Okay, maybe she’s not actually fermented, but Liz Crain, co-author with chef Aaron Adams of Fermenter Restaurant, of the new fermented foods cookbook, Fermenter: DIY Fermentation for Vegan Fare, took time out of her busy book tour to talk with Kitchen Table in this exclusive Q&A. 

Photograph of author Liz Crain at home in her kitchen, holding a copy of her new book, Fermenter.
Author Liz Crain at home in her kitchen.

KITCHEN TABLE: What is a good, easy gateway recipe for the fermented foods-curious?

LIZ: For someone who has never made a home ferment before, and who is maybe a little nervous about doing so, I highly recommend the Fermenter cookbook’s Spicy Giardiniera. It’s super-duper tasty and so good straight-up on a snack board, on the book’s Smoked Pinto Bratwurst Hoagie, in a salad, or thinly sliced and diced onto a sandwich. It’s super versatile and a breeze to make. 

To make it at home, simply grab a gallon jar, chop up the rainbow of veggies that go into it—cauliflower, carrot, celery, bell pepper, etc. and toss them in the jar. Next, toast up some spices and throw them in the jar. After that, top everything with a salty brine. Your giardiniera will be tart and yummy and ready after five days to a couple weeks of fermenting on your countertop. I usually like it best at about one week of fermentation. At that point, you add some olive oil to the jar and that’s it. You’re done. So good! And so easy. 

Also, for anyone out there who’s never fermented before and is excited to start, please consider coming out to our Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust on Thursday, October 19th 6-9pm! It’s a skill-sharing, recipe-sharing celebration of all things fermented geared toward opening up the wide world of food and drink fermentation to all. Heaps of gateway ferments there to try and learn about straight from the makers themselves. And kids 12 and younger get in for free.

Photograph inside the book, Fermenter, of Spicy Giardiniera.
Spicy Giardiniera.

KITCHEN TABLE: What is your desert island pickle? You can only have one.

LIZ: Fermenter’s Sour Dills. I’ve made a lot of fermented sour dills over the year’s and there’s something about Aaron’s spice blend that’s just dynamite. And, for the record, I truly believe that with the salts and natural sugars and acidic tang of sour dills you get pretty close to a jolt of energy drink electrolytes—energizing and hydrating for that desert island. 

The past few years I’ve gotten really into pickle ball, and the couple times I’ve actually brought a fridge jar of Fermenter’s Sour Dills to meet-ups everyone’s been really happy. So after a run-around sweaty game of pickle ball or some full-on desert island sunshine they hit the spot.

Photograph inside the book, Fermenter, of Sour Dills & Pickle Brine.
Sour Dills & Pickle Brine.

KITCHEN TABLE: What is your favorite style of pizza? 
LIZ: Portland! For real. We have some really excellent pizza spots in town, including Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, Nostrana, Ken’s, Apizza Scholls and on and on. In general, I love a thin, chewy crust made from slow-fermented dough topped with whatever is seasonal and most delicious. 

KITCHEN TABLE: Do you ever eat frozen pizza, and if so, what brand?
LIZ: I honestly rarely do. I just enjoy making my own pizzas so much. So, if frozen pizza is on my at-home menu that would just mean a homemade dough that I prepped ahead of time and froze. Every summer I can my own tomato sauce and love to use that to sauce my pizzas. I also can what I call Lizzie Lil’s—these super yummy oil-cured pickled peppers that always go on my pizzas. I’m not at all opposed to frozen pizza, though, I just happen to really enjoy making my own. 
My classic go-to toppings at home = my canned red sauce, grated mozz/parm and whatever other yummy melty cheese I’m digging + sliced green olives + Lizzie Lil’s + maybe a cured meat + maybe ribboned kale or another hearty green. Yum!

Fermenter, published by Sasquatch Books is available here, and at indie bookstores throughout Portland and the Pacific Northwest.

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