Category Archives: Garden

The Great Mead Project

Last fall the kitchen I was working in was buzzing about the subject of fermentation.  Not the normal kitchen fermentation conversations which is usually about what someone will be enjoying post service but the actual process and of how to create a fermented beverage.  These conversations were mainly about making kombucha and kefir water, both of which almost all of us in the kitchen consumed on a regular basis.  While I am one of those who does enjoy kombucha it was not the type of fermentation I was interested in.  For some reason mead came to mind and it was all I could think of.

20121004-124757.jpgMy first introduction to mead was when I was asked to write a forward for a series of books that were to be republished by my friend Jimi Hatt who is the founder of Guerrilla Cuisine in Charleston, South Carolina. The first book I worked on was titled “Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine” and contained a brief mention and recipe for two types of mead.  Ever since then making mead has been in the back of my mind. And as luck would have it I happened to have a pint of raw, unpasteurized honey.

Since the old cookery book had a rather archaic recipe I decided to reference a better source on how to ferment my honey. The best, and easiest recipe I found was in the book, “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. In this book Katz explains that raw honey contains loads of natural yeast that are unable to ferment the honey as is because of the lower water content of honey itself.  Raw honey usually contains 17% water keeping the naturally occurring yeast at bay.  With a simple 2% increase the yeast will activate and start the fermentation process.

So by simply adding water in almost any quantity the yeast are free to do what they do best, produce alcohol. It is important to note that the honey you wish to ferment has to be raw and unpasteurized for the fermentation to happen with out the addition of an outside yeast source. This doesn’t mean that you can not make mead from store bought honey. Should you want to try out mead production yourself and have no source for raw honey you can always purchase a mead yeast from your local brewing store or online.

Following the guidelines set up by Katz I dissolved the honey in room temperature water. I did not take the time or steps to dechlorinate my water, though he did advise to do so. I started with an 8:1 water to honey ratio. After dissolving the honey completely I whisked it vigorously to aerate the liquid as much as possible and then covered it tightly with cheese cloth.

Mead FoamEach day I whisked (stirred) the solution twice a day, again to introduce oxygen to to it which is key to stimulate strong yeast growth.  Much to my surprise after only a day and a half the honey was already rapidly fermenting, indicated by the amount of foam produced when I whisked it. By the end of the two week long first fermentation period the foam was almost an inch and a half tall, it blew my mind.  At this point the mead was still very sweet with the distinct taste of the honey I made it with. It also had a nice effervescence to it.   According to Katz, at this point the glucose in the honey has fully fermented.  You can choose to consume the mead as is, or like me continue on to completely ferment the fructose as well.  At this point to complete the fermentation I racked the mead into a gallon size cider jar with a small mouth and sealed it with a CO2 air lock.  This simple contraption allows the CO2 produced by the fermentation to escape while not allowing any outside air back it.  This is a crucial step if you want to continue fermentation.  If outside air is allowed back into the container there is a very high chance that our friend acetobacter will enter the picture and create a beautiful vinegar out of your mead.  For this reason you want to limit any outside air contact.

I started this project on the 1st of October last year.  After the first two weeks I racked the mead into the cider jar.  From there, every two months, I would rack the mead into another cider jug and reapply the air lock.  This quickly oxygenates the liquid giving the yeast more air to breathe and ensuring the continuation of the fermentation.  It also gives you a chance to taste the mead as it progresses.  You can of course bottle it or drink it at any time you feel it is perfect.  Should you choose to bottle the mead before fermentation is complete you do need to keep in mind that the fermentation process is not yet complete thus CO2 is still being produced.  This will create pressure in the bottle and unless the proper lid is used (one that can be secured such as a champagne cork with the metal guard) the pressure will eventually pop the cork or lid off and you could have a real mess on your hands.  I decided at the beginning that I was going to see the fermentation all the way through to the end.  Once there were no more bubbles present when the mead was agitated, just over six months, I bottled it.  I of course tasted it at this point to see what I had just made 2 gallons of.  What I discovered was that the mead had lost almost all of it’s sweetness.  With a very subtle honey flavor the mead was very dry with a sharp finish.  Fearing the worst I quickly tried a taste of some white wine vinegar I had in the pantry to compare the two.  Fortunately the two were distinctly different with the vinegar having less of a dry finish with that acidic bite we all love vinegar for.  The mead was dry, very dry, but had none of the acidic qualities the vinegar had.  I was also trying it at room temperature so that may have had something to do with it. mead bottling I bottled the mead in 375 ml bottles assuming that I would probably not want to drink an entire 750 ml in one sitting.   My plan is to allow the mead to age and mellow for another 6 months in the bottle and then to start trying it.

My mind is also already planning my next batch.  Figs, thyme, possibly even fresh bay leaves will be involved in the next production.  Who knows maybe even some fresh coriander seed and Meyer lemon zest will make an appearance.  It all depends on what the garden is producing at the time.  As fall approaches again it will be time to enjoy the fermented nectar of the honey bee.

— matt bolus

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July 27, 2013 · 5:07 pm

Chestnuts

I received these beautiful local chestnuts yesterday from a lady just down the road from my house. I have been playing with chestnut ideas for a few years now since my parents have a true fruit bearing American chestnut tree.

