On a recent trip to visit my sister in Hobart, Tasmania, I met up with Ronald, of the Hobart-based fermenting outfit, Southern Wild. I quizzed him on how someone comes to love fermenting so much that they start a business doing it, and his tips for getting started with ferments at home.
It’s clear from the beginning of our chat that Ronald’s work is a labour of love. In Hobart, Southern Wild is known for the interesting kraut flavours (like apple and juniper sauerkraut) and kimchi ‘gut-shots’ that they sell at farmers’ markets and local wholefood stores.
Wild fermentation is what happens when salt, vegetables and time are mixed together. No starter cultures or probiotic supplements are added. This approach to fermenting relies on promoting the growth of lactic acid bacteria that are indigenous to the organic vegetables they use. This makes fresh and chemical free sourcing of the utmost importance. Southern Wild believes that wild lacto fermentation produces Sauerkraut and Kimchi with the most complex and memorable flavours.
In his spare time Ronald is especially keen on developing products and recipes based on the use of Koji, a sweet Japanese mould culture (Aspergillus Oryzae) which forms the basis of foods such as Miso, Sake and Soy Sauce. Ronald is the only person I know to describe a mould fragrance as ‘divine’ or Koji as being ‘motivated’ to go into rice during the incubation process.
Ronald got into consuming and experimenting with home-made ferments when he started experiencing some hefty health issues. Eating fermented foods went alongside radical changes to his lifestyle and contributed to his journey back to good health. The science about how fermented foods contribute to health is still in its infancy. Like many people though, Ronald has enjoyed good health with regular consumption, and is passionate about making organic, local fermentation available to others.
Southern Wild have recently had a break from producing Sauerkraut and Kimchi due to issues with organic cabbage supplies. Their desire to make products derived from organically grown Tasmanian veggies has presented more than it's fair share of challenges. They are now building direct relationships with Southern Tasmanian growers and find these collaborations extremely rewarding and educational. As Ronald puts it, Southern Wild has a ‘nested destiny’ with their local growers. If the growers experience climactic, pest or other issues, then so do Southern Wild. It keeps their enterprise small for now, but they hope to steadily develop it over the seasons along with their local growers.
Ronald’s advice for getting started with fermentation
Don’t be afraid of it, just experiment. If it’s too salty, give it more time. (MBMB note: it’s a similar principle for sugar-based ferments such as kombucha - too sweet means it needs more time for the bacteria to eat the sugar away).
For making kraut/vegetable -lactofermentation, keep food under the brine.
Airlocks (available from home-brew stores) are handy for avoiding getting scungy vegetables at the top of the jar.
To find out more about Ronald and Southern Wild check out his website or follow him on IG.