Archives for category: Preserving

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Through all these years fermenting vegetables, I have often wondered why there is so little a tradition of this kind of food preservation in Britain.  Did the prevalence of beer easily make malt vinegar available for vinegar pickling? Perhaps the relatively mild winters meant less of a hunger gap than in colder climes eastward? Maybe the early entrance of rural workers into a wage economy cause an earlier loss of indigenous food traditions? Might there be foodways left to be discovered? I’d like to believe this last, but I don’t have an answer.

I scour old cookbooks and find not much– perhaps an occasional mention of making fizzy drinks with “yeast” (which of course could so easily be wild rather than derived from baking and wine making)  — elderflower champagne, for example, or bottled drinks of burdock and dandelion, or nettle.  But these are sugar ferments, and different from preserving in brine with bioactive bacteria– i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles. Somewhere in Hannah Glasse I once read a reference to wedges of cabbage in salt brine– but that didn’t feel like a common cultural practice.

It was a thrill when I learned about Beetroot Stout, a delicious, nourishing, medicinal vegetable-based cocktail.  When I queried Glyn Hughes of the incredible site The Foods of England Project, he responded  that the only thing  that came to mind for him was  Potato Cheese (to England– only hypothetically– via Germany):

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http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/potatocheese.htm/ Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 19 July 1855

The immediate association was with Kishk, a Middle Eastern cultured milk and bulgur wheat ferment, which I’d read about in Sandor Katz’s books Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. Two summers ago I tried to make Kishik (the names vary through different regions and translations, also “Kashk”) following the method in The Gaza Kitchen.  My disks turned mouldy. I reckon the relatively chilly, damp air of a Welsh summer just wasn’t dry enough to let the ferment dessicate quickly enough to beat the rot. From this experience I believe having the artificial heat from a kitchen radiator in the winter helped the experiment this time to succeed.

POTATO CHEESE a la The Foods of England Project

I boiled and mashed a potato, and added several tablespoons of milk kefir.

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Here’s a close-up of the early days:

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I woke up on Day 3 to find the surface of the ferment blooming in this beautiful, vermiculated Geotrichum Candidum, tentatively identified by my Instagram friend Claudia of Urban Cheese Craft. Because this fungus is common in cheese making, I thought of it as a good thing.  Hmmmmm.

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…Though when I peeled it back, and realised it was just a surface feature, I worried a bit that it would slow the evaporation underneath in a project in which drying-out was the ultimate goal (unlike with cheese making proper)…. because I was emulating Kishk … but I realise in retrospect had we eaten this “cultured potato” at this point, it would have been more of a cheese-like substitute…17106008_10212313072201723_1065488006_o.jpg

So with a bit of trepidation, unsure of myself, I stirred it all together (rather than remove the surface) and left the bowl near the radiator, and under a tea towel.:

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On Day 11 the potato mixture felt dry enough to form patties, or disks, and I wrapped them gently in absorbent cloth, but let them air a bit too.

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And nothing untoward was happening….

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And by day 14 they felt fully hardened and I felt the Potato Cheese experiment to be successful….  A ferment on a carbohydrate with the goal to extend a milky cheesy perfume into the time of year with less milk and cheese…17092799_10212313009800163_117850163_o-1.jpg

So now I have my savoury fermented potato “Potato Cheese,” — smells cheesy in a good way — and I feel ready to experiment. I can only think of it as a substitute for Parmesan– maybe grate it over a dish where I might use a hard Italian cheese, or perhaps throw it into a soup such as Minestrone for that little extra thickening or umami sensation. I’m thinking, because it smells reminiscent of Nutritional Yeast, to search through vegan recipes to understand how that ingredient is really used. How would YOU use it? Am most interested in reader suggestion…. And truly interested in anyone’s comments or observations about any part of the process…

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Not the prettiest pictures; actually they are so unappealing to look at, I take a certain contrarian pleasure posting them on a food blog where there’s the expectation that food needs to be beautiful.  (The reality is ferments often lose a lot of their initial vivid colour.)

