Ever gone to the supermarket or local store and feel unable to to buy anything? That's how it was for me when I started making larger amounts of kraut and kimchi and kefir and wanted only the best ingredients. I grew slowly, so never could afford to order tonnes at a time; which of course made it harder financially. We have grown into an awkward teenager stage of not being big enough for the really big organic farmers, and too big for the small ones... :( So we need to shop around a bit until we get over to the next stage. But the really big organic farmers...... seem to be too big as well.... committed to selling only to the 2 major supermarket. It's obvious that we can only get to a certain size before we just stop and be happy. We sit with the belief that local is best, so we need to be that as well.
So it's no surprise that food miles vs organic is a matter of passionate discussion at The Fermentary. Whilst it's our aim to be a certified organic food producer, we aren't always happy with the bureaucracy that guides it and would prefer to make our own judgements. Ideally we'd use only biodynamic farmers and that is our end goal. We do believe that certification is there for good reason, but also that for some, especially small scale farmers, the bureaucracy and red tape aren't affordable or even viable. And also quite limiting. Fresh vegetables provide the best environment for successful and delicious fermentation and as cabbage is in the safe zone of clean vegies we are able to go for local over organic.
We require a large variety of ingredients and are determined to tick our own boxes and trust our own farmers and producers over imported. Ingredients for our ferments are chosen carefully and taken personally, and to be honest, we aren't always that happy with what we have to settle for. This has been a steep education in our food web for me - and often shocking to me personally as a regular consumer with a big family.
FISH SAUCE (goes in our authentic kimchi - none in the vegan of course)
We are in the process of making our own garum/fish sauce for our kimchi - but until then we love and use Red Boat 40N. It is beautiful and worth every cent - this is not the stinky stuff you (sadly) may be used to but real fish sauce that is long, has caramel hints, is a little syrupy, mild and refined. You would buy this to use as a dipping sauce alone. But we take so much time and love making our kimchi that putting crappy ingredients doesn't make sense. Red Boat 40N has just 3 ingredients - anchovies, salt and time - at least a year in large wooden barrels.( Check them out here :http://redboatfishsauce.com/ )
There are whole levels of fish sauce admiration going back as far as the Romans and even further I'm sure. Every culture that has a coastline or even lakes and rivers seem to have a version of this delicious umami filled delicacy. Actually - try making your own. Or try to find some artisan fish sauces. Let me know how you get on!
WATER (for our brined vegetables and of course our Water Kefir)
Lucky us - our water comes from deep under us - very old lovely spring water from very close to The Fermentary.
Water is pretty important for our beautiful water kefir of course, but we are lucky to be able to use it for our brine ferments too. Lovely to have this water up in Daylesford where it's hard to believe that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on this planet. Taking water from the ground though - is another discussion altogether.
TAMARI (in our kimchi)
Gluten free was our aim, so we chose a gluten free soy sauce. Soy sauce is a tough one, and I wish we had more readily available good quality soy sauce. The flavours of the puddle on top of my home made miso are very similar to what real soy sauce tastes like. How sad that the soy sauce we all know here in Australia is so VERY different to the real original thing. We haven't made enough soy sauce to sell - but I would love that. One day. We use a gorgeous organic Tamari imported by Spiral Foods - (gosh do they have a great story and history of food in Australia!)
There are problems with milk kefir and the main one at the moment is that most milk kefirs you see on the supermarket shelves are NOT actually milk kefir. They are copies of milk kefir- milk heated and cultured with a mix of manufactured bacterias chosen to mimic real kefir. More like a drinking yoghurt.
The beautiful healing and pleasant feelings that real kefir gives you, and the flavour is different to the cultured kind. And the range of bacteria's from this source are inferior to the real thing. It's very hard to make commerical milk kefir though - so if you can't find ours somewhere then get your own grains here at our shop or find some from a friend or culture swap.
For our commercial milk kefir we use Schulz's milk. They have some of the luckiest cows around and their milk is gorgeous and the land has been run on biodynamic principles since the '70's.
We are worried about the dairy industry and the changes large scale production has taken on our farmers as well as the kinds of cheeses available to us here in Australia. We will stick to making only small amounts of real milk kefir and rely on other fermenters elsewhere to join in on the revival of honest fermentation.