My attentions have been going elsewhere.
To work. Boo.
To my daughter and wife. Wahoo.
But also towards a new adventure. Cult Vinegar and Cult Ceramics.
I've become obsessed with fermentation and living ingredients.
Sourdough bread; home made yoghurt; kombucha; fermented pickles; kimchi; sauerkraut; and most significantly vinegar. Yes vinegar. You don't choose what you become passionate about. It just happens. But personally, I hold all those lovely bacteria responsible. They've taken over my brain and gut. But not necessarily in that order.
A while ago we spent a life changing week in Burgundy in a stunning hunting lodge up on the plateau above Beaune. The rustic kitchen echoed with the spirit of Floyd. But rather than getting sozzled on exceptionally good burgundy, we enjoyed it and then tipped the remaining dregs into a pair of vinaigriers.
These traditional stoneware crocks sit on the kitchen dresser minding their own business. Unfazed by the ravages of modern technology. Oblivious to the 21st century. Heavy, rustic and with a footprint the size of a small car they beg to be filled up and bowed down to. When you lift the lid, your nostrils dilate and your heart races. The smell of living vinegar is intense. And I fear, addictive!
Over time the natural yeasts and bacteria in the surrounding environment make their way into the crock and take hold of the wine. Once this has set in and the 'Mother' has formed, the vinegar making process is now under way. French kitchens will often have their own vinegar ticking away for generations. As such each vinegar is unique - with its own subtle characteristics.
Vinegar will form in around 6-8 weeks in a warmish kitchen. And from that moment on when the pH dips below 3 the vinegar becomes delicious. Leave it a bit longer and a strange, jelly fish like substance will grow on the surface of the vinegar - much like a SCOBY does on top of Kombucha.
Simply draw off your vinegar and use it in an array of recipes, as a dressing or drink it (really, Jesus Christ's last ever drink). And continuously top up with leftover wine as and when you have it.
I came back from Burgundy all revved up about live vinegar so started making it at home. Several years later and I've taken this from being a hobby into a little business.
I have partnered with an incredible ceramics designer called Billy Lloyd to create a fermentation vessel that is specifically created for turning your leftover wine into delicious, small batch, living vinegar. The business is called Cult Ceramics and our first product is the Vinegar Vase which is shown below as a prototype. The hexagonal design means you can cluster a few Vinegar Vases together very efficiently and stylishly in a way that's more in keeping with a modern kitchen than what you might find in rural France.
It is currently in the final stages of manufacture and will be available to buy soon once we launch it at Daylesford during London Craft Week. To view details about the launch event click here. And if you really can't wait, you are more than welcome to pre-order one over at www.cultceramics.co.uk.
I've also been made a range of small batch, living vinegars. Choose from Red or White Wine Cult Vinegar. Or be more adventurous with Ruby Port; Spanish Moscatel; German Riesling; Champagne; 1998 Bordeaux; and English Red Wine Cult Vinegars. They've all got their own unique characteristics. These are also available to buy at www.cultceramics.co.uk/collections/cult-vinegar.
Primarily these vinegars are all delicious. And I find their subtle differences fascinating. But additionally, they are all unpasturised so contain living good bacteria that many people claim have probiotic and prebiotic qualities that may benefit your gut health - much like an actimel or live yoghurt does. Some people feel less bloated. Other claim to fart less. And some don't feel as hungry. For more on this read The Gut and google 'health benefits of vinegar'. But crucially, it's a brilliant way to turn stale old slops of wine into something piercingly delicious.
It's an exciting venture and I hope you all come along for the ride. If you want to get in touch about Cult Vinegar and Cult Ceramics drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.