Chef Jori Jayne's Fermentation Workshop at Little Octopus
Jori Jayne Emde’s Fermentation Workshop is a chemistry class for foodies. On this hot May morning, the fermentation maestro is in east Nashville, teaching a class on the secrets behind several sour culinary favorites—including kimchi, sauerkraut, mustard. The New York chef and founder of Lady Jayne’s Alchemy has arrived in Nashville to reveal her deep knowledge of fermented food and years of experience. The class is held in a home with minimalist touches, and tasteful combinations of black and white contrasts.
I settle into a chair and look at the spread of ingredients before me. The workshop provides a colorful array, such as a jar of pineapple, and a loose bunch of fresh basil, cilantro, and other herbs. The class begins with a hands-on approach, and we carefully separate leaves from stems. This, I can do; yet the nuances of fermentation will take a bit of instruction. My prior experience with souring bacteria is limited to a healthy appreciation for sauerkraut—the legacy of a German-American upbringing.
The surrounding patrons of the course epitomize modern Nashvillians; attendees hail from California, North Carolina, and Florida. One woman flew in from New York specifically for this course, and a large handful of New Yorkers bond over their northern lilts.
Emde takes the helm of the course with all the precision and efficiency that one would expect of a woman with years of fermentation experience. For the record: she doesn’t believe in kombucha as a major source of healthy bacteria, but she does present her methods with vinegars, fermented fruits, and kimchi with care and experience. Words like “lacto-bacteria” and “the mother” weave effortlessly into the discussion. Emde peppers the class with a variety of tastings, and a deep knowledge of the alchemy behind her craft—which is countered by her appreciation for artistic nuance in fermentation.
Overripe fruit, scrap pieces of pineapple, and other unsuspecting stars feature in Emde’s recipes. The point, she claims, is to use the unusable, and to find new uses for foods. Her demonstrations include mixes for raspberry-tinted mustard and pineapple sambal, and spicy ramps. She passes around samples for tasting, and includes pre-measured portions and fresh ingredients like basil, cilantro, and mint. These touches make the hands-on approach clean, quick, and effective. The alchemy of the fermentation process proves almost as scientific as the name suggests. Fermented foods include a healthy dose of ratios, chemical processes, and a few culinary tricks.
The lunch and rosé following the workshop highlighted all of Emde’s efforts; the workshop-goers heap platefuls of frittata, mustard, pineapple sambal, sausage, and light rice. The sour ingredients in the lunch deliver on flavor.
Fermentation is a slow process, but Emde makes it worth the effort.