Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: 2020

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Not Another Golden Pints

This post is spurred on and encouraged by the words of Julie O'Grady, co-owner of Neptune Brewery and founder of Liverpool based Ladies That Beer: "I’m not doing a best beers, or brewery for 2020. Why? Because getting beer out has been hard enough for many breweries to survive for lots of reasons from cash flow, staff, closed pubs. If you’ve managed it, to me you’re a winner." Here follows a far more rambling echoed sentiment.

This year has been shit, and we aren't out of the woods yet. I had hopes for late spring, but just yesterday morning Matt Hancock said "we are confident we can get out of this pandemic by spring", and I trust his word about as much as I do the cat telling me he hasn't been fed.

But the spirit of this industry remains strong, if a little downtrodden - there are heaps of gold we can focus on and things that we may be able to retain from this cesspit of a year. Here are just a few that have stood out to me.

Online tastings / Zoom chats / YouTube videos / Live videos

This year has forced the hand of events planners and marketing managers all over the industry, and we saw the traditional beer festival being cancelled completely in the majority of cases - but some were moved online as venues around the country closed.

Virtual Independent Salford Beer Festival - As always Jim and the team absolutely pulled it out of the bag with their beer fest and moving it online this year was no exception. Offering a series of tastings over the course of a weekend, hosted by Melissa Cole, Andy Parker of Elusive Brewing and Charlie Hooson-Sykes who led a cider event. They really retained the community spirit of the festival and even managed to raise an incredible £7000 for charity.

I also co-ran (with Laura) the Abbeydale Brewery Funk Fest At Home, bringing our mixed ferm (including some exclusive festival beers) and collaborations with Little Earth Project and London Beer Factory, hosting conversations and tutored tastings with both of the aforementioned teams. We also worked with Jules at Hop Hideout who organised a fantastic Cider Sunday tasting event with Albert from Ross Cider. Jules has also curated some great virtual events for Hop Hideout's 5th birthday this year, as well as running quiz nights throughout the year and generally helping to bring our community together.

Fyne Ales showed the world their glen over what should have been their festival weekend. And Cloudwater brought together a previously unlikely mix of guests to their webcasts, featuring breweries such as Allagash and Green Cheek from the US. 
Moving events online, while not ideal, has at least allowed for an alternative take on the usual meet the brewer events and tastings. We've been musing that this helps to increase accessibility for many people who may normally not be able to attend, whether that is down to transport, location, or preference. Being able to participate in events from your own home could be a critical tool going forward and could be a great addition to our beer scene longer term. It's made our world seem smaller, and there are positives to be gained from this.

Webshops, online and takeaway.

The move and growth in brewery-led online sales, as well as pubs and bars pivoting to provide online and takeaway services, has been extraordinary. Before *gestures* all of this, for small breweries run by a small team, the time needed to set up and run a shop for a relatively small quantity of beer was not really worth the while. Even if the margins are higher, so increases the workload both in terms of packaging and paperwork. But it became essential as the pandemic struck and pubs were closed - more beer was moved to can, minicask and keg for sales of beer direct from breweries, and more crowler machines entered bars, as did the simple milk carton for off sales. While these are not perfect imitations of draught beer from keg, and especially cask, they certainly fill a hole for people wanting beer and also help their local survive. Also a polite request to the boffins at NASA - could you do something useful like focus on an Angram and sparkler attachment for 2l milk containers, or a Czech side pour for 946ml growlers? Ta. 

While minikegs are a large part of the current sales. After having filled literally 1000s of them I can safely say I will not be sad to see the back of them. (Just to point out firmly here that this is entirely a personal view, cos Laura said I had to).

Voices, writing, and long-term projects.

It has been great seeing a few projects appear, and some grow.

Burum Collective is a new initiative established by Helen Anne Smith in an effort to bring a greater mix of voices to the beer, wine and cider scene. Spaces such as this with an emphasis on equality of representation is a vital part of how the UK will develop its independent drink scene. 

