I read about this residency program in a newspaper article about three years ago, then after attending the program, one of our members mentioned it to me about 6 months ago. From the second I learned that Sandor Katz offered this fermentation program at his private residence in Liberty, Tennessee, of course I wanted to apply!
Let’s rewind the clock 8 years: I was a Doctor of Chiropractic turned stay-at-home mom…and I got the fermenting bug! Literally! After years of listening to patients complain about their myriad of digestive issues, I started introducing the idea of fermenting vegetables and drinks to them. I initially learned how to ferment from reading Sandor Katz’ book, Wild Fermentation (2003), then delved even deeper into the subject with his second book, The Art of Fermentation (2012). I was so enamored with his simple approach to this age-old method of food preservation. He is considered “the” fermentation revivalist and has been lovingly given the nickname Sandor Kraut.
Now fast forward to November 2, 2016…I boarded a plane at John Wayne Airport here in Orange County, CA and set out to learn as much as I could from the man who first sparked the fermentation fire in me. Arriving in Nashville, I was met by Spiky, Sandor’s assistant who kindly drove me to Sandor’s home. On the 2 hour ride, Spiky filled me in on how the week was going to go. I learned about Short Mountain where Sandor lives, and that 13 students from all around the US and even a few from Europe and Mexico, were accepted into the program this session.
One of the many highlights of my week was a “field trip” we took to a biodynamic farm in Red Boiling Springs, TN. Jeff Poppen welcomed us to his farm, better known in the area as “The Barefoot Farmer” and yes, he was barefoot. He taught us how he grows his vegetables with no pesticides or herbicides by growing synergistic herbs and grains with his crops. His method is truly amazing, and it works! We spent the afternoon picking 600 pounds of turnips and daikon radish that we piled into the back of Sandor’s pickup truck to ferment the next day. What an amazing demonstration of teamwork! 16 of us washed, shredded, chopped, and salted 600 pounds of veggies in about 4 hours, perfectly orchestrated by Sandor himself. We packed a 200-quart vessel in his root cellar nearly to the top! He’ll have fermented veggies to eat and share for about a year. One interesting thing I learned was that adding whole vegetables along with the shredded ones makes for an amazing treat! Sandor likes to dig one of the whole daikon out to slice and present on a platter for parties and special gatherings.
Over the course of the week we not only learned about fermenting vegetables, but were also introduced to many different processes of fermenting like miso and tempeh; amazake, a fermented rice porridge; sourdough and buckwheat breads; dosa, an Indian ferment made with blended rice and lentils into a pancake-type batter; lightly fermented beverages like kombucha, kvass and sweet potato fly; Ethiopian injera bread; mead, a honey wine; gochujang, a Korean fermented red chili paste; and so much more! The best part was that my fellow classmates were very knowledgeable that I learned so much from them too. We all brought ferments to share with each other and had an amazing kraut bar at every meal.
I am looking forward to sharing what I learned with all of you through our series of classes at Fermentation Farm. Watch our monthly newsletter for new classes! And if we are lucky enough to have Sandor stop by for a book signing I will let you know. He is an amazing person with such a passion for teaching others. My experience at his home is something I will never forget.
Keep learning and fermenting!
Yasmine Mason, DC