The three most convenient small scale methods involve either liquidising the leaves in a blender, passing them through a meat mincer or feeding them into a blade-mounted juicer. The latter two methods will give you a little juice and much wet pulp that then needs to be squeezed in a cloth to extract the juice. I prefer to use the liquidising method.
First, collect young and tender leaves. 12kg of stinging nettles will give about 1 kg of damp crumbly curd; for wild garlic it is slightly less at 12kg: 800g but the flavour is super intense and a little goes a long way. The aim is to break open as many of the leaf cells as possible to release the protein.
This is best achieved if the leaves are washed and used as soon as possible after collecting.
Place about 250g of washed and roughly chopped leaves into the liquidiser and top up with water –spring water preferably.
Blend for a minute or so to produce a fine pulp. Repeat this process until all the leaves have been processed. If using wild garlic, after 2-3 times using fresh water, strain out the solids and use the same liquid to blend the next batch of leaves.
Strain out the liquid and squeeze the residue to get out as much liquid as possible
Place this green liquid in a stainless steel pan and bring to the boil for 1 minute
The protein will coagulate into solids
Once it has cooled a little, strain through a fine cloth – I use silk, squeezing until no more water will come out.
If using wild garlic leaves the strained liquid can be used as a stock base for soup. It can be bottled for subsequent use (note: with many if not most leaves the liquid is not safe to consume regularly).
1kg of pure lead curd
How to store the curd.
Fresh curd should be used as soon as possible although it will keep in a sealed air-tight container in the fridge for a few days. Dividing into cubes and freezing or mixing in 200g of salt per kg and then refrigerating also works well. Drying is possible in a low oven, above – but not in contact with a radiator or in a food dehydrator. Nevertheless, it should be manually crumbled up half way through the drying process; this avoids the formation of apparently dry lumps that remain moist inside.Half way through drying it’s time to break up the lumps that can be seen here
I tend to mix it with salt and use small pieces as stock cubes or freeze and thaw to use as fresh.
How to use the curd
Well, it’s surprisingly versatile. I have used it in all of the following ways: in spicy Indian sauces, risotto, vegan burgers, salsa, savoury seaweed mousse, pesto, bread, pasta and noodles, pastry, pancake mix, soup, stews, as a salty spread, pâté, stock cubes and even to make green fried eggs!
I’ve written a follow up recipe in this series detailing how to make pasta from the curd here.