Emma Inch who has been in the beer scene for a while with projects like Ferment Radio has taken that idea on the road, and recently with hosting the Beer Nation podcast too - a roundup of the year featuring a selection of UK podcasts, organised by the Beer O'Clock Show. It's great to see people coming together in collaborative work like this and it's the sort of thing that will hopefully continue.
One of our absolute favourite writers, Katie Mather, has somehow managed to not just produce some stunning work this year but also open Corto - currently a REAL LIFE SHOP, soon to be bar, when it's allowed - with her husband Tom. We are very excited for when we are able to travel to Clitheroe to visit.

And Cloudwater have launched their Wayfinder residencies, to provide a platform to help drive change within the industry.

So to sum up - our industry has undoubtedly lost so much this year. We have worked so hard for comparatively less, we have been scapegoated and have taken more than our fair shame of the "blame". It will take a long time to recover and some of the repercussions are yet to be seen. But we have also found so much this year too. We have adapted, we have shown care, compassion, and resilience, we have maintained relationships and built new ones. And we have stood firm at the heart of our communities. And for that, this is an industry I am very proud to be a part of.



Sunday, 20 December 2020

Christmas Bevs: Cider Time!

Hi again!

Well tis the season for festive merriment and currently in South Yorkshire we're not able to go out to the pub, so we're making our own Christmas magic at home via a selection of tasty bevs. We've already got beers covered - you can read more about our top picks for this December here. But this year we've also developed much more of an appreciation of cider, thanks in no small part to the many outstanding producers we've come to know.

First up, we've picked a couple of crushable little gems from Sussex's Ascension Cider - Pilot (4.8%), which is made of apples only and is described as a "sparkling super fruity session cider". Lightly effervescent, mid-sweet with a gentle acidity and a great bite of apple skin character in the finish. We're also really enjoying "Into the Jetstream" (3.8%), which is a wild fermented cider blended with braeburn and cranberry juices. Ridiculously refreshing with that zip of cranberry astringency in the finish. The perfect turkey buddy.

We've also got a bottle or two of Ross Cider left over from the fantastic cider event which Hop Hideout organised last month as part of Abbeydale Brewery's Funk Fest At Home. The Somerset Redstreak is one of the most quintessentially apple-y beverages we've ever imbibed, and we reckon it'd be an excellent partner to a good cheeseboard. This one's 6.5% but ridiculously easy drinking, which we have found with all of the delicious options we've tried from Ross.

Pilton - Ice Cider (10% ABV). We drank a few bottles of Pilton's excellent keeved ciders over the summer, with many of their releases perfectly suited to sunshine sipping. So we were pretty delighted to find this winter-appropriate variety on Trembling Madness's webshop. It's a dessert style cider, made from slow fermented freeze-concentrated apple juice. We're very on board with dessert wines and the like here and have only tried one ice cider before - it was Icelandic, and it was intense and delicious, so we're very much looking forward to indulging in this one with a mince pie. Sadly we didnt have the foresight to take this out with us in the one flurry of snow we've had this year so far, so you'll have to make do with another cat picture instead.

And while we're here, shout out to Duck Chicken and Little Pomona too, which we only won't be drinking this December because we've already accidentally drunk it all. Just too damn tempting. Both absolutely excellent producers... if you ever see a bottle of Duck Chicken Gigglejuice anywhere, BUY IT and then thank us later. 

Cheers... or should we say Wassail?!

Laura & Jim

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Missing Pints: The Festival Tuborg

So we were calling this little "memorable pints" series we appear to have started our Pub Chronicles, and then I went and threw a curveball in the mix. The Festival Tuborg.

