Sounds a bit weird doesn’t it? Well let me tell you readers, it was delicious! Last year I purchased a Scoopon for a ‘Feta Cheese’ making workshop, for only a few dollars. The feta lesson turned out to be part of a bigger ‘Fermented Foods’ workshop. So on a very hot Saturday afternoon, a friend and I met in the stultifying surrounds of the Windsor Community Hall to learn all about fermented foods.
Run by the enthusiastic and highly entertaining Elisabeth Fekonia, the workshop started with an introduction about the benefits of fermented foods to the digestive system and an explanation about how universal the practice of fermenting food is. French cultured butter, kimchi from Korea, sauerkraut and quark cheese from Eastern Europe, Russian kombucha tea and of course, feta cheese from Greece. The feta is first cab off the rank as it takes time to set the cheese. We learn about the correct temperature for the water bath, the best milk to use (always full fat, never homogenised) and about cheese starter and rennet as a setter.
Whilst the cheese it setting, Elisabeth wastes no time showing us how to make kimchi, which requires lots of elbow grease but very simple ingredients. She is a qualified permaculture teacher who specialises in classes on a wide range of topics from gardening to ‘make it yourself at home’. By now, we have cut the feta curd to help the whey to separate and have moved on to making quark. Elisabeth asks for volunteers as she makes each item but there is certainly no pressure to get hands on if you don’t wish. As she demonstrates, you follow the recipes provided and are welcome to asks questions or contribute along the way.
We check the feta and it’s time for it to be gently broken up to remove more whey. This is done and then we have afternoon tea with some unusual fermented buckwheat pikelets with a fermented fruit paste (delicious) as well as a chance to try some quark and feta from the previous class. After a short leg stretch and a chat to Elisabeth, it’s time to talk about Japanese miso, also a fermented dish. Elisabeth’s dark, rustic miso looks nothing like the refined pastes you buy from the Asian supermarket but it’s oh so savoury and more-ish with it’s salty umami flavours. The miso is a combination of fermented rice that’s wrapped in banana leaves to impregnate it with mould and then dried. This is added to soy beans to form the miso. Yes, it sounds weird but you just have to get over yourself sometimes and take a leap of faith. The miso proves that home made fermented food can be great and I’m really motivated to give this one a go.
|Looks odd – tastes divine!|
The feta is ready to be scooped into a mold to strain out yet more whey. There’s still the pressing and brining of the feta to come but that needs to be done in a few hours and it’s nearly time to finish up. By now Elisabeth has also demonstrated making traditional sauerkraut, we’ve talked about and tasted kombucha tea and a beetroot tonic as well as some homemade sourdough, cultured butter and a delicious and explosive plum wine.
Elisabeth runs regular workshops both in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast on a range of topics relating to food and gardening. If you’re looking to do something a little different or to learn about a food you’ve heard of but don’t know much about (for me it was water kefir) then this is the class for you. I see Scoopons with a significant discount for her classes on a fairly regular basis but full price, they are only around $40 for 3 hours so still very good value.
|Young feta – this can mature for months|