Fermenting foods preserves them, improves digestibility, creates new nutrients, and has numerous health benefits. It is also a culinary adventure, creating new tastes and textures. This wonderful book opens the doors to simple home fermentation, so that we can all claim back the fermented foods of our ancestors.
What is fermentation? Simply the action of bacteria on food. We are familiar with the ‘friendly’ bacteria in yoghurt, but the very same or related bacteria can also act on a host of other foods to produce delicious live foods with the same health benefits.
The best bit is that it is so easy to do at home, requiring no special equipment or even any particular culinary skills! Making yoghurt is as easy as putting some boiled and cooled milk in a thermos overnight with a spoon of live yoghurt as a starter. Sauerkraut just involves pressing chopped cabbage and salt into a container, and leaving it alone for a week or two. There’s slightly more to it, of course, but not much!
In ‘Wild Fermentation’, Sandor Ellix Katz takes us through vegetable, bean and dairy ferments, breads, porridges, beers and vinegars. There are recipes for different varieties of sauerkraut and it’s spiced Korean cousin Kimchi and detailed instructions for making miso, kombucha and a host of other fermented foods and drinks from sourdough bread to elderflower wine.
All of this is presented in a very easy to read style with plenty of anecdotes and personal experiences which makes this so much more than just a recipe book. In fact, Katz writes so well and so enthusiastically about fermentation that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it, and once you start your first bubbling pot of kombucha or sauerkraut you can see that it can be very addictive!
In Chinese Medical terms, fermented foods are Spleen tonics. They aid the digestion, and in doing so can help to strengthen the whole body. Being live foods, they are full of Qi, and help to improve our immunity. As they often use naturally occurring bacteria they also help to ground and connect us to our environment.
In the introduction, Katz says “for me, fermentation is a health regimen, a gourmet art, a multicultural adventure, a form of activism, and a spiritual path all rolled into one.” This is no small claim, but as my own experiments with fermentation progress, I’m beginning to understand the depths and importance of this ‘lost’ art… I’ll keep you up to date with my progress!