Six months have passed since I was last in the States. It was a long time without brewing. I came back feeling a bit apprehensive, somewhat doubtful that my brewing abilities didn’t atrophy. Nonetheless I was eager to turn around something quick, and so just a few hours after my return, I walked over to Bitter & Esters to pick up ingredients to brew a new version of my summer session ale, now named Lazy Day Ale. While I might enjoy this beer on such a day in just a few weeks, brew day was anything but lazy, exercising my new knowledge of brewing water as well as trying out some new beer body building techniques.
I mentioned in my post on starting up a sourdough culture that I was also having a go at fermenting sauerkraut. Though that first attempt came out too salty due to an oversight on my part, my follow-up attempt tasted delicious and was very easy to make. Crisp and tangy, I used it for sandwiches, as a side, or even just ate it for a snack. I shared a jar with one of the other researchers in the lab who said he was going to eat with some pork. The success of that experiment made me start contemplating other pickle possibilities.
In the recipe I recently posted for oatmeal scones, I included whey as an ingredient. Whey is not something most people have hanging around, so where did mine come from and why was I using it? The short answer is that I’ve been making my own Greek yogurt, and as a result of the straining process I end up with a lot of waste whey. But that whey is not really waste; its flavor and acidity give it many uses in the kitchen, and it still contains some nutrition to boot. I’ll get back to whey later – for now let’s get to the yogurt.
My sourdough culture, Tom Crumb. Naming your culture is a tradition among sourdough bakers. Having met the four Tom’s in my research group, I felt like I needed a fifth.
As I mentioned in my post on steak and ale pie, my lack of brewing has left me more restless than usual for culinary challenge and adventure. While I was brewing, my interest in fermented foods expanded, but I kept pushing projects like kimchee, yogurt, and sourdough to the back of my mind. A fellow homebrewer offered me a kombucha mother and I let the opportunity slip away during the holidays. No more! I’ve grown a sourdough starter, and I’m not looking back.
Cycling is a very popular mode of transportation here in Cambridge, the roads being narrow, laden with traffic lights, and crammed with cars commuting from nearby towns. A bike was one of my first purchases upon arriving, and already I was planning trips to surrounding towns and natural sites. With spring coming on, I decided it was time to go for a long ride. I decided to pay a visit to Anglesey Abbey and Wicken Fen for total of nearly 30 miles through farmland and fen.
It is taking me quite awhile to acclimate to cooking in England. The kitchen here is not well-stocked on cookware, and many of the pieces of equipment I use most often in the US are not easy to find at an affordable price. When I have found a deal, it has more than once come at the cost of horrendous quality. A cast iron skillet was high on my priority list, but the first one I order (for a bit more than a standard Lodge cast iron in the US) cracked while I was seasoning it. However, failure on this front was not an option.
I’ve been baking more bread lately, and most often I will make my dough ala Jim Lahey’s no-knead method with a 24-hour fermentation that develops the gluten and contributes full flavor. However, sometimes I won’t be able to bake bread 24 hours after I assemble the dough and require quicker turnaround. One trick for faking the flavor of a well-fermented bread is to use another fermented product: beer! And I have had plenty of beer on hand that I was in no rush to drink (namely the peanut porter).