I love fermenting. I love learning about fermenting. My husband and I even write for a fermentation website! So, when it comes to finding good information on how to interact with this ancient, well-designed process, we're quite serious about finding resources that are worth our time. We have found that with fermentation’s recent surge in popularity, information on how to join the trend has never been more available. Beautifully formatted books fill the kitchen section at stores, recipe blogs fill Internet browsers, and hyper-saturated photos of Things In Mason Jars litter Pinterest boards. It seems that there has never been more information available on how to trendily convert vegetables into something buzz-wordily probiotic.
For the occasional fermenter, this huge sea of information may be enough. I have found, however, that most of it is a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of being thorough or educational. It’s highly likely that the rattled-off explanation of the processes of fermentation given on some blogs or in the introductions of many books may start looking familiar--perhaps even copy-pasted. If you truly desire to understand fermenting--not just engage in a mysteriously-guided recipe that results in yet more pickles--is there a better source?
Enter The Art of Fermentation ( http://amzn.to/2AwO1Bp ). This is a large, thorough book, not for the faint of heart (is anything in the fermenting world for the faint of heart?), but it is the only one I recommend to those who want to truly learn about how and why to ferment. The author, Sandor Katz, is a unique, driven individual who does not just write about fermentation, he lives it. A self-described “fermentation revivalist,” he has made it part of his life mission to educate, demystify, and empower others to take back their health, food, and to make fermentation more than just something that describes the occasional condiment.
Not quite a recipe book, not quite a textbook, and not quite a travelogue, Katz’s book straddles the lines of all three, tracing fermentation through its myriad uses and forms throughout time and throughout the world. Pickles and sauerkraut are merely two stops in a huge tour of fermented possibilities that include everything from familiar classics like tofu and cheese, to kombucha and tempeh, to ones you may have never known existed like Hawaiian poi (fermented taro root), merissa (Sudanese Toasted Sorghum Beer), smreka (Bosnian Juniper-based drink), and tipliaqtaaq quaq (Native Alaskan fermented fish). Realizing the sheer scope and breadth of fermentation in human culture and how odd it is to have it absent from modern American diets is certainly enough to give one pause!
I have found this book to be immensely useful because it explains the processes for making each food in detail, and doesn’t just provide recipes alone. It more explains the process of creating the food and invites you to experiment, make mistakes, and be encouraged through success. As the intrepid fermenter may soon find, working with wild yeast and transforming food alongside it is more relationship than formula. Seek to harness it like a mere algorithm, and you will soon find yourself surprised by something unexpected.
Katz is fearless, and his boldness in dealing with food in various foamy, bubbly, and effervescent forms is inspiring. Every section of the book provides the reader with ideas, methods, wonderfully thorough troubleshooting, and personal anecdotes about his huge array of experiences with making the food described. In addition to discussing fermentation as a source of nutrition and healing, it also explores uses of fermentation beyond the kitchen. Bioremediation, alternative clothing design, energy production…who knew that humble little yeast and bacteria had so many abilities? Finally, the resource section at the back of the book is truly indispensable. Since this book was recently published in 2012, you can expect all the references to still be currently relevant.
In my recent exploits of harvesting and converting the huge amount of acorns on our land into edible flour (my first batch is drying by the woodstove as we speak!!) I have been reading a lot about what to do with my finished product. Wouldn't you know that there's even a section on fermented foraged acorns?? I'm serious--this book is my one-stop shop when it comes to fermenting.
Read it straight through or open it at random to take in an inspiring chapter or two, I guarantee that The Art of Fermentation will leave you hungry to try something new. Just be warned! You may find that your kitchen will never quite look (or smell!) the same again!
One of this summer's batches of lacto-fermented pickles!
Do you ferment for your daily meals? What's your favorite thing you've made?
By the way, here's the Fermentation Blog we contribute to:http://www.fermentools.com/blog
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
We love writing for these fine folks as well!
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Simple Life Homestead