By Jenny Breen
Photos courtesy of Mill City Times
Dinner on the Farm is back with three more Farm to Table ideas.
“The flavorful space between fresh and rotten” is how Sandor Katz, fermentation expert and author of The Art of Fermentation, describes it. While it may seem like fermenting food might be an obscure skill left for the fringe foodies of our community, in fact we partake in and enjoy the flavors and benefits of fermentation almost every day.
In addition to the obvious like wine and sauerkraut and—since you’re reading The Growler—beer, a list of other fermented foods includes yogurt, pickles, cheese, bread, coffee, and even chocolate. It is a traditional way to preserve the harvest, to convert sugar to alcohol and to make things taste, well, different. Every culture has their version of a fermented favorite, and each has its own cultural twist. What is universal, however, is that eaten regularly, fermented foods can be vital to a healthy and diverse gut. We need these foods in our diet to digest and absorb the nutrients in our food.
It can be intimidating initially to prepare fermented foods. There is a fear that fermentation is dangerous and the bacteria potentially harmful. But according to the USDA, there has never been a case of food poisoning from fermented vegetables. The same cannot be said of raw vegetables. In any case, nature is full of these beneficial bacteria and fermentation is simply the process of growing or harnessing these little nuggets of nutrition and flavor into creative, interesting and wholesome accompaniments to delicious foods of all types.
I am not an expert like Sandor Katz, though I am definitely inspired by him. Through my own experimentation I have found that like any cooking, fermentation is simply a matter of choosing ingredients you love—vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices—and following a particular method of preparation. Like cooking, it is a process of balancing contrasting properties like acidic and basic, flavors like sweet, sour, or savory, and textures like crunchy and soft—embellishing each of these combinations with uniqueness that represents the season, the place and the palate of the cook. Best of all, the possibilities are endless.