to ferment, or not to ferment… that is the question!

VL_MDA5NjE2When one has a love of food, you are curious with just about anything, that has to do with food. Reading, growing, baking, eating, juicing, cooking, etc. I’ve done it all. However, a recent “back by popular demand” process has caught my culinary attention and that is fermenting. What is this new, yet old world phenomenon? I had no idea, but was bound to find out through collaboration between Boston Ferments and Sofra Bakery chef, Geoff Lucas.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, fermentation is “a. a chemical change with effervescence or b. an enzymatically controlled, anaerobic breakdown of an energy-rich compound (as a carbohydrate to carbon dioxide and alcohol or to an organic acid); broadly:  an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.”

Fermenting food is a way to preserve food that also enhances the nutrient content, which in turn processes the minerals in food, therefore quickly available for digestion. The end result…probiotic food.

How to do this? A little salt, a little whey, some water and a belief that Mother Nature will do her thing will help your gut transform your food into the benefits of a healthier you. Unfamiliarity, with this born-again culinary direction had me accepting an invitation to dine on fermented cuisine hosted at the Young Girls Café in Cambridge, Massachusetts hosted by Boston Ferments.

This pop-up dinner accommodated approximately 20 people, some experienced diners with fermented food, some not. I was of the later. Upon arrival at the café, one was invited to take any seat available at one of the two tables set for dinner. Once seated, guests were presented with a ceramic cup (party favor to take home) filled with beet kvass, handmade by Jeremy Ogusky, enthusiast potter with Boston Ferments.

ferment dinnerWhile waiting for our first course and introduction to the fermented evening, we nibbled on whole grain bread along with fermented butter. As I sampled my aperitif of beet kvass, and munched on my bread and butter, I kept pondering, would I really know the difference between food that had been prepared by fermentation or not? Learning the health benefits of beet kvass – believed to help with liver cleansing properties and cancer therapy – had me curious to start the evening’s meal, after pre-gaming with this particular beverage.

Before each course arrived at one’s place, Chef Geoff would appear from the kitchen to give a brief explanation of its’ ingredients and the process involved in each fermentation preparation. Traditional fermenting methods, using health conscious ways, were followed in order to prepare each dish. Salt, water, whey and a large jug, jar or bowl, seemed to be the constant theme. The menu for the evening included:

Lacto carrots with chickpeas, kale and molasses vinegar.

kale & carrotsMackerel escabeche with celery kimchi and classical roman spices.

mackerel-celery kmchiKeshk-glazed sweet potatoes and fennel with braised short ribs and bone-marrow corn bread.

short ribs

With dessert being a chocolate pudding cake with wood grilled cocoa, and caramelized whey.

All courses paired with an assortment wines and spirits – from Bantam Cider to Ambrosia Ginger wine.

Highlights of the evening for me were the lacto carrots with chickpeas, and kale – a delicious combination, and the keshk-glazed sweet potatoes, partnered with melt-in-your mouth, short ribs and the incredibly, decadent bone marrow corn bread. Absolutely amazing!

Dessert was a tad experimental for many of the diners. I must admit being a lover of all things chocolate, I was psyched!  The chocolate pudding cake was moist, teeming with cocoa, but the caramelized whey…questionable. This unique, sour sauce would not make my “top-ten” list as an accompaniment for such a dessert. However, since most diners present, were on divided on their opinion, I am willing to give it another try.

One may need to acquire a taste for fermented food, but I urge you to try some, after all, you could be pleasantly surprised. Boston Ferments offers numerous opportunities to learn the art of fermenting from workshops, to kraut mobs and even a fermentation festival. Get your gut healthy and learn to ferment!

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