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January 6, 2016

Phickle is Amanda’s blog and it fully dedicated to fermentation. This friendly blog includes tips and recipes to get started with fermentation, with Amanda’s personal touch. It is full of techniques to experiment the many different types of food fermentation, from bread to yogurt and kombucha, commenting and questioning popular rumours on certain benefits of fermenting. You can visit Amanda’s website or you can find Phickle on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photography @ Pickle

What is phickle and how did you get started?
Phickle is my fermentation blog. I share recipes, techniques, musings and sometimes giveaways of my favorite fermented products.
I started Phickle after a pretty serious (but unexplained by medical science) health crisis lead me to search for my own answers. I had a habit of making tasty ferments and then forgetting how I’d made them, so I started blogging to keep track of what I had worked on and how I made it.

How did your passion for fermentation start?
I was making my own yogurt and sourdough (and the occasional vinegar) for many years before I officially became a full-time fermentation aficionado. I became fully obsessed when I finally took Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation off the shelf and full-heartedly dug into it. Since then, fermentation has been a daily habit for me.

What are the main benefit of fermentation?
There are so many different types of food fermentation (wine, beer, cheese, bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kvass, sodas, yogurt, kombucha, vinegar, and the list goes on), that claiming one benefit for all wouldn’t make a ton of sense.

There’s also the question of why a person would choose to make or eat fermented foods. Some people ferment for health, in which case the proven nutritional value and probiotics of fermented vegetables would be the best bet.

Some people ferment to control what goes into their foods, and to move away from a processed diet.
Some people ferment because they love the unparalleled flavors that fermentation creates.
I might consider any of those things when I decide what to make or eat next from the fermented repertoire of foods.

Why fermentation is becoming so popular nowadays?
I believe the health benefits of fermented vegetables and heirloom yogurts are attractive for people looking to improve their health. I also think a lot of the popular buzz is totally wrong (I’m looking at you, people who claim kombucha is probiotic).

While many fermented foods do have proven health benefits (broad range of probiotics, higher vitamin content, increased digestibility, etc), it’s not uncommon to see a blog post or article ascribe miracle qualities to all ferments in a blanketed way.

I get emails from people who say, ‘I HATE fermented foods but I need to eat them. How do I do that?’ I cringe. First, the likelihood that someone hates all fermented foods is very low. It’s hard to get through the day without bread, cheese, coffee, chocolate, wine, beer, pickles, yogurt, etc. (or maybe that’s just me).

Second, I think we’d all be much better off if we paid attention to how the foods we eat make us feel, rather than what the nutritional guru of the moment tells us we need to eat. If someone tells you you have to eat the Japanese soybean ferment natto for health, but eating it doesn’t make you feel great, and you dread eating it, how good can that really be for your overall health?

I think people should be skeptical about any claims that a particular food will miraculously cure any ailment. Eating a broad variety of fermented foods makes me feel wonderful, but that is something that I’ve paid attention to over a long period of time.

Is phickle your profession or a hobby?
Fermentation is both my profession and my hobby. I make part of my living from teaching fermentation classes and writing about fermentation. I also thoroughly enjoy fermenting, and I do plenty of fermenting that never makes it onto the blog.

What is the best achievement since you started?

Writing my book, Ferment Your Vegetables (Fair Winds Press) feels like a pretty huge accomplishment. It was an enormous, taxing labor of love, and the wonderful feeling of seeing it show up in bookstores this fall, and seeing the recipes show up in strangers’ social media feeds is overwhelming!

What are the kitchen tools you must have if you want to start fermenting?
It depends on the type of fermentation. If you want to make vegetable ferments, it’s good to have a jar and something food-safe to weight the vegetables down. There really aren’t required tools for many fermentation processes. These are frequently very ancient foods, and it’s safe to assume that people didn’t have sterile conditions or the latest airlock device when they made pickled vegetables 4,000 years ago.