Wild Fermentation


Book Info

Bread. Cheese. Wine. Beer. Coffee. Chocolate. Most people consume fermented foods and drinks every day. For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed the distinctive flavors and nutrition resulting from the transformative power of microscopic bacteria and fungi. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods is the first cookbook to widely explore the culinary magic of fermentation.

“Fermentation has been an important journey of discovery for me,” writes author Sandor Ellix Katz. “I invite you to join me along this effervescent path, well trodden for thousands of years yet largely forgotten in our time and place, bypassed by the superhighway of industrial food production.”

The flavors of fermentation are compelling and complex, quite literally alive. This book takes readers on a whirlwind trip through the wide world of fermentation, providing readers with basic and delicious recipes-some familiar, others exotic-that are easy to make at home.

The book covers vegetable ferments such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and sour pickles; bean ferments including miso, tempeh, dosas, and idli; dairy ferments including yogurt, kefir, and basic cheesemaking (as well as vegan alternatives); sourdough bread-making; other grain fermentations from Cherokee, African, Japanese, and Russian traditions; extremely simple wine- and beer-making (as well as cider-, mead-, and champagne-making) techniques; and vinegar-making. With nearly 100 recipes, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging fermentation cookbook ever published.

Table of Contents
  • Foreword by Sally Fallon
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction Cultural Context: The Making of a Fermentation Fetish
  • Chapter 1. Cultural Rehabilitation: The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
  • Chapter 2. Cultural Theory: Human Beings and the Phenomenon of Fermentation
  • Chapter 3. Cultural Homogenization: Standardization, Uniformity, and Mass Production
  • Chapter 4. Cultural Manipulation: A Do-It-Yourself Guide
  • Chapter 5. Vegetable Ferments
  • Chapter 6. Bean Ferments
  • Chapter 7. Dairy Ferments (and Vegan Alternatives)
  • Chapter 8. Breads (and Pancakes)
  • Chapter 9. Fermented-Grain Porridges and Beverages
  • Chapter 10. Wines (Including Mead, Cider, and Ginger Beer)
  • Chapter 11. Beers
  • Chapter 12. Vinegars
  • Chapter 13. Cultural Reincarnation: Fermentation in the Cycles of Life, Soil Fertility, and Social Change
  • Appendix: Cultural Resources
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Foreword to Wild Fermentation, by Sally Fallon, author of the nutrition and cookbook Nourishing Traditions.

The process of fermenting foods—to preserve them and to make them more digestible and more nutritious—is as old as humanity. From the Tropics—where cassava is thrown into a hole in the ground to allow it to soften and sweeten—to the Arctic—where fish are customarily eaten “rotten” to the consistency of ice cream—fermented foods are valued for their health-giving properties and for their complex tastes.

Unfortunately, fermented foods have largely disappeared from the western diet, much to the detriment of our health and economy. For fermented foods are a powerful aid to digestion and a protection against disease; and because fermentation is, by nature, an artisanal process, the disappearance of fermented foods has hastened the centralization and industrialization of our food supply, to the detriment of small farms and local economies.

The taste for fermented foods is usually an acquired taste. Few of us can imagine eating fermented tofu crawling with worms, which is relished in parts of Japan, or bubbly sorghum beer, smelling like the contents of your stomach, which is downed by the gallons in parts of Africa. But then, few Africans or Asians can enjoy the odiferous chunks of rotten milk (called cheese) that are so pleasing to western palates. To those who have grown up with fermented foods, they offer the most sublime of eating experiences—and there are many that will appeal to western tastes even without a long period of accustomization.

In the spirit of the great reformers and artists, Sandor Katz has labored mightily to deliver this opus magnum to a population hungry for a reconnection to real food, and to the process of life itself. For fermented foods are not only satisfying to eat, they are also immensely satisfying to prepare. From the first successful batch of kombucha, to that thrilling bubbly pop when the lid is removed from a jar of homemade sauerkraut, the practice of fermentation is one of partnership with microscopic life. This partnership leads to a reverence for all the processes that contribute to the well being of the human race, from the production of enzymes by invisible bacteria to the gift of milk and meat from the sacred cow.

