By: Marina Jade Phillips, Trellis & Co.

The first two months of 2018 marked both my first trip to Mexico and my first bicycle tour. Living on two wheels did not slow my fermentation habit; I toted stainless steel jars of fermented vegetables in my panniers. I credit consuming lacto-bacteria with my lack of stomach troubles that can plague travelers in South America. Regularly introducing healthy bacteria into our digestive tract is a great way of inoculating our body with microbes that are on our team. The amount of attention probiotics have received in recent years is long overdue. Traditional cultures have known about the delicious and health-promoting qualities of fermented foods for hundreds of years, even before it was scientifically proven.

Backslop is Such Beautiful Word

Contamination and inoculation are two sides of the same food processing coin: the impact of a small quantity of the right or wrong material can be drastic. The former is the stuff of nightmares for food companies forced to recall tainted products, and suffering travelers perched atop or hunched over a toilet. The latter is how fermented flavors have been passed down through time, sometimes across generations, from one bottle, crock, or barrel to the next. Inoculation is so ubiquitous to the craft that traditional sausage makers gave it a name: backslop.

Backslop, unsavory as it may sound, simply refers to the practice of saving a bit of the last successful batch and incorporating it into the new one, ensuring a small number of the micro-organisms that populated the previous batch will go forth and multiply. There are several reasons why this technique is valuable to both professionals and home cooks. Foremost, the time required for complete fermentation decreases dramatically. A new jar of sliced cabbage or jug of fresh squeezed fruit juice is teeming with all kinds of bacteria and yeast, some of which will produce the desired results, and some of which will produce something inedible.

By introducing a healthy colony early in the process, desirable microbes get a head start and usually out compete less desirable ones in the race to inhabit a new environment.  If those microbes have a particularly unique characteristic (champagne yeast produces more carbon dioxide than other wine yeasts, for instance), that character can be reproduced, sometimes leading to outstanding strains by which certain makers and regions become famous.

A 5-Year Love Affair

In more humble corners of the globe, far from French vineyards, I once had a relationship with a sourdough starter that lasted five years.

A sourdough culture becomes more complex with age, and as time went by she (yes, she—around her first birthday I named her Henrietta) developed her own unique flavor. One morning, I came into my kitchen and saw Henrietta’s container on the floor, licked almost all the way clean. A dog had gotten up on the counter, somehow removed the lid, and all but devoured my precious bread making ally. I scraped the dried crust of starter that remained from the edges of the bowl and rehydrated it with water.

Over the next few days I added a bit more flour and water at regular intervals, and in less than a week my robust friend was back in action. I could have sighed, cursed dogs under my breath, and made a new starter, but I was attached to Henrietta, and thrilled to revive her with such little material.

The beginning fermenter has a few options for ensuring success. Of course, there is always the option of simply hoping for the best. Usually, if the food to be fermented is fresh and healthy and the containers and hands in contact with it are clean, odds are in our favor that the microbes that make things sour and bubbly are going to win. However, a splash of the liquid floating around the top of high-quality yogurt (look for something with “active cultures”) will introduce a bit of the right bacteria and speed the process along. A small slosh of juice from a thoroughly fermented sauerkraut or brined vegetable jar will help get the next one going.

Those interested in experimenting with fermented dough will be delighted to know that a sourdough starter is incredibly easy to make: stir equal parts flour and water every day until it smells sour. Wild yeast lands on top of the mixture and is incorporated with every stirring.

Aid this process by dropping an unwashed and unsprayed berry (grapes work best) into the mixture for a couple of days (retrieve the berry before it starts breaking down). Yeast which covers the skins of all fruits will slough off and populate the latent starter. To keep this culture thriving, the sourdough baker saves a small amount of the starter and adds to it more flour and water. Starters exist that are rumored to be hundreds of years old, passed down in just this way.

Practice Safe Fermenting

Interestingly, foods that are not fermented are more prone to contamination from bacteria that can make us very ill, and in the worst cases, kill us. The culprits in large and small-scale food poisonings are often raw and unfermented vegetables. By fostering beneficial bacteria in a salty and acidic environment, we can safely enjoy raw vegetables with all their fiber and nutrient content without the risk of ingesting pathogens.

About Trellis & Co.: We started as a family business created by a bioengineer living on a homestead in one of the remotest areas in the Lower 48. When “running to the store” is a 4-hour drive, every purchase must be a robust and functional investment. Here at Trellis + Co. we design products worth investing in.

Our lifestyle inspired our line of garden-to-table kitchen tools.  As gardeners, cooks, and canners, we develop creative solutions to our own kitchen conundrums and pass on that wisdom to you.  Also, since we’re kind of obsessed with the planet, our products are designed to last a lifetime — keeping money in your pocket and garbage out of landfills.

Future Trends in Yogurt

Yogurt’s evolution in America mirrors the country’s food culture. From the sugar-filled yogurt of the 80’s to the fruit-on-the-bottom cups of the 90’s to protein-heavy Greek yogurt of the 2000’s to artisanal styles (Icelandic, French, Australian) of the early 2010’s to the non-dairy varieties of the late 2010’s and to the current trend of low-carb, high-fat, keto-friendly yogurt. Americans used to scoff at tart-tasting yogurt — now it’s embraced and sugar-filled yogurt is shunned.

“With yogurt occupying more and more shelf space in grocery stores — and tracking so closely with American diet habits — companies are constantly trying to figure out what’s going to be big in yogurt,” reads the article. Experts are betting on yogurt made with cold-brew concentrate and protein-rich, dairy-free yogurt made with with synthetic proteins. 


Continues the article: “(Frank Palantoni, former vice president of marketing for Dannon) compares what has happened with American consumers and yogurt to what happened with wine. ‘Americans have a very limited receptivity of their palate to new flavors,’ he says. But once given options, with different tastes and textures, ‘you will eventually develop your palate and it will get more sophisticated.’ The variety in yogurt has made many people more adventurous eaters. As packed as the yogurt aisle seems, expect even more wide-ranging offerings in coming years. And that, he adds, is a good thing. 

Read more (Vox)

Though the March Natural Products Expo West conference and trade show were cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, New Hope Network (producers of the event) hosted a virtual webinar this month to share their annual report on industry trends. Leaders from New Hope Network, SPINS and Whipstitch Capital shared insights on natural product sales trends. 

“We definitely believe that this unfortunate health crisis is going to bring the bright spot of making health and wellness more mainstream,” says Kathryn Peters, executive vice president of business development at SPINS (who also are scheduled to present at TFA’s FERMENTATION 2021 conference next May). 

