Fermenting Vine Leaves

Grape vine leaves  (Vitis vinifera - cultivar unknown)  
 At  Blanch & Shock , we have been experimenting with leaves from fruit trees recently, most notably fig leaves, which we have been making into tinctures and infusions. I picked some vineleaves from between the lethal tendrils of razorwire at  Edible Eastside  in Birmingham, thinking about the use of the leaves in   Sarma  ( or  Dolma,  depending where you are) in which leaves are stuffed with rice and/or meat and boiled or steamed. I wasn’t planning on stuffing them necessarily, just seeing whether they could be encouraged to express a good flavour. It being the middle of summer, the leaves were quite dry and tough, and I wanted to avoid boiling them for hours as tradition dictated. Instead I left them submerged in a 5% salt brine with a sprig of bay for five weeks, hoping they would soften somewhat. After five weeks, they smelled good - lactic and vegetal and a little bitter, but were still tough and sort of crinkly. So they went into white wine vinegar, with the later addition of some Greek Yoghurt whey. In this solution they now sit, stubbornly refusing to become soft, but tasting great.  
 Tannins have the effect of keeping lactically-fermented pickles crisp, and  this blog post  contains some more information about their role in fermentation. Given the large amount of tannins in leaves, and later in the grapes that will follow, it could be that these leaves will never get soft enough to be served as they are, but could possibly still be wrapped around a stuffing and steamed or boiled. Incidentally the pickling brine, especially since the addition of vinegar and whey, has become kind of delicious, reminiscent of the taste of  dolma.  It may well find itself forming the basis of a new pickling brine for something else.

Grape vine leaves (Vitis vinifera - cultivar unknown)

At Blanch & Shock, we have been experimenting with leaves from fruit trees recently, most notably fig leaves, which we have been making into tinctures and infusions. I picked some vineleaves from between the lethal tendrils of razorwire at Edible Eastside in Birmingham, thinking about the use of the leaves in Sarma (or Dolma, depending where you are) in which leaves are stuffed with rice and/or meat and boiled or steamed. I wasn’t planning on stuffing them necessarily, just seeing whether they could be encouraged to express a good flavour. It being the middle of summer, the leaves were quite dry and tough, and I wanted to avoid boiling them for hours as tradition dictated. Instead I left them submerged in a 5% salt brine with a sprig of bay for five weeks, hoping they would soften somewhat. After five weeks, they smelled good - lactic and vegetal and a little bitter, but were still tough and sort of crinkly. So they went into white wine vinegar, with the later addition of some Greek Yoghurt whey. In this solution they now sit, stubbornly refusing to become soft, but tasting great. 

Tannins have the effect of keeping lactically-fermented pickles crisp, and this blog post contains some more information about their role in fermentation. Given the large amount of tannins in leaves, and later in the grapes that will follow, it could be that these leaves will never get soft enough to be served as they are, but could possibly still be wrapped around a stuffing and steamed or boiled. Incidentally the pickling brine, especially since the addition of vinegar and whey, has become kind of delicious, reminiscent of the taste of dolma. It may well find itself forming the basis of a new pickling brine for something else.

Green Elderberries

Green Elderberries

I climbed the elder tree in the back yard on three separate missions, armed with a deformed coat hanger, to harvest green elderberries. I have just over a kilo, which are vacuum packed with Maldon salt (5% by weight) - as they ferment they will detoxify, lose their bright colour, and start looking a lot like capers. After a couple of weeks, I’ll pack them into jars with spirit vinegar, infused with the elderflowers from the same tree, which I bottled about 6 weeks ago.

Rhubarb, to which i have added ten grams of salt, ten grams of honey, five grams of fermented bee pollen and a toasted Indonesian long peppercorn. Not sure what I’m making. The bee pollen hopefully has a ton of lactic acid bacteria which may ferment the mixture

Rhubarb, to which i have added ten grams of salt, ten grams of honey, five grams of fermented bee pollen and a toasted Indonesian long peppercorn. Not sure what I’m making. The bee pollen hopefully has a ton of lactic acid bacteria which may ferment the mixture

My favourite thing to ferment, which has gone through five different versions since summer 2012. This is the best so far. I shredded turnips, mixed them with 1.5% salt, left them to macerate for an hour, then added 150g live yoghurt whey and 80g raw turnip juice. They have been in since 16th March, and are getting better and better. Spicy and savoury and electric with lactic acid.

My favourite thing to ferment, which has gone through five different versions since summer 2012. This is the best so far. I shredded turnips, mixed them with 1.5% salt, left them to macerate for an hour, then added 150g live yoghurt whey and 80g raw turnip juice. They have been in since 16th March, and are getting better and better. Spicy and savoury and electric with lactic acid.

Two members of the Brassicaceae family. Brussel sprout tops (Brassica oleracea) in 2% salt with Lapsang Souchon tea, Balm of Gilead (possibly Populus x gileadensis) toasted chipotle meco chile, bay, thyme and garlic. Started on 10th January, 2013. The texture is good, particularly the small, lighter tops, but the spice mixture is a little odd, a bit bitter and somewhat confusing. It was the first time I put spices in a ferment. I’m going to think carefully before doing so again

The leaf below is Mustard Spinach (aka Komatsuna) (Brassicaceae rapa) also in 2% salt solution, of which 15% is yoghurt whey. The biting pepperiness of the raw leaf has been lessened by the fermenting, and despite the fading of the colour, which was a deep, vibrant green, it is a pleasant thing to eat.

An onion, left in yoghurt whey and 2% salt for two months. The taste and smell of both the liquid and the onion are great, lactic and sweet, but the texture of the onion is slippery and mushy. The liquid will be the part to keep, perhaps s a seasoning or  to backslop a new ferment

Pickled vegetable testing day

Under the psychedelic layer of moulds that have taken hold in my month-long absence lies a hot pink, tangy and complex stratum of red cabbage, carrots, sesame and nigella seeds. It started as a salad on the French & Grace stall at Feast on March 9th, and these are the leftovers, to which I added 2% salt and 100g yoghurt whey.

Beer sourdough bread. The  l  evain  was made with the yeast in a bottle of Citra IPA from the  Kernel Brewery , some of the beer, and organic white bread flour from Wessex Mill. First test. Next up, working out how much of the water in the recipe to replace with straight beer. My dough slashing technique sucks

Beer sourdough bread. The levain was made with the yeast in a bottle of Citra IPA from the Kernel Brewery, some of the beer, and organic white bread flour from Wessex Mill. First test. Next up, working out how much of the water in the recipe to replace with straight beer. My dough slashing technique sucks

Soup made with smoked and roasted gilthead bream heads, coconut milk, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, fresh turmeric root. In the bowl are shredded turnips, fermented in yoghurt whey for ten weeks, spring onions and a charred lemongrass leaf

Soup made with smoked and roasted gilthead bream heads, coconut milk, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, fresh turmeric root. In the bowl are shredded turnips, fermented in yoghurt whey for ten weeks, spring onions and a charred lemongrass leaf