Chrisso Babcock, Elizabeth (Ellie) Gross and Doug Cullen are a trio of young nutrition entrepreneurs and fermentation enthusiasts who are in tune with the principles of the Slow Food movement, which takes a mindful approach to eating that makes wholesome living a priority over fast food convenience. While each of the three has their own projects, they’ve teamed up collectively as the Fermenterie School of Fermentation in order to produce larger events from time to time. The school is not a brick-and-mortar location; it’s more of a way to organize movable workshops to be held at different locations. “We’ve all been teaching workshops individually and we’ve been friends for years,” says Cullen. “So we thought, ‘Why not join forces and do something great together?'”
The first such event will be A Day of Fermentation and Slow Living this Sunday, September 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Huguenot Street Farm, 205 Huguenot Street in New Paltz. The $295 fee includes a choice of two of the five 90-minute workshops to be offered. Artisanal drinks and snacks will be included for participants, and the event concludes with a farm-to-table luncheon feast made up of all the foods created in the different workshops. Pre-registration is required at www.fermenterie.com.
Babcock says the experience of teaming up together is “exciting for all of us. We each have different experiences in food and small businesses that focus on food but all from very different angles. This is a great way for us to get together and combine our skills.”
His interest in the kitchen arts began years ago when he apprenticed on a homestead in rural Vermont, where he learned to save seeds, raise goats and make homemade wine, sourdough breads and a variety of cheeses. Homesteading is different from small-scale farming, he says, in that it’s really more about producing food for yourself rather than growing crops or raising animals for income.
After his apprenticeship, Babcock farmed on and off for a few years, incorporating some of what he had learned into his lifestyle. He founded the Fertile Minds Collective, a one-season homesteading project in Saugerties in which the participants grew their own food, raised chickens and goats, did workshops and donated food to local food pantries. Later on he worked at Tweefontein Herb Farm in New Paltz making herbal medicinal products, gardening and teaching workshops.
Currently based in New Paltz, he has continued to teach homesteading arts through various venues for the last five years; at one point through SUNY Ulster’s continuing education program and now through his own business, Coyote Kitchen Workshops. One of his recent offerings was a class on making homemade miso and sake. “It’s a very simple process,” he says, “like a lot of these things. But it’s less intimidating and people are more likely to actually do it if they see it being done and they can walk through it with someone.”
At Sunday’s event, Babcock will teach two workshops; one on cheese making — using hands-on methods for creating simple hard cheeses that can keep for a year or more — and another on creating broths and infusions. That workshop will start with making a bone and vegetable broth, he says, then infusing some olive oil, coconut oil and animal fat with different spices and herbs. “To me, that’s another really simple thing that you can do that adds a lot of variety to your pantry and your cooking. Infusions can be done with liquors and many other things, too.”
The overall concept for the Day of Fermentation and Slow Living is that all of the workshops are not only teaching people something useful but providing food for the lunch table at the end of the event, he says. “So not only will we all be sitting down together to eat, but people will have the pleasure of saying, ‘I helped to make that dish that’s going around right now,’ or ‘I helped infuse that salad dressing.'”
Ellie Gross is a yoga teacher, nutritional coach and food blogger. In her blog, “Yogi in the Nook,” she writes that it’s not just about sharing her healthy recipes, but depicting “a vision of my life within the vortex of the Hudson Valley. Along the Shawangunk Ridge live a hub of incredible folk who live honestly. We tap our maples, we make our mead, we ferment our kraut. I hope to depict a glimpse into the reality of life as it is. Perhaps it will encourage others to live in honor of the land, or at least to learn a little more about sustainable living.”
At the farm event, Gross will offer a workshop called Setting the Wild Table, which involves using the local terrain to create place settings, floral arrangements and table decorations for the luncheon at the end of the day. The idea is to bring all the senses into the meal; being conscious that everything sourced for the meal, from the table settings to the food, all come together to create the ultimate experience of the gathering.
High Falls-based Doug Cullen has a food truck called Itsa Pizza Truck, which he takes to farmer’s markets and events in the Hudson Valley and beyond. He’s been a baker and brewer for the last 15 years, focusing on rustic sourdough bread baking. His love of food happened when he was a teenager searching for ways to cook for himself as a vegetarian. Discovering and testing recipes from a variety of cuisines turned into a fascination with the fermentation process. He started his own sourdough culture, learned how to feed and maintain it and gradually learned to bake bread, developing an appreciation for food made slowly and with care.
Cullen’s workshops at the Day of Fermentation will be on baking bread and brewing beer. Making bread at home in your regular oven really is possible, he says, and not that hard. Really? “Of course! It’s a very easy process; it just takes a little patience.” He says he plans to bring his mobile wood-fired oven to the event to go over some pizza-dough-making tips in the bread baking workshop.
And making beer, according to Cullen, is “just like making a big pot of soup or tea.” The basics on brewing with a minimum of equipment and marginal start-up costs will be covered and the group will discuss and sample beer styles from around the world.
The trio behind Fermenterie plan to hold more Day of Fermentation and Slow Living events in the future. Perhaps they’ll have a physical location at some point, says Cullen, but in the meantime, “the workshops are a great way to spread the word.”
More information is available at www.Fermenterie.com.