Jetstar Magazine surprise.

Was interviewed by Larissa Dubecki one afternoon when we were still working out of Port Melbourne and it was like chattiing to a friend so I soon forgot about it. As I do after I hang up.... terrible.  Then one day when we were already over here living in Fitzroy - a mum, a new friend-of-a -kid's mum - texted images of a long article on fermentation from that interview. YAY. Here are the photos. x

MORE of Sandor Katz? (in case you haven't seen these yet)

Sandor is real and quiet. His message is heard all of the world nevertheless - he has no need to shout or hard sell. No need for short cuts or assurances, there is a whole generation  wanting to learn this fascinating science, and mysterious art. Here is a small but growing list of ways you can hear more about Sandor. 

A link to Sandor's web page that is FULL to the brim of information

http://www.wildfermentation.com/who-is-sandorkraut/

An article about Short Mountain

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/magazine/out-of-the-woods.html?_r=0

A video of Sandor 

https://nyti.ms/2jVXpG6

A series of video's Sandor made for Masontops after their kickstarter campaign. 

https://www.masontops.com/pages/sandor-katz-workshop

Dream Fermie camp in TN with Sandor Katz

I'm always really surprised when someone at one of my workshops doesn't know who Sandor Katz is. Hm. The guru. My fermentation guru. James Beard award winner. Fermentation Revivalist. Gorgeous human. Faerie. He wrote a little quote on the back of my book. 

You have to go all the way to Tennessee for this special week of "Fermentation Fervour".  I left my girls with their new Step-dad Roger - first my business partner, then my bestie and lover - and we'd only really just moved in together. Leaving all of the kids and the whole business to him for 2 weeks was quite an ask. A huge task. My parents paid for my flight - my besties sent me a box full of camp stuff.  My 'wasbund'  met me and Lulu in LA and took her back with him to Florida.  It was a big dealio, and all my people came together to give me my first week off in  a long time. 

All for me so I could dive into the heady, musty depths of fermentation fervour.   I knew a few of the group from instagram and social media stalking.  Tara Whitsitt of Fermentation on Wheels fame.  Lez Veg - tempeh maker at The Brinery.  Joseph Shrudiner from LA 's Institute of Domestic Technology.  Lindsay Miesl who has a keen eye and gorgeous note-taking skills, a little blog - and I'm in awe of her because she  was once a student of Michael Pollen.  (see her recipe for Miso Oats here. ) Meals were communal, plates piled with ferments we'd brought or made ourselves - or even what was made by another group before us or from Sandys kitchen stash. We shared Meads, home brews, country wines and a wide variety of beautiful drinks people had brought to show and share. I was an equal - not a mother providing for 3 daughters and 2 step kids. I quietly stuck to the dishes and let others do the cooking. It'd been a while since I felt that kind of release. 

We went to a farm to meet Jeff Poppen the  Barefoot Farmer and picked a shit tonne of turnips to take home and clean and chop for a Saueruben - admittedly my least favourite day because it resembled my every day 'factory' existence and I wanted a break from that.  We made all of the vegie ferments. We made Koji and tempeh. And Idli and dhosa. We made a batch of miso with our fresh koji. We made sour dough bread. Milk kefir. Mead. Yoghurt.  Sandy (as his friends call him...sniff - I rather prefer the very handsome Hungarian pronounciation of shhAndOr)  doesn't like the fizzy drinks much so Kombucha and Water kefir weren't high on the agenda. Did we make natto? Can't remember. We visited a Moonshine distillery. We made friends out of each other, and I made myself quite sick from too many liquid ferments one of the nights. 

More than fermentation - I learnt about communities, the intentional kind, the community that Sandor had left NYC for, from where he began fermenting to preserve a harvest. The place I'd read about, imagined, described to friends but never thought I'd visit. It had been in my mind now and then since I read about it on the back of 'Wild Fermentation'.   I had imagined it to be a kind of temporary existence - living in the type of shack that I would (struggle to) build if I were to turn up there or anywhere else live off grid.  But no. No no, these buildings turned out to be mostly quite exquisite. Large, and established.  Creations not just dwellings. There was a piano, and a huge garden, and various smaller and sometimes rather grand additions, legacies of people who had been before, stayed a while and built a dwelling, or a stage, or a massage room or an outdoor shower .  This is where Sandor had written his first couple of books.  OH. I felt it all the way through my body to my feet - this community allows time to live, heal, retreat, work quietly, find privacy, garden, cook, survive. Time is what our ferments need. Time is what I feel I lack the most as a kind of single mum working full time, writing a book. 

