Fermentation: A Balancing Act
A Glimpse Into the Life of A Potter Dedicated to Making, Teaching, and Fermenting.
Wake early Monday morning to start a large order of handcrafted ceramic fermentation crocks for Williams-Sonoma. I began making these one-gallon crocks five years ago due to my love of the funky sour flavors of lacto-fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, and borscht. I figured that, since I am a potter, I should craft some vessels for my fermenting experiments. It was a small personal project, but has since grown in parallel to the fermentation movement, and now my fermenting crocks are sold to folks all over the world. My crock-making mini-project threatens to overtake my entire studio.
After two long studio days getting a jump-start on a sixty-vessel order, I shift gears a bit. On Tuesday night, I teach a small class of enthusiastic fermenters and novice potters to make their own fermentation crocks. This is the first of a three-part fermentation workshop series that aims to create self-sufficient and confident home fermenters. Part one begins at my studio; I help the class craft the vessel, a weight to weigh down the veggies and hold them submerged under the brine, add strong handles (because every artisanal crock needs sturdy lug handles), and design future custom crocks. Two weeks later we will reconvene, receive the finished crocks, and learn to make sauerkraut in them. The final workshop will be a community fermentation-themed potluck dinner. We complete the cycle from making the crocks, to learning to use them, then sharing the delicious results.
After a few days of making and teaching, I am ready to move forward planning my most ambitious fermentation project to date. Wednesday night is a planning meeting for the October 4th Boston Fermentation Festival (www.bostonferments.com). As the founder, I lead an all-volunteer group to pull together a full day of fermentation fun that brings together microbiologists, distillers, home fermenters, urban homesteaders, dieticians, and many others to celebrate the beauty of fermentation. This completely free fest includes workshops, hands-on demonstrations, two dozen professional fermenters selling and sampling, a competitive Pickle-Off with local chefs, culture-sharing, and lots of other community events. The goal is to demonstrate one of the greatest facets of fermentation: that, arguably, the most ancient of preservation techniques is once again new and exciting and has the capacity to bring together different people and build bridges between communities and fields.
Fermentation allows me to explore what I enjoy most about being a potter, it helps me connect to new people and communities through teaching, selling, and organizing. And on Thursday, I do just this: cruise around the city to connect with new folks and catch up with clients to talk about new projects. Some of these new projects are fermentation related, like spit-balling new designs for custom beer steins or prototyping new fermentation vessels for chef and brewer friends, and some are just about ceramics. In both cases, being a potter, entrepreneur, and fermenter serves me well.