The report typically encompasses sales numbers for the previous year, but SPINS included insights from short- and mid-term consumer behaviors during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read on for five takeaways for the fermentation industry from the data.

1. Thanks to Mass Market Saturation, Natural Sales Slow in 2019

Sales of the natural and organic industry in the United States slowed in 2019, growing 5.3% to $230.7 billion in sales.

The slowing growth signals an optimistic takeaway: mass market saturation. There are more natural products on retailer’s shelves than ever before.

“Despite the slower growth, the mass market channel – which includes big box retailers, large grocers like Walmart – that channel added 6.5 billion in new sales last year, which is very significant,” says Carlotta Mast, senior vice president for New Hope Network.

Sales data over the last decade shows the natural industry has grown from being a small player in the consumer products industry with only 11% of sales to a larger player with 20% of sales.

“We’re not a little kid anymore – we’ve kind of grown up,” says Nick McCoy, the managing director and co-founder of Whipstitch Capital.

Natural brands are getting larger, McCoy notes, experiencing an average of 10% growth two years after their start date. Growth of smaller brands is outpacing growth of larger brands. Brands in the 1,000-2,000 sales spots grew at a rate of 6.1% in 2019, while the top 1,000 selling brands grew at a rate of 5.2% in 2019.

2. Americans Want Functional, Science-Backed Products

Despite slower industry growth, the natural, functional food and beverage industry grew two times faster than conventional food and beverages in 2019. Functional products improve overall health by providing additional nutrients. Fermented food and drink fall into the functional category. 

Functional food and beverage sales grew 5.3% in 2019, hitting $71.4 billion in sales.

Consumers are purchasing products with ancient wisdom, a trend defining the nutrient-dense, time-honored food that is made of simple, clean ingredients.

“This has been an underlying driver of the industry for many years,” Mast says. Consumers are “seeking science-backed health and wellness offerings positioned to address modern conditions.”

Consumers want optimized products that address eye health, stress support and, especially in today’s health climate, immunity.

The natural industry experts expect functional foods to continue to grow, fueled this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Coronavirus Outbreak Causing Big Boost in Sales

During the week America went into quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak, 15 million additional buyers bought natural products.

“At the end of the day, virtually everything sold,” Peters says. A key trend: “Natural products were still in demand; they did outsell all products.”

Peters notes some of the natural products may have sold because they were the last available product on the shelf. Time is the best indicator if these shoppers will convert to regulars. But those products are now on consumer’s shelves – and a lot product trial is happening across the country, trial that is an expensive element of product development. “It’s a huge opportunity for this industry,” Peters says.

“What we’re finding as a real highlight for the industry is the consumer values that built and grew the natural and organic industry for years and years are holding strong in the face of COVID-19,” Mast says. “One hypothesis of what the world may look like in a post-COVID era is that consumers will increasingly prioritize health and wellness…A number of long term macro forces and trends that have driven growth of the natural and organic products industry up until now position us well for a world in which consumers increasingly prioritize health and wellness.”

As unemployment soars and consumers cut back on expenses, Peters does not expect economic pressures will slow down natural product sales.

“Our bodies are our best line of defense, and consumers are realizing this,” she adds. “While comfort food is important in this phase, we are still seeing a strong influence of health and nutrient-dense food.”

A survey of consumers during the week of April 13, 2020 found that 77% say personal health is most important to them today than it was in 2019. In addition, 43% say eating healthy food is more important today than it was in 2019.

Sales of kombucha, for example, plateaued in 2019, after years of positive growth. But during the peak coronavirus grocery stock up period, refrigerated kombucha sales were up 28%, refrigerated pickle and marinated vegetables were up 58% and refrigerated yogurt sales were up 39%.  

The coronavirus is increasing challenges for the industry, too. Supply chains are disrupted, there is a lack of new product development and a dearth of investment capital.

“That is slowing the flow of innovation, which we can expect to affect the flow of offerings to the market later this year and into 2021,” Mast says.

4. E-Commerce Sales Growing Fast, Driven by Natural Shoppers

In 2019, e-commerce sales accounted for only 4% of total natural product sales. In 2020 so far, e-commerce has generated almost $10 billion in sales. Estimates put total e-commerce sales at 17% in 2020.

“E-commerce is the big story for 2020 with COVID-19 and the rapid increase of consumers buying online,” Mast says.

Interestingly, natural shoppers were using e-commerce channels at a higher rate than regular shoppers.

5. Sustainability is of Greater Importance

Early consumer research indicates an aspirational trend: COVID-19 may change consumer’s viewpoints to become more sustainability focused.

During the week of April 13, 2020, a survey of consumers found that 67% said environmental health is more important to them today than it was in 2019. Purchasing behaviors that support environmental causes are also on the rise. Of more importance to consumers in 2020 verses 2019: food waste (36%), buying plant-based foods (29%), buying responsibly sourced meat, seafood and dairy (26%), buying organic (22%), and buying products with environmentally-based packaging (18%).

Sustainable packaging “which is really the Achilles heel to the natural and CPG industry,” Mast says, is becoming of greater important to consumers as single-use packaging is demonized. Brands are also looking for ways to keep their waste out of landfills, upcycle ingredients and putting byproducts back into circulation.

Fermenting Wild Food

Master forager Pascal Baudar shares insight from research for his new book, “Wildcrafted Fermentation: Exploring, Transforming, and Preserving the Wild Flavors of Your Local Terroir.” He believes more people should live off the land. He tells Modern Farmer: “Lacto fermentation really started to create a new level of dealing with wild plants and understanding how to get those wild plants from a culinary perspective.”

Read more (Modern Farmer)

By: Dr Miin Chan, BMedSci, MBBS (University of Melbourne)

Good gut health fixes everything! Fermented foods are good for your gut! Fermented foods are a panacea for all that ails you! 

As two behemoth trends in science and food – the gut microbiome and fermented foods – collide, messages such as these inundate the public narrative. But do they serve to educate, or confuse?

Everyone has their pet peeve. Mine is the violation of science to sell products and agendas. Intentional or otherwise, poor science communication distorts food literacy. Nutritional research is vulnerable to extreme manipulation, plagued by methodology issues, historical reputation damage and abuse by powerful commercial interests. In this era of rapid dissemination of alternative facts, it is essential to interpret and communicate research in a clear, accurate manner. These narratives guide our community’s daily food choices and thus, impact personal and public health outcomes.

