Publicist Megan Posco’s job demands an intimate knowledge of many subjects. But so far, fermented food is the only Storey topic to follow her home.
I’ve learned many things in my work as a book publicist at Storey — weird and wonderful things. You can make clothing out of SCOBYs, foraged sumac makes an excellent cocktail ingredient, some farms are less than half an acre in size. All of these eclectic tidbits of information are fun to repeat at parties, but recently I realized that even after a couple of years at Storey, I still hadn’t started doing any of the weird and wonderful things detailed in our books. That is, until I started fermenting food.
My first introduction to fermented food and drink was a whirlwind: part of being the publicist for The Big Book of Kombucha included planning a 25-city, nationwide book tour. I found eager event hosts at fermentation bars and kombucha breweries, booksellers ravenous for more information about the fermented drink that their customers kept talking about, and readers who couldn’t wait to brew their own kombucha at home. It shocked me — how could this many people be excited about a little bacteria?
Fast forward to this year. I was working on publicity for Fiery Ferments, a collection of recipes for fermented condiments from the authors of Fermented Vegetables. The recipe names enticed me: Vanilla Habanero Mash, Zhug (a Yemeni chile paste), and Nettle Kimchi all sounded wildly interesting, but I was hesitant to try anything at home. What if I accidentally ate mold — or worse? Once or twice, I grabbed a jar of locally-fermented kraut or carrots at the grocery store, but ultimately returned them to the shelf because of their price tags. I just wasn’t ready to commit.
When Fiery Ferments officially launched this past spring, I had the pleasure of traveling to Seattle for several author events. Sitting in Book Larder and Third Place Books, I watched as Kirsten and Christopher Shockey put vegetables, spices, and salt into jars that would someday (usually in about 1–2 weeks) become probiotic goodies. They made it seem so easy and promised those of us in the audience that we wouldn’t kill our houseguests with fermented foods. I came home from that trip with jars full of leftover samples (TSA-approved) and a newfound determination to try fermenting at home.
I started with one jar of Spicy Carrot and Lime Salad. I repeated the Shockeys’ mantra (“submerging in brine conquers evil every time”) over and over as I chopped peppers and ginger and cut the carrots I’d bought at the farmers’ market into paper-thin slices — as if reassuring the vegetables (and myself) would yield better results. Once the mixture was packed into the jar, it was time to wait. I checked on my little carrots every day until — at last! — I saw bubbles. There was such satisfaction in that first bite. I had patiently waited for ten days and the delayed gratification was totally worth it. There was just one problem: the salad was gone in two days. I thought to myself, “We’re gonna need a bigger jar.”
Now I have jars of Spicy Carrot and Lime Salad, Lemon Achar (from Fiery Ferments), and Curtido (from Fermented Vegetables) sitting on my shelf. Even though I’ve been using airlocks for the convenience of not having to “burp” the jars, I still check on them every day like a proud mom. All are bubbling, and my cabinet smells pretty funky (in a good way). Fermenting my own vegetables has opened my eyes to the benefits and possibilities of slow food, and I’m hooked.
Next up, homemade mozzarella!