Like gardening, sewing, and similar domestic skills, fermentation is a practice that, if you were taught as a kid or it’s part of your family’s food culture, might feel like second nature. However, for the uninitiated, fermentation can feel like a daunting kitchen project with so many chances for error. Questions ranging from the self-doubtful (What if I ruin a bunch of perfectly good vegetables?) to the melodramatic (What if I poison someone with bad pickles?) to the more pragmatic (Exactly what kind of gear do I need?) may just be overwhelming enough for a would-be fermenter to turn back before even getting started.
There are plenty of resources out there (and some of them are very good), but fermenting never seemed quite as attainable – or attractive – as when I first laid eyes on the pop-art box of a Mortier Pilon fermentation jar at my local homebrew shop. The sleek all-in-one jar seemed like exactly what was missing from my own kitchen arsenal to finally tackle some sauerkraut or lacto-fermented pickled beets once and for all. This Montreal-based company has a whole line of products geared towards home fermentation, including crocks in different sizes with special water seals that create anaerobic environments, kombucha brewing jars, and new wave canning kits and mason jars.
Aside from having solved the gear and the safety questions around fermenting, Mortier Pilon also offers tons of great recipes and resources that come in a little booklet with their products, and can also be found on their website. They’ve also published a cookbook (if you can call it that?) with copious recipes for all things fermented alongside quirky and playful photographs. Their tone is friendly and encouraging, with very clear step-by-step instructions and notes in each recipe. A quick read-through of their guide to Canning & Food PH, for example, leaves even a fermentation newbie with a sense of empowerment and courage to try a new project. The fantastic and fun designs of their products and reading materials is just the cherry on top.
Curious to know more about Mortier Pilon, I asked their founder and director Jonathan Coutu some questions about the company and their mission to make fermentation fun.
How and why did you start Mortier Pilon? What’s your origin story?
MMTUM is a company that develops and commercializes niche design products that reflect current trends. When we started Mortier Pilon, we already had two brands – one for molecular cuisine (Molecule-R) and another for homemade body care (Oleum Vera).
After a brainstorming session with our product development team, the subject of fermentation quickly became a guideline for our third brand. Two members of the team were already making kimchi and kombucha regularly, while another two took probiotic supplements every day.
What do you hope to accomplish with your company’s products? How are these vessels different and/or better than other jars and crocks people may use for fermentation projects?
The modern design of Mortier Pilon products are in fact inspired by classic Korean fermentation jars. The principle of the water barrier is the same, but the use of glass and plastic allows us to drastically reduce the cost of such an object. Classic fermentation jars are ceramic, which makes it difficult for e-commerce to access them. The Mortier Pilon jars are around a third of the price and a third of the weight of ceramic fermentation jars.
How have you seen attitudes or opinions shift in regards to fermentation? I know it’s a tradition with ancient roots, but it seems like it’s really trending now.
We have seen a very large shift towards it! More and more scientific studies support the influence of healthy intestinal flora on overall health, and every thrifty person also knows well that fermentation at home is less expensive than buying probiotics in capsules!
Of course, there is definitely a health aspect supporting this trend, but we mustn’t forget that these fermented products are also simply delicious! Menus in trendy restaurants have included more and more fermented vegetables for quite some time now – in starters as well as in cocktails!
What’s your favorite thing to ferment?
Definitely kombucha. I love its effervescence, and how you can control how much sugar is added!
What’s a common misconception that a home cook might have about fermentation?
You mustn’t be afraid of trying it…there is nothing complicated about making kombucha or sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a great beginner’s project!
Recipe courtesy of Mortier Pilon
Total Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Fermentation Time: 1 week
- 4.5 pounds (2 kilos) of green cabbage, shredded (about 2 heads)
- 2 apples, peeled and sliced or 1/2 cup (125 ml) apple juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole cloves
- 10 juniper berries
- 6 tablespoons (90 ml) coarse salt
- 2L Mortier Pilon fermentation crock
In a bowl, combine the cabbage, apples, cloves and juniper berries. Place the mixture in your Mortier Pilon fermentation jar and press.
Cover with salt. Make sure to leave ¾ of an inch (2 centimeters) of headspace between the cabbage mixture and the rim of the jar.
Let the mixture ferment at room temperature, covered, for at least 1 week. If, after 24 hours, the liquid that has appeared does not cover all of the cabbage, add some water and a pinch of salt.
Once the desired level of fermentation has been reached, refrigerate or serve.
Photos courtesy of Mortier Pilon