Brooklynites Contract Fermentation Fever

Really retro recipes: From sourdough to sauerkraut, what’s 8,000-years-old is new again.

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Mention fermentation, and many people think booze. But that magic natural process is also the force behind everything from coffee and kombucha to cheese and chocolate. Thanks, bacteria!

In our current issue, Marie Viljoen profiles a DIY baker who’s inspired by another kind of fermentation: sourdough.

Long suffering gastric ills, she tried going gluten-free but finally found health in sliced bread, thanks to the wild yeast she caught in her South Slope kitchen and has harnessed into a secret weapon starter. Now she’s launched a sourdough CSA and pulls all-nighters at the stove to meet demand.

How could bread heal a bad belly? Viljoen explains the miracle of the loaves: lengthy lactobacillic fermentation not only gives sourdough its famously tangy flavor, but also removes some of the grain’s phytate, a culprit in digestive disorders. Once all the grains in Sarah’s diet were fermented, she began to feel normal — for the first time in years.

For thousands of years, people in traditional cultures around the world have eaten real fermented foods every day, from kim chi to kefir. They’re almost completely absent from the post-modern diet, but so many Brooklynites have fallen hard for this ancient process, you can often find free Kombucha SCOBYs on Craigslist and the community convenes for annual meet-ups to talk gut flora, compare crocks and swap kvass, kraut and crème fraiche. That’s a party I want an invitation to.

Do you make any fermented foods? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Marie Viljoen

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Gabrielle Langholtz is the former editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan.