Preserving the Glut
Allowing good food to go to waste is a crime; allowing good food to go to waste which you’ve nurtured yourself is especially painful..! This summer we revived the kitchen garden at work. It was a total joy to cook with such wonderfully fresh homegrown produce each day, and to spend an hour or so in the sunshine weeding the beds in my afternoon breaks. You can read a little more about that here.
Well, our timing wasn’t as spot on as it could have been – but hey, it was our first year! A wondrous glut of vegetables ensued shortly after most of our hospitality had run its course…
I enlisted the help of my mum, packed the boot of the car with every empty Kilner jar I could lay my hands on, as well as my two new Kilner fermentation sets, and drove to Berkshire for a day of fermenting to end all others..! We spent the morning pulling wonky carrots and beetroot from the earth, seeking out yellow beans from their vines, and plundering the green house for tomatoes. There were also courgettes that bordered on marrows, and the last of some very prolific purple radishes.
The smaller, prettier carrots we fermented whole, which was a new experiment. We used a brine of 4% salt, infused with star anise. I could munch on these all day long, while others have been less convinced! The other carrots we sliced thinly and gave the ‘dill pickle’ treatment – carrot gherkins if you will! These I still have out at room temperature as I’m hoping for a deep vinegary flavour. They will be served with rabbit rillettes at some Hare on the Hill supper clubs in September.
The absolute triumph of the day were the ‘Dilly Beans’ – an idea from Katz’s The Art of Fermentation. I fell in love with the name immediately. These are now three weeks old just extraordinary; they’re an English answer to olives, or pickled guillida peppers. They are fantastic as a pre-dinner snack – they’re brine-y and tangy, and make your taste buds sit up with anticipation. Nick Balfe and I will be serving these as a little snack at our collaboration at Salon. They’re just a few spots left if you’d like to join us? Tickets here. Or have a go yourself – Recipe here.
Fermenting is the only form of preserving food where the end result is more nutritious; this is one of the reasons that fermenting is my preferred preserving method. Other processes rely on killing the bacteria present, either through boiling the vegetables with spices and sugar, or immersing them in vinegar. Fermenting is the diametric opposite to this, in that it deliberately creates the right environment where select beneficial bacteria can thrive, and harmful ones cannot. The product is alive and kicking with probiotic goodness, and of course, that flavour.