Archives for posts with tag: Sandor Katz

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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.  Perhaps the prevalence of beer meant the availability of malt vinegar for vinegar pickling? Perhaps the relatively mild winters meant there was less of a hunger gap than in the colder climes eastward? Maybe the early entrance of rural workers into a wage economy meant the earlier loss of food traditions? Might there be foodways left to be discovered? I’d like to believe this 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 »

Here’s a beautiful short film in which Sandor Katz talks about processes of fermentation. He is funny and compelling– and I will always be grateful to him for Wild Fermentation which has been such an influential, important book in my life.  Using Wild Fermentation I taught myself basic skills that now serve me constantly in the kitchen, but the book also presents a wonderful vision in which personal, political and microbial transformation serve as metaphors for each other.  Wild Fermentation is a guide to practical alchemy (and for this reason, if you have to make a choice, buy it before the also wonderful The Art of Fermentation).

This film captures some of the magic. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m on a kick to simplify, and Kvass in its method seems to be the simplest fermented drink possible.  Kvass just happens, really. Read the rest of this entry »

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Making Kimchi Latkes from a great new book — a review and lots of inspiration.

When my review copy of Fermented Vegetables arrived from the publishers, I felt upon first leaf-through an energising surge of creativity. From my own larder and imagination, I dressed a salad of grated swede and carrots in a Plum Kimchi vinaigrette.

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threw some RubyKraut in some lentil soup with assorted leftovers

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and made a quick potato salad mixing plain old sauerkraut with potatoes in olive oil with spring onions and chives.

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All were yummy, standard Kitchen-Counter-Culture type food preparations, but I needed to get past them to let in the light of the whole new universe that Fermented Vegetables opens up.  It’s a beautiful book with exciting and original recipes and has regenerated in me a can-do sense about all the ways to continue fermenting and use my fermentations as ingredients.

Read the rest of this entry »

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All week I’d been throwing things into a small stock pot: onion and leek scraps, parsley stems, skin from roasted pumpkin, carrot scrapings and beetroot skins.

I simmered them and made a stock for a nice lentil soup (which included some #pumpkinrescue pumpkin).  Beet is a wonderful ingredient in stocks, but sometimes it’s the only time the gorgeous colour feels wrong, because it announces itself rather than coming in with stealth. Unannounced, beet is a great suggester of the richness of meat– there’s something of blood and iron in the flavour.  It’s great grated into vegetarian “Spag Bol” variations for this reason, though again, the colour needs to be accepted in this instance, not fought.

We’ve been busy, and the extra “stock” was sitting out on the stove stop, unstrained, unrefrigerated.  Yesterday I sieved out the vegetable bits to put the liquid in the fridge.  Tasting it, it was sour, and I thought, off.  And was about to chuck it.  Me!  Ms Ferment, Ms Anti-Waste, throwing out food!.

But I thought again, and tasted a bigger sip.

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Hello from Kombucha Central, where pretty little elderflower stars float in a firmament of fermenting tea, by the grace of a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. In other words, I’ve been given a Kombucha SCOBY and am having a ball experimenting with different floral flavours, having found a fab use for the flower syrups I make.  Well then…. Come Bucha with me…

Kombucha is pretty easy– at it’s most basic, you boil and cool black tea, sweeten it with sugar, and use your SCOBY “mother”– the creature thing that is your “culture”– to ferment the mixture in five days or so.  After, if you bottle and cover, you get a nice effervescence.  Read the great Sandor Katz on Kombucha in this Splendid Table interview; there’s also an excerpt about Kombucha from his The Art of Fermentation that is generously and conveniently on line.  (And here’s my love letter to that book in Permaculture Magazine.)

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