Sampling Fermented Foods in Portland

Offering cucumber pickles from Picklopolis

Only the reek of human sweat overpowered the aromas of kimchi and sauerkraut at Portland’s third annual Fermentation Festival, held for two hours on October 20 at Ecotrust’s Billy Frank, Jr., Conference Center. Organizers estimated that five hundred people attended the event last year, and this year I’d guess that more than a thousand filed up the sidewalk, around the first-floor lobby, up the stairs and across the second- floor lobby to pay their five bucks and slog through the crowded conference room, where they fought to grab samples from thirty commercial and wannabe commercial producers of various fermented food products, including cider, miso, sourdough bread, brined salmon, kombucha, Rejuvelac*, brewed ginger ale, and pickled cucumbers, cabbage, and garlic.

There were disappointments: A drink labeled kombucha looked and tasted like a batch of kefir gone moldy; wine, beer, and cheese were totally absent; the only bread was over-soured; and the salmon briners ran out before I reached their table. Still, I greatly enjoyed Jorinji’s miso soup, Pickled Planet’s sauerkraut with seaweed, and somebody’s capsicum-free kimchi (a relief after I’d tasted at least a half-dozen hot versions).

Serving Jorinji’s miso soup

I hope the organizers will find a bigger room for next year’s Fermentation Festival. Demonstrations would be nice, too, since nearly all the products are easy to make at home. Check for information about the fourth annual Fermentation Festival at

Curious Farm’s kraut and more

1. Rejuvelac is a kind of kvass, a slightly alcoholic Eastern European drink fermented from bread or grain. The name is the creation of Ann Wigmore, a Lithuanian immigrant to the United States who in the latter half of the twentieth century founded centers in Boston, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico to promote a vegan raw-foods diet. A leading promoter of sprouts and wheat grass, Wigmore made Rejuvelac from whole grains, usually wheat (you can see an old film clip of her in the act on YouTube).  Rejuvelac is a very sour, cloudy beverage that’s supposed to be good for the digestion (I guess I should have drunk more at the festival, because my belly hurt all night afterward).

UPDATE 2022: The tenth Portland Fermentation Festival happened in 2019. Hopefully this annual event will resume when the pandemic has ended.

0 thoughts on “Sampling Fermented Foods in Portland”

  1. Sorry you missed the pickled salmon – it was the best in show. This year and last. But crowded? Holy hell. Evidently if you want a bazillion people to show up at your next part tell them your fermenting something. Holy hell.


  2. I went with a friend who fortunately changed her other plans so we ended up meeting there at 6 when it started. If we’d stuck with our original plan of meeting at 7:30, I don’t think I’d have stuck around for it. Crazy crowded.

    I went because I tried to make fermented pickles this year and was pretty sure they didn’t turn out right (I think they must have gotten too hot.) I wanted to try an expert’s pickles to see what the goal was. (I took a pass on the creepy amateur guy wandering around with his own jar asking women if they wanted to try his pickle!)

    I wonder if the capsicum-free kimchi you liked was Biwa’s? It was made with daikon radish and so good! I’m not generally a fan of kimchi but that was remarkably good. Not the typical hot and sour but really complex flavors.

    1. I don’t know whether the capsicum-free kimchi was Biwa’s (for readers who don’t know, Biwa is a Japanese restaurant with a website at The kimchi may have included daikon; I know my sample had a thick piece of Chinese cabbage. The table was near the end of the circuit–near the salmon table, that is. Although I picked up every piece of literature I found, I didn’t bring home anything from Biwa.

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