Fermented Raspberry Leaf Tea
Blind friend-dates are a tricky proposition, the outcome of which seems to fall into extremes of decidedly good or decidedly bad for me. One time, I ended up on a blind friend-date with a pair of sisters. All bubblegum pink lipstick and painted nails, they turned their chairs to face each other, and left me
Combined, they ate about five forkfuls of their lunch. They did, however, manage to tuck down several glasses of Diet Coke each, so it is probably no wonder that they didn't have room for their lunch and spent most of the time pushing the poor food around their plates. It would be tough to say whether the lowlight of the afternoon was their discussion of buffalo burger, "Eww, I can't believe they started adding fat to buffalo burger! I mean, the whole point is that it is low fat," or their lively recounting of a shared drinking binge in Vegas that resulted in them dancing on tables (apparently a moment of great pride).
Contrast that experience with yesterday's blind-friend date, where I met the friend of an internet friend. You could argue that was one heck of a shot in the dark, but I now measure these experiences against lunch with the Barbie sisters, and figured it could hardly be worse. We spent most of our time together poking around the woods, trying to identify winter-brown plants and trees. Being that she is a farmer (if you are in the Portland area, check out the Flying Onion Farm!), and in town studying botanical illustration, we had a large degree of plant-nerditude in common. The afternoon was strongly infused with cursing and sarcastic humor, and my heart smiled when she sang along to the Pixies. For me, the highlight came when I served my potato and goose pizza and goat cheese custards, and she clearly relished every bite. Honestly, few things could make me happier.
Fermented Raspberry Leaf Tea
Proper black tea, made with leaves from Camellia sinensis, is actually a fermented product. Camellia sinensis certainly doesn't grow here. I make tisanes from a whole laundry list of herbs, all of which are delicious. But none ever comes close to approximating that deep nuanced flavor of true black tea.
While flipping through my notebooks last summer, I found a recipe for fermented blackberry leaf tea from Heather Pier, and had an ah-ha moment. From my notes, she crushed and cut blackberry leaves. Next, she sealed them in a mason jar and put the jar in the back of her Jeep to heat, and thus ferment, for a few days.
I decided to apply this technique to raspberry leaves which, like blackberries, are a Rubus. I picked only bright fresh green leaves. First I ran the leaves through the roller setting on my pasta machine to crush them. Then, I sent them through the machine again on the spaghetti-cutting setting, shredding the bruised leaves into ribbons. No doubt you could accomplish the same thing with a rolling pin and a knife, but I doubt it would be as much fun. I then sealed the leaves in a mason jar, wrapped it in a towel, and put it on top of the fridge for three days, shaking it a few times daily.
At the end of this process, the leaves had turned a deep green-black, and smelled oddly like bananas. I dumped them out of the jar onto a baking sheet, and left them to air-until they were crispy. The resulting fermented raspberry leaf tea has stored well in a tin in the pantry. It does indeed taste much more like a black tea then any other plant I use. It makes a fine cuppa, but of course I've not been able to resist cooking with it either.
The fermented raspberry leaf tea perfectly compliments the grassy notes of the goat cheese in this custard recipe. Resist the urge to add vanilla, or lemon zest, or other herbs to this recipe, as the flavor is much too delicate for such things. Likewise, don't serve it with an intense topping, like berries or jam. It is lovely topped with a few ribbons of shaved apple, or unsweetened whipped cream. But truthfully, it is delightful served nekked.
I used David Lebovitz's recipe for this one because of its awesome simplicity. Also, so that you'd have actual measurements to use, instead of trying to figure out what I mean when I say that I chucked together cheese, cream, and egg yolks until it "looked right."
Goat Cheese Custard with Fermented Raspberry Leaf Tea5 oz. soft goat cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cream
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. powdered fermented raspberry leaf tea
1. Blend all of the ingredients until they are completely smooth. Use a stand mixer, hand mixer, blender, or even a whisk.
2. Pour the custard into four small ramekins (I also enjoy using tea cups).
3. Place the ramekins into a baking dish or pan, then add enough hot tap water to the pan to go half way up the (outside!) of the ramekins full of custard. Cover the whole works with a piece of foil.
4. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 15 minutes, or until the outside edge of the custard look solid, but the centers remain jiggly. This is the only fussy point of this recipe. You really don't want to overcook these little suckers, or the texture will be disagreeable.
5. Once cooked, remove the custard cups from the water, and let them cool completely. I prefer them served at room temperature, but they can also be enjoyed warm or cold.