  I met a stunning woman when we were picking turnips -  she was wearing this all in one suit and we were all a bit taken with her. She was there to  glean food - potatoes and other veggies that are left after a harvest - what is left by the machines and that otherwise end up rotting back into the soil. She wrapped them up carefully in many different scarves in the style of 'furoshiki' -  Japanese style. She was in transition after a sex change and was living in the cocoon of another intentional community nearby. The "poor community" she said.  Neo- peasants. It was safe to be there and just live.  Living for a living.  

 As a young traveller I would have been too conservative to park there had I  happened upon this community. But I am quite ready now. I may have stayed there if I didn't have my family or my business;  girls with braces on their teeth and dreams of becoming opera singers and architects. Things that are real in my life, part of a system but all of a sudden felt superfluous.  Truth is they'd have much more time to exercise their skills there in that community because they'd have more time.  Agh, nevertheless. Back home for me. No living with Radical Faeries. Back to making ferments and building gut microbiomes around Australia as diverse as the most ancient soils.  Aiming for that. 

Just before I arrived - anything one could ever need for camping was sent to direct to Walnut Ridge, Sandors house,  in a box from Lynn and Steve - my long time bff's and the new CEO of LLBean. Had LLBean sponsored me to learn more about fermentation? Perhaps they should. I was a bit self conscious about all of this luxury and all of the boxes and wrapping I had to pull out in Sandor's dining room. Like a weird (lonely) Christmas morning.  This cosy tent and soft downy feathery duna like sleeping bag offered privacy and made me very happy every night. 

When I left I decided gift all of it to a new friend 'Bonobo Woodland' who didn't have his own room or gear with him.  Steve and Lynn had said that would be a nice gift from them.  It was hard handing it all over - particularly the silky soft downy sleeping bag and mat. And to be honest, I kind of still wish I had those things for the memory of it. Now I see on FB that Bonobo is back home in Europe. I wonder who is using them now.  

If you go to Sandors for a residency, or if you are over at Short Mountain and they offer you anything bright blue with LLBean on it - you're welcome. x

 

and more here:

 

Never heard of radical faerie communties?  "Faerie sanctuaries adapt rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of creative expression. Radical Faerie communities are generally inspired by indigenousnative or traditional spiritualities, especially those that incorporate genderqueer sensibilities." From Wiki, read more.

 

Suii - 7 year clay pot fermented brown rice vinegar

Suii. Our Brown RIce Vinegar drink.  SU means vinegar or sour in Japanese - and ii means good. Sour good. Sour IS good -  the aim is to get us all to eat MORE sour and LESS sweet, to change our palates a little and balance are pH. Fix our guts.  Kombucha is kind of a FAST vinegar... and can be quite harsh tasting because of that - the sugar is added and easily accessed. With rice, the starch turns to sugar and the yeast feeds on that - a very gentle and subtle flavour.  Your body will benefit from vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants and all the usual goodness that natural probiotics provide. 

Suii means water levels or transition - to undergo a change.  It could be a hanko, you know what that is? A signature stamp. There are other words from around the world to describe these, but I only know the Japanese kind.  The one in the photo is not meant to be used to sign our name, like a hanko though -  and I'm not sure what it's called in the ceramics world.  Emma Jimson's brother from WA made it for her to stamp on the crocks and tap vats she makes for us and other avid fermenters.  I'm not sure she actually uses it very often, but the image of it helped me make a few decisions late last week.

It's a beautiful stamp, and we didn't make it, nor did we design the pattern - we love it though. And there are a number of things ferment related that we love and admire and have been happy to put our hearts into. Kraut Source - the stainless steel fermenting lid. Emma's work. And more recently a gorgeous brown rice vinegar. 

Our latest love and almost infatuation is called Duii. A gorgeous range of 7 year clay pot fermented brown vinegar.  I've been wishing for a real rice vinegar for a couple of years now - thinking about it as I drove, as I showered... any time my mind went forward to what I wished we had - it was rice vinegar. And one day the rice vinegar showed up in my inbox. And came to our home. And offered itself up.  The only problem is that all of the clay pots that have been fermenting for a decade, sometimes more are in Taiwan. They have so many clay pots they fire them on site.The pots are lined up like soldiers.

 I initially had a problem with this but have let it go. This rice vinegar tastes caramelised, long and round. Old and slow fermented. Not sharp like Apple Cider Vinegar - more subtle and gentler on the palate.  It's very good for the gut and the body and quenches my thirst. I sip on this vinegar mixed with icy water as I work. And want to share it with as many people as we can.  Because I don't mind drinking wine from all over the world - and coffee - we have decided to do just that. We can't wait for you to love it too. x 

 

Best New Product Award!

