What is it?
An anaerobic chemical process whereby good bacteria or yeast is used to converts carbohydrates into alcohol or acids in order to extend shelf life, funk up flavour, or create something boozy. The magic of fermentation is harnessed to produce some of life’s greatest pleasures: wine, cheese, beer. And sauerkraut.
Humans have exploited the natural process of fermentation since forever; more so as a method of preservation than for the palate-tingling sourness it imparts. Fridges made the art obsolete, but now that saving food from the bin is considered a fashionable (and responsible) thing to do, we’ve circled back to those age-old techniques. Beyond the culinary upsides, fermented foods are also said to improve gut health.
What equipment do I need?
Those empty mayo jars you habitually put away at the back of the cupboard for safe keeping? Yeah, those. The bigger the better. Plus a few common kitchen implements – a chef’s knife, mixing bowl and strainer are likely to be required, depending on what you’re choosing to ferment.
Who are the experts and how do I learn?
Should you bump into him peddling his sauerkrauts, kimchis, and pickles at farmers’ markets across London, Nick Vedasz is one to chat to. As for some hands-on guidance, there are plenty of workshops scattered around town. Arguably London’s best baker – Dusty Knuckle – can show you the ins and outs of how to ferment at home. They’re about to plunge into the world of kombucha (fermented tea).
Fermentation Master Class – Cricketfield Road, Hackney
Fermented Foods and Dinner – Benk + Bo, Spitalfields
Seasonal Fermentation, Autumn – Skip Garden, Kings Cross
Who will I meet?
Those with an interest in food and home cooking – especially that postgrad who backpacked around South Korea once, subsisting on rice and kimchi.
How do I become a teacher’s pet?
Patience is key: it can take weeks for the flavours of a good ferment to properly develop. Other than that, the race is on to find the next cool fermentable thing. Cauliflower? Turnips? Shredded Wheat? Give it a go.