Nuance and doubt are the key drivers of scientific practice; clickbait headlines and definitive language are the bread and butter of modern journalism and advertising. Private enterprise is the worst offender, exaggerating the health benefits of food products with purposeful vagaries and definitive language. Correlation and association in trials become causation. Studies in rodents equate to human health outcomes. The word “may” makes it acceptable to overstate findings or attribute them to unrelated food products. Labels and catchphrases are used loosely; think “probiotics”, “prebiotics” and the very grey “good for your gut health”. As a marketing strategy, many businesses now employ teams of “experts” to validate their claims’ scientific rigour, obscuring the inherent conflict of interest. These tactics serve to plump bottom lines, dodge government regulations that serve public interest, and ultimately, confuse vulnerable consumers.

Just as concerning are journalists, researchers and scientific publications that, in an effort to stay relevant, adopt the same techniques as their commercial counterparts to garner attention. Usually, this entails overblown health benefits. But sometimes it goes the other way.

Let’s look at a recent article published by The Conversation titled: “Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health” (1). By the time it had been republished in The Independent, as well as several other international news outlets, it had morphed into: “Why fermented foods could cause serious harm to your health”. Such headlines instill fear in readers. Headlines are important: research has shown that 59% of links shared on social networks are not clicked on (2); this means that the majority of people share articles without reading past the headlines. These insidious messages bleed into the collective consciousness and impact our attitudes towards food.

Overall, this is a well-written article, providing mostly appropriate references, but the author is an infectious disease expert, not a food scientist or nutrition researcher. To the average lay reader, her non-related credentials give the article clout and credibility. Lurking within the article are problematic false equivalences, misrepresentations and extrapolations used to bulk out the piece. 

Bloating is an issue for some consumers but is certainly not “harmful” nor “serious”. Reactions to biogenic amines, including histamine, are highlighted. But the article fails to mention that only 1% of the population (3) have histamine intolerance and even fewer have severe reactions. Why include food borne illness? This is a food safety issue and is not more likely to occur in fermented foods. The author even talks about how probiotics in milk products increase their safety, but then states that “probiotics can fail” leading to “hazardous” outcomes due to bacterial toxins, with no evidence to support this.

Lab-produced probiotic strains are not necessarily the same as those found in fermented foods (4). So it is misleading, in this context, to reference limited case reports of probiotic capsules causing infections in immunocompromised patients. There are no recorded infections due to the ingestion of fermented products, and the majority of people are not immunocompromised. 

Last but not least, the author cites antibiotic resistance due to gene transfer from microbes found in fermented foods. The research used to support this looks at particular strains extracted from fermented foods in non-human trials. No evidence is currently available to suggest that such gene transfer occurs when humans ingest fermented food, or that this would promote antibiotic resistance in a clinically significant way. It is irresponsible to include this as a reason why fermented foods may cause harm to human health.

Humans have consumed fermented foods for many human generations. This in itself suggests the safety of fermented foods for the majority of people, and the human clinical trials that have been conducted indicate few side effects, let alone serious ones. 

Fear-mongering headlines and articles exploit poor science literacy in the general population. One has to ask, what is the purpose of such articles? Is it simply a matter of publish or perish, a hankering for a sparkly headline that draws attention?

Food is central to every human’s daily life, with long-term effects on their health and wellbeing. Businesses, journalists, government bodies and most of all, scientists, need to recognise their responsibility to create clear nutritional science narratives. Science and food literacy need to be priorities in our education sector. Government bodies, informed by up-to-date research, must better regulate food-related health claims to protect public interest. We must avoid exaggeration of both benefits and harms and introduce nuance into our science communication. Our health depends on it!

Dr. Miin Chan, BMedSci, MBBS (University of Melbourne) As a medical doctor & researcher obsessed with taste, food culture, ferments and nutrition, Miin founded Australia’s first tibicos business, Dr. Chan’s. She helped to create the local wild fermentation industry through products, education, science communication and consultation. Working with farmers’ markets, Slow Food Melbourne and urban agriculture charity Sustain, she has a deep love for all things food, from soil to gut. Engaged in a love affair with microbes, Miin is undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne researching the effects of fermented foods on chronic disease via gut microbiota. @dr.chans @slowferment @gastronomymagic 

(1) Mohammed, M. Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health. The Conversation 2019. https://theconversation.com/kombucha-kimchi-and-yogurt-how-fermented-foods-could-be-harmful-to-your-health-126131

(2) Gabielkov M, Ramachandran A, Chaintreau A, et al. Social clicks: what and who gets read on Twitter? ACM SIGMETRICS/ IFIP Performance 2016. Antibes Juan-les-Pins, France (Conference Paper) https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01281190

(3) Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007; 85(5):1185-1196 https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185

(4) Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, et al. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2017;44:94-102 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27998788

Ask Trevor Wilson how to bake a perfect sourdough boule and Wilson will happily spill his secrets. A rare breed in the realm of professional bakers, Wilson aims to enlighten everyone from hobbyists to master fermenters in the art of creating a great sourdough.

“It’s a fascinating thing. The idea that a simple mixture of flour and water can house a symbiotic culture of wild yeast and bacteria, and that this mixture can be used to leaven bread entirely without the aid of commercial yeast seems astounding to me,” says Wilson, author of the book “Open Crumb Mastery” and the kneading hands behind the blog Breadwerk. His popular Instagram account is full of close-up videos of a knife cutting into a steamy sourdough crust and magazine-worthy images of a gorgeous inner crumb.

“Even after all these years, I still get excited at the thought. There’s just so many possibilities! Every sourdough culture is unique, and therefore the breads made from these cultures are unique as well. I’ve worked with many different starters over the course of my career, and the range of different flavors that can be achieved is simply mind-blowing. Sourdough is more than just a style of bread, it’s a process. A craft. A way of life, really.”

Wilson quit his computer drafting job nearly 20 years ago to bake full-time. He spent 10 years baking at Klingers Bread Company in Vermont, an experience he says was “better education than any baking school could ever provide.” His refreshing philosophy on baking is “that good bread is more than just nutrients and technique — it’s the attention and care you put into it.”

Below, a Q&A with Wilson from his home on the a small island off the coast of Vermont.

How did you first become interested in sourdough baking?

It was actually quite by chance. I was flipping channels on the television when I happened upon a show called “Baking Bread with Father Dominic.” Here was this Benedictine Monk – robes and all – baking bread by hand on public broadcasting. I was drawn in immediately! There was just something so appealing about the simplicity and tradition of it (not to mention the fun of getting your hands deep into the dough). I had to give it a try!

