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Food Fermentation at the FAIR

By Ilene White Freedman

Tags: fermentation, MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR, food preservation, Maryland, Ilene White Freedman,

At the 2015 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I attended a talk by Sandor Katz on an introduction to the fermentation of vegetables, and checked out some of the cool new vendors who have joined the fermentation revitalization.

Sandor began by saying that we might think of canning as old-fashioned, but its a relatively new form of preservation, invented in 1815 or so in France. Fermentation is a much older, ancient process that predates recorded history. Sandor calls himself a fermentation revivalist. He says, people think of biodiversity as about whales and wolves but “no less important is the biodiversity inside of us." In fact, “fermented foods are the embodiment of biodiversity."

The revival seems to be going well, as the number of fermentation vendors, workshops, and books at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are growing quickly. They are a creative, energized lot, the fermentation revivalists.

Last year, Tara and her fermentation bus, Fermentation on Wheels, attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. Fermentation on Wheels, established in 2013, is a traveling culinary research hub with a mission to harvest & preserve, encourage sustainability, and teach fermentation. Tara travels around in her bus and teaches and demos, sharing the word and the starters for all kinds of ferments.

This year, my local friends from Maryland, Rachel and Luke of The Sweet Farm, brought their spankin' new fermentation truck to vend at the fair. It has that old-timey old truck feel, but its a decked out refrigeration truck with pull down wooden bars, chalkboard walls and three fermented soda taps for three flavors: ginger beer, lemon lime and blood orange. They also sold brine pickles on a stick and dilly beans, along with their line of Sweet Farm krauts. The Sweet Farm has been going strong since 2011.

Fermented products need to be kept at the earth's temperature or lower, ideally around 55 degrees. They can be refrigerated or kept in cold storage, like a basement or cellar. Sauerkraut at the store is processed to be in the jar, on the pantry shelf, so it loses its beneficial properties. Health food stores sometimes sell refrigerated fermented products, like Bubbie's Pickles.

Sandor says you really need to make fermented foods yourself to get the healthy benefits that our bodies need. If you are lucky, there might be a local small business making and selling small batch fermented products near you. They can keep you stocked when you can't make your own, and provide valuable expertise in the revival of fermentation.

I would say Sandor Katz has been an exceptional revivalist. His books are considered must-have guides to fermenting food for good health and easy, effective preservation. Since his first book Wild Fermentation came out in 2003, he has been educating people about the benefits and easy methods of fermentation. Sandor's newest book is The Art of Fermentation. His books have been guiding me with my at-home pickling and kim chi making these past few years.

Fermenting vegetables is easy to do. Search Mother Earth News for many resources, including a couple blog posts I wrote about fermentation: Sarah's Farm Chi, Make Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles. You can also sign up for the new Food Preservation newsletter on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Photos by Ilene White Freedman

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to

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