IT’S unbelievable how quickly fermentation and pickling have become mainstream. I At a dinner recently I was sitting beside a teacher from a local school who was waxing lyrical about his jars of sauerkraut and kimchi and the health benefits. Readers will know I’m not a fan of sell by dates and best before dates for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that they have inadvertently served to disempower us, as more and more shoppers have come to rely on them rather than their common sense to judge whether food is safe to eat. My advice used to be, examine it, smell it, taste it but if you can hear it — throw it out — no longer the case now as our bottles and jars of fermented food bubble away in the pantry and Bubble Shed.
A few weekends ago our fermenting team including my daughter-in-law Penny Allen, our dairy queen Maria Walsh and some friends, drove all the way to Rossinver in lovely Co Leitrim to attend a fermentation course. They are all fermenting nerds with quite a bit of practical experience under their belts but they returned on a bubble of excitement having spent the weekend at a brilliantly run and deeply informative event, a ‘Weekend of Fermentation Madness’. A Fermentation Dinner at Sweet Beat in Sligo kicked off the event organised by Gaby and Hans Wieland from the Organic Centre.
There is unusual agreement that our modern diet is causing many challenges not least the gut problems that so many people are troubled with these days, partly as a result of eating a cocktail of highly processed foods. Ted Dinan, professor of psychiatry and a principal investigator in the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork, has done very interesting research on the connection between the gut biome and our mental health.
More recently, Dan Saladino of the BBC 4 Food
Programme did two segments on the indigenous Hadza tribe who live in remotest Tanzania. They are virtually the last remaining hunter-gatherers on Earth. They live on seasonal berries, roots, wild honey and the occasional feast of roast porcupine. Interestingly their gut biome on average is 40% richer than any of the rest of us. They grow no food, raise no livestock and live without calendars or rules. Their rich store of gut bacteria is of huge interest to the world of science and medicine. We can’t easily achieve that complexity on modern diets but we certainly can enhance our gut flora by changing our diet to predominately fresh naturally produced real food and include some fermented foods on a regular basis.
Sauerkraut is super easy to make as is this quick kimchi recipe given to me by David Tanis. There are several books to start you on your journey and watch out, you can get properly hooked on the “bubble thing”. Look out for Fermented by Charlotte Pike and more recently Ferment,
Pickle, Dry by Simon Poffley and Gaba Smolinska-Poffley which teaches you how to preserve foods using ancient methods of fermenting, pickling, drying and recipes to enjoy them in.