FERMENTATION RESIDENCY - Sandor Katz

FERMENTATION RESIDENCY - Sandor Katz

STUDIES WITH THE KING OF FERMENTATION

 Sandor periodically checking and re-distributing the koji. Here on barley. We used the barley Koji for making Miso - and Rice Koji for Sake. 

Sandor periodically checking and re-distributing the koji. Here on barley. We used the barley Koji for making Miso - and Rice Koji for Sake. 

Last month I had the pleasure to partake in a week-long Fermentation Residency with Sandor Katz. Who’s Sandor Katz, you ask? “One of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene” writes The New York Times… or “The Johnny Appleseed of Fermentation” as referred to by Michael Pollan. Whatever that means? I’m ESL. In any case, Sandor Katz is one of the most renown voices world-wide in the renaissance of fermentation and cultured foods. He is a James Beard award-winning author for his incredibly expansive and detailed book “The Art of Fermentation”. 

 Morning lesson - Typically all lessons took place in Sandor's kitchen, where each of us took turns getting our hands messy and dirty.

Morning lesson - Typically all lessons took place in Sandor's kitchen, where each of us took turns getting our hands messy and dirty.

 The house is in the countryside of Tennessee. As I drove from Nashville, I had no idea the state could be so picturesque. Rolling hills, with the low afternoon golden light touching herds of goats, streams, beautiful horses... 

The house is in the countryside of Tennessee. As I drove from Nashville, I had no idea the state could be so picturesque. Rolling hills, with the low afternoon golden light touching herds of goats, streams, beautiful horses... 

 Sauerkraut! Even more vividly colored in person!

Sauerkraut! Even more vividly colored in person!

Sandor would probably shudder a little at my boasting of his credentials. In truth, he is a very humble, generous, passionate human. He welcomed over a dozen of us from all parts of the world, to essentially take over his country home for a week at Walnut Ridge, in Canon County, Tennessee.

 Making Yogurt! This particular Romanian strain was given to Sandor by a friend, who may have taken some home after dining the classic Yonah Schimmel's, open since 1910 in NYC.

Making Yogurt! This particular Romanian strain was given to Sandor by a friend, who may have taken some home after dining the classic Yonah Schimmel's, open since 1910 in NYC.

 Since yogurt cultures can be kept alive with the making of each new batch, they passed down through generations.. who knows how far this one dates back!

Since yogurt cultures can be kept alive with the making of each new batch, they passed down through generations.. who knows how far this one dates back!

 Although I pride myself in my excessive cookbook collection, it cannot compete with Sandor's. One of the perks of this residency was nerding out on afternoon breaks in his cozy but extensive library. With sections ranging from Microbial Natural Histories (above), to Grain, Dairy Fermentation, Food Politics, Food History... you name it!

Although I pride myself in my excessive cookbook collection, it cannot compete with Sandor's. One of the perks of this residency was nerding out on afternoon breaks in his cozy but extensive library. With sections ranging from Microbial Natural Histories (above), to Grain, Dairy Fermentation, Food Politics, Food History... you name it!

 Blue Water Kefir! Water Kefir, like Dairy Kefir, is also made form grains. They are not the same, and not interchangeable, though. This one was made with dried pea blossoms, I believe. Not often do you see blue naturally occurring in food!

Blue Water Kefir! Water Kefir, like Dairy Kefir, is also made form grains. They are not the same, and not interchangeable, though. This one was made with dried pea blossoms, I believe. Not often do you see blue naturally occurring in food!

It was immersive and intensive. From morning to night, we started new fermentation projects each day on various subjects. In between the daily hands-on lessons, there was the beautiful communal effort to create all the meals. Ohhhh the meals... without a doubt we all had bloated bellies by the end from over-eating such healthy, flavorful food, AND from hyper-inoculating our bodies with all sorts of beneficial organisms!