The moment, the time, the place, and the company are oft cited as being some of the major components of beer. And whilst musing on this we realised it doesn't even matter if what we're drinking is watery flavourless slightly yellow stuff out of a paper cup that's worth 10p upon return. There's just something about being rained on, sunburnt, sleep deprived and full of crisp sandwiches and cold noodles, surrounded by a cluster of people who all feel the same way as you do, that makes the Festival Tuborg taste... if not perfect, then flawless. 

We made some of our very best friends at Download Festival in 2010. We met whilst working on the entrance tent putting wristbands on festival goers. We shared a few beers and TetraPak cartons of Tesco Value wine. We spent 5 days together and left the festival feeling like we'd all known each other forever, and the people we met there are to this day some of the most important people in our lives. Many more festivals, club nights and house parties followed - with one of the constants being a can or pint of mainstream lager. And y'know what? It really doesn't matter that the taste is unremarkable. 

Those pints hold us to a time and a place. They're karaokeing to Bohemian Rhapsody with 1000 other people. Crying at System of a Down. An elbow to the head in an Offspring pit. Ecstatic over spring rolls. Waiting eagerly for Rammstein to blow our minds. Being hysterical over portaloos. Making up whole new dance moves. Adding a long straw so we don't have to sit up out of our sleeping bags. Understanding, sharing, and belonging.

We miss live music. 

We miss festivals. 

We miss our friends. 

And we miss pints of crap lager.


Monday, 7 December 2020

Christmas Bevs: The Beer Edition

So advent is now upon us and we thought we'd share a few of the liquid refreshments we're planning to imbibe over the festive period.

In previous years we've stocked up with extra special "Christmas Day beers", imagining a December 25th evening where we'll carefully select a big and boozy imperial stout and maybe a decadent barley wine, gaze at them with reverence and sup delicately, savouring the complex flavours found within and appreciating every sip. Then the big day arrives and we spend the day quaffing a Bucks Fizz with breakfast, a pint in the pub at lunch time (already had a cry that this isn't an option this year), couple of lagers whilst cooking, wines chosen to pair with our meal (more on that to come) and maybe a G&T before bed, far too full of meat and cheese to even consider cracking out the impy stout. Those beers sat forlornly in our cellar for many a moon, until lockdown hit and we employed a "Christmas Day Thursday" mentality, where more time at home meant the moments of enjoyment and quiet contemplation the beers deserved could be found. 

Anyway, what we've learnt is that if we want a nice beer, it doesn't necessarily need a special occasion to be saved for. But also that something a little more restrained is more often than not what we want to drink while we're feeling festive. And with the pubs still closed here in South Yorkshire, popping out for a refreshing pint or two is very sadly not an option. So here are a few of our beery choices that we're looking forward to enjoying at home over the next few weeks...

Burning Sky - probably our brewery of the year, Burning Sky seem to absolutely nail every beery style they turn their hands to, with relentless consistency of excellence. We've recently bought ourselves a box direct from the brewery, covering imperial stouts to IPAs and fruit beers. But at the heart of it, what we feel they truly excel at is mixed fermentation and saison brewing. We're really looking forward to trying the two shown below in particular - a 3.5% dry-hopped table saison, and the Biere Cerise, which is an 18 month aged brown ale base beer aged on whole sour cherries, at a nice and accessible 6.7% perfect for sharing.

Gluhkriek - mulled things aren't for everyone but we bloody love them, and they're something we only ever drink around Christmas so they're guaranteed to fill us with fuzzy festive feels. Last year we discovered Liefman's Gluhkriek (6.0% ABV), a classic Belgian cherry beer which is recommended served warm, and without meaning to be over-dramatic it may just have changed our lives. So for the second year in a row this is our "putting up the Christmas tree" beer, sourced from York's Trembling Madness (one of our favourite places to visit, although due to current restrictions we stayed at home and purchased online this year). We even have a choice of his 'n' hers Santa mugs or those naff boots you get at Christmas markets to drink it out of. Lovely.

