Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz – Book Review

This review was first published in Funky Raw issue 17, but I have been making more recipes from it since then so have added a bit of an update at the end.

The article on Wild Fermentation in the last issue of the Funky Raw magazine intrigued me so I went out and bought myself a copy of this book as recommended. I’ve recently been increasing the amount of fermented foods in my diet, both home made and store bought, so I thought it would be good to learn how to make more fermented foods for myself.

This book is very easy to read and much of what Sandor says resonates with me. The first few chapters set the scene, showing how past cultures used fermented foods and how things have changed with commercialisation and mass production of food in recent years.

I really like the fact that Sandor has written this book in a conversational style, and isn’t afraid to occasionally go off at a tangent, such as the time he went to harvest seaweed at 4am(!), plus interesting asides about life in the community where he lives.

Sandor has been learning about fermented foods for the last 10 years and the level of research which has gone into this book is astounding, it is well referenced and has a large bibliography so you can keep learning.

The book covers a wide range of fermented foods, some of which won’t be of interest if you are a strict raw fooder, but there are enough raw (or live) recipes to make this book worth while. Recipe chapters include vegetable ferments (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles), bean ferments (miso, tamari, tempeh), dairy ferments (yogurt, kefir, cheese, vegan alternatives), bread, porridge, wines, beers and vinegars.

Each recipe is clearly laid out with detailed instructions, plus also ideas for making your own variations. Sandor keeps telling us how easy it is to make fermented foods – explaining how humans have been fermenting for thousands of years without any modern technology or shops to buy yeasts from, fermenting using wild yeasts and bacteria which is in the air all around us.

I thoroughly recommend this book, but if this review hasn’t convinced you, read the extract (printed in the Funky Raw magazine).

188 pages. Published by Chelsea Green. ISBN 978-1931498234. www.wildfermentation.com

Updated comments, Feb 16th

The first recipe I tried from this book was mead, a very simple ferment using just honey and water. It can be quite strongly alcoholic, but I only fermented it for two weeks to make a milder drink. It worked really well and was delicious.

As you saw in my last post Making Cheese, I also made one of the cheese recipes, which worked really well and I’ve been making it regularly for several weeks, now I’m looking forward to experimenting more with cheese.

One point I forgot to mention in the original review is the word “wild” in the title – this is in reference to wild yeasts and bacteria – many fermentation recipes call for adding shop bought yeasts or bacteria, whereas Sandor likes to rely on the wild versions in the air all round us, which makes for more authentic ferments.

The more I read, the more I love this book. It’s inspirational and the more I make and eat fermented foods, the more I want to learn and experiment. My next project from this book will be Kimchi… I recommend you go out and buy this book right now!

10 thoughts on “Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz – Book Review

  1. I am in the process of making sauerkraut, basic and easy but fascinating, always thought it would be somehow complicated and need a starter and who knows what else. Often made my own vinegar from old wine or cider and that was easy so don’t know why I thought this? Have you made anything more apart from your mead and cheese?

  2. I’ve made some sourdough bread (sun dried, not cooked), but I didn’t pay enough attention to the recipe as regards quantities and I followed a recipe for baked bread rather than the essene recipe which is also in the book, it’s ok but I’m sure it will be better next time!
    We tried making kombucha, but I think the cultures we were given were bad (I had to separate them from a mouldy culture when I got them, and the kombucha we made started getting mould on top. So we didn’t drink it.
    We already make kefir on a daily basis, it’s really simple and I love it now – I wasn’t too keen when I first tried it, I used to sweeten it with honey but now I drink it everyday without a sweetener. I really recommend it.
    And my partner is from Lithuania (very common there) so she already knew how to make sauerkraut and makes it regularly, but I might try myself with a recipe out of the book soon.

  3. I am planning to make kefir too, was n’t sure about kombucha so will save that for another time maybe, good luck with it all and I will let you know how it goes. Off for sprouts and winter green salad for tea 🙂

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