Fermentation fanatics to converge this weekend in Burlington

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 1:59 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - If you like foods like yogurt, tempeh, or sauerkraut, you might be a fermentation fanatic. And this weekend, there’s a big celebration in Burlington of that cuisine.

Julia Irish appreciates the briner things in life, like fresh, local produce. It’s what brought her to Vermont to work at Burlington’s Pitchfork Farm on the Intervale.

“We started the pickle shop as a means of using local produce throughout the season,” Irish said.

Irish, who owns Pitchfork Pickle, is now out of farming but is deep into fermentation. Kimchi and sauerkraut are just a few of their fermented offerings, but Irish says, there are a lot of undercover fermented products on the market. “Cheese, yogurt -- all these things that are so important to Vermont’s agriculture,” she said.

Irish says fermentation is a great way to lock in the nutritional value of fresh veggies for a long period of time, and even making these munchies easier on your gut. “It’s bacterias and yeasts and other microbes breaking down sugars and starches in foods and transforming them into something that’s delicious and edible, and in some cases more edible than it would be in a raw material,” Irish said.

But she wants more people to know about the wide variety of producers in Burlington and beyond who make things like tortillas, beer, wine, and even coffee. “These are all fermented products that are made in Vermont -- which is really pretty cool,” Irish said.

Down the hall from Pitchfork, Brio Coffeeworks is also preparing for Ferment Fest this weekend. “I’m sure not many people knew that coffee actually is a fermented product before it gets to us. It’s a very important part of the process that takes place at the origin,” said Brio’s Magda Van Dusen, who joins eight other local businesses that will be on hand to give samples and talk about their specific fermentation processes, something Van Dusen says she’s excited to share. “I bet a lot of people didn’t know that fermentation is key in coffee, for example. And I think they’ll be surprised by a couple of items here this weekend.”

And if the free samples aren’t enough reason, Van Dusen says she hopes people head down to the soda plant this weekend to learn. “I think it’s a really great opportunity for people to come and taste different foods and beverages that are fermented and sort of celebrate that process,” she said.

Ferment Fest is free and runs from 110 to 4 Saturday at the Soda Plant on Pine Street in Burlington.