The science and art of fermentation is, in fact, the basis of human culture—without culturing, there is no culture. Nations that still consume cultured foods, like France with its wine and cheese, and Japan with its pickles and miso, are recognized as nations that have culture. Culture begins at the farm, not in the opera house, and binds a people to a land and its artisans. Many commentators have observed that America is a nation lacking culture—how can we be cultured when we only eat food that has been canned, pasteurized and embalmed? How ironic that the road to culture in our germophobic technological society requires, first and foremost, that we enter into an alchemical relationship with bacteria and fungi, and that we bring to our tables foods and beverages prepared by the magicians, not machines.

Wild Fermentation represents not only an effort to bring back from oblivion these treasured processes, but also a road map to a better world, a world of healthy people and equitable economies, a world that especially values those iconoclastic, free-thinking individuals—so often labeled misfits—uniquely qualified to perform the alchemy of fermented foods.

Recipe List
  • Basic Brining Technique
  • Sauerkraut
  • Salt-free/Low-salt sauerkrauts
  • Wine Sauerkraut
  • Savory Seed Sauerkraut
  • Seaweed Sauerkraut
  • Sauerrüben
  • Sour Beets
  • Borscht
  • Kimchi
  • Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi
  • Radish and Root Kimchi
  • Fruit Kimchi
  • Sour Pickles
  • Mixed Vegetable CrockBrined Garlic
  • Brine as Digestive Tonic and Soup Stock
  • Milkweed/Nasturtium Seedpod “Capers”
  • Japanese Nuka Bran Pickles
  • Gundru
  • Making Miso
  • Sweet Miso
  • Miso Soup
  • Miso-Tahini Spread
  • Miso Pickles and Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Black-eyed Pea Oat Seaweed Tempeh
  • Sweet and Spicy Glazed Tempeh with Broccoli and Daikon
  • Tempeh Reubens
  • Dosas and Idlis
  • Coconut Chutney
  • Yogurt
  • Labneh: Yogurt Cheese
  • Savory Yogurt Sauces: Raita and Tsatsiki
  • Kishk
  • Shurabat al Kishk (Lebanese Kishk Soup)
  • Tara & Kefir
  • Drawoe Kura: Tibetan Tara-Buckwheat Pancakes
  • Buttermilk
  • Farmer’s Cheese
  • Rennet Cheese
  • Fermenting with Whey: Sweet Potato Fly
  • Vegan Adaptations
  • Pepita Seed Milk & Kefir
  • Cultured Soymilk
  • Sunflower Sour Cream
  • Basic Sourdough Starter
  • Maintaining a Sourdough Starter
  • Recycled Grain Bread
  • Onion-Caraway Rye Bread
  • Pumpernickel
  • Sonnenblumenkernbrot (German sunflower seed bread)
  • Challah
  • Afghani Bread
  • Essene Bread
  • Injera: Ethiopian Sponge Bread
  • Sweet Potato Groundnut Stew
  • Alaskan Frontier Sourdough Hotcakes
  • Savory Rosemary-Garlic Sourdough Potato Pancakes
  • Sesame Rice Sourdough Crackers
  • Corn and Nixtamalization
  • Gv-No-He-Nv: Cherokee Sour Corn Drink
  • Sour Corn Bread
  • Multi-Cultural Polenta
  • Genetic Engineering of Corn
  • Porridge
  • Ogi: African Millet Porridge
  • Oat Porridge
  • Amazaké
  • Amazaké-Coconut Milk Pudding
  • Kvass
  • Okroshka (Kvass-based soup)
  • Rejuvelac
  • Kombucha
  • Hooch
  • Spontaneous Cider
  • Carboys and Airlocks
  • T’ej: Ethiopian Honey Wine
  • Plum T’ej
  • Lemon Herb T’ej
  • Coffee-Banana T’ej
  • Aging Wine: Siphoning and Bottling
  • Country Wines
  • Elderberry Wine
  • Flower Wines
  • Ginger Champagne
  • Cider Take Two
  • Persimmon Cider Mead
  • Wine Dregs Soup
  • Ginger Beer
  • Chicha: Andean Chewed Corn Beer
  • Bouza: Ancient Egyptian Beer
  • Chang: Nepalese Rice Beer
  • Beer from Malt Extracts
  • Bottling Beer
  • Mashing: Beer from Malted Grains
  • Beer in Kegs
  • Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Vinagre de Piña (Mexican Pineapple Vinegar)
  • Fruit Scrap Vinegar
  • Shrub
  • Switchel
  • Horseradish Sauce
  • Infused Vinegars
  • Vinegar Pickling: Dilly Beans
  • Vinaigrette
Praise & Reviews

“In the spirit of the great reformers and artists, Sandor Katz has labored mightily to deliver this opus magnum to a population hungry for a reconnection to real food, and to the process of life itself.”

