Fermentation is a new subject for me although it is an ancient practice. It is a magical process performed by tiny organisms that eat sugars and turn them into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
We made beer, based on the cascade brewers kit. In beer, malt is mixed with water and dextrose and a starter culture of yeast. It is very important to sterilize all the bottles and equipment it is a fertile breeding ground in the warm, sugar rich mix and contamination is possible.
Beer has been brewed from surplus grains for thousands of years.
The organisms that perform this magic actually float around freely and naturally in the air.
However they go to work when conditions are anaerobic. When brewing beer, the gas is allowed to escape. When raising bread small bubbles of CO2 are trapped in the gluten pockets of wheat.
First to get the required mix, we made a pancake batter from yeast, salt flour, sugar and water. This was allowed time on a prewarmed brick from the oven to activate and begin to rise.
That was then mixed with more flour to thicken up and allowed to rise again. Finally it was kneeded and put in a pan to bake.
Fermentation preserves food. Harvests often come with a pulse of abundance and then a long period before another it is important to store this food so you are able to enjoy it over a long period without it spoiling.
We prepared a Korean preserved called Kumchee. Vegetables are chopped, traditionally cabbage which gains additional nutritional properties when fermented. We also added onions, cucumbers, thai basil and carrot. This is then flavoured with spices. They are all mixed together with sugar and allowed to sit in the sun with the lid ajar.
The fermentation itself can take a few weeks. The organisms grow and reproduce, which then grow and reproduce again this will continue as long as the conditions of temperature (they slow down in cold and are killed in high) and food supply remain.
It can also add new and interesting flavours. We prepared a tamerillo chutney. Tamarillo were peeled, left in water with a spoon of vinegar so that they oxidize. They stain the hands brown. Then they were finely diced, and put in a pot with sugar – this was boiled with a secret blend of herbs and spices passed down to us from Wayne.
Sido facilitated this class for the first time. She was great. The weather was overcast with rain, so Goanna was a nice spot to add nutrients, flavour, life and longevity to the harvest.
There are other ways to preserve food. It is the aggressive action of oxygen and bacteria that causes food to go bad. By boiling jars with special lids, the bacteria is killed. When cooled the vessels are vacuum sealed, stopping any air getting inside. Stored in a dry, dark, cool place this will keep vegetables fresh for a very long time.