By Katherine Wood
Katherine Wood recounts her experience at the Boston Fermentation Festival, which occurred on Saturday, September 27th.
On a warm September afternoon in Jamaica Plain, friends, fermenters, and food lovers of all kinds came together to celebrate the 2nd annual Boston Fermentation Festival. The Boston Fermentation Festival is the primary event organized by Boston Ferments, a self-described “collective of fermenting enthusiasts, lovers of real food, and folks interested in the health aspects of living foods.” Aside from the Fermentation Festival, Boston Ferments holds courses, dinners, and workshops bringing public attention to the benefits of fermented foods.
The fest was set up in conjunction with the Egleston Farmers Market, which occurs every Saturday in Jamaica Plain. It featured several exhibitors including Real Pickles, Katalyst Kombucha, and AO Biome.
The day was packed with book signings from several national authors, along with a speaker series, tastings, a “pickle off,” a culture sharing table, and a kraut-making workshop. The speaker series included talks by Boston University professor Ken Albala on the history of ideas about fermentation and digestion. Geoff Lukas, Chef de Cuisine at Sofra Bakery and Café took listeners on a tour of the world discussing fermentation delights across cultures. The speaker series ended with headliner Sandor Katz examining nutrition, foodways, economics and anthropology using fermentation as a lens.
To break up the full schedule of speakers, Boston Ferments held their very own version of a reality show competition, The Pickle Off. Prior to the festival, Boston area chefs were invited to create their own lacto-fermented vegetables and bring them to the festival to be judged by a panel of pickle experts and festival participants. Attendees also had the opportunity to make their own sauerkraut at the “kraut mob” table where they were provided with cabbage, apples, carrots and salt. The “mobsters” taught the art of sauerkraut making as festivalgoers got their hands dirty, going home with their own bubbling jar to watch the lactobacillus bacteria work their magic. At the end of the day, the “kraut mob” went through 100 pounds of cabbage and 40 pounds of apples and carrots during the communal event.
The Boston Fermentation Festival is most special in that through the exchange of bacteria, sourdough starters or kombucha mothers, as well as information on the most effective ways to make vinegar-free pickles, it evokes a feeling of community and a sense of sharing. Invisible organisms – the microbes – were the stars of the day, and the Boston Fermentation Festival effectively showcased just how crucial these tiny creatures are for the body and palate.