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Filed under Canning, Chestnuts, Cooking, Fall, Flavor, Garden, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Sous Vide

Quick Release Video

Here is a fun look at what a Jimi Hatt and I do on our spare time!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v​=n9w6aPM8msM

–matt bolus

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Filed under Books, Brown Sugar, Butcher, Buthering, butter, Canning, Charleston, Cooking, Cream, Garden, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Pickling, pork, Potatoes, Radishes, Salt Curing, Travel, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Marrow vegetable

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This post came about in two ways. The first, was when my local farmer Joey Barnes form Barnes Produce at the Nashville Farmers Market brought me this gigantic zucchini looking vegetable. The only reason he brought it to the restaurant is because he had never seen anything like it and wanted to see what we could do with it. Neither of us knew what it was exactly (besides a zucchini on some NFL style vitamins) but he had been told that people cut out the seeds and stuff it with meat and then roast it. I of course thanked him for the unusual and told him that I would update him on what we did with it and how it tasted. Well it happened that we needed a large amount of roasted squash and zucchini for a party menu and thus it ended up in a nice medium dice roasted with bacon fat, shallots, thyme, and mint. Overall it tasted lovely but I was disappointed at the fait that it had met.

The second point comes with the annual review of the canning recipes and the desire to start making pickles, jams, and other various projects to put the summers bounty away for future use. My wife Kelly had been reading a canning book that sparked my interest. While looking through the index of the book, which I often start with, I noticed a recipe that I could not believe was possible. It was a canning recipe for “Pickled Marrow and Onions”. How could this be? You mean to tell me that you can pickle and can beef marrow with onions? That has to be delicious, or disgusting, depending on who you ask. Well the answer quickly came when I turned to the appropriate page. The recipe called for vegetable marrow, which I of course not only did not expect but was disappointed to see. I then realized that I had never heard of “vegetable marrow”.

Research on the web led me to discover that vegetable marrow, also known as a marrow vegetable, was a zucchini type vegetable. Originally cultivated in England, these vegetables can grow to be the size and weight of a large pumpkin. They are also notorious for having a bland flavor and are traditionally stuffed with meat of some sort and roasted whole. Then it dawned on me that I had not only seen this vegetable but had just recently turned it into a mere fast saute. What a shame. The next one I get will not experience such a meager fate I promise. The picture here includes a common power socket in an attempt to show the actual size of the marrow vegetable.

–matt bolus

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Filed under Books, Canning, Cooking, Flavor, Garden, Ideas, Marrow Vegetable, Matt Bolus, Pickling, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Zuchinni

Sweet Potatoes

After featuring our sweet potato puree at several public functions we have had multiple requests for the recipe. I also want to add that when we call it a “puree” it really is no different from mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes are not as starchy as their Idaho cousins and can be put into a blender to add all the goodness to them without taking on a gummy texture. This is one of the most simple recipes and changed my life with sweet potatoes forever.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius or Gas Mark 6. Do nothing to the sweet potatoes, leave the skin on, do not coat in oil, do not sprinkle with salt or pepper. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until very soft. The time it takes to cook the potatoes will of course vary according to where you are at geographically speaking, the size of the potatoes, and whether or not you oven is a conventional oven or a convection oven. It should take roughly 30 minutes to completely cook a medium to medium large size sweet potato. Once the potatoes are cooked through take them out of the oven, have your blender ready. Working quickly and carefully remove all the skin (should peel off very easily) and put the flesh into the blender. For every sweet potato that you cook you will need to have ready 1 1/2 Tablespoons or 3/4 ounces or 22 grams of cold butter and a pinch of salt. Add the butter to the potatoes and season with salt. I don’t use pepper with this recipe but you can of course change it how you would like to. Puree the mixture until all the ingredients are evenly combined and the texture is velvety smooth.

Let me know how you like it. I have also added vanilla to the mix in the form of either extract or scraped beans. This will sweeten the end result so be careful with what you are serving it with. I have also added dark brown sugar and Tabasco sauce (in copious amounts) with great results; a sweet and spicy potato.

— matt bolus

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Filed under Brown Sugar, butter, Charleston, Cooking, Flavor, Garden, Ideas, Kiawah Island, Mashed Potatoes, Matt Bolus, Potato Puree, Potatoes, Red Sky, Restaurant, Seabrook Island, sweet potatoes, Uncategorized

First radish of the garden

Just pulled the first radish from our garden today. The greens look so good and are going to taste great in a salad. The radish deserves a little olive oil and some sea salt.

— matt bolus

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Filed under Charleston, Cooking, Flavor, Garden, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Radishes, Uncategorized

Another New Dish, Monkfish

Thanks to the three Dave’s in my life, my father Dave Bolus who supported my decision to attend culinary school (yes my mother also supported me but her name fortunately is not Dave), Dave Blagden who gave me a job at the fishmongers in London, and Dave Szem my fishmonger now i have come up with an entree dish for the opening menu.

Monkfish Entree

Monkfish Entree

This is a combination of all that I know and love about fish and summer. It starts off with monkfish that has been brined in a citrus simple syrup. I then wrap the fish in roasted red peppers and then wrap it again in thinly shaved prosciutto. The fish parcels are then pan seared, basted, and then finished with a touch of orange juice, butter, and fresh thyme.

Finished Pan Searing

Finished Pan Searing

The fish will be served with oven roasted fingerling potatoes that have been tossed with salt, pepper, and chopped parsley, and finally topped with a summer melon tapenade. The tapenade I make in the traditional fashion with olives, anchovies (in this dish I will use Spanish Bocarones) and then I add a mix of chopped summer melon and some of the remaining citrus simple syrup and olive oil. The combination creates a dish that is rich in taste and texture while still being lite on the pallet and stomach.

— matt bolus

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Filed under Cooking, Flavor, Garden, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Restaurant, Uncategorized