Over the weekend I was lucky enough to hear the 'fermentation revivalist' himself - Sandor Katz discuss the history, techniques, merits and applications of fermentation in the modern world. Sandor has been practising and spreading the word of ferments for the past 20 years and can claim responsibility for much of the popularity around fermentation in the home plus the emerging interest in the health benefits of foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha and of course... alcohol.
While his discussion on techniques was informative and has already lead to my house turning into a testing-ground with jars and bottles bubbling away all over the place, it was Sandor's knowledge of the deep historical and cultural connections people across the globe have established with fermentation that most caught my imagination.
If you leave food out in the open air it will ferment. This is not necessarily the most convoluted or difficult path of historic scientific discovery but indeed one that has had multiple benifits for people depending on their food availability, location, climate and taste. All one has to do is understand and control the sequence of fermentation and it can work to your advantage. For example if you live in the remote Korean highlands and have one opportunity a year to harvest cabbage to feed the family you'd better figure out how to make that cabbage keep on giving all year and not go to rot. Similarly back when supermarkets were just a twinkle in Walmart's eye left-over resources such as bread or vegetables would never have been tossed aside, rather a more stable state created with some salt and the onset of an acidic environment, kicked into gear by bacteria (its hard to wrap your head around I know, but bacteria is not a dirty word).
Put simply, fermentation covers the process of bacteria turning a sugar or starch source into lactic acid, it also includes the action of yeast converting sugar into alcohol. As mentioned these processes will occur naturally and left to their own devices - with a bit of help from concurrent biological activity - will further degrade the food source until it's inedible. If however this process is controlled and monitored, the results are quite breathtaking.
Compare for example two afternoon picnic spreads in the park. The first includes a glass of grape juice, an apple, a bowl of milk, a cucumber and a dense slab of bread. The second is a glass of sharp bubbly French champagne, a bottle of lively Britannic cider, a wheel of Brie, some pickles and a loaf of beautiful sour dough. The difference between these two meals is fermentation and very little else.
At Faire Ferments we're so proud to be perpetuating this role of fermentation in the lives of people, particularly those in the Goulburn Valley. Taking pears, paying a decent price to the farmer, and allowing them to ferment to show their true potential so they can be enjoyed in a different way drives us to do things well and treat our produce with the utmost respect.
Keep an ear to the ground for further lines coming out of Faire Ferments, they may not be predictable but they will be delicious and a true celebration of what locally grown and processed fruit is capable of.