Being a vegan baker, a home brewer and a DIY freak I knew I had to go in for a closer look. As soon as I flipped through a few pages, I was thankful I had to go to the office that day- I may have never ended up finding this book.
Sandor, also known by his nickname Sandorkraut due to his devotion to sauerkraut, has filled this book chock full of tempting fermentable food recipes and methods from several different cultures and ages. The recipe adaptation for Bouza, an ancient Egyptian beer is around 5000 years old. The book also stresses that we're losing our connection with natural fermented foods in our current age of sterilization, pasteurization and over processing.
The first chapter details the health benefits of fermented foods in fine detail explaining how, in the 1770's, Captain Cook sailed with barrels of vitamin C rich sauerkraut, effectively ending the condition of scurvy at sea. Ellix Katz makes several strong points informing us that fermented foods are significantly healthier due to the fermentation process improving the bioavailablity of minerals present in the food, removing toxins from the food, creating new nutrients and also by populating the intestinal tract with beneficial living cultures. These 'friendly flora' help us break down food and absorb nutrients. The book then goes on to describe fermentation in human culture through the ages and how it's being disrupted by modern mass food production methods. Several chapters are devoted to the preparation of fermented foods, starting first with vegetable ferments, bean ferments and dairy ferments with several vegan alternatives.
Ellix Katz then goes into breads and the history and significance of bread yeasts. I found the information on wild yeasting particularly interesting. Wild yeasting uses the natural air borne yeast and bacteria in the air instead of yeast from a laboratory. Wild yeasted breads vary depending on geographical locations. This is why San Francisco sourdough can only be made in San Francisco. I look forward to experimenting more with wild yeasting in the near future.
The book then has chapters detailing fermented grain-based foods, wines and beers. Being a homebrewer, I especially liked how the author recommended against the rules in home brewing culture that encourage strict adherence to methods to produce distinct beer styles. I've been brewing in this method due to how I've learned. In future brews, I'm going to now be more open minded and brew according to my own style and embrace the variables that nature gives me.
Later in the book there are chapters on how fermentation relates to the cycles of life and social change. Ellix Katz explains how fermentation is a part of the renewal process of nutrients going back to the earth so they can be taken up again. This cycle is what life is all about and it's important to accept death and decay as part of life itself. He says “Wild fermentation is going on everywhere, always. Embrace it”. According to Ellix Katz, embracing this fact is important in order to stop humanity's ever increasing trends of chemical mono-crop agriculture, GMO foods, factory animal breeding and ultra-processed foods. He says social change comes about just like fermentation when ideas ferment, mutate and inspire movements of change.
Years ago I discovered that pills containing probiotic cultures like lactobacilli significantly reduced my stomach discomfort. I learned from Wild Fermentation that sauerkraut sold in the US market is pasteurized, or heated for a specific amount of time at a specific temperature, effectively killing most of the beneficial cultures. After following Ellix Katz's sauerkraut recipe I found that not only is it easy, but it's also an affordable, delicious way to supply my body with these beneficial cultures without having to resort to pills. Thanks to Wild Fermentation, I always have a homemade half-gallon jar of sauerkraut in the refrigerator.
I recommend this book to anyone that is passionate about food and it's connection to our bodies. Most of the books I read these days are effectively 'preaching to the choir' of how I look at and relate to food. Wild Fermentation is the first book that I've read in a long time that has seriously opened my eyes and changed the way I think about food.
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Excellent book, great review
I absolutely love this book! It turned me into an uttapam addict, and eventually I'll start fermenting my own multigrain bread starters. Sandor has so much knowledge on this subject, and his passion is almost tangible. I'm wheat free by necessity and had sworn off the idea of home brewing, but I may try my hand at it with sorghum, and will no doubt refer often to Wild Fermentation when that time comes.