A look at local food week and the fermentation frenzy

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, August 5, 2015 11:03pm
  • News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error. Sandor Katz’ will be speaking Friday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center for the Harvest Mooon Local Food Festival.

Beginning today, the Central Kenai Peninsula is being treated to a feverous week full of fermentation during the third Harvest Moon Local Food Festival.

The Kenai Local Food Connection, and a conglomeration of their local partners, has stuffed the schedule with workshops, presenters, walks and tastings, all centered on the arts and affections of fermentation.

Ambition behind the annual event is twofold: promote local foods; and “take back healthy eating into our own hands,” said festival co-organizer and cofounder Eliza Eller.

This year’s theme came about quite naturally, Eller said. In a serendipitous twist, New York Times best selling author of The Art of Fermentation, and fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz’s first visit to Alaska coincided with the festival.

Katz will be giving a presentation Friday evening at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center from 7 to 9 p.m., where he said he hopes to illuminate the link between the simple process of product breakdown and health.

“People don’t realize to what degree they are already eating and drinking fermented foods,” Katz said.

Cheese, beer, bread, kombucha, pickles, kimchee, soy and miso are a few of the many common products associated with fermentation — the reconstruction of carbohydrates into alcohols, gases and acids. Pickling, brewing, aging and curing are a few processes that facilitate conversion.

People also often don’t know how simple fermenting is, and may be fearful of growing “bad bacteria” while doing it at home, Katz said. Fermented foods encourage intestinal health, provide vital acids and help with digestion, although not all are nutritionally equal, and promote a variety of benefits, he said.

Right now there is a growing interest nationwide in probiotics, which are foods such as yogurt that have not been heated after the fermentation process is complete, Katz said. There are subsets of fermentation that are only beginning to be touched upon, he said.

During his first trip to the state Katz said he has seen local interests in fermenting range from sourdough bread to pickled garden vegetables to preserving the meat from marine mammals that are prevalent in coastal waters.

People have been fermenting their food for thousands of years, and is almost essential for a balanced diet year round in arctic regions, Katz said.

“There are so many wonderful foods in Alaska, oh my goodness,” Eller said.

Fermenting local products can prevent and address many modern illnesses, assist struggling economies and cross cultural lines, Eller said.

This is the biggest food week festival to be held on the central Kenai Peninsula so far, Eller said.

Director of Wellness and Prevention at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Dr. Gary Ferguson will tie everything about the benefits of good bacteria together from 6 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, Eller said. A berry walk hosted by the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension service, a series of local farm tours and wine tastings at Alaska Berries will bring out the fun and finer sides of fermentation throughout the week, she said.

Her son Connor Eller will be giving a talk Monday at the Kenaitze Dena’ina Wellness Center on one of her favorite fermented foods — miso, with just a hint of spice.

“It’s just the most nourishing, warming, delicious way to start the day,” Eller said.

Katz said, while often focusing on pickled vegetables, he also enjoys bread, beer and cheese.

“All of which go together very well,” Katz said with a laugh. “Luckily I don’t have to chose a favorite.”

For a complete list of all Local Food Week events visit kenailocalfood.org.


Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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