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Guides

Foraging and fermentation with Dan Keane

Here in Ireland, we're surrounded by lots of great wild ingredients.

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Here in Ireland, we're surrounded by lots of great wild ingredients.

Foraging and fermentation have become wildly popular over the past few years, but they can be intimidating projects to undertake if you don't know where to start. To help you get going, we enlisted the help of an expert.

Dan Keane, head chef at Stack A Restaurant at Urban Brewing in the CHQ, Dublin, is a keen forager and features lots of fermented foods on his menus, so we asked him for his top tips to help you out - check out what he had to say below.

READ MORE: A beginner's guide to foraging for Irish seaweed

Dan's most important foraging tips:

  • Never pick anything you don't 100 per cent recognise. This is especially important when it comes to mushrooms as there are many types that look the same and some can be very dangerous.
  • Always get permission from whoever owns the land on which you are foraging.
  • Get a very good pair of walking boots, a good sharp knife and wicker basket to carry your foraged ingredients.
  • Try not to take everything from an area. It is important to leave approximately 50 per cent to ensure there is a good crop next year.
  • Treat the outdoors with respect, don't litter and make sure to take everything you brought out with you home.

READ MORE: An expert's guide to fermentation

Dan Keane.
Dan Keane.

Fermentation in everyday life

Fermentation is an age-old method of preserving food. Every household would save food from summer or autumn to use throughout winter. It's a very simple process and all it takes is a little time, salt and clean jars. Even if you don't have the time to ferment things yourself, you can still incorporate fermented food into your diet like sauerkraut, kimchi and miso.

When fermenting at home for the first time, it's best to start with something a bit simpler. Sauerkraut comes to mind as it is something people are very familiar with and know how it should look and taste.

To get started, you just need a clean jar, some salt and a breathable top, like a clean cloth or some muslin attached with an elastic band. You will need to select a recipe for the style of fermentation you want, normally lacto-fermentation.

READ MORE: Seaweed sauerkraut recipe

It will normally take a few days for things to start happening so don't panic if nothing happens straight away. However liquid will start appearing very quickly and it is good to keep the cabbage, or whatever vegetable you are using, submerged in the liquid using a weight to prevent oxidation occurring. After a few days – normally 5 to 6 – you will start to get something that resembles the finished product.

From here it's just day-to-day tasting until it tastes how you want it. Once fermented, place the cabbage into a new clean jar with an airtight lid and keep it in the fridge. Once you get your first food fermented you can start branching out and trying new things like fermenting beetroot or making your own kimchi, both of which I highly recommend.

READ MORE: Fermentation for the nation

Photo by Kim Daniels on Unsplash
Photo by Kim Daniels on Unsplash

Click here for more info on Stack A Restaurant.