With the exception of that incredibly hard freezing snap that wreaked havoc on farms throughout Oregon, Portland’s winter has managed to cast itself as both mild and one of the driest in recorded history. Though I can’t complain too much about the fifty degree days (who wants to be the person verbally raining on someone’s weather-induced happiness by commenting that this drought doesn’t bode well for summer water levels?), I often had mixed feelings when I looked down at my feet on a late January day and realized that I wasn’t wearing socks… and didn’t need to.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone who reads this site that my list of favorite foods is exceedingly large, ranging from cheese to bread, beer to wine, sauerkraut to pickles. The common factor in all of these favorites? Fermentation. Though I could douse everything with soy sauce and can never turn down a hunk of clothbound aged cheddar, until recently, I hadn’t linked these fermented foods together, or understood that these cravings were nourishing a very important part of my body: the microbiome that resides in my gut, swirling with trillions of bacteria and other microbes. Over the last six months, I’ve devoured several books that delve into fermentation – notably, The Art of Fermentation and Cooked – and as is usually the case when I’m suddenly desperate for information on a new topic, I began finding articles and conversations surrounding fermentation and bacteria everywhere I looked.
January’s kitchen exploits have been defined by pears. In the first week of the month, I purchased pears to munch on and impulsively decided to bake a few into a pear tart. In the second week of the month, I purchased sixteen pounds of Concorde pears to transform into two versions of a pear jam. And last week, I purchased eight more pounds to incorporate into pear marmalade, not realizing I only needed three pounds for the recipe. I currently have those five remaining pounds of pears sitting on my counter, slowly softening, reminding me to “do something, already”.