Local Chef Connection

For sisters Kylene (Ky) and Mel
Guse, fermentation isn’t a fad,
it’s just a fact of everyday life.
“We’ve always been people who eat
bread and cheese and chocolate,
drink coffee, wine and beer,” says
Ky. “All of these are products of
fermentation, so it’s funny to us to
see it having a bit of a moment
right now.”

But even if the rest of us are a little
late to the probiotic party, you
couldn’t ask for a more gracious
pair of hosts than the Guse sisters
to show you around. Both of them
left careers on the West Coast
(Ky in academia, Mel in PR), to
open up GYST Fermentation Bar
in the Whittier neighborhood
of Minneapolis in November of 2014. The new spot is not so much
a restaurant as a “creative food
business,” dedicated to locally
crafted meats and cheeses, housefermented pickled vegetables,
kombucha, beer and wine.

In the airy space at the corner of
26th Street and 1st Avenue, you
can sit at the bar of galvanized
steel and order items like a smoky
tomato soup with fermented
tomato paste and a grilled cheese
sandwich featuring a blend of three
gooey cheeses and piled high with
tangy sauerkraut. The wine list is
impressive: an array of rarely seen
wines and beers from biodynamic
and sustainably minded producers
from around the world, as curated
GYST’s Sommelier Jill Mott,
formerly of the Bachelor Farmer.


Jim Bovino
Gyst’s Director of Food & Fermentation

But the real heart of the menu is
The Motherboard-an eye-catching
array of cheeses, meats, olives,
dried fruits, nuts, and pickled and
fermented veggies. The bites are
small and the flavors are vibrant.
Everything tastes pleasantly alive.
Jim Bovino, whose official title
at GYST is “director of food and
fermentation,” says that people
really like to eat this way but don’t
realize it until they get here and sit
down. “This isn’t getting a plate of
steak and vegetables and a baked
potato,” he says.
“Getting through
that is a slog. This
is a more varied
experience and
people really seem
to dig it.”

Bovino is the man behind the kraut
crocks and the pickle plates. His
education in fermentation started
as one of necessity; as a way to deal
with waste fruit while working with
some friends on a blueberry farm on
the Olympic Penninsula. “I learned
the basics of it out there, as well
as brewing cider,” he says. “It was
kind of the only way of responsibly
handling a lot of excess produce
that we didn’t want to just throw in
the trash.”

This use of fermentation as a
preserving agent isn’t new. Cultures
and civilizations all over the world
have been harnessing the beneficial
activity of microbiotic organisms
for millennia to prolong the shelf
life of produce and other foods.
In February of this year, scientists
found a cache of 9,000-year-old
fish bones in southern Sweden,
preserved with an unappetizing
process involving pine bark and seal
blubber. The discovery provided the
earliest evidence of fermentation
for food preservation anywhere in
the world. But, says Bovino, even
in times of food security, it’s also
a critical part of building a truly
regional cuisine in a place where
snow blankets the Earth for up
to six months out of the year, like
here in Minnesota. “Fermentation
allows us to extend our harvests
throughout the year, and continue
to build on what the local landbase
is giving us,” he says.

As an urban farmer himself (until
recently, Bovino was the coowner of California Street Farm
in Northeast Minneapolis), a
commitment to local produce is at
the core of what he does at GYST.
In the winter you’ll find the menu
plush with root vegetables, laced
with notes of citrus and spice,
delivered twice weekly by Co-op
Partners Warehouse and lovingly
fermented by Bovino with local
yeasts. This spring, he’s sitting
down to talk seeds with farmers at
Twin Organics, Stone’s Throw and
Night Owl Farm, already planning
out the produce he hopes to pickle
later in the season. And he’s got
plans to use the power of local
yeasts to help farmers make more
out of their hard work. “My longterm vision is to increase the market
for local, sustainable produce via
fermentation,” he says. “If we could
teach people to ferment, then they
could buy more produce and throw
fewer things away. They wouldn’t
drop out of CSAs because they
feel guilty about not using their
vegetables.”

Bovino plans to accomplish this
through education and increasing
accessibility. GYST holds monthly
fermentation workshops (including
a free one on March 29 at the
Wedge Table! See class information on page 16) and they serve as a
CSA dropoff for Night Owl Farm.
He hopes to soon be able to
include some of his brines both to
CSA owners, and to other farmers
at area farmers markets, to help
ease people into the fermentation
process, which can be kind of
scary, he says. “Part of what we’re
trying to do at GYST is demystify
this whole thing,” he says.” It
sounds like it could be really
pretentious, but
then people
come in and
goofs running
around, talking
pickles and
sharing stories of the producers
who made this beautiful food. Then
they see it can be fun.”

In addition to the sit-down menu
and the in-house fermentation and
kombucha programs, the Guse
sisters also have ambitions of
competing as a top-flight cheese
and meat shop. With products from
local favorites like The Lone Grazer
and Red Table Meat. Co., as well as a rotating selection from other artisanal
producers in the region, their cooler
provides a nice alternative to France
44 or Surdyk’s. And starting later this
spring, they’ll also be extending hours, as
they build out an espresso-heavy coffee
program with the help of Spyhouse’s
Vanessa Ann Schuck. What started out as
just missing the kind of coffee they used
to get in San Francisco, has turned into an
opportunity to bring that style and quality
to the Twin Cities.

“We’re so excited to be doing this in
Minneapolis,” says Ky. “With the co-op
culture, it’s clear that people really care
where their food comes from. And our
mission is all about creating a space to
connect communities with food and the
people who make it. It’s really a social
enterprise.”

GYST Fermentation Bar
25 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Traditional pickled carrots in coriander orange brine
by Jim Bovino of Gyst

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 wide-mouth quart jar
  • Whole carrots-enough to fill jar, tops up
  • 3 Tbsp. whole coriander
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 orange
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. salt

Directions

Using mortar and pestle (or whatever’s handy), slightly crush
coriander seeds. Zest and juice orange.

Bring 2 cups water to just below boiling: approximately 185˚F.
Add coriander and bay. Steep until cool. Dissolve salt in
1/2 cup water and add to tea to make brine. Once the brine has
cooled (around body temp or lower), add orange juice and
zest and stir well.

While waiting for brine to cool, trim carrot leaves to
approximately 1/4 inch. Scrub carrots to remove any dirt and
debris (no need to peel.)

Pack carrots into jar, stem side up. The stems should not be
above shoulder of the jar. If they are larger, cut them to size.
Pour cooled brine over carrots. Brine should cover carrots
completely: no vegetable should be exposed to air!

Place a small piece of plastic wrap over top of brine. If any
carrots want to float above the brine, just weight them down
with a smaller jar placed inside of larger one.

Place jar on a plate and store in a cool, dark place. Ideal
temperature is no more than 65˚F. There may be some overflow
as salt will leech out additional liquid from carrot-this is the
reason for the plate and is totally normal.

Leave the carrots to ferment for a few days, then taste.
They should start to sour slightly in about a week. Higher
temperatures will result in faster process, but the texture
will soften in higher temps. When you like the taste, just
refrigerate. They will keep for up to 6 months. If you see any
mold or yeast on the top of the jar, don’t worry: just scrape
it off and discard. If you’ve covered the content with plastic
wrap, yeast or mold bloom will probably just come off by
removing the plastic.

Enjoy as a great accompaniment to any meal!