Thursday, 27 January 2011

A note from Harry on Cider... Vinegar

We've been making some cider over the last couple of months, and this batch turned to vinegar.  It's tasty stuff - we used Cox, D'Arcy Spice & Worcester apples & Japanese pears, all in equal quantities, but it did throw some massive protein-tannin ectoplasm after the yeasts died. We filtered out the protein-tannins with some muslin and let it settle - and I think we'll have to do another filtering later. I also ran some tests using the soil testing equipment at work, and discovered that it has a fearsome pH 3.5!


A note on the apples - Cox is the well-known Orange Pippin, a very full flavour, best in early autumn, recognisable by its rattling seeds when shaken.  D'Arcy Spice, an East Anglian apple, belongs to the Russet family, sweet, small apples of grey/green colour, popular in Cider.  Worcester is most likely Worcester Pearmain, a desert apple, very crisp and used cut up in salads very early Autumn.  The Japanese pears... I know not.   


More to follow on Cider making, but perhaps not till the Autumn.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sourdough Share

A furore of sourdough last week…

I have a lovely Wheat/Rye Sourdough, given to me last year by the Clare Island fellows.  It is, unlike my homemade Rye pictured previously, very stoic, and easy to revive even after a couple of months.  The sourdough was passed on to them seven years hence by a German friend, and they have sent it in jars, in pockets, all over Ireland, to the UK and to France.  A nice thought – the fermented dough putting bread on the table the breadth of Europe, perhaps even further abroad… a share much like sharing a good loaf, sat by the hearth…

A very simple recipe, passed over the sea from Clare Island.  Make at night, Bake at dawn.

For two loaves

1 (lg) yogurt pot of Rye
1 yogurt pot of Wholemeal Wheat
¾ yogurt pot of White Wheat
Seeds (optional)

Add small amount of water to the Sourdough. Stir.
Add wet Sourdough to mixed Flours.
Add water to mixture until dry dough.
Add Salt.
Knead briefly and then bring from bowl onto wet surface.
Knead adding water for ten minutes, until the dough becomes a wet, but manageable consistency.
Remove a hunk of dough to act as the successive sourdough.
Leave this in a open jar for between 10-15 hours, until well-risen, then store it, airtight in the fridge until next baking occasion.
Fold/knead seeds into the rest of the dough if desired, I use Pumpkin, Lin, Sunflower seeds for a lovely crunchy, nutty bread.
Put into greased and floured loaf tins.
Leave to rise between 10-15 hours, the warmer and moister the conditions, the faster the bread will rise, the dough should have doubled in size and small geyser-like bubbles appearing on the surface.
Bake at 220C for 20mins then 180C for another 20 mins. 
The bread should knock easily out of the loaf tins.  Now bake the loaves upside down for five to fifteen minutes depending on how thoroughly cooked it is.  This creates a lovely crust.
Knock on the base of the bread, a hollow sound means it is done.
Leave a while, for a day even, particularly if the quantity of rye flour is high, before cutting into as the crumb can be very wet and sticky immediately out of the oven.

Pass the sourdough on!

(Notes on the science of sourdough to follow at another stage)

Monday, 17 January 2011


Back on Clare Island we feasted on various ferments that had been sitting in hibernation since my last visit.

Carrot Kimchee, a sensational spicy combination of fermented carrots, apples, chillis, ginger and horseradish – the pure expression of fermentation – the carrots crunchy and orange as the day they were pulled.  (not to mention that these were riddled with carrotfly, only rescued for same kimchee…)

Kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean dish, which is served with rice and tends to contain cabbage or a variety of radishes, we have experimented with Apples, Courgettes and Jerusalem Artichokes… See Sandor Katz (Wild Fermentation) for more info.

Cut carrots as desired (I like batons), likewise a couple of apples peeled.  Soak overnight in brine (60g salt to 1lt water).  Following day taste carrots, should taste salty.  (if too salty rinse, if not salty enough add salt).  Drain and reserve brine.  Mix grated ginger, garlic, onion, chillies, horseradish.  Add carrots and apples.  Press into a jar.  Push down until liquid rises.  Add reserved brine to cover if necessary.  Pressure into closed Kilner Jar.  Leave several days at room temp.  Make sure the veg are covered in liquid.  Then move to a cool dark place for several months, until wintry scurvy overwhelms… enjoy!