Even if visually not so lovely, fermented Snippled Beans are an easy and delicious side dish. Read the rest of this entry »

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A fun perk of blogging is requesting books I know I’m going to love, like Kimchi: Essential Recipes of the Korean Kitchen.  Authors Im Kee Sun, Im Boo Mee Ja, Lim Byung-Soon and Lim Byung-Hi are a family of Korean women living in Stockholm where they run a much loved restaurant called Arirang.  Short of dining there -though looking at photos in their book, how you’ll wish to! – you can buy this fantastic guide and create your own tantalising Kimchi, to eat as umami accompaniments or integrated into seasonal dishes including soups, pancakes, dumplings, cocktails (!) and more.

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On the growing popularity of fermenting in Britain, seasonal eating, working with gluts and waste, and a new approach to Piccalilli using a technique learned from making kimchi… Read the rest of this entry »

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Is it a dip? A pate? Not sure, but three times I’ve found myself bringing spreads made of pumpkin seeds, onion, fresh coriander and pickled jalapeños to parties.  Originally I read a version of Sikil Pak, a Mayan Yucateco dish, interpreted in an extravagantly chef-like way (orange zest, really?) on Tasting Table, and have sought since to backtrack to something more simple to learn about what it could be.

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Fermented Preserved Lemons: delicious in dressings; refreshing in drinks. Tart, salty, bitter, tangy, matured in lemon juice and sea salt, Preserved Lemons are a great larder item for the lacto-fermenting cook.  I made a batch several months ago, and they’ve really come into their own. I’ve been playing with them a bit, and getting obsessed with their bold brightness– or is it a bright boldness?–how they refuse to be denied presence, they refuse not to shine. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m feeling happy for the emergence on the food scene of Olia Hercules. I saw this film a while back and felt really thrilled to be learning from someone so deeply rooted in her own food traditions (and she’s deliberate on that plural) yet gifted with such a light and beautiful cook’s touch. That Ukrainian Green Borsht of hers is of course a much more vivacious cousin to my prosaic Schav.

Today in the Guardian is an excerpt from her new book Mamushka. I want it! Want want want! Because I know I’m going to be bowled over with inspiration, just as I was simply from reading about the way she uses fermented herbs in her lovely and simple soup.  Make sure to check out the link.

Her version uses dill, parsley, sorrel, celery, and spring onions. Read the rest of this entry »

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La la la la la la la LA LAAAAAAAAAH.  La la la la la la la.  LA.  LA.  LAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Sing along with me, the Rhubarb Kimchi Song.  As Plum Kimchi heralded autumn, Rhubarb Kimchi will greet the spring. La La lalalalalalahhhh.

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Oranges: a fermented chipotle salsa; a sour pickle with fenugreek and mustard; a scrap vinegar beauty cure; and dried orange peels for many uses…

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This is my fifteenth autumn in the UK, and the fourteenth time I’ve taken part in an annual ritual of chutney making with all the abundance of fruit, much of it “windfall” (on the ground, fallen from the tree) and pretty much always part of a seasonal glut that demands quick attention.  I mean chutney not as a raw accompaniment or cooked decoration on a plate, but a vinegary, quite sugared preserve of a jam or compote that is processed and jarred for eating with cheeses and meats and, of course, for sharing with family and friends.

And I’ve been lacto-fermenting vegetables for about ten years I reckon; much of this natural, healthy and no-cook food tradition has made me question the value of preserving fruit and veg in jams and chutneys.   Whereas ferments add health and nutrients, jams and chutneys involve cooking the life out of living food, and adding so much sugar– at least in the typical British style that we know them.   And they use so much energy, unless I were cooking on a wood-burning stove like an Aga or Rayburn that was on anyway for home-heating (in which case that wouldn’t be the most energy efficient way to heat a home).  And anyway my stove is electric (induction to reveal all). Read the rest of this entry »

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