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Fermentation Festival promoting what’s good for your gut

Toasting with Kombucha is Mike Weese, of Laurentian Brew Kombucha.

Story and photos by Olivia Timm
All things said to be good for the gut drew a large crowd Saturday at Picton’s Crystal Palace.

In similar style to last year’s inaugural event, Ontario Fermentation Festival visitors toured the building to test and buy fermented products like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, cheese, kefir, tempeh, kvass, pickles, vinegar, spirits, beer, malt, wine, cider, mead, sourdough bread, nut cheeses, and cured meats.

Alex Currie, co-owner of Pyramid Ferments in Northport and co-organizer of the festival, showing off the company’s popular Kombucha.

Organizers Alex Currie and Jenna Empey, who have been running Pyramid Ferments in Prince Edward County since 2012, were busy supporting businesses and attendees at the event.

There were 27 vendor’s at this year’s event, 11 of which were local to Prince Edward County. All were actively educating people on the health benefits of fermented products and handing out samples.

Currie said he and Jenna had a goal to make the festival educational, but fun, so people can enjoy learning about the health benefits fermented products offer.

“The health benefit of fermented products comes from the probiotics for the most part,” he said. “One thing a lot of people don’t realize is, people have always been told to eat yogurt. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, all have infinite health benefits, too.”

Another great food, he said, is cabbage.

“It’s heavy in Vitamin C, so if you ferment it, the Vitamin C goes up 30 times. So you are creating new nutrients and new flavours, and even new bacteria. Our bodies are made up of trillions of bacteria and we get bad bacteria everywhere we go – from car exhaust, smoking, the food we eat;, the world we live in has a lot of bad bacteria. So, the more bad bacteria you can push out with the good bacteria you put in, the better off your body is going to be.”

The format of the festival this year was a bit different, featuring an all-fermented artisan marketplace, farmers’ market, prepared food vendors who use fermented ingredients, and veggie-themed kids activities.

An amateur ferment competition was also held along with an all Ontario craft beverage garden.

A beer garden outside featured all local craft beer and wine from 555 Brewing Co., Apple Falls Cider, Barley Days Brewery, Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, Prince Eddy’s Brewing, Sandbanks Winery, and MacKinnon Brothers Brewing, in Bath.

“We aim to celebrate, inspire and educate our provincial community about the many types of food and beverage ferments available in Ontario,” he said. “We also aim to promote an awareness and interest in healthy, local, Ontario food choices.”

The couple hosts the event to draw attention to the unique and growing industry.

“People are becoming increasingly interested in fermented foods and gut health. We want to celebrate the great diversity of fermented foods we offer in this province and also draw attention to the fact that there are many Ontario made options for fermented foods and drink,” said Jenna Empey.

“When Jenna and I started fermenting, we started as farmers. We used to sell vegetables and things at farmer’s markets, and then we began selling sauerkraut that Jenna had been making. We noticed our sauerkraut sales had been going way up and we started adding things like kimchi and realized, ‘There is a market for this,’” he said.

That’s when the couple decided to start their company in The County.

“We were the only company doing this. We’ve noticed now that not only are people doing sauerkraut and kimchi, but there’s cheese and amazing, local yogurt. It is really neat to see everybody kind of embracing this culture. It’s such a nice alternative form of cooking and preserving foods.” Currie said.

“We also are so happy to open it up to the province. We have vendors here from New York – they did a miso-making workshop and came all the way from Brooklyn.”

Cheryl Paswater, owner of Contraband Ferments in New York, taught folks how to make miso soup – a traditional Japanese dish produced by fermenting soybeans a fungus called Koji.

Throughout the day-long event, three other workshops took place including one hosted by Chef Albert Ponzo, who will be making his appearance as the executive chef of Picton’s highly anticipated re-opening of the Royal Hotel, which is set to open its doors in 2019.

He did a workshop on the journey of incorporating fermented foods in the restaurant industry.

The couple expects to host another festival in 2019, based on the success of the event over the past two years.

Honey Pie Hives & Herbals was a popular booth for visitors. The County company was licensed to sell their mead this year, which they reported was a successful addition to sales.

Jay Chetwynd, owner of ClearWater Design, was repping his tie-dye clothing outside the festival.

Britni Belisle and Andy Terpstra enjoyed their Saturday afternoon touring the craft beer garden, learning about local fermented products, and event left with a few goodies to take home.

Adnan Mustafa, of Papa Ghanoush & Momma Hummus, serving up fresh Falafel and other delicious Syrian foods.

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  1. Steve Staniek says:

    It seems we host trillions of bugs [parasites] throughout our physical bodies. During last year’s festival, gut bug expert Jason Tetro, aka “the germ guy” [“The Germ Files”], gave a very informative lecture on different bugs we host, and how they affect us. Gut bugs can make us feel good or bad, happy or anxious, tired or energized.
    Pyramid Ferments is a pioneer in the bug industry, and will hopefully help heal many bug induced ailments in the County.
    For example, some gut bugs produce waste products containing propionic acid. The brain and gut are connected by the vagas nerve so what happens in the gut affects the brain. When a tiny amount of this acid is injected into lab rats they begin to display anti-social behaviours that mimic autism. We’re just beginning to understand the world of bugs [parasites] and how they affect us.

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