I’ve had this book Wild Fermentation for several years and thought it was time to tell you about it, as I turn to it again and again. Sandor Katz is known as the Father of Fermentation, and this is the definitive how-to manual on making fermented foods. I’ll post my cashew yogurt how-to recipe on Thursday, and will be giving away this book on Friday along with a Yogourmet yogurt maker. (GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.)
First, let’s talk about the difference between cultured foods and fermented foods. Fermentation is the natural process of foods being broken down by bacteria. Humans have discovered that if they manage this process in various ways, foods can be stored and preserved for later use. Wild fermentation uses whatever bacteria are present in your air to ferment foods. Examples would be sourdough, sauerkraut, kimchi, beer, and wine. Sourdough made in San Francisco gets its distinctive taste from the unique bacteria there; if you take San Francisco sourdough starter to another location, eventually it loses that specific taste as the local bacteria take over.
Cultured foods use specific beneficial bacteria to create the end product. (These actually started as wild ferments, and then people began maintaining these special cultures.) You know some of these by name if you’ve ever read a yogurt container: acidophilus is the best-known. Cultured foods include yogurt, kefir, some cheeses, vinegar, kombucha tea, and tempeh.
Eating fermented foods is so helpful for maintaining health, and Katz makes a strong case for adding more and more of them to our diets. That beneficial bacteria helps us digest food more effectively and receive the nutrition we need from it. It helps keep our GI tracts in good shape, and many believe it supports healthy immune systems. Katz is immune-compromised due to his positive AIDS status, and he credits his intake of fermented foods with keeping him healthy and alive.
UPDATE IN ANSWER TO A READER QUESTION: Fermented food and moldy food are two very different things, although the process is similar. In both cases, bacteria are breaking down or changing the food.
Fermented food includes what we consider to be “good” bacteria… probiotics, that change the chemical composition of the food, allowing it to be preserved much longer, taste better, etc. You eat fermented/cultured food any time you have cheese, yogurt, wine, or beer. If you have ever had true (not cooked) sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, vinegar, or tempeh you have also enjoyed fermented foods.
Moldy foods are ones where the bacteria are breaking down the food and indeed, would make you sick. This is the process that composting uses to break down food into rich garden soil.
Fermented foods either include a specific temperature (like yogurt, tempeh, kefir) to grow the culture, or are happening without oxygen (anaerobic) below the surface of the liquid or brine. Fermenting has been used for thousands of years to preserve fresh food before we had refrigeration. I hope this answers your question and I hope you’ll check out a book about fermentation. It’s both fascinating AND delicious!
In any case, if you end up with mold during fermentation, you throw it all out and start over.
What I liked about this book:
I enjoyed reading about the history of fermented foods, why modern society moved away from them, and the move back as people are seeking old cures and supporting artisanal foods. I like how he organized the book, with the opening chapters exploring the history and why of fermented foods, and later chapters focusing on the how. He separates the how-to recipes by types of ferments, beginning with vegetables, then beans, dairy (and vegan alternatives), breads and pancakes, grains, wines, beers, and vinegars. I liked the black-and-white illustrations, and feel there are enough of them to make this a clear how-to manual. He also includes many recipes for using fermented foods, such as miso soup and a variety of breads.
I wasn’t so keen on:
The only critique I can muster is that there are no color photos. But you don’t really need them.
I recommend this for:
Anyone interested in exploring cultured foods. I guarantee that once you make your first crock of sauerkraut you will be hooked!
For more ideas, check out my friend Austin Durant’s website: Fermenter’s Club.
Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients, Wednesday essays, and Friday giveaways (when available).
Here is the book on Amazon: