Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

I can't say enough good things about this book. It was easy to read (I power read through this in about 3 days), informative, and interesting. I picked up the e-book for my Kindle on a recommendation from a friend, because I had posted on Facebook that I was interested in learning more about fermentation, and really wanted a good book to get me started. This book has so many different fermentation recipes, that it's going to keep me busy for a while.

Let me go into a little more detail about the recipes, since there are so many of them in this book. First of all, there is a huge variety, not only are there recipes for traditional favorites like fermented pickles, but there are also recipes for Ethiopian dishes. There are bread, beverage, vegetable, and anything else you can think of fermenting. The best part is that, as he explain in the book, you can do most of these fermentations with little more than a food-safe sterile container, and salt water. I currently have a batch of vegetables/fruits on the counter fermenting away in a brine solution, and I am very anxious to see how they are turning out but I want to give the ferment a few more days.

I think one of the more important things that I need to stress about fermenting is that a lot of people are going to tell you how dangerous fermenting foods can be. Well, this is true, but from my experience thus far, it's also really easy to avoid any problems. Thing is, anytime you talk about canning or fermenting, someone somewhere is going to bring up the B-word, Botulism. Yes, that is a very dangerous bacteria, and yes it does love to grow on foods, but the key here is hat botulism LOVES a low acid, low oxygen environment. So how do we prevent this B-word from getting into our ferments? Well, the main thing to keep in mind is airflow. There are a lot of sites I've seen that talk about putting a lid on your ferments, and that scares the crap out of me, as a beginning fermenter, I am not versed enough with airlocks or any of that to trust myself with lidded ferments. However, covering the lid of the jar with cheesecloth and securing it with a rubber band is just the trick. The airflow stays at max, and you don't have to worry about depriving all those good little bacteria of the oxygen they need to thrive. Another issue is light, which is why I keep mine covered. I have previously used fabric bags (again something breathable) to keep my jars in the dark, but recently, I've started crocheting covers. Whatever you choose to do if you're using glass containers (my personal preference) this is what I suggest. Keeping things submerged in the brine is the last major piece of this puzzle. But of course I am simplifying.

So if you're interested I suggest you do your research, until you feel comfortable giving it a shot. Once again, I highly recommend the book "Wild Fermentation" as it will be a great guide as you get into this wonderfully fun food science experiment. Also use your nose and taste buds to guide you. You're going to know when a food is bad because it will smell bad, and it will taste bad. Botulism will give things a distinctly unpleasant mildew-like odor. Always be cautious, but trust me once you start fermenting you'll see how easy it is, and you'll get hooked. Pretty soon you'll end up like me and you'll have an entire shelf full of fermented goodies that you're not consuming fast enough.

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