Fermentation Talk

I’ve been fermenting food and beverages for so long, it feels like I am fermented to my core. I teach all sorts of food related topics and for the first time, have been asked to speak to a couple of groups of food bank volunteers who work in the teaching gardens about fermentation as an alternative form of food preservation. I can talk all day about fermentation. But my question to you all - If you aren’t all that well versed on fermentation, and are a gardener or just curious about it - what questions would you have that I could address in my talks? I only have an hour and would like to make it as relevant as possible to the folks…

How to tell good mold from bad/dangerous. Ditto for yeasts, if there are bad yeasts.


Yes - people are afraid they will poison themselves with home fermented foods. As opposed to poisoning themselves with commercially produced chemical-laden foods. But that’s another hour…

First thing would be safety.

Types of mold, temperature, humidity, chances of being sick will be first and foremost on everyone’s mind.

Then I guess “quick wins” would be appreciated. Is there anything you could ferment easily that can transform things you would throw out from your fridge to interesting food items ? (something like sauerkraut )

Finally I’d end my speech with a fermentation wet dream. Home made cheese or italian cured meats. An interesting project for them to aim for.

So, basically, in one hour:

*Here’s what you have to know to make sure you don’t die
*Here are some quick wins you can do with your everyday fridge
*Here’s some incredible stuff you can do with fermentation.

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Apple cider, even the pasteurized storebought stuff, will start to fizz after a couple of weeks in the fridge. When that happens, I either use it in a sausage or squash soup, or boil and freeze it for future use in cooking. But I have always wondered if, left alone, it would turn into usable vinegar. Orange juice ferments, too - when this happens, I kick myself, then throw it out because I don’t know if it’s safe, or usable.

Thanks for your suggestions. I incorporated your ideas. The talks went well. The first group was smaller and had little experience, so it was more of a lecture format with lots of great questions. The second, larger group had some people with lots of experience, so I basically led a discussion with the group filling in with their knowledge. One guy even brought his sauerkraut crock, filled with sauerkraut to share. It was delicious!


Using unpasteurized apple juice from the farmers’ market, I made hard cider first by doing a spontaneous fermentation using whatever wild yeasts were in the air, and finishing it with some champagne yeast. It was good!