From The Magazine

When Food Turns Bad But Stays Good

Berlin, Restaurant "Nobelhart & Schmutzig" [in der Friedrichstrasse], Micha Schaefer (Koch) und Billy Wagner (Wirt), Portrait, Gastronomie, innen, Europa, Deutschland, 02.02.2015 Engl.: Restaurant "Nobelhart & Schmutzig" on Friedrichstrasse, Micha Schaefer (chef) und Billy Wagner (manager) cook and serve only regional food, Berlin, Germany, Europe, February 2, 2015. portrait, gastronomy
Not your grandmother's kraut. At Berlin's Nobelhart & Schmutzig restaurant, chef Micha Schäfer (middle) ferments lilac blossoms and elderberry flowers.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Once a humble method of making do, the art of fermenting food has turned into a global gourmet and nutrition trend.

  • Facts


    • Ancient methods of preserving food, such as pickling and fermenting, have enjoyed a renaissance.
    • Germany might be known as the land of kraut, but few people still know how to make their own.
    • Cutting-edge medical science has focused on fermented food as a source of probiotics.
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Behind an unspectacular door in a grungy section of Kreuzberg is Berlin’s most radical restaurant. Ring a brass bell and enter Nobelhart & Schmutzig, where chef Micha Schäfer turns brutally local products into pure deliciousness. He’ll only use food grown within a short drive of Berlin. That means no pepper, no lemons, no olive oil. And no vegetables flown in from warmer climes.

This time of year, Schäfer’s crew is busy preparing for the long, cold German winter, when fields are bare and few fresh products are available. To fill the larder for the long cold season, kitchen staff are pickling, salting, and fermenting. Schäfer spends most of his time experimenting. Lately, he’s been taking apple slices and letting them sit in a warm place for the fermenting process to set in. After a few days, the apple slices turn fizzy from natural carbonation. “An awesome effect,” Schäfer says. But to get the fizz and taste exactly right for his Michelin-starred restaurant, he says, will take another two years or so of trying.

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