It was a surprise to enter a bakery an hour after closing time to see the baker grating a cabbage with great vigour and dexterity. We were at Dojo Bread in Braidwood and Mark Barrington was making a traditional sauerkraut in a quantity suitable for the home kitchen gardener. Around us were cleaned, stacked bread tins, blocks of butter being cut into specific portions by a pastry cook, and lots of shiny stainless steel. The room had a warm smell from the morning's trade.
Wearing a food safety glove, Barrington then grated carrots (you could use a mandolin at home). He weighed the vegetables added locally grown herbs and salt - the formula is for every 3.5kg of vegetable matter you add 2.5 per cent of salt, in this case 87.5g. The mixture was placed in a bowl and "massaged" by hand. Use your fist to punch it down, then squeeze out the water.
You might think this sounds like an easy recipe but in Barrington's scrupulously clean hands, it was a mini gym workout.
After 10 minutes there was a large pool of liquid as cabbage is a good fermenter and the Australian sea salt draws water out of the vegetable matter. It was then transferred to a five litre Gartopf fermenting crock (he said at home you could use a sterilised glass jar),and would be left for two weeks. It is important to taste as you go to check the different qualities. His was weighed down with two porous clay weights which keep the vegetables submerged in 2.5cm of brine. Barrington said the left-over liquid makes an enjoyable probiotic drink. This is what he calls "live food".
Normal room temperature is best for completing the fermenting process but not in a cold room and optimum is 20-22C, just perfect in the bakery. The finished sauerkraut copes in a fridge at 4C and lasts for a month.
Developing in large white containers were a sauerkraut of cabbage, leek, spring onions, capsicum and carrot. A secret ingredient is pineapple. His latest passion is a traditional Salvadoran pickled slaw called Red Curtido, which is made with red cabbage, chillies, capsicum, oregano and lots of garlic. Serve with salad greens and hummus.
John Carroll is one of two market gardeners supplying Dojo Bread. An Australian chef who lives with his family on a property at Monga overlooking the river. Trading as Prana Produce, he has some acres planted with micro-herbs, general herbs, garlic, kale, tomatoes and lettuces and he supplied Dojo with 30kg of just-harvested beetroot. He also makes a wonderful passata, which we were allowed to smell. No skin, no seeds, just sauce. It is used on focaccia as little pizzas.
Barrington, always a keen home cook, came from London to Braidwood 17 years ago. He has been owner/baker at Dojo Bread for eight years. Fermenting is his hobby and it includes Belgian-style beers and kimchi. On the occasional day off he and his son go fishing off Potato Point at the South Coast.
Tell Canberrans you have been to Braidwood and they say "we always stop at Dojo for bread on our way to the Coast and the occasional artisanal meat pie". The pie is made from grass fed beef, drinkable red wine, onions, salt, pepper and a little roux to thicken.
Dojo Bread, down a little lane at 91 Wallace Street, has a new shop called Dojo Food to the left of the bakery off the courtyard. Housemade products include rotisserie chickens, takeaway meals, salads, zesty beetroot dip and the sauerkraut. Among sweet treats are salted caramel slice, raspberry/white chocolate/pistachio slice and cappuccino and vodka martini cake which is painted with vodka when the cake is cooling.
Yates seed giveaway
We had a big response for edible pea, sweet pea, Lamb's lettuce and tatsoi seeds. Readers' cravings included: crunchy cucumber; Vegemite; milk; can't go past a ham and cheese croissant; feijoas; cumquat marmalade with homemade bread; Chivas Bros Lochan Ora liqueur; honey atop hot buttery crumpets; Dundee cake; dark chocolate; red wine; lemon butter; double shot espresso; garlic four times a week; an apple a day preferably Kanzi; an apple before bed I'm a Fuji man; apple pie with cloves in perfect pastry; I could live on beer, cheese and apple pie; an aged whole Stilton cheese with a small depression in the top filled with port; and, a reader with a cold, craved soy-poached chicken with lemongrass.