Oh Honey, honey…..its mead time!

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Exquisite raw local honey

 

So its been a while since I’ve written on here, and I’m aware that a lot of the time its simple procrastination that keeps me from writing.  Recently I went back to New Zealand for a trip and it was while I  was away, that I realised how important it is for me to share the many things that are constantly fermenting in my head.

So while I was away on this trip, I started various cultures, as I do, and led a fermentation evening. It was there that I realised that the ferment people usually like best, is mead.  Yes you heard right, mead!  Honey wine, our most ancient fermented treasure.   

Mead is really nothing more than water and honey left to do its thing.  Very little hands on time and plenty of waiting time.  Mead is a perfect ferment to start your fermenting journey with. Reject the cult of expertise and start experimenting, remembering that only two generations ago everybody knew how to do this stuff! Get all your senses involved, and start collecting a memory bank of skills to pass on to your kids.  It’s also a great idea to do seasonal foraging for the herbs and fruit you’re wanting to add. Elderflower, rose, dandelion and nettle are seasonal just now, if you live in the northern hemisphere, that is!

There are many variations of this ferment and traditionally it was used as a medicinal carrier of herbs.  In fact mead was our only source of alcohol for a very long time and it was revered as a sacred drink.  Recent studies have found that mead, made from raw honey, has antibiotic properties, and because the honey has passed through the gastrointestinal  system of bees, it contains yeast as well as beneficial bacteria from their system.  There are so many health reasons to drink mead and it also tastes damn fine.

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a simple ferment with apple, bubbling after about 5 days

I like to flavour mine with herbs, and my current drinking  brew contains rose, chamomile and lime flowers.  You can make the mead strong by using a low dilution (1:4)  or relatively  light  by diluting it more (1:16).  I tend to use a dilution of 1 part honey and 5-6 parts water.  I also add a quartered organic apple, core and all, as this imparts some more flavour and acidity.  When I brew my mead, I usually only go for a short 7-10 day brew using an open top jar.  This will ensure that the mead is still a bit sweet and only very low in alcohol, my kids love it that way.  Once its finished brewing (you will have to taste it at this point to see if its ready) strain the mead through a cheese cloth and then bottle it in glass clip top bottles.  You can drink it straight away or leave it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  This will slowly keep fermenting it, making it less sweet and more bubbly. If you want to properly fortify it, i.e. create more alcohol, you will have to put it into a glass demijohn  for 2-4  weeks.  Then bottle it and drink it straight away.  If you want to bottle it and keep it for longer, like months or years, please ferment it for longer in the glass demijohn, otherwise the remaining sugar might build up too much pressure and explode your bottles.

 

So for some basic honey wine pleasure here is what you need

Ingredients

  • 3 l open top glass vessel
  • 300-500g raw honey
  • 2.5 l filtered water
  • any fruit or herbs ( I like to brew a strong tea from lavender, chamomile, linden flowers, rose )

Currently I am making a mead from rose, boysenberries and elderflower.  All the flowers and fruit are immersed in the mead for 5 days or so, then I will strain them out and leave the ferment for another 5 days.

Method

  • In your glass jar mix the water and honey
  • If your flavouring it with herbs make a strong tea and add as part of the water allowance (rose by itself is delicious as is a combination of lavender, linden flowers and chamomile) or add the fresh herbs straight to the ferment
  • If you’re adding fruit, add them now (I always add a quartered apple but ripe summer berries or peaches etc are also delicious)
  • With a spoon stir the ferment everyday, until it starts to bubble
  • Keep monitoring and tasting it to see when its ready.  It should have a much richer flavour profile than the original honey water, slightly acidic, less sweet and a little effervescent.  You want to avoid a vinegar taste.
  • After 5 days or so filter out the fruit and/or flowers if they were added and continue to brew the mead
  • Once the brew is ready either continue fermentation in a glass demijohn (with an airlock) for another 2-4 weeks or drink green (green in this sense means a very young ferment with very little alcohol content, I expect less than 2%) as it is.  I usually bottle my mead after the 10 day period in glass clip top bottles and leave it to mature in the fridge for another 1-2  weeks.  This will make it more bubbly and less sweet as fermentation slowly continues.
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Blackberry, rose and elderflower mead, day 2.

So when it’s all said and done, mead is like the most beautiful girl at the party…everything about her is wonderful and intoxicating and you can’t take your eyes off her.  Mead is the stuff of life, and   as far as ferments go, mead is a wonderful mistress.  It’s hard to let her go and she will have her way with you.

