Fer-meant to be

Updated: Jul 01, 2020, 12:32 IST | Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

A mixologist and a baker, who have started an Instagram page to break down the basics of fermentation, share their experiments and a few hacks

The duo will soon start taking orders for items like sourdough
The duo will soon start taking orders for items like sourdough

Culturing microbes, acetic acid, good bacteria — sound like terms floating around in the chemistry lab, isn't it? Well, mixologist Ananth Nayak, who works with O Pedro, and Powai-based pastry chef Abhilasha Rajan have been trying to break down these concepts of fermentation, through Barmbay, an Instagram page they created during the lockdown. The result: glimpses of freshly-brewed toddy, bubbly ice-cream soda, warm loaves of sourdough, and more from their kitchen labs. "We were both always into fermentation. Now, we finally have the time to experiment. One thing led to another, and we ended up creating kvass, a fermented beverage from Russia and other east European countries. While it's traditionally made by fermenting stale rye bread, we used whole wheat sourdough bread. When Nayak posted the picture on social media, he got a great response and we thought, 'Why not document this?'" says Rajan, a self-confessed sourdough lover.

The name of the page is derived from barm — the foam that forms while fermenting beer or any other alcohol — which was used to make bread back in the day when commercial yeast wasn't available, the duo tells us. "It's our take on fermentation, which is the chemical breakdown of a substance with the help of bacteria or yeast," shares Nayak, who's currently in Bengaluru. So, they have been poring over their 'Bible', The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, and playing around with substitutes available locally to come up with their own recipes like plum toddy, whey-based ice cream soda and sourdough kvass. In between sharing recipes and photos, they also post some gyaan on the different kinds of fermentation; culturing; history of barm, etc. "Fermentation is subject to the place, air and humidity, so, if it takes five days in Bengaluru, it might take three in Mumbai. We factor that in while sharing our recipes," informs Nayak.

Ananth Nayak and Abhilasha Rajan
Ananth Nayak and Abhilasha Rajan

At a time when uncertainty fills the air, the two friends share that fermentation can be like meditation, which is evident from Barmbay's exploits that suggest a long-drawn process behind each product. "It demands your constant attention. You end up slowing down and aligning yourself to the experience," Rajan explains. Can it help you calm down, too? Try your hand at it to find out.

Log on to @barmbay on Instagram

Pomegranate rose fruit kvass

Pomegranate rose fruit kvass

Medium-sized pomegranate: 1
Aromatic rose petals: 4-6
Whey water: 2 tbsp
Sugar: 60 gm
Water: enough to fill a half litre/ 1 litre jar

First fermentation: Add the pomegranate, rose petals, sugar and top up the jar with water; keep 1-2 inches of gap at the top. Add in the whey water and give it a good stir. Cover the jar with cotton cloth or kitchen paper and secure it with a string or rubber band. Taste and stir the liquid once a day. Ideally, ferment it for three days or till it gets bubbly.

Second fermentation: Strain the bubbling liquid out of the jar and pour it into an airtight bottle and ferment it for two days at room temperature, burping the bottle every 24 hours. You can also use pear, apple, jamun, peach or any seasonal fruit which has sugar content in it and flavour it with any herbs and spices you like. Burping is very important as this releases carbon dioxide. If you do not burp the bottle, there are chances of it bursting.

Fermented pickled eggs

Fermented pickled eggs

Yield: 6 pickled eggs
Boiled egg: 6
Beetroot juice: 375 gm
Salt: 1.5 tbsp
Sugar: ½ tsp (optional)
Whey water: 3 tbsp
Garlic cloves: 2
Bay leaf: 2
Coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
Peppercorn: 1 tbsp
Green Chilli: 2
Half-litre fermenting jar

Hard boil the eggs and de-shell them. Dry-roast the pepper corns and coriander seeds on the pan lightly and let it cool. To make the brine, pour the beetroot juice into the fermenting jar. Add salt and sugar and stir it till it is dissolved. Pour the whey water in; this acts as a starter culture for the fermentation process. This is your brine solution. Add the crushed bay leaf, garlic cloves, green chilli and dry roasted spices to the brine. Now, place the hard boiled eggs in the brine solution, cover the jar with an airtight lid. Store the pickle in a dry place in your kitchen away from sunlight for two days; the eggs will turn pinkish-purple at the end of it. Once done, cut the eggs in half and it can be a part of your favourite salad or sandwich. You can also make a patty of these fermented eggs and add it to a burger."

Quick hacks

Quick hacks

. Avoid metal or plastic containers, bowls or even spoons. Use glass.
. Sterilise everything in hot water and dry completely in the sun.
. Avoid iodized salt; use pink or sea salt

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