Fermenting food in a few easy steps

April McGreger leads a workshop on fermenting food

I’m bubbling over with excitement after my workshop on fermenting! OK, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it was very interesting to get a primer on the process that I’ve been reading so much about over the past several years. I have had in mind to write a big piece about the health-minded followers of fermentation. Some day.

Last week, eleven of us gathered at The Cookery in Durham, where for $40 we got a two-hour-plus lesson from April McGreger, aka The Farmer’s Daughter. I’m a longtime fan of April, who is a food-preservation artist and maker of some amazing fermented and canned products, which she sells at farmers’ markets and even online now.

April and her lovely assistant process cabbage while a fellow student chops carrots for kimchi

We made sauerkraut and Korean kimchi, a ubiquitous relish using the “wild fermentation” method — as opposed to “lactofermentation,” and meaning you don’t add any culture. The longtime leader of the wild movement is Sandor Katz, so if you want to know more about it, check out his website or books.

April told us that fermentation is the oldest method of preserving food and basically allowed people, always traveling in search of food, to stay in one place for awhile. It changed the course of civilization! And did you know that the oldest fermented cabbage is from China – fed to the builders of the Great Wall? Later it landed in Germany, where sauerkraut became a national staple.

We each got to take home a jar of kimchi

The sauerkraut was ridiculously simple – cabbage, salt and dried juniper berries (optional). The trick is to keep air out during the fermenting process. We each brought home a little batch and I’ve followed April’s instructions to prevent air from getting in. We’ll see! The kimchi involved a lot of chopping and a lot more seasoning, leading me to think how fun it would be to have a kimchi party, with a few folks coming together to share the prep and chopping duties, and of course the goods!

Meanwhile, the day after class, Tasting Table posted this great article about the many uses of kimchi. I guess everyone is bubbling over!

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