Sunday, 16 July 2017

water kefir.... or another foray into fermentation.

It was lovely daughter who first introduced me to water kefir, the slightly carbonated fermented drink which is full of beneficial probiotics.
Like many fermented foods, its origin is uncertain but it has probably been consumed in certain countries such as Mexico and Tibet for centuries.
Making water kefir at home is simple, though initially you do need some water kefir grains.
The term water kefir grains is a slight misnomer, as they are not actually grains, but resemble jelly- like crystals.
The grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts, which when fed with sugar and water produce the beneficial drink.

There seem to be different methods for making the kefir and this website has lots of interesting information, but the method I used was as follows:
Place 4 tablespoons of water kefir grains, 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 800ml water into a clean kilner jar (or similar).
Stir, cover with a cloth, (but do not close the lid) and leave on the worktop for 48 hours during which time the liquid should start to ferment and may bubble slightly.
After this time, strain, reserving the liquid and place the water kefir grains into a small jar, cover with water, add a teaspoon of sugar to feed them, place the lid onto jar and store in the fridge ready for next time.
The reserved liquid will be quite sweet at this point.
It is now time for the second fermentation,which is best done in a flip top bottle.
So pour the liquid into a suitable bottle and again leave on the worktop for 24 to 48 hours.

 During this stage the bacteria feed on the sugars;
the liquid becomes cloudy, more carbonated and far less sweet.
It is important to 'burp' the bottle from time to time by gently opening the lid, otherwise when the lid is finally released the contents will spray in a huge fountain covering walls, floors and yourself with precious liquid!
I speak from experience!

During the second fermentation, you can flavour the water kefir with lemon rind and pieces of root ginger which can be placed in the bottle, alternatively it can be flavoured by adding ingredients afterwards.
Having tried both methods, I think the latter is probably preferable as each drink can be flavoured in a different way.
For example, lemon, lime or fruit juice can be added to the glass and then topped up with water kefir.

Unflavoured, the water kefir is an acquired taste, rather like a cross between flat lemonade and ginger beer, but it becomes more interesting when flavoured.
I'm definitely a 'newbie' when it comes to fermentation but it's a very interesting subject.

Friday, 7 July 2017

early morning ...

To beat the heat and keep up with watering on the lottie, mr digandweed and I made a plan-
we get up early and arrive at the allotment before the world is barely awake.
Now, I appreciate this is not everyone's idea of fun, but for me ( and mr d) early morning is the best time of day!
Quite often we are the first and only people there. We climb over the main gate, (having forgotten the key yet again) and walk down the path, sheltered by the hedge, to our plot.
The peace and quiet envelop us. Between us we water everything with just birdsong for company.
The plants are grateful for their early morning drink.
There is plenty to harvest. Although the strawberries have finished (just an average crop this year, though still delicious) there are still bowlfuls of glistening blackcurrants.
Some of the bright berries bounce to the ground as I reach into the bush to pick them. I leave those for the birds, there are plenty more for us.

There are gooseberries too; green ones and red ones. This year, some of the sweetest, juiciest red gooseberries I've ever tasted. There is Swiss chard to pick, broad beans and the first of the climbing beans. The butternut squash are romping away and the plum and apple trees are heavy with young fruit. Only the beetroot have let the side down. Despite sowing a couple of rows and for reasons beyond me only one or two have germinated.
With a basket full of produce, we return home to a cup of tea and breakfast.

This year, in an attempt to cut down on sugar consumption, I decided to make a puree with the blackcurrants rather than jam.
I lightly cooked the berries in the microwave with a drop of water, then sieved them and sweetened with a tiny amount of vanilla sugar.
The resulting sauce is full of fresh blackcurrant flavour and is delicious stirred into any number of things.
A favourite at the moment is spooned over creamy yoghurt for breakfast.
The leftover puree also freezes well.

Since our homegrown beetroot are almost non existent, I bought a bunch of fresh beetroot from the shop and along with the broad beans from the allotment made a delicious salad.

The recipe, Shaved beetroot salad with peas, broad beans and dukkah, is another one from my favourite free magazine Waitrose food.
A link for the recipe is here.
In case, like me, you are wondering what Dukkah is, a quick google reveals it is a rather delicious spice blend which can be bought or just as easily made at home. A recipe can be found here.

Do give the recipe a try.
It is light,delicious and just right for a summer's day.