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Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods Paperback – September 1, 2003
There is a newer edition of this item:
"Homestead Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Our Hearth to Yours" by Eivin Kilcher
Original family recipes and advice on gardening, preserving, and foraging, for anyone looking to live more sustainably, with stunning photographs of their home and farm in Alaska. Learn more
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Fermentation is one of the earliest natural processes involving food and its preservation that humans sought to control. The earliest puffed-up breads, wines, and cheeses likely occurred by chance, and results were scarcely uniform or predictable. Disconcerted by off-flavors and spoilage in beer, wine, and baked goods, early peoples learned to control microorganisms whose existence would not be demonstrated for centuries. But in that process of control, people lost some of the benefits of wild fermentation. Sandor Ellix Katz has experimented with Wild Fermentation, and his book explains to others how to take advantage of natural fermentation processes to produce bread, yogurt, cheese, beer, wine, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods. A gold mine for science-fair projects, Katz's work presents properly supervised young people ample opportunity to explore both the science and the art of fermented foods (alcoholic beverages excepted).
"This immensely valuable book belongs in the kitchen of anyone interested in health, nutrition and wild cultures. It is a feast of fact, fun, and creativity by a modern wise wo-MAN."--Susun Weed, author of Healing Wise
"A nostalgic journey... this is a book that will fascinate and inspire food lovers."--Saul Zabar, owner of Zabar's, New York City's Most famous food market
"Sandor Katz has labored mightily to deliver this opus magnum to a population hungry for a reconnection to real food."--Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions
Top Customer Reviews
Sandor doesn't just tell us, he shows us, how to be self-sufficient about making and storing food (with little need for a stove or a refrigerator): making sourdough, cheese, miso, making tempeh, making wine, beer and, it seems, almost every other fermented food made the world over. And he gives you a list of resources where you can order the most mundane and exotic of starter cultures and even seaweed from our own Atlantic coast.
And your concept of "self" will never be the same again. He shows us how to reclaim and restore a part of ourselves that has protected us like the ozone layer protects the earth: the world of microbes in and around us, the protective cloak of the microecology that is meant to be a part of us like our skin.
Fermented foods restore a health balance like no probiotics and vitamins can. Happy reading, happy fermenting, happy eating!
Frequently, the instructions refer in an unclear manner to a different recipe that you need to follow in part, but make some changes.
Other times one of the ingredients is a recipe in itself, but no page number is given for where to find these extra instructions. For instance, many recipes call for "honey water," but give no information about how to prepare "honey water" or where in the book to find this concoction, leaving you to page through and search for it. Once you find honey water, you find that it is in a recipe for honey wine. Are the the recipes that call for "honey water" intending for you to use the ingredients from this honey wine recipe or use the final product? No answer is apparent.
I feel like I will have to re-write each of these recipes to include their FULL INSTRUCTIONS to make them user friendly. I don't know whether this was a choice made to save space, a sign of a disorganized mind, or simple laziness on the part of the author.
Sandor does a fantastic job of taking the mystery and careful measuring out of fermentation. Most of the recipes I've read for fermentation say you must follow the recipe exactly or risk food poisoning. I'd rather play around with the recipes, so this is just perfect for me! I'm also impressed with his research into traditional recipes.
I just read that kimchi may cure Avian Flu, and the recipe in this book is a fantastic hit here! We use it as salad dressing with some sesame oil!
Fermented food products are probably much more common in our lives today than they have been since the advent of the processed foods industry. And, this is a fact that even the average foodie may not be conscious. A quick inventory of fermented foods commonly used in modern American homes will show how widespread they have become.
The most obvious fermented product is beer, which has always been with us. Their cousins, wines and meads are also the product of fermentation. Virtually all cheeses are produced by fermentation, and our interest in and consumption of artisinal cheeses is rising fast. Yogurt is a close cousin of cheeses and consumption of yogurt has been rising since the early seventies. Sauerkraut and Choucroute have been with us since the beginning, but Asian fermented cabbage such as Kimchee and other fermented vegetables are becoming more popular. Pickles have also been a part of western cuisine for millennia Another part of the increasing interest in Asian foods is an increase in consumption of miso and tempeh, both from fermented soybeans. Asian fermented fish sauces from Thailand and Vietnam are also much more common today than they were 50 years ago. The granddaddy of fermented foods for Western cultures is yeast bread, especially sourdough breads.
Fermentation has at least four beneficial results, two of which have been known since prehistoric times. The first and most important effect is that fermentation is a method of natural preservation by the creation of acetic acid (acid in vinegar) or lactic acid (acid from milk sugar). The second, represented most clearly by the brewing of beer, is in the action of microorganisms on sugars to produce ethanol (alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor). The third is based on our physiological salivation response to acidic foods, or even the anticipation of acidic foods, thereby making the mouth feel of these foods more succulent by the combination of natural food moisture and our own saliva. Ancients may have sensed the last beneficial result, but it probably has not been fully realized until the 20th century. This is the ability of fermentation to break down foods which were hard to digest into different products which are both easier to digest and more nutritious. The two best examples of this action are the conversion of soy carbohydrates into miso and the conversion of milk into yogurt.
All of this has made fermentation into a darling of vegan advocates, as it broadens the range of useable non-animal protein and makes it all more palatable. It has also made fermentation into a favorite of alternate lifestyle nutritionists such as Sally Fallon, the author of the excellent book `Nourishing Traditions' who supplied a Foreword to this book. Fermentation is also one of the hallmarks of the slow food movement. Aside from the North African method for preserving lemons, I know of no other culinary methods that take as long to complete.
Anyone who has made pickles, sourdough bread, or beer should have a very good idea of the times involved in fermentation. And this doesn't even get into some of the olfactory `delights' that accompany the process of fermentation.
The author covers all of the types of fermentation mentioned above, devoting the greatest amount of space to vegetable, bean, and dairy fermentation. Bakers should not miss the lesser attention paid to breads, as for every book on yogurt, pickles, and kraut, there are ten books which cover artisinal baking with its sourdough sponges, poolishs, and begas.
On the political front, the most active issue regarding fermentation is the issue of unpasteurized cheeses being imported into or made in the United States. It is truly ironic that the home of Louis Pasteur relishes their raw cheeses while the squeaky-clean US won't let it in.
Aside from the thoroughly careful presentation the author gives of his material, the veracity of the book is strengthened by the extensively footnoted research behind his statements and the fact that the fruits of fermentation are essential to the lifestyle of the author and his comrades at their rural homestead. The similarity to both the hippie counterculture doctrines and the Amish lifestyle are unmistakable. One would almost take them for being scions of the Amish except for the names cited in the acknowledgments that I found myself checking against the names of the communities' goats. We owe this book in part to humans who go by the names Echo, Nettles, Leopard, Orchid, Spark, Book Mark, and Ravel Weaver.
I also thank Echo, Nettles, Leopard, et al and author Sandor Ellis Katz for this deeply thought out exposition of a pervasive and growing part of the modern culinary and nutritional environment.
This book may not be for everyone, or even for every foodie, but if anything I said sounds a chord in your psyche, I recommend you get a copy of this book and read it carefully.