It’s thrilling though rare to learn about traditional fermenting with vegetables in Britain, and in Wales in particular. This Beetroot Stout is a healing recipe that is totally new to me.
Today I spent lots of time chatting with a new friend, who became really animated when I explained my interest in old time foodways and fermenting in particular. Anne was born in Aberystwyth in 1945 (just days before the Hiroshima bomb, she shared) as a latter day child to a 44 year-old-mother and a father who’d fought in the First World War. Her grandmother, she said, had lots of “witchy ways” with herbs and preparations; I greatly look forward to hearing more tales of the old days.
Anne was always falling over on her roller-skates as she skated down hills, and her mother would cover the abraded knees with cobwebs from the cellar before wrapping them in gauze. Because they lived in Aberystwyth, an ocean side town, she’d make Anne bathe these knees in seawater for a salty, anti-bacterial bath.
And there was this Beetroot Stout her mother would make, as a tonic for the blood, if you’d just given birth or were weak. Take a few beetroot, wash them but don’t peel. Chop them roughly or finely, Anne couldn’t recall exactly, and cover with dark brown sugar. Place in a big bowl and cover with a cloth. In a week, pour in two pints of Stout, like Guiness, and let everything sit. In another week’s time, you decant into bottles and that is your Beetroot Stout, a bloody, earthy tonic that resembles in its sugary dark thickness the earthy blood it is meant to revive.
After letting me film her, Anne thanked her mother who would be up there somewhere watching us with gladness as we remembered her: