Tag Archives: Ideas

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

Jack Crevalle

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I caught this on a recent fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico.  The first mate of the boat laughed at me when I told him I was going to filet it and take it home.  “No one eats these fish, they are not even good bate fish”, he said.  Well, if I take a fish out of the water then I am going to eat it.  Some research has been done, and more needs to be finished.  I know this fish is a part of the Jack family, a stunningly good family of fish when fresh and cooked right.  So more to come about this elusive and seemingly useless fish!

 

— matt bolus

 

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July 25, 2013 · 11:39 pm

Black Garlic

I have found an interest in black garlic and like many things I start researching I have found a desire to make my own. The research I have done has yielded recipes that start at aging the garlic in caves for months on end and end with custom built boxes with lights, fans, thermostats, and viewing windows. The best, or most common I should say, recipe I found was to keep the garlic at 140 F for 40 days. While simple this is not the easiest task to accomplish. First of all what is the heat source? Remember you are not going to be able to use it for 40 days. Second what heat producing equipment can stay on for 40 straight days with no problems? After testing my crock pot, which we hardly ever use, I found that on a low setting it will hold a temperature range of 138 F to 160 F. So with 12 head of garlic I am starting the 40 day process of black garlic. I placed some aluminum foil on the bottom of the dish in an attempt to keep the garlic from directly touching the vessel itself. Humidity seems to also be a dilemma is the production of black garlic in that you don’t want to lose any moisture as the garlic ferments. I have covered the top of the pot tightly with cling film and inserted a thermometer so I can monitor the temperature. The garlic has been on the heat for all of two hours now and all I can smell is roasting garlic in the house.

–matt bolus

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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

Truffles

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This is picture from last year, but why not. This is a perfect example of what happens when chefs get excited about food. Fresh black winter truffles combined with the best black truffle juice creates perfection on the most simple of dishes.

–matt bolus

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Filed under Black Truffles, Canning, Charleston, Cooking, Cream, Heavy Cream, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Truffle Juice, Truffles, Uncategorized

Hog Snapper

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Here are three pictures that I think show the beauty of the hog snapper. This has to be my favorite snapper of all times. The flesh is brilliant white and very tender when cooked. This fish works well when pan seared, poached, backed, or broiled. It is also a fantastic treat when eaten raw. To give you an idea of the size of the fish, the two of them are laying on a full size restaurant sheet tray that measures 18 inches wide by 26 inches long. From what I understand the fish got its name from the fact that the face, in particular the mouth, looks like that of a pig. And as you can see they can open their mouth wide to consume the food. One thing to note is that these snapper are not the easiest to filet. You will need a very sharp knife to cut through the massive scales. I will tell you more as I find out. And of course I always welcome information from those who know about it.

— matt bolus

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Filed under Butcher, Buthering, Charleston, Crudo, Fish, Flavor, Hog Snapper, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Restaurant, Snapper, Sushi, Uncategorized