We’ve always had a tangy-tongued approach to food, constantly craving the power of sour that pickles and ferments can bring. It’s only recently on our own bacteria-driven journey that we’ve developed a new appreciation for what can be done with some salt, water, vinegar and a bunch of beautiful produce. Ingredients you thought you knew develop a whole new personality – our pickled watermelon rinds are a good example of this – but the best part is capturing the abundance of one season and celebrating those proceeds all year round.
Pickled watermelon rind
Rind from 1 watermelon
1 cup vinegar (apple cider/white/rice wine)
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
5cm knob ginger, peeled, julienned
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 star anise pod
3 dried bird’s eye chillies
Eat the watermelon flesh in a sunny spot, making sure you leave a small amount of red flesh on the rind.
Remove the green from the rind. You could use a peeler or a knife, whatever is easiest.
Combine everything but the watermelon rind in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the rind and return to a boil then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Once cooled, transfer to a suitably sized jar and seal. Keep refrigerated for about a month.
500g courgettes, sliced or diced however you like
1 onion, thinly sliced
30g fresh turmeric, grated
40g ginger, grated
Brig the water and salt to a boil in a non-reactive saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave it to cool to room temperature. This is your brine.
Mix together the courgettes, onion, turmeric and ginger.
Pack sterilised jars (wash with soapy water and place in a cold oven – set the oven to 100°C and wait until jars are dry) with the courgette mixture then cover completely with brine. Clean the rim of the jar and seal with the lid.
Put the jars somewhere dark and warm for 3-5 days. The lids should start to bulge slightly as the fermentation process takes place. Transfer to the fridge and leave for another week before eating. Keep refrigerated for up to 6 months.
Ginger beer with plum & sumac
The plum and sumac syrup is a delicious but optional addition here – it can be added to the glass when pouring or added to the bottle when bottling.
In the early stages of making ginger beer, while you’re creating an active culture, the quantities aren’t hugely important. It just needs regular feeding with sugar and grated fresh ginger to keep it happy.
To make the starter:
fresh ginger, skin on
Get things started by mixing 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon sugar and about a 3cm piece of ginger, grated, in a jar.
Keep the jar loosely covered – a muslin or tea towel is perfect – in a warm and dark place.
Each day, feed the starter with 1-2 teaspoons sugar and about a tablespoon of grated ginger and mix. Continue this process for about 5 days, or until the starter is bubbly and active.
To make the ginger beer:
4 litres of water
5-15cm grated ginger, depending on how spicy you like it
2 cups of sugar
Put half the water and all the ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.
Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into an open fermentation vessel like a crock, a large jar or a bucket. Add the sugar to dissolve.
Add the remaining water to bring the temperature down. Once the liquid is skin temperature, add the ginger beer starter and stir well. You can also add some lemon juice now if you’re that way inclined. We are.
Cover the vessel with a muslin or tea towel and leave in a warm place for anywhere between 1 and 4 days, stirring a couple times each day. You’re looking for bubbles and activity like your starter – the ambient temperature will dictate how long this takes.
Once it’s bubbly, it’s time to bottle! At this point, you can make your plum and sumac syrup. Recipe below.
Use anything you have lying around, but we recommend using one plastic bottle so you can gauge the pressure as it undergoes its second ferment.
Once bottled, leave in a warm place until pressure has built up so that the bottle no longer gives when squeezed between your fingers.
Refrigerate and enjoy within a month.
Plum and sumac syrup
2 cups roughly chopped plums
2 cups water
⅓ cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon sumac
Put the plums, water and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the plums are soft and a syrupy texture has formed.
Once your syrup reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in sumac.
Cool to room temperature before adding to ginger beer at bottling stage (2 tablespoons to 1 litre of ginger beer) or simply adding to a glass of ginger beer. And a splash of whisky, if the time is right.
The syrup is also great with ice cream or labneh.