A couple of years ago I went wwoofing for the first time, and stayed with a lovely couple called Nick and Sarah in Lincolnshire, who have the distinction of being the first holding, small or otherwise, to be included in the LAND Network of the Permaculture Association (UK).

One thing in particular I took from my week with them was that Nick took notes of everything he did in the garden, how many hours he spent doing a task, observations, a diary essentially.  He impressed upon me the importance of being able to document and to review your observations in later years, to build a body of knowledge right? So I began taking notes of all the things I was foraging ‘in the wild’ ie. down the woods, weeds from the garden, walking on the moors etc.

That diary now tells me that on the 16th October a local farm in Marsden held an Apple Day at which I washed, chopped, ground and pressed a heck load of apples! (I didn’t weight them) I gathered them from 5 local trees in Marsden. It took me about a day gathering, then half a day processing. I ended up with about 8 demijohns of raw apple juice. The apples themself were pretty tart, not quite crab apples but not exactly dessert apples either – wildings. But let me tell you, the juice! So sweet.

So I gathered my demijohns, cleaned them up, bunged an airlock in each and fermented that apple juice into cider. I believe in the trade it’s known as hard cider, or maybe scrumpy?

So here we are in January 2013 and the story continues. I find myself making herring rollmops. You fillet the fish, brine them in 60g salt per 500ml water overnight, then pickle in a vinegar of at least 5% acidity. That last is crucial to the process, if you want to avoid the risk of botulism, and who doesn’t. A fatal illness brought on by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

So I find myself thinking hey! i’ve got some cider vinegar, 2011 vintage, but here’s the rub, I don’t know how strong the acid is. The standard advice is not to use homemade vinegar for rollmops because of this, but there is a way round it. I’ve purchased from a homebrew supply shop an acid titration kit. This explains more precisely for those interested.

For my first batch of rollmops I bought some 5% acidity cider vinegar, until I can give this process a go, and see if my vinegar is suitable for botulism killing duty. I’m not entirely sure to what extent it’s the salt, or the vinegar, or both, that kills the botulism. But there we go, that’s where i’m up to with it.

The cider itself, by the way, is delicious, but it sure packs a punch! At the moment I have about a 20/25 litre plastic keg full, maturing in my parent’s kitchen. If i’d known i’d have put it in a keg with a tap on the bottom. As it stands now, I need to open it when I know it’ll all get drunk. (Despite the rollmops I don’t have much call for the vinegar) You know what that means! I need to organise a big party. Well, for now it’ll be there, waiting and maturing.

Ahh, fermentation!

PS I said to fillet the fish, “but what about the heads and guts!”, I hear you cry. I chose to start a fish sauce, what is called in Thailand ‘nam pla’,  and by many other names throughout South East Asia, but more on that in another post…


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