Author(s): Sharon Flynn
The ancient art of fermenting is finding new popularity again as modern science and trends discover the importance of gut health for overall wellbeing.
Australian-born Sharon Flynn was living in Tokyo, teaching English at a university, more than two decades ago when she first learned about fermenting. An elderly Japanese neighbour and her family introduced Sharon to the joys of miso, tofu and eventually fermented vegetables. Many city moves later - she married a financier who moved with work regularly - Sharon found herself in Seattle. That's where she really caught the fermenting bug. She belonged to a Community Supported Agricultural Scheme and received so many little cucumbers that she recalls she had to learn to pickle! She moved on to cheese, yoghurt and bread - and was truly hooked after meeting the man regarded as the master of fermentation in the US, Sandor Katz. In the background here, her third daughter became quite ill. By this time the family had moved to Brussels and she found that antibiotics had left her daughter's system devoid of essential bacteria. Sharon says she read up more and more on fermenting - every culture has a version of some sort - and her daughter eventually regained her zest and good health. Fast forward a few years and Sharon found herself in Melbourne, this time sans her husband, with her three daughters. She learnt to make kefir, made her own ferments and started sharing these with friends. She tried to teach her friends, but quickly discovered that what they really wanted was for her to make it for them! So began her little business, The Fermentary. Her products quickly won a following, alongside acclaim in the restaurant world. Now, with new partner chef Roger Fowler, her business is not so little; they sell both wholesale to leading Sydney and Melbourne restaurants and retailers, as well as direct to their customers at farmers' markets. As well, Sharon conducts regular workshops in Victoria and beyond. Sharon was also fortunate enough to spend a fortnight in late 2015 undertaking an intensive, advanced fermenting workshop with Sandor Katz (described by The New York Times as one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene) at his home in Cannon County, Tennessee.