You may well be lucky enough to know that feeling; plucking a ripe apple from the tree, a quick sniff of its green freshness before digging your teeth in and gaining a burst of juice and crunchy crack. We have constantly been told in the last few years that eating fresh, locally grown seasonal produce is what we should aim for. Fresher and better for us and of course, our planet. But the culinary world has an entire universe of deliciousness, far from the world of freshness. The earthiness of a tangy olive, for example, is delicious because it has to be preserved. There are, then, some foods out there that we love for their unnatural saltiness, deep flavour, preserved to enjoy far later in the season. Some bites, nibbles and meals, are not only chilled for maturity but are seasoned over the passing of time, improving the intensity of their flavour; a little more with each second to reach their full, tasteful potential. Read more on Time as a Seasoning: Aged Like Fine wine.
Cheese, Wine or even Soya sauce are only a few of the examples. The marriage of a curated process, patience and precision creates a symphony of flavours. Say the names and it’s like our taste bugs go into overdrive at just the thought of…
Jamon Serrano and other Cured meats
The process of the popular Spanish ham with its intense flavour and tender texture can take up to 15 months to mature. From the leg of a pig preserved with salt. It is undeniable proof that some delicacies are so unique asborn from an entangled backstory rather than a simple process. The critical steps are what impart Jamón Serrano’s signature bold, woody flavour.
These cured sausages hang in carefully controlled conditions, where a collection of flavours develops. As in most fermented foods, it is the action of enzymes that become responsible for Salami’s distinctive flavour. Salami is prepared by chopping meat and fat, which is then transferred in a ‘skin’ casing. It is then smoked, fermented and or dried. The action of spices, beneficial moulds and the gradual drying process allows the salami to concentrate its taste and texture. Each time, the meat undergoes a metamorphosis, resulting in a robust and complex profile which can take between six to eight weeks. Many regions in different countries give a plethora of different flavours and textures.
Alcohol’s defined taste and body are the result of the fermentation of different raw materials. All alcohol then stems from the marriage of fermentation and distillation, a process involving the conversion of a liquid (in this case alcohol) into vapour that is then condensed back to liquid form. To this liquid botanicals are then added to determine the flavour profile of each spirit.
Wine, on the other hand, is different and of course, is biblical. Many have read stories from the Old Testament to the New, where wine is mentioned. There are several basic stages or steps to making wine: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and then ageing and bottling.
The alchemy then, begins in the grape vineyard and continues all the way to the bottling and cellar, where the magic of fermentation and aging happens. As the flavours intertwine, the wine’s journey in the bottle, allows it to mature gracefully, unveiling layers of nuance and depth.
Grapes for wine grow in many countries and the type of grape, the soil, sunlight and wetness of each area are what help with unique flavours and styles.
Take for example Spanish winery Mar de Frades from the Rías Baixas region. The unique location and environment have influenced the culture, production and distinctive flavours and aromas of the elegant Mar de Frades wines made from the legendary Albariño grape variety.
The winery, founded in 1987, is located in the Salnés Valley, where Atlantic breezes meet granitic soils to produce Albariño grapes that result in fresh, flavourful wines with mineral and salty aromas. Today, the winery has 66 hectares of vineyards in some of the best plots in the Salnés Valley and Ribera del Ulla, which makes it one of the most important winegrowers in the area, as well as sourcing albariño grapes from more than 200 growers in the area.
Its portfolio is composed of different varieties: the iconic Mar de Frades Albariño 2021, Mar de Frades Godello 2020, Brut Nature, Finca Valiñas 2018 and Finca Monteveiga 2018. They can be found in Tesco and Harvey Nichols, as well as in restaurants such as Dakota Hotel, Rest El Norte, Sea Containers, Malmaison Hotels and Bravas Tapas.
And of course, the perfect wine companion is cheese. Cheese’s enhanced flavour over time is a result of cow, sheep, goat milk and even vegan versions and a complex biochemical process, where proteins and fats break down into smaller, delicious combinations.
Ageing allows for the development of unique textures and intensification of taste. The gradual reduction of moisture content also helps define a flavour profile. Time, in this case, transforms a simple process into a rich culinary delight.
The precise process varies based on the kind of cheese. The best place to explore cheese is a specialist shop.
Take for example Paxton & Whitfield, who can take cheese lovers by the hand giving them a chance to dig into an expansive, tasteful cheese journey.
From gift sets to memberships and recipients featuring cheese, the brand offers a range of carefully curated products. With the option of subscribing for a 3, 6 or 12 month plan, the brand offers monthly-picked products featuring artisan cheese paired with crackers. With the addition of accompaniments and wines, everyone has the possibility to delve into a tempting, 360°delicious experience.
From cow’s milk-based cheese such as Corinium, with a distinctive apricot-coloured rind, it is aged for around four weeks, to then be moved into maturation rooms. The process defines its delicate flavour profile whilst preserving the unique taste of Kingstone Dairy cheeses and the exceptional quality of the milk.
And for sheep’s milk cheese lovers, Cullum a homemade cheese made in Cumbria, is the perfect option. Born from the mixture of cow and sheep’s milk, this cheese-making process takes place from February to September. After that time, the cheese is transported to maturation rooms to further develop for three to nine months.
Paxton & Whitfield explore longer ageing techniques and create a diverse range of cheese profiles. Adding biscuits or even preserves to their collection, the brand wants to satisfy each customer’s need regardless of their preferences.
Soya sauce, a staple in many Asian and now Western kitchens, is an umami-rich elixir that ferments and matures for that complex collection of flavours to take place. The fermentation process, often takes months or even years, allowing the Soya sauce to develop those signature savoury notes, entertaining with subtle sweetness and a deep umami profile. It’s the interaction between the Soyabeans, wheat and salt to create a harmonious blend that adds to its components. Like a fine wine, soya sauce benefits from patience.
Maple syrup is derived from the sap of sugar maple trees, truly showing itself over time. The process of producing maple syrup involves boiling down the sap to concentrate its sugars to then leaving the liquid to rest and mature. Over time, the syrup develops a more pronounced richness, deepening in colour and complexity. The partnership between the slow caramelization of sugars and the natural compounds of the sap results in a flavour profile that transcends sweetness.
Image if you will, someone tells you about a cake they bake in July but tell you they won’t eat it until December, you would think them mad? In your mind’s eye, the cake tin when opened five months later will contain nothing but mould.
Christmas cake is a delightful confection that only gets better with time. The key factor is the ‘feeding’ of the cake (once baked) with Alcohol that works as a preservative. The infusion of spices, dried fruits and spirits creates a harmonious blend. As time passes, these ingredients blend, allowing the cake to develop that deep, rich taste. The ageing process not only enhances the texture, making it moist and dense but also intensifies the festive aromas.
You can learn more about Paxton & Whitfield’s products here.