If your favourite ferments are cheese and wine, we won’t hold it against you. However, you might digress after a visit to Ferment the Festival – Australia’s first ever festival dedicated to fermented food and beverages – taking place in Adelaide from October 19-22.
Over four days, visitors to Rundle Park in the South Australian capital will discover much more than kimchi and kefir (or cheese and wine, if that’s your thing) – many might be surprised to find that beloved staples including coffee, chocolate and sourdough are a result of this old-age natural process, and all will be on offer in delicious abundance from local producers.
The event, created by founder and director of Adelaide’s long-running CheeseFest, Kris Lloyd, kicks off on Thursday night with an inaugural dinner overseen by Jock Zonfrillo of Adelaide’s Restaurant Orana. Jock has selected eight Australian chefs – including Ester’s Mat Lindsay and Duncan Welgemoed of Africola – to each prepare a ferment-focused course.
While guests will only find out the final menu upon arrival, what we do know is that this fermented feast will be served alfresco with the state’s best natural, minimal intervention wines, thoughtfully matched to each of the eight courses by as many top South Australian winemakers.
In the days that follow, a series of Food Lab master classes will offer hands-on workshops covering the basics of fermenting – from cheese and sourdough making to transforming lentils and vegies in a few simple steps – so participants can put their new skills into practice at home. “The process is fun and very experimental,” says author and food curator Rebecca Sullivan, who will be hosting the Food Lab classes. “You never quite know what you’re going to get in the end.”
A great place for beginners to start is Rebecca’s talk on the basics of fermentation, where attendees can make their own sauerkraut and kimchi, alongside the likes of Pepe Saya covering cultured butter and Barossa Fine Foods discussing fermented meats.
Following the demystifying of this age-old process, visitors can let their newfound knowledge sink in while sipping on locally brewed cider or a pot of kombucha tea in the garden. Wine lovers are covered with the Great Wine Capitals of the World Pavilion, where they’ll find top South Australian tipples sitting alongside global favourites from Bordeaux, Napa and other leading viticulture regions around the world.
Aside from the sheer variety of food and beverages created through the process of fermentation (not to mention its oodles of health benefits) what might surprise people who haven’t tried it is that fermenting actually very easy – and fun. “Don't be intimidated – it's not scary and there isn't any risk,” says Rebecca. “Give it a go, you'll be hooked and you'll be healthier for it too.”
"Sauerkraut in German is 'sour cabbage' and I love it for the taste and it's a great source of vitamins and probiotics." Matthew Evans, Gourmet Farmer Series 4
The cloves make for a delightfully aromatic drink, perfect for a winter night.
A fizzy-drink addict? Loved a sugar-laced iced tea in your past life? Let me introduce you to The ’Bucha. You might have seen kombucha-crazed kids parodied about town and rolled your eyes with the masses. Fair enough. It’s kind of boundary-pushing stuff. But I’ll try to ground it for us. Kombucha is a slightly fizzy, fermented ‘iced tea’ made by adding a SCOBY (short for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’) to a batch of brewed tea. This spongy, mushroomy thing propels the drink (by eating sugar – yes, sugar!!) to become an ‘alive’ gut-healing beverage. The stuff is brimful of probiotics and is a standout for digestive health.