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

The humble courgette is back in town…dressed up to impress of course!

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I’ve noticed that courgettes are one of those vegetables that really divide people into lovers or haters, of courgettes that is of course.  Im a lover, because the almost bland taste of courgettes lend it to such a variety of uses.  For anyone who has grown these precious beasties in their garden, knows how easy to grow and how prolific they are.  In fact my organic vegetable box has already started to include courgettes, meaning there will be a steady supply from now until summer.

Courgettes are excellent at helping the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates, digest fat, contribute to sex hormone production and lower blood pressure.  They are a very cooling and sedative food, and are very helpful at treating frayed nerves and adrenals.  They can be eaten raw as well as cooked and once you have a few uses under your belt, you’ll look forward to the inevitable courgette glut!

The trend for “pasta” that isn’t pasta has been steadily growing and like with most trends it takes me a while to catch on.  I am a sceptic, and just because something is supposed to be good for me, doesn’t mean I’ll eat it.  In my books food has to be delicious, fairly easy to prepare, mostly seasonal and nourishing for my body.  So with that in mind I finally took to trying out courgette pasta, and what can I say I’m loving it.  It’s delightfully light and delicious.  I slather it in homemade coriander pesto and roast tomatoes, which I keep in the fridge ready to go. Instead of eating the courgette pasta raw, I like to briefly heat it up in my trusty skillet with a bit of olive oil.  I find heating it up gives it a nicer texture and I also find them more satisfying when cooked.  Know thyself is key here, have your condiments ready in the fridge and get yourself a spirilizer, its that simple.  Courgette pasta can be eaten as a side dish or as a light main dish. Please do not go out and buy ready spirilised vegetables of any kind in the supermarket! Do it yourself.

Courgette pasta with coriander pesto and roasted tomatoes

  • 1 large courgette serves one person
  • olive oil
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heating courgette spirals in the skillet

Spiralize your courgette and heat it up in a skillet (heavy cast iron pan).  Then add any condiments you like. I’m really ejoying it with pesto and tomato at the moment and the recopes for those are following.  Simply stir 1-2 teaspoons of pesto through the pasta and top with parmesan cheese and roasted tomatoes if you wish.

 

Roasted tomatoes

  • Two bunches of baby tomatoes
  • oregano, sea salt and olive oil

Place the tomatoes, stalks and all, into a roasting pan .  Add a pinch of oregano and salt and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Coat the tomatoes well and slow roast in an oven at 120 degrees celsius for 3-4 hours.  The tomatoes will have their skins intact but will be wrinkly looking and maybe a bit bronzed.  If you haven’t got 3 hours to spare, you can roast them at a higher temperature, 180 degrees for 30 min.  Slow roasting will make them sweeter however.  Once tomatoes are cooled down place them in a glass jar and add good quality olive oil to cover. Keep in the fridge, they should keep at least one week if not longer.  These tomatoes are great in salads or smashed on toast with avocado or in wraps.

 

Coriander pesto

  • a big bunch of coriander (100g)
  • 1 cup cashew nuts
  • 1 garlic clove peeled , pinch of salt and enough olive oil to loosen pesto into a smooth paste or to the consistency you prefer.  If you like it runny like me it will take quite a lot of oil

Place the coriander into the bowl of a food processor along with the cashew nuts (you can also use pine nuts or almonds here), garlic and salt.  Pulse to process and then add olive oil with the motor running until you have the desired consistency.

With Love x