Developing an ethos around sustainable food is a never-ending process- which is part of the beauty of it. So every year we tweak, develop and refine our thoughts, methods and discoveries and generally bite off more than we can chew, whether in the form of pickles, ferments, mayonnaise attempts or foraging. Sometimes things go wrong, like the attempt at dehydrating ceps to make porcini, which wasn't so successful last year, or the sheer number of thorns on a sloe bush being a major inhibiting factor for swift sloe gathering (perhaps the clue's in the name). Other things happen as a one-off and some bits are becoming regular fixtures. The overall goal is to preserve abundance that gives us creative menu options in the winter months.
Here are some things we've been working on:
Last week we canned* 16kg of Isle of Wight tomatoes using Dan's mum's recipe. Back in Puglia they use San Marzano tomatoes but you're not allowed to call a British tomato San Marzano so we were using San Arentino. Same variety with different holy namesakes.
Canning tomatoes is peak Masseria** and fulfils the random phone note from 2020 that simply says, "buy lots of tomatoes and preserve them".
We also did a few sun-dried tomatoes. Except we didn't use the sun, we used an oven.
Spoiler alert: the Christmas menu is going to include prunes (served with Guanciale). With this in mind we bought a few boxes of delicious British plums and undertook to dehydrating them. See you in December.
Chillies: 5 kilos of these are waiting to go into a big Winter Hot Sauce batch, while another 8 or 9 kilos are brined and fermenting, ready to be pickled for some unknown purpose c. February 2023.
Peppers: it seemed rude not to say yes to these when our chums at Sutton Community Farm announced them on their list, so we've put some in a pickle for another unknown purpose down the line, maybe a specials board.
It is worth mentioning at this stage that when you start thinking in terms of how you might preserve food for future uses, summer becomes a terrifying time of abundance! Suppliers announce the arrival of Borlotti beans and you can't resist impulse buying 3kg for miso.*** Canning tomatoes is our nod to the sheer volume of toms available from local suppliers in the summer: one day the goal is to use locally grown tomato year-round on our pizzas. For now, we'll settle for some extra special things on special some time in the bleak midwinter.
Quince: the ultimate forageable fruit, brought from a friend's garden in abundance, having just about finished the batch we made from 2019's harvest. This is headed for a membrillo jelly, to go with ewe's milk cheese- such a good combo!
Sloes. Picked around a kilo near the playing field up the road. They're almost exclusively used for sloe gin but we're attempting to brine them for a year. 12 months in a 4% salt solution turns them into something resembling a kalamata olive with deep plum tones. As us about it in 2023.
Baby beetroots. These are being lacto-fermented and stored in a brine to last us into the winter. Lots of other veggies make a cameo and as winter rolls in we'll be leaning more and more on the awesome effects of facto-fermentation for drawing flavour out of plain veg, reimagining the Mediterranean menu for the cold British winter months.
* In the Preserving Scene it's called canning even if it's not in a can. We used bottles.
** A Masseria is an Italian farm that offers accommodation and operates within a hyper-local or even self-sufficient framework for food and agriculture. It's a great benchmark for how to relate to the environment around you and for making connections between agriculture, supply and hospitality. Though we did get served horse chops last time we went to one in Italy. Not sure any of us (Team Kneaded or the Earlsfield community) are ready for that just yet.
*** You've hopefully read our miso primer (see blog). The freezer is heaving with garden peas (fresh from the farm, not Captain Birdseye), Broad Beans, Borlotti, chickpeas with sea buckthorn and leftover bread offcuts, all for miso.