Thursday, 21 February 2013

Beef & Wild Oyster Stew with Oyster Ale.

In Dickensian London the humble oyster was a staple food, being abundant along the thames estuary along the Kent and Essex coasts.

As I noted in my latest article for February, with it's 2 "r's" in the month, must surely empirically offer itself as the perfect time for a spot of sea shore foraging.

If you take yourself out on the coast between Minnis Bay and around east past Margate, with a sturdy pair of boots, an ebbing tide, and a bucket, you too can find yourself a free bounty of wild pacific oysters.

They're actually a foreign import - which have escaped from the Whitstable oyteries - and by that fact - means they are fair game to the forager. but for safety's sake - don't eat them raw, better still, give them a good old braise in a beef stew.

a dozen will do just fine for this recipe.

A slab of stewing Beef
shucked oysters and the juice from them
A bottle of Marston's Oyster Stout
carrots, onions, mushrooms
bit of flour to thicken
splosh of worcestershire sauce

roll the cut beef in the flour
fry the beef till browned
add the onions and carrots
add the mushrooms
add the stout and raise to the boil
pop in the worcestershire sauce and oyster juice
give the beef an hour and a half of slow simmering (on hob or in oven at gas mark 4)
then add the oysters for the last half hour
season to taste

as you're out on the beach, also worth grabbing a bowl full of sea-kale/sea beet to go with it as a wilted green

serve with some lovely mash, or herby crushed new potatoes, or just a good old fashioned slab of fresh crusty bread, and another bottle of the stout!



Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wild Fruit Flavoured Ciders - mixing the seasons

A stroll round any high end supermarket or off license and you will be confronted with an ever increasing array of fruit flavoured beverages from fruity Belgian beers, to mixed fruit ciders from the likes of Kopparberg of Sweden.

Having tried a few, with mixed success, and generally thinking I could probably do better for free, I've set myself the fruit cider challenge this year to see if i can expand my repertoire of home brew.

Especially as it gives me the perfect excuse to increase the amount of wild fruit I pick and preserve throughout the year, to ensure I also have a spare bottle or two to add to the autumn apple glut to make these new flora and fruit flavoured varieties of cider.

I dabbled last year with Blackberry cider, but only used the blackberry cordial to "re-prime" the bottles of cider to add sugar, and as it was only a table spoon per bottle, it didn't add any real colour or flavour depth.

So my first effort for 2013 is a fully flavoured apple and blackberry cider, using the blackberry cordial as part of the initial ferment 500ml of neat cordial (to give colour, flavour, and the extra brewing sugars) to 4 litres of apple juice to make up the demi-john.

I've used up the last 20lb of apples which I'd wrapped and stored in the unheated greenhouse. this weekend's spring-like thaw suggests it's time to get them used so i can clear the greenhouse ready for growing things.  And the last bottle of 2012 blackberry cordial. 

Juicing them, straining the juice, and pasturising lightly to kill off and wild yeasts, before adding the cordial to the mix, and leaving it to cool back to a good starting temperature 37degrees. 20lb of apples gives about 4-5litres of juice, so you'll need some spare bottles for the rest of the juice if you're not brewing it all, and you'll need a spare pop bottle to hold back the top up mixture once the demi-john has had it's quick first ferment and settled down.

To a 4.5 litre demi-john add about 3 1/2 litres of the juice/cordial, and add a packet of good wine yeast, teaspoon of yeast nutrient, and a teaspoon of pecto-lase (to breakdown the pectin in the apple juice and help clarify the brew)

add an air-lock and leave in a non-drafty room corner for a few days.  once you've made sure the brew isn't too vigorous and hasn't burst the airlock, then top up the demi-john (leave an inch) with the mixture. then leave it alone in a dark quiet corner for up to a month until it's cleared and stopped bubbling.  then come back here to the next blog entry and we'll bottle it.

more photo's to follow once the demi-john has settled down a bit!

Elderflowers in a couple of this space
I'm also keen to make up some extra bottles of elderflower cordial too this year, to try and emulate Kopparberg's Lime and Elderflower cider.  why pay £3-4 a bottle...when the apples, and the elderflowers are freely foraged....and £1 for a few limes, and £1 for a bag of sugar to make the elder cordial...and you can make a dozen bottles :>)

I'm also eager to get a good batch of elderflower champagne this year - last years efforts came to nothing.

I think a late autumn cider variety worth trying too might be elderberry and blackberry cider too.

Tj@The ForagersNook.