 Very similar in how I compose my meals... meals here were like a little sampler of fresh, healthy, simple ingredients - accompanied by at least one fermented element!

Very similar in how I compose my meals... meals here were like a little sampler of fresh, healthy, simple ingredients - accompanied by at least one fermented element!

 We all shared a fascination with the food and bacteria on a microsopic level and got to play with some of the cultures under the microscope. In fact, Constanza, above, is a Microbiologist!  

We all shared a fascination with the food and bacteria on a microsopic level and got to play with some of the cultures under the microscope. In fact, Constanza, above, is a Microbiologist!  

For those of you who share a fanatical curiosity for all things-fermented; who are first in line to eat food teeming with beneficial bacterial colonies, do roll over the images for captions to delve a little deeper into the experience. 

 After soaking and cooking grains (in this case black rice and chickpeas I believe), just until al dente.. they are combined and left to cool to a certain temperature before adding Tempeh Starter and commencing the fermentation process. Tempeh, for me was one of the highlights, since I really want to make my own! Nothing like home-made. 

After soaking and cooking grains (in this case black rice and chickpeas I believe), just until al dente.. they are combined and left to cool to a certain temperature before adding Tempeh Starter and commencing the fermentation process. Tempeh, for me was one of the highlights, since I really want to make my own! Nothing like home-made. 

 Our beautiful Tempeh, bound together by beautiful mold! The mell of it was so nutty, mmmm!

Our beautiful Tempeh, bound together by beautiful mold! The mell of it was so nutty, mmmm!

Although the fermentation did have a tuition fee, I was accepted to the program also on a work-trade agreement: to document the experience for the week with my photography. There are many, many more photos to come in other posts! 

 Another highlight was learning to make 100% wild fermented Sake, by using the Bodai Moto-Zukuri process – an ancient method that Sandor learned in Japan, from a 24th generation brewmaster.

Another highlight was learning to make 100% wild fermented Sake, by using the Bodai Moto-Zukuri process – an ancient method that Sandor learned in Japan, from a 24th generation brewmaster.

 Dani, from Brazil... one of the best things to come out of this residency. A new, dear friend. Already we have begun to cultivate some inspiring project ideas together.. stay tuned!

Dani, from Brazil... one of the best things to come out of this residency. A new, dear friend. Already we have begun to cultivate some inspiring project ideas together.. stay tuned!

This post is merely an introduction to a week in the life and kitchen with Sandor – I'm excited to create the more recipe-format posts, based on my learning and take on everything from Tempeh, Miso and Sake, to Fermented dairy products, beverages, breads, and fermented veggies, of course!

 Oh Kimchee paste, you're so bright red! 

Oh Kimchee paste, you're so bright red! 

 If I learned one thing in this residency it's that you don't have to be SO fussy about germs and cleanliness. Truly. 

If I learned one thing in this residency it's that you don't have to be SO fussy about germs and cleanliness. Truly. 

 Beautiful landscapes at Short Mountain Farm, which houses Canon County's first, and only primarily Moonshine and Bourbon small-batch distillery. 

Beautiful landscapes at Short Mountain Farm, which houses Canon County's first, and only primarily Moonshine and Bourbon small-batch distillery. 

 Sandor has friends in many places! Since Liquor is by definition a process involving fermentation (in this case, grain fermentation), we had to school ourselves on some good ol' fashioned moonshine processes - including tastings, of course. 

Sandor has friends in many places! Since Liquor is by definition a process involving fermentation (in this case, grain fermentation), we had to school ourselves on some good ol' fashioned moonshine processes - including tastings, of course. 

 Another amazing meal. Zur. A Polish soup, similar to porridge, topped here with all sorts of goodies and home-made condiments. Great soup base for leftover scraps.

Another amazing meal. Zur. A Polish soup, similar to porridge, topped here with all sorts of goodies and home-made condiments. Great soup base for leftover scraps.

