For our first attempt at mead (or more properly metheglin, since mead is usually just made with honey according to some people whilst metheglins use herbal infusions and honey) we made a strong infusion of meadowsweet flowers and left it sitting overnight. The next day we strained it off and added 1 part honey to 5 parts infusion in a large pyrex bowl; we have recently discovered the benefits of doing small R&D runs. We decided to see if it would ferment with the wild yeasts on the flowers and in the atmosphere. So we covered the bowl with muslin and just stirred it every day. For the first 3 days it did not look too promising but one the 4th day it started bubbling nicely. We decided just to leave it for 8 days as we were not interested in a high alcohol content. After 8 days we decanted it off into bottles which we put in the fridge maturing and found we had an excellent crop of starter yeast in the bottom of the bowl. Those who have sampled it have pronounced the flavor excellent. It has a nice effervescence and the taste is a lovely combination of meadowsweet and honey; a bit on the sweet side for me. It should be great medicine for the stomach and gut flora and be full of B vitamins as a live ferment.

Since the first experiment we have made several more, including Lemon verbena and Elderberry and ginger using the yeast from the first batch. Our next run was with rosehips and for this one we doubled the amount of honey which gave a sweeter batch; like a rosehip syrup/ginger beer. We have just done a run of rose petal and cardamom combined, with the higher honey content; this is rather drier but the flavor has a nice balance to it and is maturing well. The resultant meads or metheglins are now maturing in the ‘cellar’, or rather a cool press in the lobby; apparently such beverages need to be matured for up to 5 years but I don’t think they will be left quite that long. We now have quite a good batch of yeast; the next experiment will be a plain honey mead, partly to give the yeasts a good feed and once that is done hopefully there will be sufficient dandelion flowers to try a batch with those, apparently they work rather well.
LACTO-FERMENTING is one of those amazing processes in nature and real kitchen magic. Kimchi (that’s the Korean version) or fermented vegetables are the most miraculous way of preparing a probiotic and prebiotic fermented food that I have come across. It is a simple way of creating a lactobacillus rich food from raw vegetables and the best thing for healthy guts I have encountered. This method also means you can prepare enough vegetables for a week or two all in one go. In the autumn one of the students turned up with a big bag of veg so we decided to experiment with root ferments for the winter. Soon we will be doing ones from fresh greens, herbs and stuff from the garden and around. One can also use this method to preserve herbs for use over the winter. So basically, one chops grates or slices the vegetables. Initially, we made one from kale and beetroot with onions and the other from onions, celeriac and carrots. Other things we have used over the winter include red cabbage, peppers and swede. You can use just about anything.

So you prepare the vegetables, then put them into a pyrex bowl and cover them with brine (2-3 tablespoons of sea salt dissolved in 1 litre of water, use more water if you need to with additional salt). Some people feel you should use spring water or chlorine free water, or you can just boil water and allow it to cool to remove most of the chlorine; we just use water straight from the tap and it seems to work fine. Then put a plate on top of the vegetables and weigh it down (I just stand a mason jar of lentils on top). Leave it over night then strain off the vegetables, saving the brine. Mash about 5 cloves of garlic, grate about 2-3 tablespoons of fresh ginger (or you can use ginger powder), mix these together and add 1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder and mix into a paste with some of the brine. If you are usinga lot of brassicas you can add a little fennel powder to prevent wind; you could probably add other herbs and spices tooStir the paste through the vegetables and pack them into a kilner/mason jar and cover with the saved brine.

Cover with a square of muslin and keep in warm place, stirring daily to ensure all the vegetables stay submerged. Taste each day until it is sufficiently fermented (it will start to taste slightly vinegary. When sufficiently fermented put into closed jars and store in the fridge. Salt induces a lacto-fermentation from the lactobacilli naturally present in the atmosphere and on the vegetables. This also explains why some salt is necessary in the diet to balance our gut flora and encourage proper break down of vegetables (its one of the reasons why ruminants like cows and horses benefit from salt licks). Hope that explains the process properly, it’s really easy and the finished vegetables can be added into soups, stir fries, sandwiches, stirred through rice or barley or other grains, or added to salads.