To ferment, or not to ferment…that is the question!
When one has a love of food, you are curious about just about everything that has to do with food. Reading, growing, baking, eating, juicing, cooking, etc. and I’ve done it all. However, a recent “back by popular demand” process has caught my culinary attention: fermenting. What is this new, yet old world phenomenon? I had no idea, but was bound to find out through a 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, quickly available for digestion. The end-result…probiotic food.
How to do this? A little salt, a little whey, some water and trust that Mother Nature will do her thing will transform your food Unfamiliarity with this born-again culinary direction had me accepting an invitation to dine on fermented cuisine at the Young Girls Café in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hosted by Boston Ferments.
This pop-up dinner accommodated approximately 20 people, some experienced 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 (a party favor to take home) filled with beet kvass, handmade by Jeremy Ogusky, owner of Boston Ferments.
While 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 wondered, 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 peculiar beverage.
Before each course arrived, Chef Geoff would arrive from kitchen to give a brief explanation of its’ ingredients and the process involved in each fermentation preparation. Traditional fermenting methods were used to exhibit the health conscious way 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
Mackerel escabeche with celery kimchi and classical roman spices,
Keshk-glazed sweet potatoes and fennel with braised short ribs and bone-marrow corn bread.
Chocolate pudding cake with wood grilled cocoa and caramelized whey.
All 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, along side melt-in-your mouth, short ribs and the incredibly, decadent bone marrow corn bread. Absolutely
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, with a rich flavor, but the caramelized whey… a unique sour flavor would not make my top ten list for an accompaniment for such a dessert. However, I am willing to give it another try.