Vegemite! This was an adventure! I have read about how much it is loved in Australia and in England. I also remember seeing a clip of a U.S. morning news show host trying some and he almost threw up. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I thought maybe a taste like that of straight soy sauce…salty and strong, something that would really hit the umami tongue receptors.
We found a little jar of Vegemite at our friendly neighborhood healthy foods store. It is a thick brown goo with a very pungent smell. Christian and I sampled it first, right from the jar. Haley and Logan would only smell it. The verdict: it was not very good! Christian said it tasted like salty badness.
Granted it is a concentrated paste, but it was hard to find an appealing angle. And the taste lingered in my mouth for awhile…a little weird. The smell at first reminded me of a really dark, bitter beer but then the more I thought about it it was like the really burned bits of cheese that stay behind on a pan after you make quesadillas or nachos. It is hard to pin down.
So after a less than glowing beginning, this Vegemite experiment does have a happy ending. I put together these muffins and I had a feeling that in a batter with melty cheese and chives the Vegemite was going to be just fine. I was right!. It makes a great, savory backdrop for the cheese and onion combination. Even though we didn’t care for the straight taste or smell, we all liked the muffins. I do think that this hits the umami spot as well as the salty.
Vegemite & Cheese Muffins
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup Vegemite
2 cups all purpose flour, unbleached
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a blend of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero and quesdilla cheese.)
1 small handful of fresh chives, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Makes about 12 muffins
Directions: preheat oven to 390 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray or line the cups with paper liners.
In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and shredded cheese. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and Vegemite. Stir in the chopped chives. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir just until dry ingredients are combined with wet – do not overmix because doing so will make short, tough muffins.
Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with the mixture. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out of pan onto a cooling rack.
Vegemite lore: It was invented in 1922 by a food scientist named Cyril Callister. The British already a version of this food called Marmite, but supply was disrupted after WWI. Callister created a spread using used yeast that beer breweries had discarded and trademarked it with the name Vegemite.