Christmas Crispies - we're big fans of a classic continental lager here, especially of the German variety. So imagine our delight when popping into one of our favourite local beer shops, Archer Road Beer Stop, to discover three different Christmas themed Festbiers, from Huppendorfer, Grief-Brau and Tucher - a different selection to the Oktoberfest beers we worked our way through a couple of months ago which were all from the more oft-seen brands such as Hacker Pschorr and Augustiner. Often remarkable in their sheer un-remarkableness, we have never had a bad word to say about these absolutely solid and spot on beers - crisp and refreshing, with just enough sweetness - our favourite all-rounders when you just want something to satisfy and quench the thirst. Oh, plus bonus cat for you to enjoy.

Barley Wine - well you didn't expect us to pick everything of a restrained nature, surely?! We got hold of a bottle of Lost In Leith from Edinburgh's Campervan Brewery in the autumn and have been keeping it safe ready for the festive period. Lost In Leith is also the name of Campervan's bar, which has a barrel store including three foeders (it's very firmly on our to-visit list when we're allowed to get up to such shenanigans again). This particular beer was aged in a combination of two different bourbon barrels, which we expect to have boosted all those delicious rich caramel and fruity notes we look for in a barley wine. We've been really impressed by the beers we've tried from Campervan before so we're really excited to get stuck into this one. 


What beers will you be drinking in the run up to Christmas this year? Let us know any gems you've found - and please as far as you are able, support our independent breweries, pubs and bottle shops!


Laura & Jim

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Pub Chronicles - Three Stags Heads

 A sign at the bar loudly proclaims:


Our first experience of the Three Stags Heads, based on a busy main road in Derbyshire with only a farm and a greasy spoon for truckers as neighbours, was as part of a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. We'd travelled from Stoney Middleton across the seemingly endless Longstone Moor before reaching Wardlow Mires. Our digs for the night - a particularly non-descript field by the side of the pub, which serves the dual purpose of camping and lambing. On that first trip we were charged £1.50 per night to put our tent up - returning a few years later we discovered a surcharge of an extra 50p, along with the upgrade of a lightbulb in the cinderblock loo.

We've woken up on many a fuzzy morn in this field, only sometimes because of a wobbly lambing ewe tripping over our guy ropes, but always with the aid of Black Lurcher.

Brewed by Abbeydale Brewery solely for the Three Stags, Black Lurcher is a baffling anomaly, a quirk that the brewery has retained for decades. The pub was the very first customer of the brewery back in 1996 - they asked for something unique, and almost 25 years later they still have it. A 7% well-hopped dark ale, it's collectively one of our favourite beers (disclaimer: Jim has now made it a few times, but it's been up there since well before our days of working at the brewery). Named for the canine companions you'll find yourselves surrounded by in the Three Stags', it's one of those beers you get thirsty just thinking about - black as tar, always served in a heavy tankard with a thick yet effervescent creamy top which gently oozes over the rim of the glass in anticipation of that first sip. Heavy, satisfying, strangely refreshing and very much of the place.

The pub itself is an inadvertently Gothic delight. A mummified cat and a taxidermy hare carrying a shotgun are the main sources of decor and even Laura (at a not-so-lofty 5 foot 1) has to stoop to make her way through the heavy doors into the "front room" of the pub - the sort of room that even in the height of summer with blazing sunshine outside, you can guarantee there'll be a roaring fire inside, with one-time landlord Geoff ever-present in a rickety seat in front of it, a lurcher at his feet.

The pub holds no prisoners with their house rules - the aforementioned lack of lager, a strict "no phone" policy, and definitely no music or other such frivolous entertainment. One trip of ours coincided with the World Cup, and we were greeted by a blackboard which simply stated "WHAT FOOTBALL?" It's the type of pub where you make the most of it for yourself - a quiet, contemplative, well kept pint, a chat with the seemingly omniscient staff, and if you're really lucky, you'll even get to pluck your own pheasant for tea.

