good things fermenting in eugene

Sandor Katz!  I was so delighted to host him here at the University of Oregon.  He gave a great introduction to fermentation to students in the Clark Honors College library (with a sauerkraut demo), then spoke to a huge crowd on Friday evening, November 16, on fermentation through the related lenses of culture, co-evolution, and community.

The student event was packed with 30 people, who were treated to samples of fermented vegetables, sourdough bread, and cookies made by the PNW Local Food Honor College CHIP freshman interest group led by the dynamic Paul Metzler.  One grad student even brought a jar of sauerkraut for Sandor to sign.

It was a model event, complete with a charming speaker and an appreciative audience.  I could feel the love emanating throughout the 400 or so people in attendance at the big lecture.  400 people!  We nearly filled Columbia 150, the biggest classroom on campus.  It was really one of the highlights of my career, and I was honored to make it happen.

We had a slight glitch with the books available at the event.  Everything was ok with Sandor’s new book, The Art of Fermentation, but the cool little ‘zine version of Wild Fermentation, not the wonderfully comprehensive book pictured above in green, was ordered.  If you’d like a copy of the book version of Wild Fermentation — and you certainly do, as it’s one of my favorite preservation books and a charming, unique perspective on preserving all kinds of unusual foods in Sandor’s former, quirky, intentional community in Tennessee — please it order via his website at http://www.wildfermentation.com.

In my enthusiasm to show off our community, I dragged Sandor around a bit and introduced him to everyone I could, including the folks at PartyCart, who catered a special reception for Sandor after the talk, and the folks at Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds, since I knew they’d have their winter vegetables going strong and their seeds ready to ship out for the next growing year.  (You may remember Farmer Andrew on KLCC’s Food for Thought; he gave a forceful defense to keep canola out of the Willamette Valley because of the specialized seed crops cultivated here.)

Everywhere we went, people seemed to know he was there and gravitated toward him with little gifts and good wishes.  We chatted with scholars, brewers, cooks, food industry people, farmers, even a filmmaker.  And it gave me faith in Eugene again — sometimes I think we’re a bit too laid back and passive, but I was reminded that there are all kinds of creative passions bubbling up around town.  Sandor was absolutely right when he said in his lecture that ideas can ferment, too: the excitement about new ways of understanding food can actually change a community.  I’m seeing it happen with my own eyes, and god, I’m so privileged to be a part of it.

The reception dinner was marvelous; Tiffany made the ultimate sacrifice to stay behind and prepare a ham smoked by Mark, with sides of fermented chow chow, ginger spoon bread with polenta, stuffed cabbages that I wish I were eating right now, and a slab pie with apple and quince.  I’m mentioning all this because it was the best catered food I’ve had in Eugene by far, so I’m hoping you will consider them for your holiday gatherings and beyond as they try to stay dry this winter and raise funds for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Thanks, Sandor, for sharing your knowledge and perspective with us here in Eugene, and we hope you’ll come back and visit us again soon!

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white kim chi and a visit from sandor katz

In honor of Sandor Katz’s visit to Eugene tomorrow (join us at 5:30 on the UO campus in Columbia 150!), I thought I’d post my latest kim chi recipe. I was looking for a “white” or no-chili-powder, garlicky, gingery version of the classic juicy winter kim chi made with napa cabbage.  And this one came out perfectly.  The Asian pear stays clean and white, and the cabbage turns a beautiful pale yellow.  See?

If you’re in Eugene, you can easily find Asian pears at the local farmers markets.  We had a great crop this year.  It’s worth it to head out to RiverBend Farm south of Eugene, where they’re still available for u-pick at the cut-rate price of $0.70/lb.  Asian pears can beautifully and bake into firm, bright pies.  Just remember you’ll need to follow canning instructions carefully in a tested book, as they are a low-acid fruit.

Welcome to Eugene, Sandor!  We’re so thankful for all that you’ve done to reform our food system, and can’t wait to hear your talk.  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Robert D. Clark Honors College, Oregon Humanities Center, and the UO Food Studies Program Initiative, this lecture is free and open to all. (Click poster above for all the details!)