The very first chance I had I decided to make a cinnamon raisin loaf. It was for the family Christmas gathering. I just used the ingredients on hand at my mom’s house – cheap bleached all-purpose flour and a package of long-expired yeast that had been sitting in the pantry for years. As you might imagine, it came out terrible. Dense and underbaked. Like a brick. It didn’t rise at all. Nobody even touched it. But it didn’t matter. I was hooked!

I started baking bread every day – my own recipes because I just have to tinker with things like that – and read everything I could get my hands on. It wasn’t long before I discovered sourdough and sourdough starters. That’s when I truly became obsessed.

Tell me what intrigues you about sourdough.

It’s a fascinating thing. The idea that a simple mixture of flour and water can house a symbiotic culture of wild yeast and bacteria, and that this mixture can be used to leaven bread entirely without the aid of commercial yeast seems astounding to me. Even after all these years, I still get excited at the thought. There’s just so many possibilities! Every sourdough culture is unique, and therefore the breads made from these cultures are unique as well. I’ve worked with many different starters over the course of my career, and the range of different flavors that can be achieved is simply mind-blowing. Sourdough is more than just a style of bread, it’s a process. A craft. A way of life, really.

How did you get your start in artisan bread baking? You’ve worked for multiple artisan bread bakers in Vermont, like Klingers Bread Company and O Bread. 

Shortly after I got hooked on bread baking, I decided that this was it – this is how I wanted to spend my life. I was certain of it. Even though I had recently graduated tech school and was ready to start my career as a computer aided drafter – something which I actually really enjoyed – there was no question in my mind that bread baking was my calling. There was just one problem . . . I couldn’t bake a decent loaf for the life of me!

Since I had no clue what I was doing, I figured the first thing I should do is get a clue. I knew I could go back to school and study bread and pastry arts. But I didn’t really care much about pastry at the time, and it seemed rather foolish to pay to learn a skill when I could just get a job at a bakery and get paid to learn that skill instead. So that’s what I did. I applied to every bakery in the area, and I was fortunate that Klingers Bread Company took me in and trained me.

I say I was fortunate because at the time (back in 2000) they were one of the few local bakeries that focused primarily on sourdough breads. And that’s what I was most interested in learning. The ten years I spent with them was better education than any baking school could ever provide. Learning to bake bread at high volume under the constraints of ever-changing production conditions, schedules and demands will teach you so much about the process, the craft, and the business. I wouldn’t trade those days for the world.

Where are you currently working as a baker?

Currently I’m baking at home! But not for production. Primarily it’s for educational purposes (and for fun). My business these days is mainly online. I probably spend more time in front of the computer than at my bench. There are pros and cons to this. It’s nice that I’m able to set my own work schedule and be my own boss (and that I don’t need to wake up at 2 a.m. anymore), but I miss the camaraderie of the bakery and the joys of production baking.

Your blog is full of great insights. I love your philosophy that good bread is more than just nutrients and technique – it’s the attention and care you put into it. Tell me more about that.

I believe that the value of a food is determined by more than just the quality of its ingredients or the recipe with which it is made. There is a subtle and intangible “something” that can be added as well – if the food is made with care and attention, that is. Call it a piece of soul, if you will. This is especially true for something as dynamic and responsive as sourdough. A baker who bakes with heart adds a piece of soul to every loaf. That is the true nourishment of sourdough bread.

Tell me about your book, “Open Crumb Mastery.” It’s a guide for intermediate sourdough bakers.

Well, I wrote it to answer one of the most common questions in bread baking, “How do I get an open crumb?” It seemed to me that most of the answers to this question were either entirely wrong or, at best, severely lacking in nuance. There was actually very little literature on the topic, and what there was usually just glossed over the intricacies of the subject. Simply adding more water to your dough – the answer most commonly given – is terrible advice for newer bakers. They have a hard enough time handling dough as it is, how is making it even wetter and stickier going to help them? What was needed was a book that actually did justice to the topic, and since no one else had written such a book, I figured I might as well do it myself.

I aimed the book at the “intermediate” baker primarily because I didn’t want to waste space covering the same old information that is covered in every other bread book out there. How many times do we need to read the same five day method for creating a sourdough starter? How many times do we need to rehash the same information about ingredients and procedure? The reason all these books covered the same topics over and over again is because they each had to provide information with the beginner in mind. But the problem is that by the time you’ve covered everything the beginner needs to know, you’ve practically run out of space! All that’s left is the recipe section! There’s no room for depth of discussion. Because I self-published my book, I could write whatever I wanted. So I skipped all that and went straight to the good stuff.

You just released your second edition. Tell me what is new in this updated book.

There’s actually quite a bit of new material – almost 100 pages worth (including plenty of new pictures since the first edition was kind of lacking in that department). The main addition to the book comes in the form of a new section dedicated to understanding how the methods discussed in the previous sections relate to other loaf qualities such as shape, height, and volume. There is more to a loaf than just its crumb. The original edition just lightly touched upon these topics; the new edition gives them their due. Along with some other additions (such as a discussion of whole grain, and a couple new crumb analyses focusing on retarding bulk fermentation), the new material provides a more complete picture regarding how the variables of technique and method affect the entirety of the final product.

Describe the open crumb technique.

That’s a tough one. It’s such a deep discussion that I could never do it justice in an interview alone. That’s why I wrote a book! My main point is that open crumb is primarily a matter of fermentation and dough handling. Hydration, while important, is only a distant third.

You said “Open crumb is 80% fermentation and handling.” Tell me more about that.

It seems to me that much in life follows the Pareto Principle – that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Bread baking is no exception. When it comes to achieving an open crumb, fermentation and dough handling will provide you with 80% of the effect. Therefore, it seems prudent to me that a baker interested in open crumb should spend the bulk of their time learning the skills of fermentation and handling. That will provide the highest return on time invested.

And make no mistake, these are skills. Skill takes time to develop. Practice is paramount. Only through experience will a baker learn to master fermentation and dough handling. But it’s a necessary and vital part of the craft. There’s really no way around it. For any baker that’s seeking to achieve an open crumb, they must start with fermentation and dough handling.

What makes a fermented sourdough unique from other breads?

It’s all about that sourdough culture! The starter is the heart and soul of it all. It provides qualities to bread that commercial baker’s yeast simply can’t replicate. Now whether that’s for better or worse is a matter of opinion. Not every style of bread benefits from the use of sourdough. There’s a large world of bread out there, and yeast breads certainly have their place.

