On Tuesday 22 January, Slow Food East Cork hosted Dearbhla Reynolds who spoke about her passion for fermentation. Here is a report on that event. Adding a daily dose of fermented foods to your diet can have an extraordinary beneficial effect on your health.

Dearbhla Reynolds author of The Cultured Club, has devoted the past 6½ years to enhancing her knowledge of fermented and cultured foods and is at the forefront of the current revival of interest in fermented food. She spoke to us about her passion for fermentation and her dedication to reviving this lost tradition so crucial to our gut health at a time when there is a growing realisation that our western diets are deficient in fermented foods. A robust and diverse gut biome determines both our physical and mental health.

We are the generation that has been brainwashed into thinking that bacteria are bad although approximately 95% are beneficial with fewer than 10% pathogenic.
Fermented foods are some of the safest foods on the planet. If something goes wrong it is clearly visible. There is no recorded incidence of someone being ill from fermented foods, which is encouraging for those who would like to experiment at home. Dearbhla brilliantly took the mystery out of fermentation and encouraged the packed room of ‘wanna be’ fermenters to have a go at home, maybe get started on milk or water kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut or kimchi.
When starting with fermentation, step back, trust the process and let time take over. Fermented foods can be an acquired taste but a vitally important one to acquire. We have lost the taste for bitter in our flavour palate but can quickly get to love it again. Ancestrally, we know the taste of that which is bad for us.

  • Dearbhla’s Top Tips:
    Pay particular attention to control points
    Salt – get the amount of salt right
    Oxygen – keep the food submerged

Think like bacteria and how they like to operate.  Basically it is a super simple process but we complicate it in our heads.

Dearbhla’s book, Cultured Club, published by Gill Books, has step by step instructions on how to get started and many delicious recipes for a wide variety of fermented foods.

There was a lively Question and Answer session and Dearbhla urged us to get started and experiment, you’ll be delighted by the benefits.

At Ballymaloe Cookery School, they serve water kefir and kombucha at lunch every day. The Ballymaloe Cookery School Fermenting Shed was established in 2018. Penny Allen and Maria Walsh make a variety of much sought after ferments and continue to experiment and teach.