We then moved on to other fermented drinks and Salla recounted her experiments with Kvass, while sitting in her garden, cutting ginger and roots. The kvass fermentation starts with bread, rye is used traditionally. The german word for something similar literally is “Brottrunk”. Root beer also has a very popcultural background as in Enid Blyton’s detective stories “5 friends solved crimes and had root beer”. But neither Enid Blyton in Britain, nor Salla in Helsinki had Sassafras roots at hand, from which the root beer is made. So together with a friend in the UK, Salla tried to find “ingredients that grow where I lived”. They ended up with a mix of dandelions and burdock. Reaching behind her, Salla shows us the fresh cut dandelions and the giant and sturdy looking leaves of the burdock. While proceeding to cut some roots Salla tells us to use “a little bit of the old liquid to kickstart it”. For the root beer the ancestors bring power to the next generations.
Salla had a tasting competition with friends in which ginger bug, kvass, root beer and water kefir where competing. The Dandelion burdock root beer won because it had “the most diverse and rich and complex flavour”. She recommended us a recipe from the Guardian (however, Salla doesn’t cook up the roots to sterilize them).2 The local aspect of it was also a huge plus. It’s fascinating to see Salla use all the parts of the dandelions “the leaves for lunch in my salad, the buds pickled in the summer. One batch went blue, one went really tasty. It’s always a mystery what happens inside the jar”. The dandelion capers, which is the term for their buds, should be used before they open. The leaves are tastier when they’re still young and tender. For the root it doesn’t make much of a difference. Burdock is recommended to get in the earlier part of the year “where the energy is still in the roots”.
Fermentation is a great way to preserve locally available food, without taking up space in the fridge. We talked about how we often forget about the treasures growing in our own backyard, woods, even besides the streets. “For me, it’s about food self-sufficiency” Salla ends. Caring and being entangled with roots, leaves, grains. We transfer the ecologies from a jar into our own bodies, where it again intraacts with our insides. For me every workshop on fermentation is a take on how to live with and inside bacteria cultures, where the borders between human and non-human dissolves into liquid – very tasty liquid.
A report by Anne Delle & Maxime Le Calvé