When we didn't win. To be honest I kind of expected something from the endeavour because they'd asked us to send product up for a second photo shoot.... shhhh.  So when we didn't win we turned to each other and agreed that we didn't deserve it. It was too soon and we haven't really put all of our ducks in a row enough and maybe try harder next year. I texted home and told them we lost. I was glad I hadn't bought a new dress for it. And then while I was explaining why to my eldest daughter who couldn't believe we didn't win.. we won a different award called 'BEST NEW PRODUCT'. That was us. Shocked and relieved (because we had worked hard enough) and happy to be in the room in any dress. No time to text friends back for an hour to tell them we'd actually come away happy. :)  We walked to the front and I made a little speech with Roger right sort of behind me.... I spoke about 'curiosity and optimism etc' and how it was naivety that allows a business to grow because otherwise...would you? 

Of all the products - our milk kefir is by far the healing magic that it is said to be. We are the only ones who make it commercially in Australia - the rest are made from powdered cultures and are mere imitations. Like Tang (or Cool Aid) to orange juice. It deserves an award. It's beautiful stuff but full of complexity and possibility too. 

So we are glad it happened but it was never going to sky rocket our milk kefir business into the heady heights that people would have like because we don't want to change how we make it - and this is a hard one to get out into the world - it's not well known, and people don't like the way it sometimes gets separated and ugly and a bit of cream on the top....BUT an award validated to us that it was refreshing to the chefs to taste something so wild and so real. And that I needed to do more to get it into homes -- I needed to sell the grains and teach how to make it and - perhaps write a book. 

And that's what we've done. We've loved that award. How great is a magazine on food that celebrates small artisan producers the way Delicious. magazine does. Last year we won 'State Finalist' for our Smokey Jalapeno Kraut. This year I want a trophy again. Is that selfish? Recognition feels nice for the kitchen. x Varma and Roger deserve it. 

More information on the other winners can be found here. 

We were finalist in the DAIRY AWARDS category. But then won in an entirely new Category. 

We were finalist in the DAIRY AWARDS category. But then won in an entirely new Category. 

aaaand our sauerkraut not to be forgotten nor left out - was a medalist. Beaten by lentils I think...

aaaand our sauerkraut not to be forgotten nor left out - was a medalist. Beaten by lentils I think...

Abattoir Move in - The Abby.

A few months ago we officially moved back to Daylesford. We were happy in Fairfield but it wasn't big enough - we were sharing a space and whilst I personally loved the female company that popped in and out now and then (Paleo Pure/Bod chickie babes), it wasn't OUR space.

Rog and I drove the hour and a bit to Daylesford to talk to a guy about a machine.  We were looking for different ideas to pound our kraut with - and he ended up driving us to an old abattoir - an abandoned one - with everyone's bricks and tiles and shit surrounding it. The tour inside was by phone torch which pushed my usual natural optimism to it's brink. It was full. Old massage tables/floatation tanks/cinema chairs/tiles/bricks/cars/augers/silos... steel to melt and sell when the price is right?  That kind of full.  Eddy hadn't used the glorious insides of the ab. for 'meat processing' for a good 15 years or more. Inside the guts of it - if he'd wanted to he could have bopped us on the head and no-one would have ever, ever found us ... 

But Eddy is a big cuddly bear. Everyone in Daylesford like him.  And within a week of our first hand shake deal he'd redone the driveway and we were moving in.

Still now, months after moving in - from the outside you would never guess that we are in there. Enter through our fridge (agh! ) and through the dark and out into the sudden smells of kimchi and sounds of loud music, you'll see that we are all set up. Old abattoirs are easy that way. Fairfield was an old abattoir. They are good for fermenters because they keep the temperature pretty constant.  

The real pull wasn't only the space. It was that "The Aby" sits on 100 acres (I see cabbages...) and has a looong old piggery (I see green house). There is enough room for 10 Fermentary's and we saw 'Food Hub'. We saw a future. 

And we are pretty much joined to Mt Franklin Spring water (happy water kefir).  And we need beautiful water. We've tried other water before - potable spring water, (not bad, but unpredictable) rain water (best but the food authorities aren't too keen on it....we could filter it...maybe one day). This is amazing water. It's the very kind that gets bottled to be shipped and served on airlines as ancient, country fresh, breath of fresh air water. 

There are no windows which I hate. None of those saw tooth ceilings with the lovely windows that many other Melbourne factories have. No wooden beams. It's all refrigerator panels and that's actually what we need. Windows will have to come later- we don't have a budget for pretty.  Handsome is there though - if you're into fermenting vessels and jars and large spoons and sieves and the blokes that run the place ;) .

SO. We've put in a beehive (the first of 9 - I want 9) and we've hammered in an old fermenting vat as a letter box - (which Australia Post continue to ignore even though we have our number and name plain to see..)WE plan to stay.

