By Cherry Iocovozzi
Fermentation and pickling are new-ish interests of mine. My first pickling project came at the beginning of the pandemic, pickled mushrooms from Alice Waters’ “My Pantry”. Later in the year I was working alongside a good friend of East Fork’s, Ashleigh Shanti. She was cooking gumbo in the style of Leah Chase to feed the folks of the factory for lunch. As I cleaned collards for Ashleigh, we talked about ways one could repurpose what is usually considered food waste. Ashleigh told me about a method of lacto-fermenting collard stems to later use as a crunchy, tangy, vegetal condiment. We started the fermentation that day, with salted water, mustard seeds and small pieces of collard stem, and a few weeks later, I opened the jar and was amazed at how the starchy collard stalks were transformed into something delicious. It got me thinking more about how food scraps, or really any vegetable you might not know what to do with, can be perfect candidates for fermentation, and can even be made tastier than you could have ever imagined.
When we decided we would do a focus on vegetables, I knew I wanted to include Wild Fermentation in the lineup of cookbooks. Sandor Ellix Katz is nothing short of an icon, although he may be the most humble food writer I can think of. Living on a commune in Tennessee, Katz became enamored with fermentation when he linked it to deep healing he thought to be possible after an HIV diagnosis. His “fermentation fetish” led him to write one of the first comprehensive cookbooks detailing fermentation, pickling, and live cultures. In it, he talks about everything from miso to microbial coexistence. I decided to start somewhere simple with this mixed vegetable ferment in a croc throw by our dear Small Batch Studio Manager Cade Holloman-Cook.
In the recipe Katz says you can use “pretty much any vegetable you have in abundance” with this catch all recipe that only truly requires water, salt, and the vegetable you intend to ferment. Once you choose a vegetable, or a few vegetables, you can add flourishes of garlic, or dill, or caraway seed or really anything you feel an inkling to experiment with. I opted for watermelon radish, some green beans, fresno chiles, garlic, peppercorn and mustard seed. Be sure that your vessels are well cleaned, and your vegetables are fully submerged with a plate or a weight of some kind. Check on your ferment as the weeks go by and watch how it changes! Hopefully in a few weeks, mine will be transformed into something extraordinary.