Fun with Ferments

As part of the ongoing canning and food preservation program I have been organizing for Market Central, Dawn Story of Farmstead Ferments led this week’s class on fermenting.

I know that to many who haven’t tried their hand at fermenting, it can be even more intimidating than canning.  I’ll admit, it can be hard to wrap your head around the process and until Amanda published this fantastic piece this past summer so succinctly explaining the differences between canning and fermenting, I was hard pressed to explain it myself, even though I do both and know the differences between the two processes.

I also know many people think fermented foods are slightly weird, to say the least.  I think most of us conjure up images of bad sauerkraut.  Thankfully, there is more to fermented foods than that – think bread, wine, beer, cheese, Tabasco sauce and more – and Dawn was there to tell us about it.

Dawn began by offering shots of brine from her line of products before launching into her talk.  She gave a brief introduction to the history of fermentation (it’s the oldest form of food preservation dating back to ancient times), the health benefits of eating fermented foods (many), touching on preferred ingredients (organic veggies, good salt), with some sidetracks on the many bacteria, mostly good, that are on and around us as well as the many ways to eat fermented foods (which completely inspired today’s lunch of peanut butter toast topped with fermented ginger carrots). She did a demonstration batch of sauerkraut before we headed into the kitchen to make our own.

If you haven’t fermented before, it is ridiculously easy.  We chopped cabbage, kale, carrots and onions, mixed them with salt and herbs, squishing with our hands until we could feel the moisture coming out, then packed them into jars, tamping down along the way until the jars were stuffed and the vegetables were submerged in brine.  We topped the jars off with a cabbage leaf to help keep the vegetables submerged and brought them home to sit on our counters for the next few weeks while nature does it’s thing.  There was no measuring, just eyeballing and tasting, because fermenting is not an exact thing.  There are rules, but unlike canning, they can be bent seemingly in every which way.

It was a fantastic class – I’ve taken fermenting classes before, I’ve dabbled in it, but in no way do I consider myself anywhere near an expert on the subject.  Admittedly, most of my experiments in fermenting have only been eaten by myself, but I’m slowly getting the family to come around.  Thanks to yesterday’s class, I definitely have a few ideas how I’m going to liven up our menu with ferments.  Many thanks to Dawn for coming out and leading it.

7 thoughts on “Fun with Ferments

  1. Patience says:

    I definitely want to eat more fermented foods. A good friend of mine makes all his own sauerkraut and we went to the kimchee-making demo at the vegetarian festival. I think I’ll attempt my own next weekend.

    • Becky says:

      I have a great kimchee recipe I made last year. Pat complained it smelled like someone died when I opened the crock, but the taste was pretty phenomenal.

  2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

    I’m obsessed with fermentation. You’re right, people think ferments are weird. But when you explain that all of the good stuff is fermented, they tend to come around. I eat something fermented every day and I never get sick anymore (knock on wood). And like you said, it’s so easy to do. I need to try the fermented ginger carrots. They sound great.

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