August 28th, 2009 5:33 pm | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Portland Fermented.


"How many people here have problems with surface molds?" asks Sandor Katz, the wild haired man standing on a chair in the middle of Ecotrust's second floor conference room.

A ton of hands shoot up from the crowd, which is packed into the room like, well, hunks of cabbage in a crock. They are here to share information, troubleshoot and generally geek out at all things pickled here at Portland's first ever Fermentation Festival. And they are legion.

Apparently everybody in Portland digs pickled things. Or, at least that's what it seems, judging from the impressive turnout last night. Ecotrust was packed to capacity with old school grandma canners, adorable young hardcore vegans and natty-suited gents extolling the virtues of kefir, granola hippie kraut fiends, cider sippin', breast-feedin' moms and every other kind of Portlander imaginable. The one thing they all share? A love of stuffing vegetables and fruits into jars and crocks and letting them sit around until they turn into something wonderful. (See photos after the jump.)

"There's a resurgence in fermentation culture," said Katz, a writer/ teacher who looks like a 1970s stand-up comic/porn star. Katz was the main draw for the festival, which was organized by local home fermenters, many of whom who had taken his workshops in the past. "If it were so dangerous to eat food outside refrigeration, none of us would be here today."

Not only are local fermenters alive, they're multiplying. More than a dozen Portland pickle, natto, kraut, wine and other fermented-product makers shared their goods Thursday night. The crowd was so voracious that co-organizer Gretchen Westlight ran out of her fig-flavored kefir by 6:30 pm (the event started at 6 pm).

UPDATE Tuesday, Sept. 1: PFF organizers estimate around 500 people attended last week's fest and confirm that there will be a Portland Fermentation Fest 2010. "We hope to do other artisanal food events, garage wine and beer, cheese etc.," hinted co-organizer David Barber. Find updates on what the PFF group is planning at or just email

Here's what a few more of Portland's fermenters were proudly pimping:


Handing out samples of puckery Picklopolis goods.


Co-organizer George Winborn offered tasty sour kefir with a side of seersucker style.


Salt Fire Time Community Supported Kitchen's Tressa Yellig sweetens up her excellent sauerkraut with a pinch of tarragon.


Picklopolis and Three Square Grill co-owner David Barber shows off his crunchy lemon cucumber pale yellow pickling cuke "ghost pickle."


Fermentation guru Sandor Katz answers the crowd's questions.


You can ferment anything. Victoria Schneider doles out cupfuls of the most delicious, mouth-searingly hot fruit kimchee ever. It contained grapes.


Crockhaus' Jess Hauser makes her kefir with coconut milk, lemon and currants.


Co-organizer Gretchen Westlight is all sold out.


Tasty, tasty fermentation sample detritus.
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