But sourdough has its place as well. And judging by the growing interest, its place seems to be expanding day by day. For good reason, I think. Sourdough possesses a combination of crust, crumb and flavor that is difficult – if not near impossible – to achieve with baker’s yeast alone. Especially flavor. It’s just so much more complex than yeast bread. Deeper. More interesting. Intriguing, even. The acids and other flavor and aroma compounds generated by a sourdough starter are what make sourdough breads truly stand out. Comparable crust and crumb might be had with yeast breads that are long-fermented and skillfully made, but the flavor of sourdough can’t be copied and can’t be faked. Only the real thing will do.

How do you ferment your sourdough?

Many different ways. As I often say, the method makes the bread. How you choose to ferment your dough will have a huge impact on the bread’s flavor, as well as many other qualities of the final loaf. Different methods of managing fermentation will therefore result in different breads. So the manner in which you choose to ferment a dough is dependent upon what kind of bread you are making, and what qualities you are seeking in a loaf. When you include other variables such as folding methods/schedules, shaping techniques, starter maintenance routine, etc. then the possibilities really are endless. It’s up to each baker to ferment and handle their dough in a way that works best for them and their needs.

Tell me about the sourdough starter you use.

That’s a tricky question, because I use many different starters. In fact, you can say I have a bit of an addiction. I love trying out new starters – and I have a fridge full of them! Some are better suited for certain flavors or styles of bread than others, but still, I often bring different starters into rotation based on nothing more than whim. I just like playing around with them. Many I’ve created myself, but quite a few I’ve purchased as well.

I’d say my favorite starter (you could call it my main starter since I use it more often than any of the others) is an “Alaskan” starter that I got from the last place I worked. They had purchased it online but hadn’t had any success in getting it active. I took it home and brought it to life, and I knew it was a keeper from the first test loaf I ever made with it. It practically brought tears to my eyes. The flavor was so close to the old Pioneer Sourdough I’d grown up eating in Southern California that I simply couldn’t believe it. It was a flavor I’d been searching for —  and had yet to find — since I first started baking sourdough. That old bakery closed a long time ago and so I thought I might never experience that taste again. It’s a bit of a fickle starter, and I don’t always get that perfect flavor from it, but when I do it’s a glorious thing.  

More and more retail news show sales of sourdough bread are increasing. Why do you think more people are buying sourdough bread?

Over the last 35 years or so, there’s been a strong “push” by bakers themselves to bring awareness to this style of bread. The old methods of sourdough baking had practically gone extinct in many parts of the world (though they were still thriving in others). This was especially true in the United States, where factory-made sandwich bread had almost completely taken over the market. For many, sourdough was something either long forgotten or completely unknown. For those bakers back in the day who were making bread the old way, it was quite the struggle to find customers. 

Fortunately, over the years they – and those who followed – have managed to bring awareness to the pleasures and benefits of sourdough bread. It wasn’t always an easy sell. But through education and promotion, sourdough is now part of the scene and here to stay. You might even say it’s become rather trendy. The reasons are many: nutrition and health, flavor, crust, crumb, history and tradition, etc. It seems to me that artisan sourdough bread is the food fashion of the moment, but then, I might be a bit biased here.

Do you think consumers awareness of fermented foods is increasing?

Awareness of fermented foods is definitely increasing. Quite drastically, I might add. It seems that fermented foods are everywhere nowadays, with more and more popping up on the shelf every day. And that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The more that folks are exposed to these foods, the more they will be enjoyed — and eventually adopted as a natural part of the cuisine. That brings more interest, more variety, and more flavor to the food scene.

What challenges do fermented food producers face?

There are many challenges faced by the current crop of fermented food producers, and different industries face different challenges. Probably one of the bigger challenges that crosses over many categories of fermented foods is simply getting consumers – many of whom have had little exposure to these types of foods – to open their minds and give fermented foods a try. This is especially true for producers that market raw ferments with live cultures. Most of us have grown up in a world of pasteurization and sterilization. The idea of a raw fermented product – though perfectly natural throughout most of history – may seem unnatural to those who have no history with it. Needless to say, educating the market will be an ongoing challenge.

Another major challenge these days is simply the matter of competition. With more and more producers jumping onto the fermented foods bandwagon, competition keeps growing and growing. Of course, this is regional and market based. So long as the market keeps growing, then there is more room for additional producers. But in places where the market has slowed, or that are already oversaturated with producers, expanding competition will cut into already slim profit margins.

I see this all the time in the baking industry. New artisan bakeries are constantly opening up on a daily basis. Many are (similarly) making a trendy style of dark, crusty, high-hydration bread. So it’s becoming more and more difficult for these bakeries to distinguish their product from all the rest (at least in the saturated urban areas). Baking is a hard business with slim margins, and it is made harder all the more when you have a bakery selling the same kind of bread on every corner. I fear that many of these bakers – even those who bake outstanding bread – will be forced to close shop in the not-too-distant future.

What are the fermented food industry strengths?

Its biggest strength is its growing popularity. As more and more folks are exposed to the wonderful variety and flavors of fermented foods, and as more become aware of their health and nutrition benefits, the good word will continue to spread. The market is growing rapidly, and will likely continue to do so for quite some time. Producers of fermented foods are well-positioned to grow their businesses as the industry continues to expand and evolve.

Where do you see the future of the fermented food industry?

It’s hard to say. I’ve spent an entire career in just one small segment of the industry. With “nose to the bench,” so to speak, I’ve had a rather limited view of the fermented food industry as a whole. I’m no trend forecaster. It seems to me that authors such as Michael Pollan, Sally Fallon, and Sandor Katz (to name a few) were instrumental in bringing us to this place of awareness and appreciation for wholesome and traditional foods that we now find ourselves in today. Who’ll step up next and where do we go from here? That’s the million-dollar question.

What’s your advice to other entrepreneurs starting a fermentation brand?

Know your product, know your market, know your margins.

The first one is usually the easiest – most of the folks that are jumping into the fermented food business are doing so precisely because they are so passionate about their product. No need to elaborate this point.

The second is vital to those who actually wish to sell a product. Who is your target customer? Where are they? Why should they buy from you? Are you selling wholesale or retail? Or both? Are you selling at farmer’s markets? Whole foods markets? Supermarkets? Are you selling to restaurants, delis, or other food preparation establishments? Are you selling online? In catalogs? At local farm stands? Who’s your competition? Where do they sell? How does your product differ from theirs? Why should a customer purchase your product instead of theirs? What is your value proposition?

