Kraut was Only the Start

Meg Chamberlain isn’t shy about admitting her obsession with fermenting.

Meg Chamberlain spent several years living off the grid in Missouri with her husband Lars. Power was supplied by one solar panel and an outhouse. It was there, by necessity, that she learned about fermenting foods. She trained her passion into a business called Fermenti, which produces fermented krauts, salsa, lemons, Sichuan carrots, garlic pickles, and other foods and sells them in stores across Western North Carolina and at farmers’ markets.

Chamberlain also teaches classes, including a holiday version at Wine Sage and Gourmet in Downtown Hendersonville.

What exactly does Fermenti do?
That’s a loaded question. It seems like a simple one. At Fermenti we provide living, probiotic-rich fermented foods. We believe in continuing our heritage of food culturing and educational outreach.

You’ve said fermenting became necessary to your lifestyle …
I was trying to find ways to cut my food budget and deal with stretching our food and getting more nutritional value out of the food we did buy. When we homesteaded, we had no refrigeration so we had to dehydrate or can. I started to explore fermentation methods.

What was the next step?
I kept pushing the envelope and pushing the envelope. About a year after I started, I began to teach because my enthusiasm was so high. People kept asking about it and saw how it had affected my life. At a certain point my friends asked, “When are you going to sell it?” Because you can only give so much kraut away. It developed from there.

What do you want to show people?
First of all, it’s easy and accessible. Then, secondly, I show how creative you can get. You don’t have to chew on kraut every meal to get the goodies. You can do hot sauce or lemons or onion relish on your hot dog or fermented ketchup on your fries. I try to find creative ways to help people realistically bring fermented foods into their lives.

What’s your favorite item to preserve?
Oh, wow. I ferment it all. I can’t stop. I’d say my favorite to make would be the salsa.

How much can you teach in one class?
People can attend for free and listen. If you want to participate in the make-and-take section, we sell kits. You get the kit and an education based around the kit and we’ll make a kraut you can take home with you. We offer free unlimited e-mail support after the class to our members. The angle we’re pushing is a holiday do-it-yourself gift.

Do your products follow trends?
We are just now, by popular demand, about to begin making kimchi. There are fellow fermenters in the area whose bread and butter is kimchi. I ferment everything and didn’t want to encroach on that too much. But I’m having customer demand get me to where I’m going to have to break down. I think I’m going to stick with crazy creative kimchi, so I can leave my friendly competitors alone. We do one called bamboochi, which has young bamboo shoots that are wild crafted and harvested. We tend to specialize in the not-norm.

Meg Chamberlain will host a teaching event from 6-8pm on Tuesday, December 5, at Wine Sage and Gourmet (416 N. Main Street in Hendersonville). $30 for the “make and take” option. For more information, check out fermenti.biz or call 828-595-2236.

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