Ferment your foods!

The very first Austin Fermentation Festival is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 15 at Le Cordon Bleu’s campus in the Domain Shopping Center. This free event, sponsored by Texas Farmers Market, Whole Foods Market and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, will include local and regional experts who will share information on the benefits of, and steps for, making fermented foods. “This festival will celebrate the art of making traditionally fermented foods and beverages, such as kimchee, kombucha, kefir, pickles and other cultured vegetables, sauerkraut, beer, wine, cider and sourdough bread,” says Carla Jenkins, the market manager for Texas Farmers Market. “And it will empower attendees to make these foods at home.”

Of course, one major draw of the festival is award-winning author and fermentation guru Sandor Katz, who is credited with sparking a nationwide revival of interest in fermented foods. His most recent best-selling book, “The Art of Fermentation,” won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship.

But organizers are quick to point out it doesn’t end there. “It’s not just Sandor’s wisdom and advice,” says co-organizer Kate Payne, a local author who regularly teaches fermentation workshops around town. “It’s a ton of local experts and artisans who are teaching [others] how to do their particular fermented craft. When do you get to experience ten people telling you exactly how to make their amazing cider or kimchee or yogurt or kefir in a free setting with thousands of your closest Austin friends?”

Along with Payne, presenters will include Jester King Brewery, Argus Cidery, Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese and Buddha’s Brew Kombucha. There will be a community culture swap, fermented food vendors, books for sale, a farmers market and live music. Whole Foods Market will also offer a meal made with fermented ingredients for purchase. 

Jenkins and Payne say it was important to keep this year’s festival free in order to make this healthy form of eating more widely accessible. “Science and experience tell us that it is possible to cultivate a healthier community of bacteria in our bodies by modifying our diets to include fermented foods that contain probiotics and beneficial bacteria,” says Jenkins. “We figure it’s never too late to eat healthier, and we want our community to learn what our ancestors experienced with fermented foods.”

While the daytime festival is free, limited-availability tickets will be on sale for an Austin Fermentation Festival after-party and meet-and-greet with Sandor Katz at HausBar Farms. Proceeds will benefit Sustainable Food Center and the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. The event will include dinner bites from Qui, Dai Due, Salt & Time, Lenoir, Bola Pizza and Mum Foods, as well as dessert bites from Janina O’Leary, executive pastry chef of laV. —Nicole Lessin

For more information, visit texasfarmersmarket.org

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