Saturday 15 August 2015

The microbes are my friends

My search for the perfect pickle has been a long one, full of disappointment, small Polish shops and lots of E numbers. And then, one day, Alex brought home a small packet of Armenian meats (you know, something strung from the back of a saddle to dry as the horse runs), a bottle of something I didn’t know what but it was alive, and a small plastic pot of pickles. I feel like I can still get some mileage out of my pickle story so I won’t say more about them here; but when I found myself drinking all the brine from all the pots, I thought I’d better go see the source* for myself. And sure enough, I came home with a (different) pack of Armenian smoked meats, having tried a pickled tomato (from Russia, delicious) and a little jar of water kefir grains. With no clue as to what they were.

All I knew is that they were responsible for that lovely fizzy stuff we were making pilgrimages to drink. And, I thought, as I’d already managed to turn pineapple skins into alcohol, the beginning of what I’ve recognised to be a certain attraction to big jars of lightly fizzing yellow liquids, why not make my own? So I did and I’m on my second batch, hoping the third will actually be drinkable.

So, if you too are thinking about making these little guys your friends, and I warn you now: it is a friendship that solidifies pretty quickly if not only because once you have them, you'll do anything to keep them from dying on you, here’s what you should know, limited to what I know on the subject (which still isn't much).


Wednesday 5 August 2015

Show mercy to pineapples, make tepache

For all the times I’ve thought to myself ,“I could do that”, this was for then.

It was, I admit, also a measure taken in desperation; desperate to counter the rain and the way it was flattening our spirits. My sister had come to spend 10 days of engineering picnic baskets to bikes and jumping off boats. Instead, she spent 8 of them trapped indoors on a roll mat.

What to do? Finally do what I said I could if everyone else was: put something in a jar and ferment it.

So we made tepache, Mexican moonshine made of the skins and hearts of a pineapples, water, cinnamon and brown sugar. We put it in a big pickle jar (what else?), sealed it, put a cute sticker on it and waited for the wild yeasts to come. Then we poured it over ice, sat back on the roll mat and watched the rains.

Note on the taste: 

Tepache turns out to be pretty damn sweet and after a few days of experimenting, we figured out the following:
  1. It’s best mixed with a Mexican beer
  2. Unless you like the sweet thing and then you can add rum or tequila
  3. The longer you leave it, the more effervescent it becomes, buzzy, malty. I never read the last step of the instructions below until I wrote them out now, 7 days later and mine’s still not strained, not in the fridge, definitely still fermenting and I’m still alive. So go for it.
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