When Sandor Katz, author of the James Beard Foundation Award-winning The Art of Fermentation, spoke at Sterling College last spring, he attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Now he's returning to the institution, this time as a teacher.
Katz, also known as Sandorkraut, will be at Sterling from July 7 through 18 to teach "Fermentation with Sandor Katz."
According to Christian Feuerstein, Sterling's director of communications, "He is going to be available to [help students] learn fermentation one on one." Topics covered will include vegetable fermentation; making tonic beverages; culturing molds; and fermenting oils, legumes, grains and nuts. Of course, the New York Times-bestselling author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved will include his namesake sauerkraut among the foods in which he shares his expertise.
It used to be that January was the Vermont dining nadir. Everyone was light on both product and motivation to do much besides try to lose weight gained over the holidays.
Clearly, times have changed. I spent the weekend going to a different culinary event each night. If you missed out, keep these breaks from the winter doldrums in mind when they next appear.
Friday: In Good Taste, St. Albans
I could never have anticipated the crowd that clogged the St. Albans City Hall on Friday night. Clearly, Franklin County was starving for a good food event. The evening began at 5 p.m. By the time I got there after 6:30, 20 tasting tickets for $10 had been discounted to $5. According to the folks selling tickets, so many vendors had already sold out that it was only fair.
But there was still lots to learn.
I started with a sip of cucumber-flavored TreTap. The supplemented water is made from the byproducts of maple sugaring at Branon's West View Maples. Basically, it's SmartWater with a Vermont edge. It didn't taste like cucumber, but the ultra-pure liquid was a nice palate cleanser before feasting.
Nearby, students from Northwest Technical Center's culinary arts program were preparing a piquant steak tartare using meat donated by Highgate Center's Choiniere Family Farm.
I ended the evening with a flight of five different ice ciders from from Hall Home Place of Isle La Motte.
Surprisingly for this nondrinker, my favorite was the Sweet Six, which its makers describe as having a "brandy-like finish." What I liked more than the burn was the ideal blend of sweet and tart. The acid of some apples cut through the sticky sweetness of others. Too bad the six apples change each season. I may never taste a blend quite like that one again.
Saturday: Ramen Cook-Off, Shelburne
The following evening, my buddy Jack Thurston and I judged the first of three annual cooking contests held at Chef Contos Kitchen & Store, owned by another pal, Courtney Contos.
Since the store is small, entries were capped at seven. To keep things fair, we tasted each bowl anonymously labeled with a number. Three were Thai curry soups, not ramens, so, while tasty, they simply couldn't win.
One soup stood out clearly from the pack. It had the lip-glossing slick of collagen I was looking for in a well-salted broth. Just as the truck drivers in Tampopo insist, the balance of broth, noodles and meat was spot-on, too. And it turned out the winner had a familiar face.
Suzanne Podhaizer of Salt in Montpelier, former Seven Days food editor, turned out to be the ramen's creator. I hadn't realized at first taste that the soup was made not from pork but from goose, including braised meat and cracklings from the animals she helped raise (and slaughter) herself at a farm called Gozzard City in Cabot.
Before most of us were awake on Monday, January 13, Beth Whiting and Bruce Hennessey of Maple Wind Farm had already received some very bad news. Just an hour and a half after the fire department arrived, their historic barn was declared a total loss.
Though the pair's home farm is in Huntington, an expansion in the summer of 2013 meant adding a Richmond property, including the barn that was destroyed.
The damage amounts to about $200,000, including refrigerators, washing tools, office space and 10,000 pounds of frozen vegetables.
Reached by phone this afternoon, Whiting was surprisingly upbeat. No people or animals were harmed in the fire and the farmers were able to sell their wares at the Burlington Farmers Market last weekend. Whiting says that although some poultry processing equipment was damaged in the fire, the farm remains on track to pass USDA inspection this winter. She calls the ability to rebuild to their own specifications a "silver lining."
Selling their own products will help cover some costs, but friends are helping out, too. David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg are supplying organic pork and vegetables for a fundraiser at Hinesburgh Public House on January 28. The dinner, served from 5 to 9 p.m., will consist of three courses, all for $25. Ben & Jerry's is donating dessert.
Vermont farmers will be in our thoughts tomorrow as we tuck into our Thanksgiving meals. And just in time for the holiday, Amanda Andrews and Mike Betit of Burlington's Tamarack Hollow Farm have something to be thankful for — they're moving to higher ground.
In a story last summer about the pitfalls of farming on the Burlington floodplain, Andrews articulately outlined the “urban farm adventure" on which she and her husband embarked after moving their farm from Wheelock in 2010. As of August, Tamarack Hollow had lost more than $100,000 this year alone to the flooding that crippled the growth of both plants and animals from the start.
Andrews was at her limit, even considering a career change. “What does seven years’ farming experience get you in the real world?” she wondered at the time. “You look through the job postings, and what you’d be qualified for is pretty slim.”
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