Fermentation class with Russell James and Amy Levin

The day after my raw chocolate course with Amy (https://hedgetables.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/raw-chocolate-course-with-amy-levin/) I had a class on fermentation. This was held in the same place; in the lovely, light filled kitchen cum studio of Russell James.

Now I’ve never had much luck with yeasts and fermenting – be that from a bread or alcohol producing point of view, but looking into the raw food phenomenon and it’s health benefits I was seeing articles on Kombuchu and Kefir all over the place. I’d had some difficulty in imagining the taste so it was hard to know if I wanted to make it. The course also encompassed lacto-fermentation. A lot of foragers know of this and it had also been highly recommended in various books as a method of preserving seasonal greens,lacto-fermentation is more commonly known as the method for producing Sauerkraut. So, definitely wanting to know about the Sauerkraut method and curious about a couple of other things that the course was offering, and not wanting to go to London for just one day, the decisions to go the fermentation class was a pretty easy one.

The day was started with James going into the benefits of making nut cheeses. Nut cheese I thought, I’d barely heard of them… wonderful things. Not as bland as I thought they’d be as nutritional yeast is added for flavour along with any spices, dried or fresh herb you want. They take only a couple of days to make – and that is due to overnight soaking first, then after blitzing in the, you guessed it – the Vitamix (getting one for sure! ), there is the process  of pressing the nut pulp to get excess water out; which takes several hours.

There is no waste – the water and ‘milk’ that is pressed out – effectively the curds and whey, is bulging with healthy bacterial cultures from the probiotic powder that was added to the nuts when they were blitzed in the blender. This curds and whey can be added to smoothies and drinks, or used to start another culture of cheese.

The almond cheese is particularly good, in that it can be aged to give a cheese that is genuinely tasty and can be cut like cheese, unlike the others, like macadamia, that make a soft cheese that is best made and eaten frequently.

The cheese can be used for sweet as well as savoury, as James proved with a wonderful, coffee, maple and vanilla almond nut cheesecake, needless to say it was deemed likely to get damaged in transit and had to be disposed of immediately :-), sorry HH – just have to make another one now…

Kimchi was not something I’d even heard of, but loved when I tasted it – a hot, tingly, zesty dush made from sturdy vegetables coming from Korea, so lots of chillis can be added.

We tackled the weird fungal bacterial hybrids that makes Kombuchu and Kefirs and got to sample lots. Amazing the differences that the second fermentation makes. You can add herbal and floral infusion, spices and all sorts here to make really flavourful, refreshing drinks.  We not only got to taste lots of variations but got to take samples of the cultures and ‘mothers’ home with us. Lots of practicing to be had…

IMG_3954  Kombuchu ‘scoby’ – the bacterial/ yeast symbiote floating in black tea and sugar mix to ‘feed’ it.

IMG_3957  the kefir grains that grow in water with sugar medium. They feel quite firm and gelatinous.

The lunch provided was flavourful and healthy. We were given a tasty raw salad and cumin-y dressing with a variety of the chutneys, cheeses, krauts and salsas that were also to make that day.

I left the class fizzing with kefir juices, excitement and new ideas. Thanks you James and Amy for an enlightening and tasty day.