The Three Stags' is one of the last places we visited before lockdown hit back in March, and it's without doubt one of the pubs we absolutely cannot wait to get back to when they're able to re-open. We'd love to encourage you to visit when you can, but if you do so on the back of this, please don't tell the staff you read about them on the internet - they'll probably bar us for life.


Lockdown 2.0 - missing the pub

I miss pints.

I miss a table with torn open packs of Sneiders Pretzels.

I miss lacing.

I miss a sarni for snap after early brew shifts.

I miss 4:15 lagers with the team.

I miss the joint acknowledgement that we are, indeed, in rounds.

I miss the pub.

Both mine and Laura's first introduction to beer was in the same restaurant with our respective parents. While they never knew each other, they had a shared knowledge of the best Northern Pakistani food East Sheffield in the early 90s had to offer, in a sadly now closed classic curry house called The Kashmir. Reminiscent of a greasy spoon, but where the sticky tables were accompanied by gilt depictions of Mecca, and the usual glass fridge of uninspiring sandwiches was replaced with a warming cabinet of poppadoms.

While we sat as children with glass tumblers of mango lassi and wooden bowls of saag aloo, large breads and bowls of multi coloured fluffy rice littering the lightly viscid table, all watched over by owner Bsharath (we knew him as Paul), one of the most gentle people you could ever wish to meet, who'd been working there since he was 14 years old - there amongst it all would sit a plastic jug or two of pale ale, carefully brought over from the hostelry across the road.

The East House, somewhat renowned in Sheffield for being the site of a triple murder on New Year's Day in 1960, was an old school boozer which was much loved by many despite having a reputation for being a little rough around the edges. It was warm and welcoming, there was already a friendly greeting from the landlord, and the beer was always well looked after. The pale ale in question was Abbeydale Brewery's flagship, Moonshine - and what turned out to be my first taste of beer in a pub once I was old enough to join my parents in supping a glass, is now a beer that I work in a team to create - pre-lockdown, over 30,000 pints a week.

The Kashmir closed in 2010, followed by the East House in 2013. And in reminiscing about missing the pub in general, I realised how much I still miss both of these two venues - the sense of comfort, familiarity, total lack of pretension, and overall quiet enthusiasm for just getting on with what they do best.

 I miss the pub. 


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Puffing Billy Steam Vodka

From the team at The Borders Distillery comes Puffing Billy Steam Vodka - an unfiltered malted barley vodka, named after their specially-commissioned Carterhead still in which it is made. The Borders Distillery opened in March 2018 and is the first Scotch whisky distillery in the area since 1837. Their method of production of their vodka is completely unique, with the vapours steamed through charcoal inside the still rather than filtered, which the team believe would strip out some of the character which they meticulously strive to preserve in its entirety. They use this same technique to produce their Kerr's Borders Gin.

Vodka isn't the first thing that tends to spring to our mind when we fancy a tipple and as such it's pretty underrepresented in our spirits collection. Nonetheless, it's one of those drinks that whenever we have one it's something we really enjoy, and Puffing Billy definitely fits this theme.

Suggested serves

The recommended "neat" serve of this is called "The Steampunk" - served from the freezer, in a chilled shot glass with a crack of black pepper and a cornichon pickle. We didn't have cornichons, so went for a sliced burger gherkin, but we reckon it was just as good! Incredibly smooth, well rounded on the palate and takes the sharpness of the pickle with ease. Lovely warmth and creaminess which is lifted by the light acidity of the garnish. Laura picked up on a bit of a bubblegum character too (from the vodka, not the gherkin, just for clarity). A sipper, not a shotter!

We also tried Puffing Billy in one of the recommended cocktails, "Billy's Mojo"- effectively a mojito with the rum replaced by vodka. Lime juice and brown sugar were muddled with mint leaves freshly plucked from our garden, before ice, vodka and soda were added to the glass. A thirst quenching and refreshing long drink, perfect for a sunny afternoon.

