How to be a Master Fermenter

Master Fermenter is not an expression we use for a wine maker. In wine we are more familiar with the term Cellar Master, implying that there is a lot more to wine making than fermentation. The terms Master Distiller and Master Blender are more familiar terms for spirits.

Wine and alcohol are not the only things produced by fermentation. It can’t have escaped your notice that fermented foods are all the rage. If you read this blog you’ll have seen my recent blog post about Kefir – that’s fermented milk.

I’ve been researching fermented foods and their effect on the micro biome, looking at how to protect and encourage good gut bugs that may be adversely affected by alcohol. This led me to The Noma Guide to Fermentation- Foundations of Flavor.


The Noma Guide to Fermentation

According to the authors, René Redzepi andDavid Zilber, fermentation is the most significant new direction in food (and health). They should know; Chef René Redzepi is the co-founder of the Danish Restaurant Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times. I’ve never eaten there but fermented food is a founding principle of the quite extraordinary dishes they serve. David Zilber runs the restaurant’s own fermentation lab and when you start reading the book you can see why they need one.

The book was written to let the home chef into the secrets of fermentation. The precision in the instructions is compelling, but when you read what can go wrong if you are not precise enough (botulism anyone?), it is slightly terrifying.

My first attempts at fermenting veg, promptly ditched after reading what can go wrong!

It would appear just about anything can be fermented – and they seem to have tried it all.

They start with lacto fermentation of fruit and vegetables. This might be less of a stretch for wine makers, although different process lactic bacteria are more familiar. In wine making Malo-lactic fermentation converts malic (green apple type) acid into lactic (milk type) acid with the aim of rounding out red wines and also some white wines, reinforcing the buttery flavour of some Chardonnays for example.

On the subject of drinks they favour Kombucha. Some of their ideas make my ginger tea kombucha, of which I was quite proud, look very ordinary. The Coffee Kombucha sounds particularly good and I did try their Lemon Verbena Kombucha, which is delicious. They cover vinegar (see previous post), Koji (no, me neither) then the more familiar Misos and Tamari (much better for you than Soya sauce).

It is not just fruit and veg, meat gets a look in with Garum and they finish with blackened vegetables. Blackened garlic is easily found in delis now but they urge you on to be more adventurous – black hazelnuts?

It is a fascinating book, with very precise instructions helped by 750 full-colour photographs, most of them step-by-step how-tos, but it is very much for the adventurous chef and not for the faint hearted!

There is no recipe for wine making but if you venture down this fermentation rabbit hole I promise that your kitchen shelves will be full of weird and wonderful bottles and jars, none of which should explode, if you follow the instructions precisely. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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