Get into Fermented Foods with The Wild Fermentation Zine by Sandor Ellix Katz
Anyone who has ever fermented anything has probably heard the name Sandor Ellix Katz. That’s because he has become the modern-day specialist on fermented foods. Katz didn’t invent fermentation (people have been fermenting things since the Neolithic Age) but he certainly did help to make fermentation something that was easily approachable for the home cook. Through his popular books, like The Art of Fermentation, he has guided many people through the ins and outs of using wild yeasts to make good and healthy food.
But while many are well versed on his books The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation, few may have heard of his zine, Wild Fermentation: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Cultural Manipulation. Originally self-published, it has recently been reformatted and republished by Microcosm Publishing. And it deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.
With a DIY process like fermentation, it seems fitting that Katz’s first publication comes in zine format. This is fermentation simplified. A no bullshit, hassle free approach to fermenting all kinds of things. His tone is casual and laid-back, while still managing to be informative and insightful. It’s the best $6.95 you will probably spend on a cookbook.
I love excerpts like this one from the section on making sour cream:
“When we run out of refrigerator space for our fresh goats milk, or if I am feeling too lazy to make cheese, I just leave a gallon of milk on the kitchen counter, with the cap loose. Bacteria present in the milk or in the air, will, after a few days, convert enough lactose to lactic acid that the milk separates. Skim the cream off the top and boy is it sour!”
In a day and age where fermenting has taken off, I sometimes think that we have gotten just a little too precise about it all. Fermentation is after all a natural process, and people were fermenting things far before they had measuring cups or were able to gauge exact temperatures. What I like about Wild Fermentation is that it reminds us to put a little faith back into the process of fermentation. That not everything needs to be precise or done with fancy materials. For example, in his pickle recipe, Katz notes that the special equipment needed is:
Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
One gallon jug filled with water, or a big boiled rock
Yes, a boiled rock.
Ultimately, Wild Fermentation is a reminder that fermentation is good for us. Not only good for us, but necessary. “Fermentation happens. It is the path of least resistance,” writes Katz. “Yeast and bacteria are everywhere, in every breath we take and every but we eat. Try as you might to eradicate them with antibacterial soaps and antibiotic drugs there is no escaping them.”
Not only can you not escape them, those microorganisms are essential to our well being. Isn’t it time we got to know them a little better?
Review disclosure: Microcosm Publishing sent me this book free of charge. We’re good friends since they’re the publishing company behind my book The Culinary Cyclist. But I would have bought it with my hard earned cash regardless.