Beyond the Professor’s Desk Phillips and Fermentation

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Beyond the Professor’s Desk Phillips and Fermentation

Image Courtesy of pennilessparenting.com

Image Courtesy of pennilessparenting.com

Image Courtesy of pennilessparenting.com

Melanie Singer ‘17, Life & Styles Editor

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Professors, we know them, we learn from them, but do we know what they do outside of the classroom? Professor Phillips, an English professor at Dickinson College partakes in fermentation in her free time. She is not the only professor at Dickinson College who has delved into the fermentation process of various foods. Jennifer Halpin, the director and manager of the Dickinson College Farm knows the ins and outs of fermentation, as the farm does an assortment of pickled foods, such as pickles, beets and zucchini’s. But, Phillips specifically chooses to make her own Kombucha, which is apart of the fermentation family. This interest all began because Phillips, being a Kombucha drinker and fan of it, didn’t know anyone making it around her (in the Carlisle community).

In wanting to create a Kombucha community, Professor Phillips began her journey in purchasing Kombucha during her time on sabbatical. She first acquired what’s called a ‘mother,’ this is the colony of bacteria called symbiotic colony of bacteria, or as many call it, scoby. Scoby is just the fermenting and growing of Kombucha. Once you get the Kombucha, the scoby grows, which feeds from sugary tea. It may sound like a lot, but Phillips learned all of this prior to making her purchase after reading a book by Sandor Katz’s on the fermentation process. She also gathered information from word of mouth but mainly all through trail and error. Phillips described the growing of Kombucha as, “when you start the process they keep renewing itself and begins to just grow itself.”

Through this process of fermentation and growing her own Kombucha, Phillips is eager to even give her Kombucha fermentations away because she has a plethora of it. That’s the beauty of Kombucha, it keeps growing, and once you pass it along to someone else, a Kombucha community forms. Hence, how she made her purchase through Craigslist, as there’s a crazy Kombucha community online.

Another fermentation that Phillips went into discussing was Kefir: fermented milk made with Kefir ‘grains.’ Phillips described it as a ‘yogurty like drink,’ stating it’s very good. The works of fermentation is nothing new for Phillips though. She’s partaken in fermenting sour dough, but that was more labor intensive as Phillips described. Kombucha is very low maintenance and Phillips enjoys drinking it. She even stated that after the talk I had with her she really should get back to making sour dough bread as it was an enjoyable activity outside of work. But for now, she’ll stick with Kombucha as Phillips stated, “Kombucha is just cool, and fun, and easy to make. It’s really a gift that keeps on giving.”

After Phillips discussed the whole fermentation process of not only Kombucha, but sour dough as well, a seed was planted in her mind to get back to making sour dough. She briefly described this process, “by capturing the yeast from the environment in which you’re making it in. This bread then becomes not only sour dough, but also Carlisle bread, unique to the atmosphere that it grows in.”

If you’re further interested in learning more about fermentation or even want your own ‘mother’ to grow your own Kombucha, you’ll just have to swing by Professor Phillips office to chat all about fermentation and all the goodness that comes with it.

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