, de-stem and prep. I chop leafy parts up and slice the stems thinly. Stems tend to be fibrous so slicing thinly against grain is best. *Keep stems and greens separate*

In a hot saute pan heat 1-2 Tablespoons oil. 
Add garlic and shallot. Saute stirring frequently until starting to brown lightly.
Add stems and saute for 1 min.
Add greens and saute for 3 min. or until wilted and softened.
Season now with salt and pepper.
drizzle in Spoiled Rotten Chile or Maple vinegar (1-2 Tablespoons) to de glaze.
Allow vinegar to absorb and reduce.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I Bottled That Smell In My Garage!

Pear. July 2012.
Pear. July 2012.

Harvesting our apples.

Time to inspect the apples.
Someone is living here....
Noyau for nectarine.

Nectarine at 2 months.
October 2012.
Mother-O-Apple tangled in apple wood after straining
vinegar for bottling. Mother was rescued and is doing fine
to this day.
October 2012.

Rotten Fruits

The next phase of my summer fermenting would be understanding the fruit vinegars that were evolving.
Apple Vinegar at 2 months.

The pear vinegar, which was the first fruit I started, and actually what I had expected to be my most prized vinegar, took me through a plethora of spoiling issues. From a stage where a nectar-like fragrance wafted from the jar to a point where an almost addictive rancidity sank deep into my nostrils. Dipping a spoon into the mixture had me questioning the worst that could happen.

I so wanted this fermentation to work that I blended it with an early stage white wine vin that I had started and then bottled it hoping that some magic was in the final aging. To this date I have not been convinced that it is worth consumption and therefore have not released it. I had such high expectations.

During this time, as the pear seemed to falter, the apple and nectarine I had started a month later were fermenting like clockwork. Almost too perfect. The acid levels in these two were so high that I knew I had vinegar, but for what purpose I feared. Household cleaning?
Apple Vinegar strained
& ready for final fermentation.

After some research I found that the apple and nectarine were perfect specimens of fruit vinegar and that the acid levels were commonly very high. Again, I decided to blend the vinegars with an early batch of apple that I had started out of the excess of falling apples from our back yard tree.

At this time most (13, 375 ml. btls) of the first batch of apple has been bottled. I decided to bottle these first 13 bottles with RAW/ unpasteurized Apple Vinegar. Filtered but RAW. I wanted to allow those who would be using the vinegar to have all the natural benefits of a living food and the fun of meeting the mother.

 I didn't realize I had been making so much and never worked the need for more bottles and corks into my budget. This goes back to my enthusiastic nature whenever I take on something that brings me joy. So the nectarine and remaining first batch of apple are waiting for more bottles.

Spoiled Rotten Apple, Batch #1 2012: A bright acidity finishing crisp with cider spice notes.

Shadow Creek Presents Something Spoiled Rotten.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Spoiled Rotten

I had made vinegar once before while working in a great restaurant in Fresno, CA. After a vintners dinner at the restaurant my wine rep gifted me with all the opened bottles and quite a few corked. I had so much wine that I ended up trying my hand at making vinegar.

Years later I became inspired to begin pickling, fermenting and preserving foods again. I am interested in sharing with you the story of how Shadow Creek became Spoiled Rotten.
Starting a Nectarine Vinegar, August 2012.

In the late spring of 2012 Cherie and I decided on doing two things during the summer. Get married and put more effort into beginning our business ideas on Etsy. A year earlier I had become preoccupied with making jams and pickling vegetables from the great abundance found at our local farmers markets. This interest in preserving led me to a desire to ferment again.

As Cherie began to build her Etsy shop and selection of vintage finds and handmade design elements we noticed how many people were selling jams, vinegars and other food items. This gave me an outlet for all of the would be surplus edible products we would indeed end up with due to my compulsive nature to make 100 when anyone else would settle for 10.

The only variety of vinegar I had made before was red wine but upon researching possibilities for the ingredients I enjoy and can readily find I had a whole slough of ideas to ferment. As with all of my edible creations I do my best to use fresh seasonal, local and organic ingredients when possible. The trick for me was to decide on which vinegar to start with and how to afford it on my budget.

Maple was the first vinegar I wanted to create. I had seen it sold on Etsy by other artisans and had read about it before which stirred a huge amount of curiosity in me. I had never tasted it before and rarely heard it mentioned making this concoction a little mysterious to me. Exciting!

So to start my little industry I needed to collect the equipment; ingredients to ferment and vessels to ferment in. With my limited budget and most of my funds decidedly going into the best ingredients I can find I would have to find glass fermenting elements for cheap. A thrift store had a 2.5 gallon hurricane for only two dollars and with this find being my only good find I ended up buying more 2.5 gallon jars from a department store.
For the maple vinegar I bought grade A organic Maple Syrup, top shelf Dark Rum and raw organic Red Wine Vinegar (since I had none of my own creation to use). I mixed my ingredients for the maple vinegar, secured the hurricane opening with a bandanna to keep the critters out and hid my concoction in a dark nook to ferment. Now it was times turn to do the work and so I would have to wait.
Mother-O-Molasses at two months.
But I am never satisfied with one project or following a recipe I did not change into my own and so with the leftover rum and red wine vinegar I grabbed my families stash of molasses out of the kitchen pantry and decided to make a molasses vinegar.

Two weeks later I started a pear fermentation. Then an apple from our own tree. Then a nectarine along with more apple. Finally a red wine and a chile. I am making the chile vinegar for my father in-law Bill, who is a capsaicin aficionado and master of guacamole.

To date I have bottled the maple (9, 375ml. btls) and molasses (5, 375ml. btls) vinegars. The pear, apple and nectarine are all sealed snug and aging while the others are still changing.

Spoiled Rotten Maple, Batch #1 2012: A mild acidity and  residual sweetness married with toasted apple wood blend in this vinegar.

Spoiled Rotten Blackstrap, Batch #1 2012: Smooth acidity mellowed by warm mineral depth eludes to an American Balsamic.
Bottling Blackstrap.
Mother-O-Molasses at four months.

Root Vegetable Glaze
yields enough glaze for 4 side servings of vegetables

1/3 Cup maple vinegar
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons oil of choice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 small clove garlic minced
Fresh herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary choppped
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Butter should be at room temp or melted. Mix all ingredients together.
Root Vegetables: Parsnip, yam, sweets, potatoes, carrots, get it. Any vegetable or combination of will do.
Clean and prepare vegetables for roasting. Mix root vegetables with glaze mixture. Roast in a very hot oven (400-450) stirring if needed until edges are browned and vegetables tender.