Ben Hollander with Casper Fermentables’ kombucha on the Mueller Farmers’ Market (Picture by Jana Birchum)
Ben Hollander grew up consuming and getting ready a spectrum of Korean meals and started his culinary schooling at age 13 by coaching beneath a chef. That chef – his mom – owned a preferred udon restaurant in Seoul earlier than relocating to Washington, D.C. “Her kimchi and her kombucha have been issues that actually caught with me after I left to come back down right here to go to high school,” Hollander says. “I missed that taste a lot and could not discover something that was precisely prefer it and even near it.”
“If you consider it, Texas barbecue is eaten with onions and pickles and kimchi is mainly these two issues mixed with some spiciness.” – Ben Hollander
He additionally missed the delis and eating places he’d go to along with his dad’s Jewish facet of the household so naturally Hollander started engaged on his personal merchandise impressed by his favourite acquainted meals. Now the proprietor/founding father of Casper Fermentables, Hollander relocated to Austin in 2012 to review microbiology and study world meals methods (and their systemic flaws) with Analysis Professor Raj Patel on the College of Texas. “Pesticides and preservatives are identified to be deleterious for the human physique in a mess of the way,” he says. “And [Patel] is a giant proponent of [the belief that] this isn’t difficult – individuals simply have to have entry to actual meals.”
Hollander additionally frequented San Francisco’s world-renowned bakeries, Tartine Bakery and Josey Baker’s The Mill, trying to imprint the style and texture recollections of their sourdough on his palate so he may reverse-engineer it in Austin. He studied the work of Sandor Katz, studying that fermentation is the one type of cooking that will increase uncooked meals’s dietary worth. This observe of “meals as drugs” has performed an important position in Korean survival and cultural identification for generations. “The microbes in our intestine are liable for our digestion, our moods, and our immunity,” explains Hollander.
“In our guts, there is a battle of excellent and evil – helpful versus deleterious microbes. Consuming and ingesting probiotics provides good troopers to the struggle. Probiotics from fermented meals assist you to set up and preserve a wholesome composition of microbes in your intestine.”
Whereas nonetheless in school, Hollander labored as a prepare dinner beneath Chef Evan LeRoy at Freedmen’s, Chef Fermín Núñez at Launderette (now at Suerte), and Chef Amanda Turner at Juniper, the place he was promoted to fermentation director. Hollander rejoined LeRoy, now at LeRoy & Lewis, to seek the advice of on the kimchi recipe and fermentation program, and alongside the best way, Hollander began a cottage meals enterprise and started promoting pickles, kimchi, and vinegar at HOPE Farmers Market. When he perfected his kombucha recipe, made with prime quality Yunnan tea, Casper Fermentables was born. Hollander named it after the ghost that’s, very like probiotic microbes, really pleasant – not scary in any respect.
Hollander credit his buddy So Han Fan, proprietor of West China Tea Firm, for introducing him to the world of tea. He makes one kombucha with farm-direct pu-erh, a fermented black tea from the Yunnan province, and one other with picked and sundried Yunnan black tea. All the tea is harvested from century-old wild timber with none watering, fertilizing, or pruning, which provides the ultimate product an actual sense of terroir. Not like most kombuchas, that are blended with fruit juice and sometimes full of additional sugar, Casper’s balanced and effervescent kombucha showcases the truthful commerce and natural tea itself.
“I feel it will get misplaced that kombucha is product of tea, that tea comes from China, and that kombucha is an Asian meals,” explains Hollander. “After I first moved right here, I felt like individuals have been culturally appropriating kombucha and so I wished to make a product that was extra genuine and honored the bottom ingredient, which is tea – one thing that by no means will get honored.”
A few yr and a half after promoting his bottled kombucha in shops, Hollander determined to launch Casper Fermentables on the farmers’ market, giving individuals an opportunity to pattern his kombucha, and his kimchi, a vegan adaptation of his mother’s authentic recipe.
“Generally I really feel like kimchi might be actually overpowering, so we discovered that that is the recipe that actually linked with individuals on the market,” says Hollander. “It is actually easy and really clean-tasting, which permits it to go along with plenty of issues.”
Each week, Hollander ferments his kimchi for 3 days at room temperature after which strikes it to the fridge to complete it off. The ensuing fermentation is a bit bitter however nonetheless has a bit of life – and loads of crunch – to it. “When my mother was rising up in Korea, my grandpa used to bury the kimchi within the floor within the winter,” says Hollander. “It will snow a bunch and he’d take the snow off and dig up this enormous crock, so the fridge simulates that chilly fermentation.”
“I feel it will get misplaced that kombucha is product of tea, that tea comes from China, and that kombucha is an Asian meals.” – Ben Hollander, proprietor/founder Casper Fermentables
Along with the vitamin, nutrient, and antioxidant-rich lacto-fermented cabbage kimchi, Casper Fermentables options different fermented veggies that rotate seasonally. Proper now they’re providing a radish kimchi, escabeche-inspired pickled jalapeños and carrots, and a turmeric kraut made with truthful commerce, single-origin heirloom turmeric from Andhra Pradesh, India. “We get all of the produce domestically and it is fermented in a salt brine for 4 weeks so it is absolutely acidified, however there is not any vinegar in it,” says Hollander. “It is residing, probiotic meals.”
Hollander advises kimchi newbies to attempt including the spicy tangy cabbage to grilled cheese or fried rice, however those that just like the cabbage to interrupt down extra, turning into much more intense, would possibly attempt making kimchi jjigae (stew) or kimchi geon (pancakes) with it. “It goes wonderful with pastrami or Texas barbecue too,” he factors out. “If you consider it, Texas barbecue is eaten with onions and pickles and kimchi is mainly these two issues mixed with some spiciness.”
Casper’s bread program, based mostly on an extended sourdough fermentation, options baked items which might be additionally good for intestine well being. “I even have Crohn’s illness however I will eat all of the issues that we make as a result of they’re fermented,” says head baker and Common Supervisor Phoebe Raileanu. “I’ve misplaced 15 kilos since working right here as a result of it is all so wholesome and strikes your digestion … whenever you eat one thing that is alive, it simply helps your intestine in so some ways.”
Hollander’s San Francisco sourdough analysis has been manifested into lovely rustic loaves which might be darkish and crunchy on the surface, smooth and stretchy on the within. The identical sourdough starter is used to supply lovely bagels (plus house-made cream cheese), fluffy focaccia (usually folded with turmeric kraut), and Jewish delicacies like babka and seasonal treats like sufganiyah (jelly donuts) for Chanukah.
Casper Fermentables’ baked items and ferments might be preordered and picked up at any of the native farmers’ markets; his kimchi and kombucha are offered at varied native retailers. Whereas he has massive goals for the way forward for Casper Fermentables, he is at the moment centered on rising his workforce, discovering a brand new kitchen area, and increasing in no matter methods really feel most natural on this unpredictable local weather. Above all, he needs to maintain making trustworthy, nourishing meals that is accessible to everybody.
“On the time I used to be beginning this, the one time I felt like you might discover meals that was made with native greens and dealt with by individuals who have been critical, skilled cooks was at costly, fancy eating places,” says Hollander. “I feel that is one thing we wish to do extra of sooner or later – not solely provide actually nutritious, artisanally crafted meals however make them accessible to completely different members of our neighborhood.”