 I tend to feel a little self-conscious of how many mason jars and glass containers I have in my kitchen, housing anything from bulk spices, grains and pantry staples, to more obscure concoctions. I was relieved of this self-consciousness after walking into Sandor's kitchen: a beautiful, perfect, kitchen hoarder's dream. 

I tend to feel a little self-conscious of how many mason jars and glass containers I have in my kitchen, housing anything from bulk spices, grains and pantry staples, to more obscure concoctions. I was relieved of this self-consciousness after walking into Sandor's kitchen: a beautiful, perfect, kitchen hoarder's dream. 

 Kombucha, after straining the previous batch. The "mother" left in the jug, awaits the next fresh batch of hibiscus-steeped water & sugar.

Kombucha, after straining the previous batch. The "mother" left in the jug, awaits the next fresh batch of hibiscus-steeped water & sugar.

 A show and tell of our different sourdough starters, and their histories. :)

A show and tell of our different sourdough starters, and their histories. :)

 Me trying not to look too giddy for my portrait with Sandor. Photo credit: Theodore Leaf

Me trying not to look too giddy for my portrait with Sandor. Photo credit: Theodore Leaf

My gratitude to Sandor for opening up his world, and for sharing his depth of knowledge and infectious passion with us without restraint. And to my fellow Fermentation-Residency-April-2017 alumni... thank you for all of the inspiration that each of you brought to share with all of us. I could hardly keep up between my camera and trying to jot down all of the unique ideas that each of you have crafted in your own fermentation experiments! 
At the end of the day, it is in connecting to one another that makes life so rich. Without a doubt, that conviviality is what made this week memorable and abundant above all else.

 All sorts of fermented bubblies, waiting for their time to be enjoyed!

All sorts of fermented bubblies, waiting for their time to be enjoyed!

 Country life.

Country life.

 Accommodations consist of camping. This of course, includes occasional late night bon fires.

Accommodations consist of camping. This of course, includes occasional late night bon fires.

 Please notice: 3 kinds of sauerkraut! And two kinds of cultured dairy. Plus tempeh. Just sayin.

Please notice: 3 kinds of sauerkraut! And two kinds of cultured dairy. Plus tempeh. Just sayin.

 A little field trip 4 miles down, to Short Mountain Cultures. For those of you in Tennessee, if you are familiar with their tempeh & sauerkraut, you know. If you're not familiar, become. In Nashville I know they carry their products at High Garden Teas. OR, make your own little road trip to their commercial kitchen/storefront.

A little field trip 4 miles down, to Short Mountain Cultures. For those of you in Tennessee, if you are familiar with their tempeh & sauerkraut, you know. If you're not familiar, become. In Nashville I know they carry their products at High Garden Teas. OR, make your own little road trip to their commercial kitchen/storefront.

 Pickin' fresh herbs from the garden, for lunch.

Pickin' fresh herbs from the garden, for lunch.

 Sandor made us Miso soup for lunch. Also on the plate: idli, nut & veggie paté, garden salad, sautéed greens, and sauerkraut. 

Sandor made us Miso soup for lunch. Also on the plate: idli, nut & veggie paté, garden salad, sautéed greens, and sauerkraut. 

 Communal effort to place tempeh into ziplock baggies for fermentation in Sandor's improvised fridge turned incubator. 

Communal effort to place tempeh into ziplock baggies for fermentation in Sandor's improvised fridge turned incubator. 

 Afternoon breaks on the porch.

Afternoon breaks on the porch.

 Frittatas.

Frittatas.

 Sweet Potato Fly. You'll be surprised how easy this is.

Sweet Potato Fly. You'll be surprised how easy this is.

 Walnut Ridge: the casa where all the magic happens. 

Walnut Ridge: the casa where all the magic happens. 

 I had to feature this. Unforgettable outhouse detail. Signed by artist: Margo Rita

I had to feature this. Unforgettable outhouse detail. Signed by artist: Margo Rita