Wild Fermentation Book Review
Bread. Cheese. Wine. Beer. Coffee. Chocolate. Most people consume fermented foods and drinks every day. For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed the distinctive flavors and nutrition resulting from the transformative power of microscopic bacteria and fungi. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods is the first cookbook to widely explore the culinary magic of fermentation.The book covers vegetable ferments such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and sour pickles; bean ferments including miso, tempeh, dosas, and idli; dairy ferments including yogurt, kefir, and basic cheesemaking (as well as vegan alternatives); sourdough bread-making; other grain fermentations from Cherokee, African, Japanese, and Russian traditions; extremely simple wine- and beer-making (as well as cider-, mead-, and champagne-making) techniques; and vinegar-making. With nearly 100 recipes, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging fermentation cookbook ever published. –from the Website.
Click here to see Sandor at the River Cottage Food Fair, in the UK. It runs about 50 minutes, but this talk will give you a real great idea of what the book is about. Here he discusses how fermented food is not just rotten food, but food that has been transformed by bacteria and yeast. Fermented food can be actually SAFER than raw food because the bacteria have fought off the bad bacteria and effectively cleaned it for us. They’ve also “pre-digested” it for us–breaking down complex sugars and starches into their more simple amino acid beginnings. I, for one, can’t drink milk, because I’m lactose intolerant. By fermenting my milk, the bacteria break down the lactose into something that I CAN digest. Delicious yogurt. I’m also ingesting a terrific dose of lactobacteria into my system to help me digest what I wouldn’t otherwise be able to eat.
So, as you can imagine, this one was a real page-turner for me. I read the whole book in a weekend. Well, I skipped the chapters about beer and wine because I’m sober, but the rest of the book was super! Mr. Katz takes you from the prehistory of fermenting to present-day food processing to his own (very) personal experiences with fermenting. Mr. Katz recounts his experiences with becoming acquainted with fermenting as one of the fairies at what amounts to an LBTG commune. This book delivers what its title promises–how to start fermenting just about anything without having to buy much of anything.
Mr. Katz is true to his philosophy of fermenting what you what to eat with materials you can drum up around the house. Each chapter starts with history and science, gives easy instructions to some very simple fermenting projects, and ends up with a couple of delicious recipes to use your newly fermented treats. Interesting to read about the techniques that I was familiar with as well as to read about some new techniques that I had been wanting to try. When I was done reading, I had to run across the street to gather raspberries to ferment! That is a testament to how motivating this book is.
Another lesson from the book is how our body is not our own. Our body is a complex symbiotic environment of trillions of microbes living on and in us. Eating probiotic, living, fermented foods supports and sustains this “lifestyle”, this colony of life that we call home and our body. Constantly eating sterile food and using antibacterial soaps is not a healthy lifestyle! Our bodies play host to a collection of bacteria–some good and some bad. The good ones are protecting us from the bad ones. By using antibacterial soap, we’re only killing off the susceptible bacteria, leaving ourselves open to fight off the bad guys on our own. Have you ever taken an antibiotic and wound-up with a yeast infection? I rest my case! Eat your raw bacteria!