After putting a full-stop to her popular CheeseFest after 10 years in 2015, cheesemaker
and festival director Kris Lloyd will debut a new festival in October that will expand
on the scope of her previous incarnation with Ferment the Festival.
The head cheesemaker of Woodside Cheese Wrights tells The Adelaide Review she was considering ending her popular cheese festival about three years ago; she wanted a new challenge and Ferment the Festival will expand on her previous festival by introducing many more fermented foods and beverages to be divulged and admired by festivalgoers.
Despite being an ancient process – the Babylonians used to ferment drinks as did the Ancient Egyptians – fermentation has been a hot topic in food and nutrition circles of late. Thanks in part to New Nordic cuisine and champions such as Sandor Katz but what is intriguing is the amount of everyday foods and beverages that are created via fermentation; everything from beer to cheese, from chocolate to coffee, from sourdough to kimchi and from wine to gin is made using this process that converts sugar to acids or alcohol.
Lloyd, who has been intrigued by fermentation since watching her grandmother pickle vegetables in jars as a child, lets The Adelaide Review in on some of the surprises she has in store before the full program is released in June for the festival that runs from Thursday, October 19 to Sunday, October 22.
The festival will kick off with a special VIP dinner on the Thursday night for 220 people (100 tickets will be available for the general public) to be hosted by Ferment patron Jock Zonfrillo while the main festival gets going on the Friday evening and will run on the Saturday and Sunday.
Zonfrillo’s restaurants Street and Blackwood will be serving its twist on native foods over the three days as will other local restaurants. These will be joined by around 120 producers, including 20 cheesemakers, as well as a gin bar, a whiskey bar, brewers and live musicians.
The upcoming documentary Fermented from Zero Point Zero Productions will be screened throughout the festival and there will be two labs: a liquid lab and a food lab for masterclasses and presentations.
For Lloyd, she felt she couldn’t take CheeseFest any further after a decade of pushing local and national cheese as well as artisan food and wine via her festival. As a cheesemaker, Lloyd is intrigued by fermentation and wanted to show the breadth of this process that has been used by many different cultures across the world for thousands of years.
“I always thought that CheeseFest number 10 would be the last, as I had other work I needed to do,” says Lloyd, who is aiming for 20-25,000 attendees over Ferment’s three days.
“People did love CheeseFest, and I guess I’m fairly progressive in the way I like to do things. It’s a bit like wearing the same dress for 10 years, I just think the idea of being able to bring something new and different – something that hasn’t been done in Australia before – to South Australia is amazing.
“Fermentation it is at the core and base of everything I love: chocolate, coffee, charcuterie, cultured butter, sourdough bread, they’re all made using the fermentation process, which just sits there and quietly does what it needs to do. As a cheesemaker I do it every day but I’m just a shepherd, if you like, the process does its own thing. I’m fascinated by it. I make my own SCOBYs and kimchi and cultured butter and yoghurt.”
Ferment attendees will not only enjoy the fruits of the fermentation process, which includes food and booze, but there will also be two labs to showcase how liquids and foods are fermented.
“In the food lab, there will be someone showing you how to make kimchi and kombucha, cultured butter and yoghurt. You will be shown how to create a mother for your sourdough bread and so on. We will run these right across the festival. In the liquid lab we’ll do the same thing but in a more masterclass style, where we’ll have brewers to discuss how they brew and then we’ll do some masterclasses matching different bevvies, not just wine. I want to explore things like gin with charcuterie and cheese, and beer or cider with cheese. I just think there are some amazing opportunities for us to educate people. A number of people don’t realise that cocoa beans are fermented before chocolate’s made, for instance.”
Fermentation runs deeper in food than you might expect
Lloyd believes we are sitting on a gastronomic gold mine in this state thanks to our produce and wine regions, which are complemented by quality restaurants and small bars. She believes no one’s writing the gastronomic script for this state and, conversely, no one’s writing Lloyd’s.
“As a cheesemaker, if I want to put green ants on a cheese I’ll do it, if I want to wash it in caper juice or whiskey, I’ll do it – we’re washing a cheese in gin at the moment. Nobody’s writing my script, I’m writing my own script, and I’m sure that goes for chefs and producers. We’re not controlled by appellation and denomination of origin control, nobody’s telling us that we can only make three cheeses when the moon is out and the cows are happy and dancing in the pastures, so I just think that that’s where we’re incredibly lucky.”
We’re like the young punks of food and wine?
“It’s true, nobody’s giving us instructions, we’re doing it, and I think we’re creating a kind of history as we’re going. So that’s really exciting. We have world class milk, grapes and fish, so we are in the enviable position to just take the holy grail of food and wine, it belongs to South Australia big time.”
One of the food identities leaving his mark is chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo, Ferment the Festival’s patron.
“He calls a spade a spade and he’s incredibly intelligent, incredibly creative. His knowledge of native ingredients is unbelievable and what he does with the Orana Foundation is amazing. I’m going to be doing a lot of work with him with native ingredients on cheese.”
A native ingredient cheese that Lloyd recently hit pay dirt was her green ant cheese, Anthill, which won a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards, and was the only cheese out of more than 3000 entered to feature ants.
“There were hundreds of Camemberts, hundreds of Bries but there was only one cheese out of 3021 that had bloody green ants or any insect on it,” she says. “That just tells you that maybe we should be looking a little more closely at what we’ve got in our back yard.”