Southern Oregon’s Fermented Food Pioneers


[ birds chirping
and wind blowing ] AARON SCOTT:There’s something
undeniably appealingabout moving to the country,the kind of place where
the only commutersyou’re going to contend with
are a family of deer,where all-natural turkey has
nothing to do with nitratesand processing, but just means
turkey in its natural habitat.Squirrels, are you
coming too?Or at least,
that’s what appealedto Kirsten and Christopher
Shockey.They moved from Corvallis to
the Applegate Valley in 1998in search of a simpler life.Especially as the
kids were starting to grow, I just wanted them to be
grounded. I wanted them to have
a connection with the land. And it was a deep pull
that I can’t explain. And I wanted them,
more than anything, to know where their food
came from.The idea was to get their
40-acre homesteadto pay for itself, which turned
out easier said than done.Their first thought
was a vineyardbut everyone else was doing it.Then they decided
to make cider,but it was going to take years
for the apple trees to mature.So they tried a dairy.She’s a Dexter. A Dexter is an older breed
that was multipurpose.But they couldn’t grow enough
fodderto feed all the livestock.Oh, Buttercup. But she loves hay.Meanwhile, they got a crock
of sauerkraut as a giftand started making it at home.It turned out to be a crock of
kraut that changed their lives.Then we thought we should launch
our own label so we did. We schlepped a lot of sauerkraut
to farmer’s markets, back in the day when
it wasn’t sexy. – Got a lot of yucky faces.
– Before it was cool. – Lot of yucky faces.
– Yeah.At the time, most Americans
associated sauerkrautwith that canned goop
served at ballgames.But like the pioneers who came
to the Applegate Valleybefore them, the Shockeys
were resourceful.– You know, you can ferment
these little seedpods, too. – Really?They saw the process that
makes sauerkraut,called fermentation,
as a way to literally bottlethe beauty and the bounty
of the landscape around them.CHRISTOPHER:
Super peppery. Mm-hm.
Oh, my gosh, so good. I’m gonna have to stop eating
them, though. KIRSTEN:
Yeah, you are.Pretty soon, they were
fermenting anythingand everything neighboring
farms grew in surplus.We created vegetable recipes that maybe didn’t have a cabbage
blade in them at all. And so the idea was really
working locally. She did 52 varieties
in one year. 52.Finally, Christopher said they
should write a cookbook.Kirsten’s response?It’s been done.KIRSTEN: The only fermentation
book out there at the time was Sandor Katz’sWild
Fermentation,so his small one. And Christopher plucked it off
the shelf and came back to me and said, “Yeah but there’s only
17 pages on vegetables.” And so…They releasedFermented
Vegetablesin 2014,helping to propel
the fermentation wavethat swept things like kimchi,
kombucha, and kefirinto mass culinary
consciousness.The book has now sold more than
100,000 copies worldwide.It just came out in German,
so there are Germans who are learning
how to make sauerkraut. [ laughter ] From a couple hippies in Oregon.Now they travel the worldteaching their Oregon-grown
gospel of fermentation.KIRSTEN: So I’m gonna start
with these little guys.But what exactly is
fermentation?I’m gonna pickle these
before you eat them all. That one seems too small to…It’s an ancient form
of picklingwhere instead of adding
vinegar, you get the microbesthat naturally occur on the
veggies to do the work.It starts with adding
a salt brine,because a saline environment
gives the good bacteriaan upper hand over
the bad ones.Or in the case of things
like cabbage and basil,the veggies can make
their own brine.CHRISTOPHER:
Give me a nice sprinkle. So this is the magic. We’re gonna take a whole bowl
of basil and massage that salt in. It’s just pretty amazing,
out of basil you can get that much brine
coming out of there.The microbes then go to work
making the lactic acidthat preserves the food.This is how Christopher
likes to explain itwhen they teach classes
to kids.I tell them that we’re going to
use microbes, little teeny-tiny guys, guys
that you can’t even see. And their job is to eat
the sugars and they’re going to make acid, which is that sour taste
that you taste. And they’re gonna fart CO2. And then usually the kids
are like, “Oh, my god.
Is it gonna be smelly?” It’s, like, “Yeah.
It’s microbe farts. Of course it’s gonna be smelly.”It might be smelly, but as the
Shockeys like to point out,it’s also good for you.Scientists are finding that
the microbes themselves,called probiotics,
are beneficial.And as they break down the
food, they add extra vitamins.Unlike freezing or drying,
fermenting also preservesthe volatile oils
that hold in the flavor.So it’s like you’re taking
this smell and this harvest of right now and you’re gonna capture it
in that jar.The Shockeys first
two cookbookswere about vegetables and
condiments.Now they’re releasing a book
on beans and grainsand creating recipes
for the next book,which returns them
to Christopher’s early ideafor their homestead: ciders.So we’ll start with this guy. And so I’m looking for this guy,
the elderflower, to see when we bottled it before and what I’m expecting it
to taste like. And then I’m going to write down
what it actually tastes like. All right. Yikes, here it goes. That’s funky. [ Kirsten laughs ]Crafting new recipes
is a little likebeing culinary mad scientists.Christopher thinks
the elderflower ciderneeds more time to mellow.But another test with rose
petals from the gardenis ready to bottle.– That’s crazy.
– KIRSTEN: I like it. CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know,
I think it smells like Grandma.The Shockeys may come up
with recipes,but what they really hope
peopletake away from their
books and classes is thisplayful willingness to
experiment with fermentation.KIRSTEN: So what I’ve seen is
this explosion of creativity, people all over the country
and all over the world saying, wow, look,
I can use this method, this thing that has worked,
you know, since people had a vessel
and some salt, really. And look what I can do with it. Look at the flavors
that can happen.In the end, the Shockeys
didn’t end up making a livingoff the land by growing
or making the food,like they originally thought
they would, but by sharing itwith a new generation
of probiotic pioneers.Oh, here’s one more
little piece of broccoli. Boom.

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