As Hamlet’s associate once noted, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” He may as well have been referring to a nice Havarti cheese. Fermentation is bringing the science of spoil to the mainstream culinary scene. Today’s Foodie Friday celebrates fermentation and five areas those tiny but mighty microorganisms transform the food and drinks we know and love.
1. Pickling—It wasn’t too long ago that most people thought of pickling as something you did to make a cucumber sour. Yet these days, pickling is everywhere. Pickling has gained great popularity with the health-food crowd thanks to its probiotic benefits, and it’s a regularly featured technique in a variety of ethnic dishes. Old standbys like sauerkraut and upscaled pickled vegetables show up everywhere from sandwiches to small plates. We love the sound of these pickled onions with wild rosemary and honey from Joshua Skenes, lauded chef at Saison in San Francisco.
2. Curing—A great deal of our business is working with specialty food companies, such as producers of world-class salumi and dry sausages. The first stage of curing salami (and yes, salami is salumi…but not all salumi is salami!) is curing and fermenting the product. This week-long process draws the moisture out of the meat and concentrates the rich, tangy, savory flavors—setting the stage for weeks or months of
dry-curing. We expect to see even greater appreciation of cured meats continue to grow as foodies explore the delights of
3. Asian Cuisine—Korean food is trending right now, and one of the most quintessentially Korean flavors is, of course, kimchi. Fans of this fermented cabbage typically use it like a relish to give a spicy-sour kick to dishes like soup, fried rice, or bulgogi. The Japanese have long championed fermented foods as well, such as miso and natto (both made from fermented soybeans), tsukemono (Japanese pickles), and shiokara (fermented seafood).
4. Beverages—One major area fermentation has gained popularity lately is the beverage market. Kombucha, a fermented tea touted for its high probiotic content, has risen from health-nut obscurity to the foodie mainstream. As many DIY foodies have discovered, you can even purchase kits to make your own kombucha at home. And of course, for the alcohol imbibing foodies among us, fermented libations like wine, spirits, and craft beer continue to reinvent ways to enjoy the spoils of spoil.
5. Culturing—There are few items that inspire a dreamy, romantic wistfulness and enthusiastic terms of endearment to pour forth from a foodie as much as artisanal cheese. It’s the stuff of poetry, and culturing has developed a robust, well, culture of connoisseurs and cheesemongers who celebrate the beauty of aging through dairy products.
Recently, a controversial move by the FDA threatened the time-honored practice of wood-aging cheese. We hope that the outcome of all this
debate will be a renewed affection for cheesemakers
and the artistry of their delicious craft!
What are your favorite fermented foods? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re looking for unusual fermented foods to try, maybe steer clear of Hákarl, a fermented shark meat delicacy in Iceland.
Happy Foodie Friday!