When you have answers to these questions (and many more) then you can begin to understand your market. Understanding your market helps you to understand how best to sell to it. Often times in the food business (particularly in craft foods), customers don’t just want to buy a product to eat. They’re looking for a higher value. Can you sell them that higher value? Can you sell them history and tradition? Can you sell them nutrition and health? Can you sell them a story, or a feeling, or an idea? Can you sell them a way of thinking? A way of life? A community? The business that can sell these things is the business that succeeds.

The third point speaks to the bottom line. So many new entrepreneurs jump into the food business out of passion and idealism, but they forget the business part in “food business.” It is a business, and don’t forget it. If you can’t turn a profit or manage cashflow, then you won’t be in business very long. From an operations standpoint, efficient production is profitable production. So focus on efficiency.

Inefficient production includes things like making too many different products in order to appeal to every taste instead of focusing on and maximizing the big sellers (Pareto Principle again), using wildly different production methods for different products when you could combine and/or streamline the processes instead (i.e. completely different recipes for different products instead of using just one or two base recipes that can then have specialty ingredients simply added to them in order to create different products), and poorly designed production environments that don’t allow for economy of motion (if you’re running around all over the place like a chicken with its head cut off then you may need to improve your floor layout). Those are just a few examples of inefficient production.

Be especially careful how you grow and never lose sight of your margins. Many new business owners are too quick to accept large accounts in an effort to expand their business – especially if they’re struggling. But far too often they come to regret that decision, particularly smaller craft producers. Large operations are built to benefit from economies of scale, but small local producers often struggle due to limitations in batch size, work space, and available labor. So accepting large accounts results in more batches which results in more labor. As labor costs go up, profit margins go down. The end result is a lot more work for just a little bit more money. Quality tends to go down, capacity gets maxed out for little added profit, and cashflow gets tied up in additional inventory. Now you’re stuck, unable to pay bills, and unable to take on new or more profitable accounts. Avoid that situation like the plague.

It’s pretty simple really; a dollar saved is a dollar kept whereas a dollar earned is but a dime kept. That’s margin. Efficiency saves you dollars. Responsible cost cutting saves you dollars (so long as it doesn’t come at the cost of quality or efficiency). And intelligent growth saves you dollars. If you can produce efficiently, earn a profit, and effectively manage growth and cash flow, then you’ll do just fine. 

Health and wellness professionals are recommending food and drink to aid chronic health conditions with a centuries-old cooking legacy – fermented dairy.

“Fermentation is back. In fact, we have over 10,000 years of fermentation history and we aren’t done because, right now, it is a hot culinary and nutrition topic,” said Andrew Dole, chef, dietitian and owner of BodyFuelSPN. “Today, fermented foods have found a resurging popularity. The combination is based in the unique taste profile, the artisan aura, and the health benefits that have secured fermented foods in the top spots with trend spotters.”

Dole spoke at the “Get Cultured on Fermented Dairy Foods” webinar with National Dairy Council representatives Sally Cummins and Chris Cifelli. Using independent, clinical studies, the trio highlighted how fermented dairy – especially dairy with the “nutrition powerhouse” of milk – can boost gut health, decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Fermented Food Just as Important as Fiber

Fiber is the shining star of the health world to aid the complex gut microbiome, but fermented food and drink are equally as important said Cifelli, PhD, vice president of Nutrition Research for the National Dairy Council.

“When we think about food, we think about fiber and we know the benefits of fiber in terms of helping our microbiota, but we also don’t think about getting those live and active cultures the same way and we really should,” he said.

The microorganisms that come from fermented foods are just as critical as fiber. He pointed out the Live & Active Culture seal as an important indicator of how to find dairy products with good bacteria. That seal – a voluntary seal by the National Yogurt Association – identifies a yogurt product that contains at least 10 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacturing. Some yogurt brands are heat treated after fermentation, killing any good bacteria. The seal is “the industry validation of the presence and activity of significant levels of live cultures,” according to the National Yogurt Association.

Fermented Dairy as Preventative Food

The human digestive tract contains 100 trillion bacterial cells. But modern practices like sanitation, antibiotics, processed food, c-section births and baby formula use have altered microbiota composition. Cifelli said scientists still don’t understand whether disease is a cause or consequence of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria (known as dysbiosis).

Fermented dairy foods, though, are linked to numerous positive health benefits. As plant-based milk products become increasingly popular, Cifelli noted the research all studied dairy milk products. He called milk “a foundational ingredient in all fermented dairy.” The essential nutrients in milk give it a unique health profile, the reason the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three daily servings of dairy food.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease – two of the major disease plaguing Americans today – both have beneficial health outcomes when a patient consumes fermented dairy products.

Diabetes:

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Consuming more dairy products reduces risk for Type 2 Diabetes by 7%. Eating 80 grams of yogurt daily compared to 0 grams of yogurt daily reduces risk for Type 2 Diabetes by 14%.
  • PLOS One (Public Library of Science): Eating 30 grams of cheese daily and 50 grams of yogurt daily reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 6%.
  • BMC Medicine: One serving of yogurt a day is associated with a 17% reduced risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease:

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: A high daily intake of regular-fat cheese for 12 weeks did not alter LDL cholesterol levels of metabolic syndrome, both risk marks of cardiovascular disease risk.
  • European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Cheese consumption reduces the risk of: cardiovascular disease by 10%, coronary heart disease by 14% and stroke by 10%.
  • Journal of Hypertension: Higher total dairy intake (3-6 servings a day), especially in the form of yogurt (at least 5 servings a week), associated with a lower risk of incidence of high blood pressure in middle-aged and older adult men and women.
  • American Journal of Hypertension: Hypertensive men and women who consumed 2 servings per week of yogurt, especially while eating a healthy diet, were at a lower risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Cifelli called the studies “significant. He added: “there’s been a huge body of evidence looking at dairy guidelines and (diabetes and cardiovascular disease) risk. … We’re really scratching the surface of what (fermented foods) means for health in the long run.”

Incorporating Fermented Foods

Dole, a chef, said you’re “bringing science to the table when it comes to fermented dairy foods.” Fermented foods enhance food by providing an increased concentration of vitamins, adding delicious flavor and increased texture. He shared multiple recipes using yogurt. Yogurt can be used for dip, spread, sauces, dressings, soups and marinade.

“Yogurt is a culinary powerhouse, from a chef’s perspective. We’re always looking for what has the most bang for its buck in versatility, and yogurt is ready-made everything,” he said.

“The (yogurt) fermentation process from a culinary perspective that creates that lactic acid, it works to tenderize meat. Indians have used it in their tandoor for a really long time. Another reason, the sugar caramelizes…and it completely changes the flavor profile and the color. And we get the unique taste of that yogurt tang, it imparts a different balance and depth, which is something home cooks can struggle to get.”

