In a ferment


The brewed sake ready to bottle.
The brewed sake ready to bottle.

When I sat down to the computer today I saw the list of labels that TB was printing up for his latest batch of fermented beverages. This includes:
5 sparkling Plum Wine – a Japanese-style umeboshi wine where the fruit is left to soak in alcohol to impart its flavour.
8 sparkling sake
7 still sake
3 cider vinegar
1 red wine vinegar, ‘balsamic’ style.

It’s OK we won’t be drinking them all at once (and not the vinegars of course).

TB’s newest experiment is making sake, or Japanese rice wine. While it is illegal to make sake as a home brew in Japan, (but it is legal in Australia), TB found that you could buy the koji spores to start the rice fermenting, from a company in Western Australia. He is making it in autumn where the ‘correct’ time to make it is in winter.

Sparkling sake waiting for the taste test

If that wasn’t enough he’s also working on making his own soy sauce. So it’s not as pretty as the sake, but compared to his first effort this one is going really well. It even smells OK.

Stirring the soy beans during fermentation.
Stirring the soy beans during fermentation.

Now we just have to wait another 6 months to see what happens.



M is for Mega

My friend M has been having a good season in her garden, as can be seen by some of the produce she is picking.

M is for melanzana, Italian for eggplant, in this case the variety 'Prospersosa'
M is for melanzana, Italian for eggplant, in this case the variety ‘Prospersosa’

When she’s not picking eggplants she’s harvesting another member of the Solanum family, in this instance, a giant green capsicum.

A jolly green giant capsicum.
A jolly green giant capsicum.

I don’t know quite how she’s doing it, but I’d better get right over there and find out!

The where have you Bean?

I’ve previously mentioned my Scarlet Emperor beans, which I like to grow in my front garden for their colourful flowers. Another reason I started growing this variety was their reported ability to re-grow year after year, a habit that gave them their alternate name of the ‘Seven-year’ bean. That is they are supposed to re-grow, perhaps in other people’s garden, but not our garden.

That was until about a month ago. I was picking some of my Gourmet Delight bush beans (a bean that does live up to its name), when I realised I was looking at a very non-bush bean like tendril climbing up from the garden bed!

Scarlet Emperor bean shooting out from under the Gourmet Delight beans.
Scarlet Emperor bean shooting out from under the Gourmet Delight beans.

It was a Scarlet Emperor Bean, noticeable because of its red flower. I am assuming that it has re-grown from the roots of the plant that I left in the bed from when I grew them here last year. Even if the plant happens to have grown from a seed that I missed when I picked them what is notable is that the plant has waited until the very end of summer to grow. It hasn’t germinated in spring, as you might expect. I won’t finally know what has happened until the bush beans have died back. Only then might I be able to see whether the Scarlet Emperor has sprung from last year’s plant.

As for the Scarlet Emperor beans I planted this year, they have, as in previous years, only just started to set pods now, after the worst of the summer heat has passed.

Pods starting to set on this year's Scarlet Runner Beans.
Pods starting to set on this year’s Scarlet Runner Beans.

Like they say better late than never.

Cider day at the markets

We headed out to Fyshwick Markets yesterday for a cider tasting session as part of ‘apple and pear’ week. there were quite a few producers and suppliers there. This particular event was hosted by Plonk, a retailer which has an interesting and wide range of both ciders and wines.

Cider tasting at the Fyshwick markets.
Cider tasting at the Fyshwick markets.

There was plenty on offer from both the international producers, Stassen and Magners, as well as some new local offerings. I did try the Stassens Elderflower & Lime Cider, definitely one for those who prefer sweet style, and way too easy too drink. Much as I can drink a sweet cider I’m afraid that these days my taste has been informed, or is that de-formed, by drinking our own ciders which are definitely on the dry side of the spectrum.

I’d tried the Bilpin’s the previous week – a nice style with a very distinct apple flavour; and Small Acres Cyder I have bought and enjoyed previously, particularly their ‘Sparkling’ which is a very dry style indeed. I also thought that the Small Acres ‘Norfolk’ still cider had a nice apple aroma, without being overly sweet.

More on offer from the cider tasting.
More on offer from the cider tasting.

What most interested me were a group of small producers from up and down the east coast who are making some very fine products indeed. I started by tasting the Hillbilly ‘Crushed Apple’ and ‘Crushed Pear’, they are another producer from Bilpin in the NSW Blue Mountains. Both were very fine tasting products. The apple cider is made from the Julian apple, but to my taste the Crushed Pear edged it out.

Darkes Cider had their ‘Howler’ on offer, which was the most distinctive cider I tasted on the day. The Darkes product comes from their own orchards which are located at Darkes Forest, near Wollongong. This is definitely a drink for those who are looking for something other than ‘run of the mill’ ciders.

Last but definitely not least was Willie Smiths Organic Cider from the Huon Valley in Tasmania. Again this is the product of a family farm. The cider is partially matured in oak barrels. The flavour definitely has ‘depth’.

This was a great introduction to a range of suppliers and when we run out of our own product, or are looking for something a bit different, I’ll know where to go!