 With love x

Smooth Operator – Easiest Almond Chocolate Milk Ever

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Almond Tree Growing in Portugal

For some years now I have been told by many health practitioners and vegan friends that drinking dairy is bad for my health and that cow’s milk is for calves and not humans.  Mostly I’ve ignored this advice, because I really like the taste of dairy products, primarily butter and cream.   It has also been convenient for me to ignore the fact, that milk products may be bad for me or the planet,  as they are such a cheap commodity these days and really delicious. I have bought the odd bit of almond or rice milk in the past, but have found the commercial varieties quite watery and over priced.  Then a few months ago I decided to cut out cheese and yoghurt for a while (I was already consuming very little milk), and found that I was actually feeling better.

This got me thinking more about this dairy dilemma and I came to the conclusion that it is far more complex an issue than I ever thought.  The research on whether dairy is good for our health is pretty much divided, you can find arguments for as well as against everywhere you look. You really have to ask yourself “Does dairy work for me? What is my body telling me?”  However, for me, whether to dairy or not to dairy is ultimately an environmental question.  The fact is that the amount of dairy products we are consuming presently, is completely unsustainable for the planet. Furthermore the practices in large-scale factory style farms are often cruel to animals and many nutrients found in milk can be easily found elsewhere.

In steps the humble almond, queen of nuts .  This queen has surely got it going on! Almonds have so many health benefits I don’t even know where to start.  There is already a large body of evidence supporting many cardiovascular benefits of eating almonds. Every handful eaten daily was associated with a 3.5 percent decreased risk of heart disease ten years later. Almonds are already known to help with weight loss and satiety, help prevent diabetes, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and decrease Alzheimer’s risk.  Growing almonds also puts less stress on the earths resources, using much less water and power to produce.  Whats not to like?

Admittedly we could also run into strife here, as most almonds are grown in very dry, even drought stricken regions like California (82% of worlds almonds are grown here) and Spain.  Almond consumption has skyrocketed in the last decade and production won’t be able to keep up with demand if this trend continues. Fear not I say, everything in moderation.  Almonds can be enjoyed in small amounts and don’t have to replace whole food groups like dairy and flour.  I often despair when whole food groups get completely replaced by one product.  The key to a healthy planet and a healthy diet, in my opinion, is variety, moderation and eating seasonal.  Listen to your body, tune in and follow its cues. Your body will tell you when and what to eat, its your guru.

I still eat (and love) dairy but I consume much less than I used to.  I mainly eat raw organic milk and cheese and when I have time I will make my own kefir.  I try to buy local produce as much as I can, although I’m also a bit partial to french cheese.  Homemade almond milk has now become a firm favourite of mine.  Its luscious and velvety smooth and because it’s so filling, it really is satiating. I often have a bottle of this chocolate milk in the fridge to drink,  as a little sweet pick me up that’s good for the heart and the soul.

Almonds and a shot of Almond Chocolate Milk

Chocolate Almond Milk

Ingredients (this makes approx 500-700 ml depending on how much water is used)

  • 1 cup soaked raw almonds (soak almonds in filtered water for 8-12 hours, this will activate them)
  • 11/2 – 3 cups water (less water will make the almond milk more creamy, I usually use 2 cups)
  • pinch of salt

Method

  • put all the ingredients into a high powered food processor like a vitamix, (a normal, less powerful food processor will work too.  It will simply leave a more coarse pulp) and process for about 30 s
  • strain the mixture through a fine muslin cloth or a nut milk bag and collect the almond milk.

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    Almond Milk straining through a Milk Nut Bag

  • store the milk for up to 3 days in the fridge or continue with the chocolate milk recipe below

To make chocolate almond milk simply add 2-3 teaspoons of cocoa (use less if your sensitive to stimulants), 2 soaked dates and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence to 500ml of almond milk. Put it all back into the food processor and process until the dates are completely incorporated. You can also use less almond milk and add more water for a thinner drink.  Consume straight away or chill, I personally like it cold.  If you like your milk a bit more spicy try adding 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the contents of a cardamom pod when your blending it.

This milk is delicious just on its own or try adding seasonal fruit and honey or dates instead of chocolate.  You can use this milk in baking etc just as you would normal milk.  If your milk separates in the fridge, just shake it before using it.  Experiment and make it your own best flavour.  I absolutely adore this chocolate version.  I serve it nice and cold in a small glass in the afternoon or after dinner.

 

With Love xx