Health and wellness professionals are recommending preventing chronic health conditions with a centuries-old cooking legacy – fermented dairy.

“Fermentation is back. In fact, we have over 10,000 years of fermentation history and we aren’t done because, right now, it is a hot culinary and nutrition topic,” said Andrew Dole, chef, dietitian and owner of BodyFuelSPN. “Today, fermented foods have found a resurging popularity. The combination is based in the unique taste profile, the artisan aura, and the health benefits that have secured fermented foods in the top spots with trend spotters.”

Dole spoke at the “Get Cultured on Fermented Dairy Foods” webinar with National Dairy Council representatives Sally Cummins and Chris Cifelli. Using independent, clinical studies, the trio highlighted how fermented dairy – especially dairy with the “nutrition powerhouse” of milk – can boost gut health, decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

*Article published in full on 11/13

As the demand for natural products grows in a world where chemically-filled food is readily available at the grocery store, is there enough natural product to go around? And what about flavors like vanilla, which mostly come from a compound extracted from the vanilla bean instead of true natural flavor? An article in Forbes says: “And just as demand for “real” vanilla is increasing, production is falling. With demand on the upswing, trade in the world’s most popular flavor is way out of balance, and getting worse.” The writer suggests biomanufacturing may be a solution. By using fermentation techniques, biomanufacturing company Conagen has cultivated a microbe that takes glucose and turns it into vanillin. “Fermented vanillin is the exact same molecule you would get from a vanilla bean. Fermentation has the added advantage of producing pure, reliable ingredients. And because the fermented product is equivalent to what you get from nature, it can be labeled natural flavoring,” according to the article.

Read more (Forbes)

Whole Foods list of the top 10 food trends for 2020 includes fermented flavors — for kids. One of their food trends — Rethinking the Kids’ Menu — notes that parents are introducing their kids to more adventurous foods. “Food brands are taking notice for the next generation – possibly our first true “foodies” – expanding the menu beyond nostalgic foods with better-for-you ingredients and organic chicken nuggets.” The article notes kids are eating foods that are fermented, spicy and/or rich in umami flavors.

Read more (Whole Foods Market)

If just 10% of the population chooses to eat fermented foods, could the food industry be disrupted? Fermentation guru Sally Fallon says: absolutely.

“With fermented foods, you could get rid of all this huge medical industry selling you antacids and digestive aids, and this huge industry that’s grown up around IBS and celiac disease. We can destroy that industry by eating the right foods, and that means eating fermented foods,” Fallon says. The author of cookbook and nutrition guide “Nourishing Traditions” is often credited with bringing ancestral diet methods back into vogue.

Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, founder of A Campaign for Real Milk and author of the new book “Nourishing Diets,” discussed fermentation during The Fermentation Summit. Below, selected highlights from Fallon’s interview with Paul Seelhorst, host of the summit.

Seelhorst: Tell us more about yourself and how you got into the fermentation topic.

Fallon: Well, when I was writing “Nourishing Traditions,” I wanted to make sure I was really describing traditional diets and not something people just think they are. I was very fortunate to find a book in French about fermented foods. I had never read about these before, lacto-fermented foods.

Recipes were very complicated – keep them at certain temperature for this many hours, then switch temperature for another few hours.

I kind of took this principle and worked out a way that was easy and fool-proof, using glass jars, we use way of innocuous so they don’t go bad while they’re starting to ferment.

Tried all these recipes, experiments, made children try – kids have funny stories about trying all these

The neat thing about fermentation is that it is a practice that’s traditional. When you ask traditional people why they do this, they wouldn’t know what to say or how to answer you, they just do it. But it totally accords to modern science. We have seen a complete paradigm shift in the last 20 years. In the past, bacteria were evil and they attacked us and made us sick. Now we realize that bacteria are our best friends, and we need at least 6 pounds of bacteria lining our guts in order to be healthy.

The way traditional people made sure that they had plenty of this good bacteria restocking everyday was to eat these raw fermented foods full of this healthy bacteria. They ate them in small amounts with the rest of their meals. This is how they did it, they had really healthy guts. We know when you have a healthy gut, everything goes better in life. You feel better, you digest better, you have more energy.

I recently wrote this book called “Nourishing Diets” which is about diets all over the world and what really struck me was the fermented foods. Every single culture in the world without exception eats fermented foods. Now some of these foods are pretty weird – like fermented seal flippers. Africa is the land of fermented foods. Almost everything they eat in traditional culture is fermented in Africa. They’ll kill an animals and ferment every part of the animal — the blood, the bones, the hoofs, the skin, the organ meats, the fat, the urine. Everything is fermented when they kill an animal.

Seelhorst: That’s pretty easy because its warm?

Fallon: Its warm, the bacteria like it. They have a saying – a rich man needs 10 animals to feed the wedding feast because he feeds everything fresh, but a poor man can feed the same feast with one animals because he ferments everything

Seelhorst: Do you know what they make out of urine, like a probiotic lemonade?

Fallon: I don’t know, they didn’t say. There’s two wonderful books  on fermented foods – one is the “Handbook on Indigenous Fermented Foods” by Keith Steinkraus. He was at Cornell and is retired now. I fortunately talked to him while I was working on “Nourishing Traditions” and what he shows, he has a bunch of students from all over the world, especially Africa, and they do studies on the food. For example they take a food like cabbage and they’d measure the Vitamin c and the amino acids then they’d ferment it and measure it again. The vitamins goes way up – some 10-fold increase – and the amino acid increase.”

The other thing fermentation does with grains and meats, it releasees the minerals so they’re easily available.

There’s another wonderful book called “The Indigenous Fermented Foods of the Sudan: A Study in African Food and Nutrition.”  The author was a student of Dr. Steinkraus. He reminds me a lot of Weston Price – he’s going to these traditional people not to, you know, lord over them and tell them how superior Western culture is. He goes with hat in hand saying “You guys have the secret here. You know how to eat; you know how to prepare food. Not only that, these foods can be done at the homestead, they can be taken to the market and sold, they are a good income for millions of people.” So he’s not pushing the industrial system, he’s pushing artisan food.” I just thought what a wonderful man, how humble. That’s how we need to come to these traditions – not how to make millions of dollars on them, but how to make a decent living for thousands of people and provide a healthy food for millions of people.”

Seelhorst: What I also like about fermentation is the sustainability aspect. People can make food sustainability and do not need fridges to keep the food good and not get it moldy.

