New Brunswick

Fredericton's 'fermentaholic' says key to health is bubbling away

Meet Fredericton's fermentaholic, Ruth Merrett, who is on a mission to promote the healthy, ancient form of food preparation, fermenting.

Ruth Merrett explains the ancient and very healthy process of fermentation

Almost any food can be fermented and preserved. (Ruth Merrett)

Here's a little menu to tempt your taste buds: How about some black bean fritters, with sauerkraut on the side, or maybe some Korean kimchi?

Add a touch of salsa, or some cashew mayo, and you have a feast in the making.

What they all have in common is the very simple and ancient method of preparation: fermentation.

And, they are all specialities of Ruth Merrett.

"You could call me a fermentaholic, or a fermentophile," she laughed, speaking to Colleen Kitts on CBC Radio's Shift program.

Name a food, Ruth Merrett will find a way to ferment it. On Homegrown, she describes how to ferment your food from the basics to the sublime. 8:07
Merrett dropped by to talk about fermenting, in preparation for a workshop she's giving in Fredericton next Sunday, Feb. 28.

It's called Fermenting Foods for a Happy Gut.

"Fermentation in general, is one of the oldest methods of preserving food," said Merrett. "It's really processing the bounty of your harvest into living culture foods, and it makes them so nutritious. And that nutrition is so available, bio-available to your body."

Fruit bubbles

Merrett and her family have many favourites they enjoy year-round.

"I'm a great proponent of the fact you can ferment just about anything," she said. "My favourite ferments last year were snap peas, fiddleheads, jalapeno peppers, which we just finished eating and were absolutely glorious and crunchy. You can ferment salads and have them all ready to eat, you can make fruit bubbles."

Fruit bubbles?

"Like fruit sodas, but they're made with fruit and honey and a little bit of lemon, that's it," Merrett explained. "And it bubbles away."

Cheap and easy methods

It's good for you, you can make great-tasting food, and it keeps getting better, say Merrett: It's cheap, and it's easy.

"The process is so very simple and low-tech," she said. "It's enough salt to keep the vegetable from beginning to rot, until it can get a lactobacillus culture, enough to keep it fermenting, keep it bubbling and boiling. You put it in jars and you let it burble away on your counter."

Ruth Merrett has been fermenting foods for ten years and calls herself a "fermentophile." (Ruth Merrett)
It's easier than canning or pickling, and you get all the benefits of those little microbes too.

"That in essence is a way of preserving the food so you can eat it later on," said Merrett, wrapping up her sales pitch. "It's a very old tradition, every culture in the world includes traditional dishes that rely on the help of microbes for their preparation."

Starting simple

Merrett has been fermenting for a decade, and doing workshops for the past three years.

She starts her new recruits on the basics.

"Because there's so much you can ferment, and you can only take in so much information, what we're going to cover in this workshop is sauerkraut," she said. "I just read about one that peaks my interest, and it's an apple cinnamon sauerkraut that you would put on squash or sweet potatoes."

"We're going to do a fermented salsa, and we're going to make fermented beans for making fritters or pancakes or that kind of thing. So there will be lots of samples, and we'll be cooking the fritters for a taste-test."

The workshop runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Greener Village Teaching Kitchen in Fredericton.


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