Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fermentation students, sauerkraut pack ANB Hall


July 19, 2018

Author and fermentation expert Sandor Katz consults Joanie Wagner Saturday at the ANB/ANS Hall. Katz hosted a presentation and workshop to teach over 50 Haines residents how to ferment food and the benefits of fermenting dishes in one's home. The group spent several hours chopping and mixing vegetables to pack into jars and came away with freshly made sauerkraut. Natalie Helms photo.

Haines ANB Hall turned into a kitchen Saturday as about 50 people learned the basics of fermenting food.

With author and fermentation expert Sandor Katz, participants took home fresh sauerkraut as the fruit of their efforts.

Katz, author of popular book "Wild Fermentation" published in 2003, made Haines a stop in a worldwide tour to teach people about fermented foods.

Fermentation is the process of bacteria or yeasts breaking down carbohydrates in food into alcohol or organic acids. Alcoholic drinks like beer and cider are fermented. Some widely consumed fermented foods include olives, yogurt, vegetables or fish, which can enrich the diet with protein and essential amino acids. Fermenting can also preserve food and develop new flavors and textures.

In the three-hour presentation and workshop, Katz taught participants the history of fermentation, different kinds of fermentation, how it works, three different ways of starting, the benefits of fermenting food and common ingredients.

When asked how he became so interested in fermentation, Katz said he fell into it.

"I loved pickles as a kid. I was drawn to the lactic acid flavor," he said. He said he started a macrobiotic diet in his 20s which made him think about healthy eating, and he started fermenting food when he started gardening.

Participants applied the lessons from Katz's presentation by chopping ingredients like cabbage, kale, carrots, beets, parsley, radishes and dill. Patty Kermoian and Kristin Hathhorn brought vegetables from their own gardens to add to the concoction.

They then mixed, salted and squeezed the vegetables, packing them tight into glass jars to sit in the juices. Katz said depending on personal preference for taste, the fermentation process can last anywhere from three days to three months. He recommended everyone taste their sauerkraut in every stage of the fermentation process to experience how different bacteria can affect the vegetables. Putting the jar in the refrigerator slows down fermentation.

Sharon Svenson said she'd tried some fermenting before but felt her confidence increasing to do more with Katz's guidance. Vija Pelekis, who attended with her four-month-old son Conan, echoed Svenson, saying the workshop made her feel more comfortable fermenting food at home.

Event organizer Mardell Gunn said she liked that Katz didn't provide the group with recipes, but rather gave them a framework for how to start fermenting foods.

"He gives the concept and you put in what you have," Gunn said. "He brought it down to a scale that is very approachable for just about anything."

Although before the presentation, fermenting seemed like a complicated process that required fancy equipment and a significant time commitment, she said afterward, "Everybody walked away from the workshop saying, 'I can do that.'"


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