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.

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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!

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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!

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr