Pickles, kraut, kasundi, kimchi, kombucha, kefir …
Fermented foods have led the charge in hipster food trends for the past few years and show no sign of slowing down, but the truth is most of us have been eating fermented food in some form for years, or at least drinking fermented brews. Yep, even cider, beer, wine, mead and sake undergo fermentation. This past weekend Aucklanders and visitors to the city had the opportunity to get to grips with fermented foods, including some they might not have expected such as chocolate – at the FERMENT! festival held downtown at The Cloud.
What FERMENT! revealed is that New Zealand is teaming with small artisan producers making exceptional products. That’s hardly a surprise, until you see a whole bunch of new faces marketing new products, and realise the average age of the producers is about 30. These young entrepreneurs, chefs and marketers stood beaming with pride at their stalls, so pleased that you would try their products, and that you liked them.
Quality ingredients turned into innovative products with exceptional taste and outstanding packaging abounded. This was no snatch and scoff fest, this was a chance to hear the stories about how ingredients are grown or sourced, to hear the journey each product has taken before its arrival to you, the customer. And it would be fair to say that these are not the sort of products you are likely to find in supermarkets – although there will be cheaper versions of course – these are products made in micro batches in many cases, single origin chocolates made with nothing more than cacao beans and organic cane sugar, freshly-baked sourdough breads made with wild yeasts, 20-hour cold brewed coffee, products made from ethically sourced meats cured without nitrates and preservatives, dairy products made from organic milk. Sustainable ingredients. Organically-grown ingredients. New Zealand ingredients wherever possible. You will pay a bit more for them, but that’s almost a bonus, as you will be supporting small companies who make superb products with a great back story, food that is good for you and food that is not stressing the planet unnecessarily.
FERMENT! will come around again next year, and I’ll remind you. This year was a toe in the water; next year everyone will want in.