Culture Club Fermentation is more than just a fad—it’s a fixation By Amy Finley
’ve killed my mother.
But, then, so will you, too, eventually, if you get into fermentation, as more and more people are doing every day, motivated by the health and economic benefits of DIY culinary microbiology. In the world of fermentation, a “mother” is the progenitor of homemade vinegar: a floating raft of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria capable of performing magic. It is blobby and gelatinous, and generally pretty hardy. But kill it you can. And kill it you likely shall, at least once. Fermented foods are, after all, very much alive, and as such, as Austin Durant, the San Diego–based founder of the internationally active Fermenters Club (FermentersClub.com), reminded me, “They’re still subject to the laws of nature.” They live. And they die. But that’s part of the appeal of this ancient art, practiced in every corner of the globe since humans first began to conquer the feast-orfamine vagaries of the food cycle—think yogurt and cheese, beer and pickles, even chocolate and coffee, sriracha and salsa. A method of preservation that relies on naturally occurring bacteria, fermentation carries few actual risks, but does require that the practitioner face down some of their (now) culturally ingrained fears. Like is it safe to eat foods that haven’t been refrigerated, sometimes not even for months? And can bacteria really be good for you? The answers are yes and yes. When Durant— who will hold the second annual San Diego Fermentation Festival (SanDiegoFermentationFestival.com) January 31 at the Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas— teaches fermentation classes, these are the points he hits hard.
Photos by Chris Rov Costa
“I have a six-point bullet list,” he says. “It’s called Why to Make and Eat Fermented Foods. I tell people, ‘Because they’re healthy, easy, safe, economical and ecological—and delicious.’”For newbie fermenters, vinegar is one of the easiest starter projects. Begin with a good bottle of red or white wine, and mix it with a cup or so of unpasteurized vinegar (like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar) in a lidded crock or large glass jar. Cover it, using a cloth with a dense weave if you ☛ January-February 2016
edible San Diego