Fallon: Foods like grains are impossible for humans to digest unless they are fermented. So many people can’t do grains, they’re sensitive to gluten. But when you ferment, as in the case of a sourdough bread or soaking your oats or pressed cakes all over the Southeast and Africa, these are fermented grains pressed into biscuits, this takes a food where most of the nutrients are unavailable to us and makes it readily available.

Seelhorst: Nowadays, people have fancy equipment to ferment food. How did people ferment food back in the day?

Fallon: Usually they did it in large terracotta pots. And the culture was sort of in the holes of the pots, they didn’t have to add a culture, it was just hanging out there. When I started this in the late 1990s, this book I read in French was talking about these big pots. You couldn’t get these pots in the states when I was writing this book. I thought this isn’t going to work, the pots are heavy they’re expensive and they make a very large quantity which you may not be able to use. I thought we need a different method for the modern house wife or modern father. I thought “Let’s try to do this in Mason jars, the big quart jars with the wide top. Instead of having the culture hanging out in the holes, we didn’t have that. You had to add something in your culture, so that’s where we came up with adding whey. You have your cabbage or pickle or carrots or whatever it is you want to ferment, you put them in a bowl, you toss them with salt and a little bit of whey. You toss them, pound them a little bit, push them in the jar, push down heavily so the liquid comes and covers the top, this is an anerobic fermentation. Leave it at room temperature for a few days and its done.

Seelhorst: Where do people get the whey from?

Fallon: We teach people how to make it. You start with yogurt or with raw milk or something fermented like yogurt or kefir and you poor it through a fine cloth and the whey will drip out. From a quart of yogurt, you get about two and a half cups of whey. You’re only using a little bit at a time – a tablespoon or two – so that will keep a long time in the fridge. That’s your culture. There are other cultures, too. People are selling powders in culture. The only thing I would warn you is don’t try to do this without salt. Because the only time I heard about someone getting sick from fermented foods is when they didn’t use salt.

Seelhorst: Simply put – what happens during fermentation.

Fallon: What happens during fermentation is lactic acid is created by the fermentation. And in some foods, the lactic acid is already there. Like cabbage, cabbage juice is full of lactic acid. This makes whatever you’re fermenting get sour, it lowers the pH to under 4 and no pathogens can exist at a pH under 4. It makes the foods very safe and they don’t spoil after that. Lactic acid is a preservative just like alcohol is a preservative, but lactic acid doesn’t make you drunk. So, at the same time, these bacteria that are fermenting in there, they’re creating vitamins. Vitamin C, b vitamins. They’re breaking down what we call anti nutrients that block the simulation of minerals. They’re creating digestive enzymes that help you digest your food. The interesting thing is these bacteria and these enzymes do get through the stomach, they do get through and are passed into the small intestines where they are really useful. We’re not sure how that happens, they’re buffered in some way, but we do know these bacteria do get through

Seelhorst: How do you think fermented foods can fit into a modern diet.

Fallon: You can include them every day. One of my favorites foods is a fermented beet juice, I first noticed it in Germany, it’s called beet kvass. I have that every morning for breakfast. Sauerkraut is a really easy way, that’s the way most people do it, they just have sauerkraut with their meal. And then the fermented dairy foods like yogurt or kefir, those are wonderful fermented foods. You have a little bit with every meal.

Seelhorst: Are those the oldest fermented foods that we ate?

Fallon: In Europe, yes. We don’t have a tradition of eating fermented bones or fermented blood. But we definitely had fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, that dates to Roman times at least. And also fermented fish, the fish sauce, the universal seasoning, they found it in the ruins of Pompei where they were making it.

Seelhorst: What’s the difference between industrialized and self-made fermented food.

Fallon: once you industrialize something, they start to take shortcuts because they want to lower the cost. Typically, what they’ll do is eat something. So they’ll heat the sauerkraut and package it in plastic bags or something horrible or they’ll can it. So it will last forever and be shelf stable. Typically, the industry has not done genuine fermented foods because its not something that lends itself to an industrialized process. The things we consider true fermented foods in the united states, they’re being made by small companies.

Now the one exception to that might be yogurt. Yogurt is big business, it’s made by the big conglomerates. I would never even eat that yogurt because apparently the cultures are not even any good and the milk has been pasteurized.

Seelhorst: What’s your favorite fermented food.

Fallon: Kombucha. I make my own kombucha. I have a 30-day kombucha, I call it kombucha like fine champagne. It gets these tiny, tiny bubbles in it, it gets really, really sour and a little thick. I also make sauerkraut. It’s interesting – I’m a lot busier than I was when I wrote my book, I don’t have as much time as I used to have, but I still make my own fermented food. I do carrots and cabbage, I’m just about to pull some carrots and make some fermented cabbage.

I forgot to mention cheese. And cheese. Cheese is a fermented food. Here on our farm, we make cheese. I’d have to say cheese is my favorite fermented food. And also, traditionally made salami. A charcuterie is fermented. They hung these sausages up and fermented them. So they are fermented foods, they’re full of bacteria, good bacteria. They should be kind of sour, they’re very good for you.

Seelhorst: Do you want to add anything for people that just found the Fermentation Summit and may not know what fermentation is, they want to try it

Fallon: I will say this – you don’t have to make it yourself, there’s a lot available, in the states there’s now hundreds of artisan producers making sauerkraut. I love to see that – I love to seen an individual be able to start a little business without a big capital investment and make food that’s really good for people and make a decent living. Here on our farm, we have a store and we sell sauerkraut made by a Russian lady who has just made a wonderful living doing this. I love to see that. Just like artisan cheese. I love see small production of cheese; I love small production of fermented goods. Bread is another one, we now have a lot of artisan bread makers. This is the future of food – its sustainable food, its moral food, its food that makes you healthy, its good for the economy, it keeps the money in your community. I think people need to realize that every morsel of food they put in their mouth is a political act. It’s a decision they make. What are you going to support? Are you going to support Monsanto and Kraft and Unilever? These huge corporations who don’t care about you at all, all they care about is making a profit. Or are you going to support local artisan producers? People just like you making a decent living and providing a healthy food. And you’re also deciding whether you’re going to put something healthy or unhealthy in your body and in your children’s bodies. The traditional cultures, they had no choices in what they ate. They ate what was there, they ate according to their traditions. Today, we are not traditional people. We have left all that behind. We have to think what we eat, everything we eat is a choice. They didn’t have a choice, they just had healthy food. Now we always have this choice between healthy artisan food and unhealthy corporate food. So what kind of society do you want to live in?