One day the surrounding 100 acres will hopefully be covered in cabbages of all styles and the old piggery full of ginger.... but we are up to our elbows filling orders for now.  If you are farmers who'd like to rent land with a customer right there guaranteed to buy your produce - get in touch. x

The inside is perfect though and we've held quite a few workshops and hosted a couple of TV crews in there - Andy and Ben Eat Australia (airing in March on SBS Food Channel), and soon 'Intolerant Cooks', channel 10. Of course we shot quite a bit of the book there, and now we have regular school groups, most recenlty BA of Gastronomy students from William Angliss, Wesley's Clunes campus kids, various groups of chefs on their day off and a few 'stages'. Get in touch if you'd like to have a tour/have something you'd like to learn/work for free for us for a while ;) xx

There is life in The Abby and it's good. x

Lindsay Meisel's miso oats.

My version of the Miso Oats - even found a tupperware. x

My version of the Miso Oats - even found a tupperware. x

I love Lindsay's food writing - so much that I read this out to my girls as a bedtime story. We enjoyed Lindsay's exacting (a little OCD) ways together.  They went to sleep excited. I love that. 

I've been making lots of miso and thinking about miso and eating lots of miso lately. Melbourne is having a curiously mild summer so it seems to fit.  I've been looking for different ways to enjoy all of this Miso - when along came Lindsays FB share. And now - I share with you these Miso Oats - entirely Linday's recipe. Read her blog - I love the way she writes - you need to know how she eats them and enjoys them.  Otherwise read my summary. 

lhttp://differentkindofhuman.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/my-oatmeal.html

I met Lindsay at my indulgent week away on Fermentation Fantasy Camp (your words Lindz) .... she took the best notes ever. The kind with little drawings and arty looking descriptions. There were quite a few amazing notetakers there - maybe good notetakers go to lots of workshops so they can indulge themselves in their talent, or am I in the minority of terrible note taking? (I have been working on it lately,  and now at least Roger thinks my notes are "really good").  As I am almost a giant and she is tiny looking over her shoulder at her notes couldn't be helped. They were great so I was able to turn on my voice recorder thingy, give up my notes and relax -  planning to ask for a copy later...... which I really am still waiting for. x

Put a banana in the fridge.

Soak lots of walnuts in salt water for a day. Then put them into the oven on really low (200f/95c) overnight. Keep them in a jar for using later. Sometimes walnuts make my mouth itchy and soaking them and drying them like that stops it. 

Cook your oats the way you usually would. 

(Does that entail grinding them first? Because oh my god - oats are crazy interesting when they go in as groats and come out as oats! We have a handsome wood and stone hand grinder thing that Roger keeps stashing in the far back kitchen cupboard. I love that thing and all of the kids love it too. I wish he would allow it on the counter.  I had to buy the hand cranked version (because $$$). One day Roger will be very thankful we have it - we probably won't have electricity and we will survive because of this oats cranker.) 

When the oats have bubbled away and are ready and not boiling nor too hot - add a blob of young miso. Sweet miso not the salty kind. The magic happens overnight, but starts pretty much straight away. The enzymes in the miso break down the starches and make the oats sweeter, milkier and runnier overnight.

When you wake you need to heat them up.  Get your banana out of the fridge and slice it, add broken, (activated + roasted) walnuts to the top of each banana followed by a sprinkle of salt and black sesame - grind that yourself. We didn't have any black sesame this morning - due to moths in our cupboard and a big emptying out of everything in the mothy cupboard last month. I thought about using sesame paste but decided it would ruin the aesthetic. 

When the porridge is warm, add a swipe of butter and a quick swig of of maple syrup to your bowl, pour over your miso oats and stir. Your banana walnuts are on another plate. Sit down. It should be very early in the morning and quiet. Spoon up a banana piece, dip it into the miso oats and eat. Like that. My girls and I did that too.  Just like the beautiful writer, and notetaker Lindsay does. My silence only came after they'd left for school though but I am used to that. x 

 

Talking about distributors and what we are up to lately with Robyn Patton

http://robynpatton.com/bva-podcast-sharon-flynn-fermentary/

I'm a bit shy about this podcast.... I struggled with the topic I think - what is BRAVE, when have I been brave... compared to whom?  My computer mic. wasn't working and I was in a funny position, we tried a few times to get it right.... but now I'm so glad for we stuck at it, otherwise I might have forgotten what a huge deal it meant for me personally to let go and allow another company to sell our products on our behalf.  A month later and The Ferm is happily settling in with the distributor Feel Good Foods.  It was a good decision, still going through some trials, but can see how it will benefit.  Usually the big questions/steps are only hard because you know what you need to do and that it's going to be hard. 

Podcast with James from Intrepid Wino

 

https://intrepidwino.com/2016/07/20/the-vincast-episode-098-sharon-flynn-from-the-fermentary/

I met James at the GROW festival and we thought we both might have a lot more to talk about. We were both exchange students, staying away for a full 12 months. James went to Japan, I went to Denmark - obviously the country we have in common is Japan - the thing in common is fermentation. Enjoy! And go ahead and like it on iTunes too.