Wednesday 26 July 2023

Fermentation Course

 Last weekend I went on a fermentation course. And although I do lots of fermenting it's always great to expand my knowledge even more. 

Most years mum buys a course for us both to attend and this one was "Further fermentation". It was lovely of her to book that as she has no interest in fermented foods, but we'd been to the venue before at Harts Barn Cookery School on a course in 2019 called "forage and Feast" and it was lovely to spend the day together - mum even treated me to lunch at the café afterwards.

A strawberry "cheong" 

I was really chuffed when she booked it as I saw it was being lead by Rob Gould, someone I had followed on Facebook for a good number of years. Thinking about it, it might have been his blog that got me to try fermenting wild garlic for the first time. 

The course didn't disappoint. Rob and the chef Joe were hugely passionate about fermented food. There were two other guys on the course who worked in an experimental food kitchen (making sour doughs and other foods), so we were all really into our food. There was a real buzz in the room as we talked about things we'd made and tasted. Later mum said it was like we were talking a different language! 

Joe on the Left, Rob on the right

They brought with them lots of things for us to try and lots of fresh local ingredients for us to make a few things out of. 

We got to try some different kimchi's, made from just a few ingredients, one was made from just radish and carrots as the base, another was made from strawberries - no way could you tell that's what they had been. We also tried whole cloves of raw fermented garlic where the whole heads had been under a brine for months (punchy), mum abstained from tasting that (she hates garlic). 

Kimchi strawberries! 

We each made a few jars of kimchi, using the veg they had got from local growers, radish, carrot, kale, spring onions, plus a few more unusual things like peaches. 

We also tried some different fermented drinks. Some fermented with the left overs you'd normally just chuck in the compost bin, like banana skins and the outside of pineapple. The other was a kombucha. I think I must be late to the game with this, as I know it's a popular drink but somehow it had slipped me by. I really liked it though, it's basically a sweetened fermented tea, and if you bottle it up and leave it for a few days it will carbonate as well. 

We also tried some different kvass, which is a savoury fermented drink. I think I'm used to my drinks being sweet as I've never taken to this, I even made some of my own years ago and just didn't liek the slightly salty, savoury taste. 

We got to take home some of this kombucha as a starter for making our own (mine is brewing on the side in the kitchen as I type this). We also made some cultures butter and yoghurt as well, neither of which I can eat, but the wife and children can enjoy instead. I do fancy making some yoghurt again as haven't done that in years and I should be fine with goats milk yoghurt, it's just cows milk that upsets me. 

They ended talking about more unusual fermented foods. The fermented hardboiled eggs in a beetroot kvass was really different. It had been fermenting for a few weeks and had a strong savoury taste, the texture was just that of feta cheese. It wasn't rubbery like a hard boiled egg is normally at all, you could genuinely use this on top of salad - it would certainly be a talking point!

The other was a jar of a 2% salt brine that had veg peelings and scraps in. This was, in affect, a fermented stock. It tasted just like a stock as well, full on umami favour, but with none of the boiling. I think it would be a great addition to soup and stews, you'd just need to adjust the seasoning to account for the brine. Certainly something I'll be trying the in the future, I'm a big believer that to have a good soup or stew you need a good cooking liquid. 

It was a great course, only about 4 hours long, but they squeeze in so much I came away with my mind buzzing on all the things I wanted to try out and I feel a little bit more confident about experimenting more as well! 

Who else loves their fermented foods? 

What's your favourite to make? 


  1. What a lovely present from your mum. I have no idea what fermented food tastes like but I quite fancy having a go. I've looked at a few recipes online and the only thing that puts me off is the milky look of some of the brines and the froth that needs to be removed. Your beetroot and cabbage doesn't seem to have any of that and it looks quite nice. But what does it actually taste like, is it like pickled gherkins, that sort of thing? because I love those!

    1. Fermented food tastes amazing, like savoury and has almost a slight tingle at times and a slight sour note. It very much feels like we should be eating it. The ones I've had good success with haven't used brines yet. But if you do a brine then the salt content wants to be about 2% of the total weight.

  2. Other than kimchi, I haven't experienced a lot of fermented foods in my life. But this year we had a bountiful cabbage crop and got tired of eating in stir fried, stewed, slawed and other ways so we are trying our hand at fermenting the last of it for sauerkraut. Thus far, it is only three days into the process.

    I can't imagine how strawberry kimchi tastes like but I would certainly give it a taste along with all the others you described.

    1. Strawberry kimchi just tasted like kimchi, it was bizarre really. Maybe slightly sweeter and mushy.
      My tip for the top when it comes to sauerkraut is to add a bit of ginger and garlic. Doesn't need to be much but just lifts the taste so much. A husband wife team showed me who were making ferments semi pro, unfortunately their business wouldn't scale to support them as their ferments were incredible.


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