The Borders Distillery team also recommend drinking Puffing Billy in a "Borders Mule" with cloudy apple juice, lime and ginger beer, which we can fully imagine would taste delicious. Sadly not all ingredients we could easily come by on our lockdown-appropriate trip to the local supermarket, but something we'd be keen to try in future!

We also reckon it'd be fantastic with sharper fruit flavours, perhaps in a gooseberry martini - definitely a versatile spirit that would be a good addition to any mixologist's drinks cabinet.


Laura & Jim

Disclaimer: We were invited to give this unique spirit a try by Steve at The Whisky Wire and were sent a sample for review. This has not affected our feedback - this post represents our genuine, honest opinions.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Fermentation Station

One of the things we have found ourselves with recently is more time. And as the old adage goes, with more time comes more fermentability.

Whether it's sauces, fruits, chillis, or even potatoes, there are often fermentation jars on the go around our kitchen,and we've stepped it up a gear in the past couple of months. So this is a little round up of our little fermentation projects, with some ideas of flavour combinations and some techniques that anyone can have a go at.

Fermentation is essentially a way of preserving perishable foods by encouraging the growth of bacteria to lower the pH, increasing the acidity. The bacteria, while wild in this case, are the same that occur in live yoghurt - lactobacillus. They're literally everywhere, just floating around nonchalantly constantly on the search for something upon which to feed. Here, we are encouraging the lactobacillus by reducing the activity of other wild yeasts and bacteria with salt. It may feel like a lot of salt sometimes but by the time it's ready to eat, the acidity will have picked up and the flavours of fermentation will have balanced the salination.

Our first top tip would be to use decent salt, not table salt as it has anti-caking agents and can be iodized, which will inhibit bacterial growth. Opt instead for sea salts (we're Maldon fans), or if you're made of gold you may want to give Himalayan salt a try (although the mineral benefit is largely bullshit). Generally speaking, everything needs around 1.5-2% salt by weight of your base ferment.

Also worth mentioning for beginners, that the process of fermentation involves the creation of gas. You need to get yourself an appropriate fermentation jar (Kilner jars are good), and "burp" your little bubbling babies every day for a week or so, and then every other day until you see no more release of gas. This will help to prevent stinky explosions.

Here's a few simple ideas to get you started...

Beer vinegar 

For this, you'll need a vinegar mother. Live vinegar (which means it includes a mother) can be bought in most supermarkets, and flocculates (settles) easily. If you leave a bottle to settle overnight and decant the clear vinegar off, leaving the sediment behind, this is the mother. Splitting this between around 400ml of "food" will work well. The food can be anything with a little bit of sugar left. A bit of "leftover" wine or cider, or the last bit of that minikeg that you've bought because you can't go to the pub, all work well.

The vinegar will start to sour quickly - over a couple of days to a week - and you can start using it at this point, but leaving it to mature for a month or longer will intesify the flavour.

As you start to produce vinegar, the mother will munch on the sugar and carbohydrates you feed it and will grow, allowing you to eventually produce more. This will help your brine fermentations by pitching a little hither and thither.

Beer pickled onions 

Salt (1.5-2% onion weight)
Brown sugar (5% onion weight)
Beer:Vinegar (60:40 - enough to cover the onions)

Any onions can be used for this, but I like something a little more interesting - if you can get some little silver skins, some shallots or rings of red onion then go for it. To prep the onions, first peel them, halve them (and if they are larger onions I like to quarter them) but leaving a 2cm join at the root end. this allows them to pickle quickly and evenly, but helps the onion retain its structure. Weigh your onions and calculate your dry additions. Dissolve them in a little beer (we used a pale ale - don't go for anything too hoppy, but anything with a bit of sweetness or something saison-ny would work well... we're going to try a stout next!) and pour over your onions in a jar, topping up with more beer and vinegar to cover - the above ratios are approximate so just use whatever you have available. It'll take around 5 days to start softening the intense raw onion flavour, but will develop nicely over a month.

