What I learned from an Irish chef about fermenting?

fermented trout by JP McMahon
Fermented trout, kohlrabi, dehydrated gooseberry by JP McMahon

Two weeks ago, I attended an event called “Wild Fermentation: the culture of live foods”. That was a presentation delivered by JP McMahon, one of the well-known Irish chefs. The presentation was rather fancy, as the title suggests, but still worth writing about on my blog, I think.

As I wrote before, Fermented Food Freak blog was intended to be about my relationship with the traditional Polish fermented foods. I grew up on them and took them for granted; only to be shocked when I came to live in Ireland nine years ago. Oh, my God, I couldn’t believe it! Sauerkraut was available only in “ethnic” sections of the big stores and also in Eastern European shops! Up to then I had been thinking it was a life essential for everyone!

As I finally started to blog, I found myself getting interested, not only in giving out about Westerners ignorance but also in the fermentation process itself. I even started some not so traditional Eastern European ferments, like parsnips or kombucha.

And there I was, sitting in the audience at the presentation of fermented food delivered by a born and bred Irishman, a son of the same nation that puts ‘Sauerkraut’ right next to the dog food in local grocery shops!

For the start, the Irishman let himself crack a few jokes about Polish people, even though there were quite a few of us in the audience. I didn’t feel much offended, as JP is rather a charming person and not really that sarcastic. I found the jokes quite friendly and harmless in the end.

Anyway, I was in a bit of a ballistic mood and prepared for a fierce discussion, just because I am Polish, and thus, a natural born expert on the subject.

That was, however, quickly dissipated by the first sample I was granted to taste. It was sauerkraut and it looked totally different than Polish sauerkraut. It was green and not grated but chopped. Do you remember what I wrote about fermenting green cabbage?

To my huge surprise, it was absolutely delicious. It proves that fermenting is not a field for any kind of orthodoxy. It is about experimenting and trying new things (see below for the innovative use of a J-cloth).

Speaking about new things, during the presentation I also tried

  • Wild garlic buds
  • Mackerel and trout
  • Barley
  • Cauliflower with seaweed
  • Dehydrated gooseberry
  • Other things that I forgot due to overexcitement

All of them fermented, of course, and very, very, tasty.

Ok ok… I couldn’t really say that I would be dying to taste fermented trout again, but everything else was fab!!

We were also shown how to make butter by adding buttermilk to cream and that was great.

I was not impressed, however, by the fresh cheese. My mother used to make it when unpasteurized milk was a norm and she didn’t have to add rennet at all. Now I sound like a Pole from one of JP jokes.

All in all, I must admit that JP McMahon knows what he is talking about and feels the real spirit of food fermentation.

I just can’t wait to sneak into the next presentation and again strongly recommend it to everyone!!

JP McMahon fermented gooseberry
A J-cloth on top of the gooseberry helps to keep fruit submerged in water; innovation by JP
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2 thoughts on “What I learned from an Irish chef about fermenting?”

  1. As far as I know it is the pink (or rather red) variety on the picture. However, everything is possible while fermenting. I still hope to turn cabbage in pure gold one day…

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