Friday, October 19, 2012

Fermentation Fun with Friends

A Portrait of the Author as a Lacto-Fermentation Instructor
On Thursday, October 18th, I had the privilege of teaching a lovely group of people about lacto-fermentation. The space we used was The Red River General Store at 5700 Henderson Highway - for my friends in the local Jewish community, that's the old Stern store. I was stunned to discover how many people were sentimentally attached to that place!

First of all, many thanks to my friend Rosalie, who brought her iPad and took pictures for me. Here is a picture of me behind the counter, posing with a jar of lacto-fermented pearl onions I brought along to demonstrate the kind of things we can make.

Gorgeous winter cabbage
This is one of the gorgeous winter cabbages our gracious hostess Monique provided for us to use. They were so beautiful, some people were munching on them as they went along.

We started with a brief overview of lactic acid fermentation (in which cells convert glucose into lactic acid and energy - it's the same process that happens in your muscles when you run fast, causing "the burn" - although if you are a scientist you may prefer to call it anaerobic glycolysis). It's a traditional method of food preservation all around the world, because the increased acidity of the food causes molds, botulism, etc. to be inhibited, making it very safe. The Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for this miracle are present everywhere, in the air, on the vegetables, on our hands, and most importantly, in our gut. Eating lacto-fermented food, whether vegetables or dairy, is a great way to heal our antibiotic-ravaged digestive systems.
We washed our hands and cut up that lovely cabbage. We added some good, real salt that had not had all its minerals stripped away, and also some caraway seeds and/or juniper berries for flavour. Then we squished that cabbage within an inch of its life - a source of great enjoyment for everyone, I think. Who says only kids can have fun squishing their food?

The salt drew liquid out of the cabbage incredibly quickly, and we soon found ourselves with liberal quantities of brine in our bowls. We then filled little mason jars (yes, I know, they don't seal as well as one would like, but they are great for beginners). We were careful to cover the cabbage with a nice big leaf to keep it submerged in the brine, and weighted it down with little plastic bags filled with excess brine (again, yes, I know, plastic in our food is B.A.D. But I hope everyone found a better, more suitable weight when they got home).
Chopped cabbage
We finished the evening with a quick, funny video about fermentation and some great discussion. Monique spoiled us with yummy snacks, coffee and amazing herbal tea.

I had an absolute blast and it looked like most people were having a good time. I'm hoping we can do this again - maybe we'll do a kombucha/water kefir/milk kefir session? I do need somebody to provide me with water kefir grains before I can do that ...

Finished productThanks again to Monique, Rosalie and everyone who came out on a rainy, yucky October night to celebrate lacto-fermentation with me!


  1. Looks like a great time. I'm sad I missed it. Hopefully you will be able to do this again.

    1. Lori - I've had a few people say this, so the prospects look good!


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