Shop For In-Season Ingredients. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Toby Geneen. Toby Geneen is the co-founder and co-head Chef at Kindling Restaurant. Toby will be sharing why using seasonal ingredients is better for you, your tastebuds, your wallet, and the environment. And also two easy recipes to help you preserve seasonal summer fruits so they can be used later in the year.
Shop For In-Season Ingredients
A global food market allows supermarkets to exotic stock foods worldwide, 365 days a year. While this is fabulous from a consumer choice point of view, we are missing out on the best produce, spending more money than we need to, and failing to get all the health benefits by overlooking seasonality.
When you choose ingredients naturally in season, you will get fresher, sweeter produce that tastes better. The joy of something perfectly ripe is that minimal needs to be done to make it taste amazing. Nothing compares to the taste of tomatoes grown outdoors and ripened in the late August sunshine. Fragrant, sweet and juicy, these tomatoes taste the tomato and need nothing more than some salt and pepper to sing on the plate – a far cry from the red bullets imported in December.
Imported produce is generally picked well before ripe to make it easier to transport. This is why the avocadoes we buy in the UK will never taste like those in Mexico! Imported food is kept refrigerated for long periods and doesn’t develop the same levels of nutrients as food that is allowed to ripen in situ. Seasonal food has a higher nutritional value because it is consumed riper and closer to harvest time. In contrast, food transported and stored for long periods rapidly loses antioxidants such as vitamin C, diminishing its health benefits.
Seasonal Food Also Supports What Your Body Needs
Summer foods such as tomatoes and stone fruits contain high carotenoids, which help protect us against sun damage. When ripened on the vine, tomatoes have plenty of time to develop lots of the red plant chemical lycopene. This has been well documented in safeguarding our skin from damaging UV rays and protecting against skin cancer. Summer vegetables are also naturally lighter and have a higher water content, helping us stay calm and hydrated.
Although 80% of your daily water intake usually comes from drinks, 20% comes from foods. Cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes, and watercress are all excellent summer vegetable water sources. By contrast, winter veggies tend to be rich in starches—this help provides the extra energy we need to stay warm in the colder months. What we eat sends signals to our body about the time of year. A warming pumpkin curry makes much more sense than a cold, leafy salad in October.
If this isn’t enough, buying food in season can also be kinder to your wallet. When food is at its peak in supply, it costs less for farmers and distribution companies to get it to your local supplier, which helps to reduce the cost to you. Local food also avoids any import costs. The more local you buy, the more considerable the saving. Farm shops and veg box schemes are a great way to access the best of what’s available and learn about what’s in season throughout the year.
Flow Of British Produce
Using produce grown in the UK also reduces the number of ‘food miles’ and brings down your carbon footprint. There is less transportation, refrigeration, and fewer hothouses, all of which help to reduce air pollution. It is environmentally friendly, but using seasonal produce supports regional farms and communities, helping to grow the local economy.
Call me romantic, but I’ve somewhat fallen in love with the eb and flow of British produce. Getting excited to taste the first forced rhubarb and awaiting the moment, I can viably put deep-fried Brussels sprout back on the menu in the winter. Our self-imposed restriction of buying local has become a catalyst for menu development at our restaurant, Kindling. It has initiated dish changes, inspired new combinations and driven us to learn more about preserving things so we can use them later in the year. When we started the restaurant, we wanted to live by seasonality and local produce, and we found it both liberating and exciting.
At first seasonal eating can seem restrictive, but it doesn’t have to be. Every time you buy produce grown closer to home, some air miles are saved, and some flavour gained. You’ll soon discover how much better food tastes and how much easier it is to make a delicious meal when your product is at its peak. To keep things interesting, have a go at preserving or fermenting gluts of summer produce so you can have those flavours later in the year. We love to make berry jams, tomato chutneys, piccalilli, gherkins, and fermented fruits. Then we can use them for a splash of colour and some zing in the colder months.
Easy Recipes To Help You Preserve Seasonal Summer Fruits
If you fancy having a go, here are a couple of recipes to get you started and help you preserve the taste of summer:
- 1kg of strawberries, green part removed and cut into quarters
- 1kg caster sugar (or you can use preserving sugar and omit the pectin)
- 15g pectin
- 3 tsp citric acid
- Place a small plate in the freezer, ready for testing the set of your jam.
- Mix the caster sugar and pectin, so the pectin is well distributed.
- Place the strawberries and sugar pectin mix in a large pan over low heat and stir regularly until the strawberries have released lots of juice and the sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in the 3 tsp of citric acid, then bring the jam mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- Hard boil the mixture for about five minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom.
- Remove from the heat and test the jam set by placing a small amount on your freezer chilled plate. Allow cooling for a couple of minutes. It will crinkle when gently pushed with a fingertip if it is set. If it’s not set, return the mixture to the heat and boil for a few more minutes and test again. Repeat until the setting point is reached.
Fermenting fruit in brine is a great way to keep it for use later in the year. Fermented plums add a delicious punch as a sliced or diced garnish, or they can be pureed into a zingy sauce.
You’ll need a large jar suitable for fermenting, such as a Kilner jar with a top rubber lid.
- 1kg plums
- 1L water
- 50g table salt
- Rinse the plums and cut them in half, removing the stone.
- Tightly pack your plum halves into your fermentation jar.
- Whisk the water and table salt together, ensuring all the salt is well dissolved.
- Pour just enough of the brine over the plums to cover them.
- A fermentation weight or a ziplock bag filled with water should be placed on the plums to weigh them down and force the brine to cover them.
- Seal the jar and allow it to ferment at room temperature or slightly warmer. Fermentation will take around five to seven days.
- If necessary, burp the jar to prevent carbon dioxide from building up and creating too much pressure in the jar. At the end of the fermentation period, the plums and the brine should taste pleasantly sour and acidic.
- Before using, burp the jar at the end of fermentation and place it in the fridge to halt or dramatically slow fermentation. If you intend to keep the jar in the refrigerator for a long time, it is good practice to burp the jar occasionally to release any gases that have built up and avoid explosions. Alternatively, you can drain the brine from the fermented plums and freeze them to use later on.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Toby Geneen is co-founder and co-head chef of Kindling Restaurant in Brighton. Kindling is about more than just delicious food. And it is a community of people: staff, customers and suppliers, all sharing and celebrating local produce. Nature writes the menu as the seasons inspire the dishes. Kindling is featured in the Michelin Guide and is a member of the Sustainable Restaurants Association.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KindlingBrighton @KindlingBrighton
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