Sour power

In a mis­sion to get peo­ple eat­ing fer­mented foods, two Som­er­set women are tak­ing on the world. Get ready for Sauerkrautathon!

Somerset Life - - SAUERKRAUTATHON - WORDS: Cather­ine Courtenay PHO­TOS: Neil White

If there’s one way to wake peo­ple up and get a mes­sage across, it’s stag­ing a world record break­ing at­tempt. On Oc­to­ber 14, dur­ing the Wells Food Fes­ti­val, Katie Ven­nor and Jo Web­ster will be gather­ing the troops (they al­ready have a list of will­ing vol­un­teers) and at­tempt­ing to make the largest recorded dish of sauerkraut in the world. Sauerkraut, for those who don’t know, is fer­mented cab­bage and be­fore you turn the page in dis­gust, it’s one of the most healthy foods you can eat, one of the cheap­est and one of the eas­i­est to pre­pare. Al­though an un­usual taste, it will def­i­nitely grow on you; in fact, the more you eat, the more you crave.

Nam­ing their event the Sauerkrautathon, Katie and Jo are invit­ing peo­ple to a mar­quee in Bish­ops Palace Park be­tween 10am and 4pm. Peo­ple can join in chop­ping, salt­ing and pound­ing more than 300kg of cab­bages and veg which will then be sealed in con­tain­ers and al­lowed to

fer­ment for 12 days. Af­ter it’s of­fi­cially weighed and recorded, the re­sult­ing sauerkraut will be dis­trib­uted in the city over the week­end of 27 and 28 Oc­to­ber.

It will un­doubt­edly be fun but there’s also a se­ri­ous mes­sage be­hind the kraut-in, one which the two women, and many nu­tri­tion and health ex­perts, are pro­mot­ing.

“We planned the kraut-in to draw at­ten­tion to just how easy it is to make sauerkraut,” says Katie. “We want to show peo­ple how to make sauerkraut at home and per­suade them that eat­ing even a small amount of fer­mented foods on a reg­u­lar ba­sis can re­ally trans­form your health.”

‘Peo­ple who eat a small amount each day find it curbs crav­ing for sweet things and al­co­hol’

Fer­ment­ing pre­serves food and, al­though it’s not as fa­mil­iar to peo­ple in this coun­try where we tend to pickle and make sugar-based pre­serves, peo­ple have eaten fer­mented foods for mil­len­nia. Fer­mented foods also feed gut bac­te­ria, which are now known to play an im­por­tant part in keep­ing us healthy, not only for di­ges­tion but for gen­eral health too, in­clud­ing men­tal health and well­be­ing.

Cab­bage is par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial. It’s al­ready a su­per­food, but through fer­men­ta­tion it re­tains its vi­ta­min C con­tent, and its vi­ta­min B con­tent is sig­nif­i­cantly raised.

The taste is un­usual for our palates but that’s partly be­cause sour foods have gone out of fash­ion in our cul­ture where sugar is in ev­ery­thing and even veg is bred to be sweeter. But give it a try, says Katie.

“Very, very soon you’ll de­velop a crav­ing for it,” she says be­fore adding, en­cour­ag­ingly: “Peo­ple who eat a small amount each day find it curbs crav­ing for sweet things and al­co­hol.”

Katie and Jo are pas­sion­ate about fer­men­ta­tion and, know­ing how eat­ing these foods has helped them, are keen to spread the mes­sage.

They’re also de­lighted at how well re­ceived their idea has been. Af­ter ask­ing the or­gan­iser of the food fes­ti­val if they could have a tent in which to do their record at­tempt, the event has bal­looned and they now have an im­pres­sive list of speak­ers step­ping in in­clud­ing Guy Singh-Wat­son from River­ford Or­ganic Farms (which is sup­ply­ing the veg),

Tim Spec­tor, pro­fes­sor of ge­netic epi­demi­ol­ogy at Kings Col­lege, Lon­don, neu­ro­sci­en­tist Mar­cus Boehme from the Cryan Lab in Cork, Alana Macfar­lane Kemp­ner, founder of The Gut Stuff and au­thors and teach­ers Naomi Devlin and Dearbhla Reynolds.

Along with River­ford, Yeo Val­ley is spon­sor­ing the event and will also be of­fer­ing tasters of its new milk ke­fir, a fer­mented milk drink.

“Fer­ment­ing is not the lat­est food fad, this is an an­cient tech­nique,” says Katie.

Jo adds: “In the UK we of­fi­cially eat the high­est per­cent­age of ul­tra-pro­cessed foods in Europe and ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists this is mak­ing us a sick na­tion.”

Katie feels the event is hap­pen­ing at just the right time. Along with in­creas­ing knowl­edge about the im­por­tance of good bac­te­ria she high­lights the fact of ris­ing obe­sity, re­cent re­ports that life ex­pectancy has now plateaued and food poverty.

“Peo­ple re­ally need to be­gin to un­der­stand we are what we eat,” she says.

ABOVE:Train­ing for the forth­com­ing Sauerkrautathon group chop­ping

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