Served simply with a hunk of cheese and a generous slice of bread, these are delicious.


Cabbage or Chinese greens
Gochuchang (between 1tsp and 1tbsp per 200g of cabbage by weight, depending on how spicy you like it)
Salt (1.5% by cabbage weight)

Optional extras (per 200g of cabbage)
Spring onion - 1 finely chopped
Ginger - a thumb, either grated or jullienne
Garlic - 3-6 cloves crushed or chopped
Chillies - 2-4 chopped
Fish sauce - a good glug or two

First, weigh the greens so you can calculate how much of the other ingredients you need. Chop the cabbage into ribbons or if using Chinese greens, such as Pak Choi, into quarters. Take the salt and rub it into the leaves and all the nooks and crannies of your chosen veggie. Set to one side for around 15 minutes, while you mix the gochuchang and optional additions together.  At this point thoroughly rub the sauce into the leaves. Simply jar it up and leave for a week to a month for all that funk to come through.

I like to keep topping mine up with fresh cabbage - just give it all a good stir and the leaves that have been in longest will start to soften and break down, with the fresh taking on all the flavour and adding a pleasing crunch. A bit like a Kimchi solera system.

Garlic and Ginger

50/50 garlic/ginger chopped loosely

Mix everything together, leave for a few days until the aroma intesifies and then blitz.
You can then smosh into any food that needs garlic - it's great to fry off as the base of curry and stir fry, or toss into some fried prawns with a little lime juice. Or perhaps the base of herb pesto, warm through with some olive oil and toss into pasta.

I have really enjoyed using this paste - the garlic really intensifies but also rounds out with the fresh spice of the ginger, as well as having the added advantage of convenience from a jar. It HONKS but it's so worth it. Ridiculously easy too.

Pickled Chillies

A bushel of chillies
Salt (1.5-2% of weight)
Water to cover the chillies in the jar
Vinegar culture if you have one, just a splash

There is no skill involved in this whatever, just throw it all together in a jar, shake to dilute the salt and leave for a couple of weeks to pickle. Consume. Perhaps on a Ploughman's lunch, chopped into a rarebit, or chopped into butter to top a naan bread with. Basically anywhere you fancy a little bit of heat, these guys are there to help.

Green Tomato Ketchup

Green tomatoes
Salt (1.5% of the weight of the toms)
Sugar (10% weight)
Black pepper

Roughly chop the tomatoes, into halves, quarters, whatevs. Chuck everything in a fermentation jar and cover the now salty, sweet and spicy toms with water, seal and then shake. Loosen off the jar to allow for fermentation and leave for 3-5 days. Then, blitz everything until smooth - the skins and the pulp shouldv'e broken down a little, but after blitzing give it a taste. More chilli or black pepper could be added, but the acidity will continue to build after the blending so no need to vinegar.

Fermented potatoes

Inspired by Brus in Copenhagen, where we ate fermented fries with mushroom ketchup nearly three years ago. We still think of them daily.
Salt (1.5% of the weight of the potato)
Garden herbs (we use a lot of rosemary)

Chop your potatoes, chuck everything in a jar and leave it for a bit. While initially it may seem odd, this is totally worth it, whether you opt for brining overnight before frying off potatoes for a breakfast hash, or going for a longer ferment on a roast potato for a Sunday dinner, this process really intensifies the flavour and firms up your spud. They are splendid after 3 days, oven roasted for an hour at 180C with a nob of dripping.

Once you've embarked on your first few projects and you are happy with the way your ferments are tasting, then why not chuck a little bit of a similar base into your next batch?
Beer vinegar -> pickled onions -> ketchup

All of thes ideas above are interchangable, blendable and pitchable. If you are really happy with the flavour profile of something, sacrifice some of it to the next batch rather than shoving it all on the next toastie, however tempting that may be. Future you will be grateful.

Let us know what you try, and happy fermenting!