I got interested in fermenting after being introduced to kombucha (fermented tea) a while back. That, and some of my best loved go to’s are fermented: sushi, miso soup, sourdough bread, tempeh, wine, and chocolate. So far, these are things I have to buy – at least partially – prepared, in order to enjoy them. While scouring for fermentation-at-home 101, I found a workshop on fermenting miso paste, and signed up. It was my first ever “cooking” class. I’d love to make my own miso soup and great sushi one day. My sushi is edible, but not great by any means.
What kinds of foods are fermented?
Cheese, sushi rice, pickles, soy sauce, vinegar, miso paste, sauerkraut, tempeh, sake, wine, alcohol, bread, ketchup, artichokes, balsamic vinegar, miso soup, kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, mead, kefir, vinaigrette, beer, coffee, chocolate and olives, to name a few.
Why fermented foods?
Fermented foods work like probiotics. They arm your body with the goods to fight the bad. They crank up your immune system to help ward off “bad” bacteria, cancer cells and more. Fermentation has a rich history, and my favorite factoid: Fermentation REMOVES TOXINS from food. In short, they’re super heroes that are jam-packed with incredible, wild flavor.
Like understanding nutrition and digestion, learning to ferment makes sense. Fermenting is maybe the poster child for slow food. The idea of slow food is making an overdue come back. Slow food doesn’t have to mean devoting your life to the stainless gods. Slow food is more about rooting yourself in food, and connecting what you eat to what you are. Instead of supporting the convenience food bubble, you support your local farms and stock your pantry with whole grains, and plan for things you might be able to finish preparing and then happily eating a week later. Raw, sprouted, fermented… they’re all but lost and some of the very best ways to eat food. But they take work; they’re not of the buy, open, fill stomach regime.
In 2011, busy with all things life, I support the convenience food bubble plenty. But when I can take a small step back in my kitchen, I’m thrilled. The flavors of fermented foods are beyond out-of-this-world strong, crazy delicious and plenty. And super soaker salty. They’re all natural, organic and they do your body lots of good. I think it’s impossible to make anything more naturally flavorful than a fermented something.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a fermentation workshop with a fermenting artist named Favero. I’ve never smelled and tasted so many molds in my life. The experience was inspiring, experimental, fun, and left me hungry for more. Moldy food might raise your eyebrow, but if you’ve had any cheese, wine or bread lately – you’ve indeed tread in the shallow end of the mold pool.
Favero’s workshop included some enlightening discussion, demo, some mold tasting, my envy over participants’ goat stories, koji making, (literally) bare hands-on mixing of miso, cellar touring, and a plethora of inspiration. My senses of smell and taste kept an open mind to the aromas and flavors of various molds and kojis. When advised to “really get our nose in” a bowl of koji to “smell the incredible scents,” I discovered those aromas will still need to grow on me.
I conceded post-workshop that I will forever buy some fermented foods. My life’s mobility just isn’t conducive to having a home fermentation lab. But maybe a mini one… I will definitely try my hand at some, and am excited to do so. And I’ll keep supporting the pros who make my revered fav’s.
Interested in fermenting food yourself?
My family’s moving, again, in two weeks = we will have a yard again! As excited as I am about reclaiming most of my house-in-storage, I think our wheaten terrier will be most pleased about regained freedom and space. Our two year old is pretty pumped to experience spreading out a bit too. Since we’re packing up and unpacking our home again, starting to ferment some koji or miso paste is not really in the cards at the moment, for me.
But if it was- I’d start here:
Fermenting Food At Home
1. First, I’d suggest a semi-permanent home… one you’re sure to be in at least 3 years from now. A cellar or unfrozen burying place is ideal. You’ll need some very large crocks, steaming baskets and food thermometers.
4. Read his book.
5. Check out Favero’s website link and try a workshop if you’re near Seattle. I absolutely recommend. Favero’s cottage, bamboo-laden backyard and refreshing workshop will leave you with fermenting fever too. And perhaps a lovely dandelion, rhubarb blossom or raspberry wine. Mmm.
6. Read this book that Favero recommends, by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger. I can’t wait to.
In the words of Favero, Happy Fermenting!