Jars of Lacto-Fermented Courgettes and Courgette Kimchee (the outcome of this Summer’s glut!) were also on the menu as well as a lovely earthy tasting LF Celeriac, real gritty organic stuff… The LF Courgettes quite the material of cravings… Then these last few days we made several jars of LF Jerusalem Artichokes, combining them with any available herbs, bay leaves and chard, as well as doing them kimchee-style… apparently they are a winner, I have yet to taste.   We toasted our success with bottles of fermented brews – an Elderflower and Gooseberry Wine of 2009 vintage, slightly musty, but more than drinkable and a divine Gooseberry Wine, with a bit of sparkle, again 2009, gold the colour of nectar, a sharp dry white… stuff to salute the stars with.

Back in Norfolk on the ferment side I have been getting through several jars of LF French Beans.  Unfortunately they were picked late and fermented when already old, and although the flavour is good, their skins are tough.  It is important to use the freshest ingredients for fermenting. But chopped into salads they still work as a perky nutritious addition.

What better way to begin the year that with all these gut improving veggies… and what to do with the remaining liquid?  Either use it to ferment something else – it contains the appropriate lactobacilli, just add it to your latest jar of veg… or… for the ultimate New Year Purge – drink it!

Lacto-Fermented Veg Juice aids digestion, soothes the stomach, boosts the immune system, is said to fight cancer and treat flu…

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wet-Kneading Sourdough in a Bowl

Katie's Spelt Soda Bread

...just back from Ireland, and amongst the tips I picked up on an isle far from famed for its culinary talents, was a lovely Spelt Soda Bread.  Nestled in Ballybeg at the foot of the Wicklow Hills, gazing out over the valleys we sat at the kitchen table in Katie's cottage, over cups of tea and slices of this soda bread, women rhythming out myriad thoughts, echoes of the matrilineacy into whose heritage we were bid.

I am not convinced I can recreate this in Norfolk.  But the recipe is as follows:

2 cups Wholemeal Spelt Flour
1 cup White Spelt Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 Egg
1 pt Milk

Mix the Flours.  (by a "cup"  I literally mean a small porcelain teacup, the sort you might find on show on a dresser in an Irish kitchen).  Sift the Bicarb into the Flour and combine.  Beat the Egg and add this followed by the Milk***.  Stir really well until thoroughly combined.  Add a handful of Seeds of your choice.  Pour into an oiled and floured loaf tin.  Bake for 45 minutes at 180C.  A knife should come out clean.

***On later recreations of thie bread, I have found 1 pint is too much milk.  Therefore, slowly add milk until you reach a good consistency (think cake mixture).  Likely no more than 3/4 pint.

This is a cakey bread, much like the cornbread (see previous blog).  The mixture should be very sloppy as the Spelt absorbs a lot, and the bread can be dense.  Spelt is an ancient grain, now readily available, with a lovely nutty flavour.  I tried this recipe with 3 cups of wholemeal spelt flour and sprinkled seeds on the top before baking, worked very well - see pic.  Although, I think on another occasion I would add a teaspoon of salt, this might alter the rising and baking - tbc.  Katie has replaced traditional Buttermilk with normal Milk, this increases the fat content and probably makes the bread rather more enticing.  (Buttermilk, a common ingredient in Ireland, is the liquid remaining once the milk has been churned into butter.)  The advantages to the bread, besides being utterly delicious, are that it does not contain wheat, yeast or (interestingly) salt; it takes no time to make and does not need to rise; and it offers a welcome and not too intrepid contrast to your staple bread.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A Pickled Pear

New Year’s Eve 2010 was a medieval expression of magnificence in the culinary quarters chez les gastronomes of Stanny House Farm… extravagant platter followed on headily from the previous and so on and so forth… I shall elaborate anon.  Let me simply whet the appetite by mentioning the fruit that accompanied the second dish (I can’t resist, ‘twas woodcock on toast) - a pickled pear.

Those of you not as yet convinced by the combination of fruits and meats have only to experience the dextrous combination of rich deeply flavoured woodcock and the sharp, biting sweetness of the pickled pear.

The pears were pickled in September.  They are small, of a variety to be confirmed, and provide in abundance in early September.  I used windfalls – the winds were thundering through the county this September, the windfalls filling my basket over and over. 

I first peeled the pears leaving them whole. 

Cook the whole pears in water with a little salt and sugar, until tender.

Combine 1 lt Vinegar of choice (I suggest cider vinegar), 400g Sugar, Cloves, Peppercorns, Lemon Rind, Ground Ginger, chopped Root Ginger, Mustard Seed and Onion (I like to quarter shallots).

Bring to the boil.
Add the pears.
Bring to the boil again.
Pot in sterilised jars, covering in the vinegar and adding bay leaves.

Leave a few months to allow time to pickle.  Serve come winter with game, cheeses or cold meats.