As anyone who in the slightest knows about me, I am significantly influenced by 60s counterculture, particularly the back to the land movement. You’ll find its modern counterpart in the permaculture movement.
I started a veg garden a few years ago, figuring that one day if stuff collapsed we’d all need to eat our own stuff. Every year I learned something more until I reached the veg garden I have now. It has been a slow incremental process, year on year, yet quite rewarding. I must add however that I ama bit hopeless and lazy, useless at weeding and do get a bit fed up wit it at times.
Since then, I’ve amassed a small library of permaculture works, all awesome in their own way.
My latest acquisition is “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. Where I live is 700m altitude, just near the Alps. Our climate in winter is brutal, minus 20 isn’t ridiculous, so out if the growing season here garden life just stops dead for months. The question thus is “What did people grow before supermarkets and fridges?”. One of the answers is that people used to rely on a process known as lacto-fermentation to preserve their harvests.
I’ve already attempted to ferment my grape harvest into wine and have usually managed about five to ten litres of red which was quite tasty, in fact in Saudi I alwas had a demijohn on the go. But lately I have been trying other stuff. Living as we do not far from Russia it feels right to attempt food projects influenced by their traditions.
One such is kombucha. According to Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions people in villages who drank kombucha didn’t have the drunkenness associated with the people who lived without it. We happen to have a “bio” shop in our town which sells a bottle of the stuff. I bought one and noticed a small “mushroom” in the bottom, took it out and attempted to grow it using some of the wife’s tea dregs and sugar. Alas, after a few weeks all I achieved was a patchy mould on the surface, so this experiment failed.
Here in the Alps sauerkraut is home made and sold. My local fishmonger makes his own in a wooden barrel. According to him, the “kraut” must be kept under a certain amount of pressure to ferment. Just before Christmas I bought a cheap cabbage from Lidl (I didn’t want to risk one of my garden cabbages in summer) and chopped it up, added 2 tablespoons of salt incidentally harvested from local salt mines, and left it on the side. 3 weeks later I dug it out and bugger it had gone mouldy! Fail! I have learnt that the top of the shredded cabbage must be submerged in water to seal off any air. I shall also obtain a straight sided vessel next time I try this.
German bakeries are famous for their quality bread, and we eat loads of “semmel” (rolls) from them. We often get a lot of stale ends of loaves, so it might be logical to attempt to make kvass from them. I had a load of old bits I was going to make intoi breadcrumbs so I simply soaked them in water 2 days, then added lemon juice, sourdough starter and yeast, some sugar to the mix. Right now they are bottled up awaiting a sampling when the bottles have finished secondary fermentation which is done by adding half a teaspoon of sugar to the bottle just before pouring in the freshly fermented brew. It all looks like liquid bread at the moment, so we will have to get back to you after we’ve sampled it.
Sitting in my cupboard awaiting experimentation lies a pot of organic honey from Aldi. Apparently according to Katz if the water content of honey rises above 19% the natural easta present will begin to ferment, so this is earmarked for a future mead project. Only at the dream stage now, but what a prospect it might be if one could harvest one’s own honey from a home built “top bar hive” (Google it) and add garden herbs to make some kind of ultimate home made drink!
Additionally to the above, the winter fallow period is also one during which people attempt to sprout beans. I asked my brother in law for a sprouting “greenhouse” for Christmas this year. So far we’ve been enjoying fresh beansprouts in our salads. Being a newbie however, I am a tad lost as to what to cook with them as yet. I am told that beansprouts contain enzymes necessary for our bodies.
So these small experiments above have been instrumental in keeping me from going less nuts than usual at this extremely fallow time of year for this “greenie”. The concept of something growing or bubbling I have found to be quite rewarding. Takes me back to those old Boots beer kits I used to try (God they were often shite!)