White Kim Chi with Asian Pear

  • 1 (2 to 3-pound) napa cabbage, heavy for its size and unblemished
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium daikon radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, the green parts julienned and cut into 1-inch lengths, the white parts chopped
  • 1-2 Asian pears (also called nashi, ‘Hosui’ is a good variety but all work), cored and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small head fresh garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Korean salted shrimp, minced (available at Sunrise and other Korean markets)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

You will also need a bowl or crock large enough to hold cabbage and 8 cups water, plus a weight to submerge the cabbage.  This could be as simple as a dinner plate with a jar full of water on top.

Prepare the cabbage for a 4 to 12-hour soak in salt water.  Mix water and salt, let sit while you wash and core the cabbage.  Slice the cabbage and cut into pieces about 2-inches square.  Place in a bowl or crock for the soak, pour the salted water and any salt that has not dissolved atop the cabbage and mix gently using your hands.  Weight the cabbage, cover the bowl with a towel, and let sit on the counter for 4 to 12 hours.

When you are ready to make the kim chi, drain and rinse the cabbage, and return to the large bowl or another vessel suitable for fermentation with a weight to press down the kim chi.  Cut up the radish, scallions, and Asian pears. Prepare the souse:  combine the ginger, garlic, shrimp, and sugar in a food processor bowl, and process to a paste.  Scrape out the paste and combine with the cabbage, mixing well with your hands. Add the vegetables and pears, toss lightly.  Press mixture down in your fermenting vessel, then add weight and let sit on counter for 1-3 days, testing each day for a taste you like.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days for best taste.  It will last for at least a week in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 quarts.

save the date: sandor katz in eugene!!!!!!!

I’ve now received several excited emails and calls letting me know that someone very special is planning to speak in our town.  I know!  I know!  The cat’s out of the bag, so I guess I shouldn’t wait any longer.  The bubbling, alchemical, activated Sandor Katz is coming to Eugene!

I’m delighted to be hosting him at the Honors College on November 16, 2012, for a free public lecture and book signing at the University of Oregon.  We’ve got posters and publicity on the way, but I wanted to make sure you knew the details:

Friday, November 16, 2012, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
“Fermentation: Coevolution, Culture, and Community”
A free public lecture by Sandor Ellix Katz, Author and Cultural Revivalist
150 Columbia Hall, University of Oregon

A book signing for Katz’s New York Times bestselling book, The Art of Fermentation, will follow the lecture and Q&A from 7:00-7:45, and books will also be on sale 5:30-6:00 before the lecture.  Everyone is welcome and no reservations are needed.  Questions?  Comment here or email honors@uoregon.edu.

If you don’t know Katz’s work, you should.  Called by the New York Times one of the “unlikely rock stars of the American food scene,” he’s a “cultural revivalist,” which is a clever way of defining a food activist who writes about changing the American food system by recovering the lost art of fermentation.  Much of what I’ve written on preservation has been influenced by Katz.  He’s the one who really clued me in on the afterlife of food and role of bacteria in the cycle of life.  Heady stuff, deliciously delivered in a pile of sauerkraut or cup of yogurt.  Simple as being.  Remaining.  Enduring.  Changing.  Emerging. Triumphing.  He’s been featured in every major news outlet and food media, and has given hundreds of lectures and demonstrations all across America and beyond.  This will be well worth your time, I guarantee it.

The talk is made possible by funding from the University of Oregon’s Robert D. Clark Honors College, the Oregon Humanities Center, and the UO Food Studies Program Initiative.  Additional support for a student discussion comes from the Clark Honors College Student Association and the Climate Justice League.

The photo, by the way, is from The Art of Fermentation‘s display at Powell’s Books, where Katz will be speaking on National Pickle Day, November 14, in case you’ll be in Portlandia.  You can pickle that!  Call the store for more details.

food for thought today with sandor katz and christina canto

We’re thrilled to welcome two special guests on Food for Thought on KLCC today.  Boris and I will be joined by Christina Canto, Rogue Track Town’s new head brewer, and Sandor Katz, master of all things fermented and the author of a new definitive work on fermentation, The Art of Fermentation.  Listen in today at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations in Oregon, or live on the web.

Edited to add: Listen to the show’s audio archive.