– Sally Fallon, author of the nutrition and cookbook Nourishing Traditions

“A unique cookbook for gardeners…This book will appeal to those interested in world food traditions, the history of human nutrition, and the “whys” of good food and good health.”

– The Washington Post

“These riddles festered until the day I stumbled across the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz…”

– Discover

“Comprehensive…. delves into the how, when, why, and where of this delicious process with joyfully obsessive abandon.”

– Kitchen and Cook, the newsletter of the Culinary Institute of America

Wild Fermentation will serve as a training manual for thousands of culinary Harry Potters, working their magic in the tranquil atmosphere of sacred kitchens.”

– Wise Traditions

“…the avant-garden prophet of fermented foods….”

– Acres USA

“…informative, thought-provoking and nothing less than inspiring…Wild Fermentation does not scare off readers with technicalities; it does everything it can to invite readers to begin fermenting on their own. And it succeeds.”

– In Good Tilth

“You do not need to share Katz’s belief in the health-supporting benefits of fermented foods to be impressed by the depth of his research and devotion to the use of live cultures in preparing foods. From tempeh and sauerkraut, through sourdough and cheese, to beers and wines, Katz offers thorough understanding of fermentation processes, as well as the history of their uses. A valuable resource.”

– Kitchen Arts and Letters

“Katz has obviously done comprehensive research on his subject and is passionate about it.”

– Library Journal

“A gold mine for science-fair projects.”

– Booklist

“Sandor Ellix Katz delves deep into the magic and meaning of food with Wild Fermentation.”

– Body and Soul Magazine

“While the recipes are plentiful the author’s writing is what pulled me in and captivated me. He is very knowledgeable on the subject of fermented foods and examines them through a historical, scientific, and even a philosophical sense….Wild Fermentation is a book that is well written and interesting to read as well as to cook from. It can inspire a person in life (and the cycle of it), and also in food, to get back to these most basic and nourishing homemade foods that are simple to make but have almost been obliterated from our daily lives. As I type these words there are crocks of sauerkraut and bread starter bubbling away on my kitchen counter, and after reading Wild Fermentation I not only appreciate but also understand the life cycles of each.”

– Cheftalk.com

“A ferment-it-yourself bible.”

– The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“In its kooky and non-intimidating way, Sandor’s book, Wild Fermentation, takes us on a journey through time, taste, and anthropology, with a unique and refreshing look at the current state of the world….Wild Fermentation will set you spinning through healthy and exciting possibilities developed over the millennia by people and microbes working together in all sorts of wild combinations…I laugh out loud when I think about this book being read by the public. It’s full of easily digestible radical analysis and the matter-of-factness of Sandor’s fabulous lifestyle among the radical faeries living in the rural widerness of middle Tennessee.”

– The Fifth Estate

“Transvestites and other miscreants do not belong in a cookbook.”

– Criticism from an Amazon.com reader review

Wild Fermentation is packed with fascinating information and historical background. The recipes are easy to follow, well illustrated where needed, and peppered with wit and wisdom from someone who sees what our modern culture has lost in its rush for modernity. Through his writing, you can see him urging you with a broad excited grin to discover just how easy it is to find those lost flavors again: ‘Here, taste this! Ahhh….'”

– Bummers & Gummers (Oregon zine)

Wild Fermentation is about fascination with the natural world, about the inner workings of microbes and bacteria, about the way things happen in the real world where organic matter is in continuous flux, continuous change. Yes, this is a good book for anyone who wants to know how to make kraut or kimchi or goat cheese, but it is also a book for anyone who wants to know about life, about how life works – how to enjoy it, respect it, love it and eat it.”

– Independent Media Center

“Katz’s desire to help others learn the craft of fermentation shines throughout this book…Katz deals upfront with our fears about food poisoning and “mistakes,” then explains each technique with humor, insight and the experience of a decade fermenting foods, then feeding them to his compatriots at Short Mountain Sanctuary in Tennessee.”

– The Northeast Food System Partnership

“In our mad rush to adopt newer, more technological food production, we have abandoned the fermenting, healthful wisdom of our forebears. Sandor Katz’s book reclaims one of the most important, and ecologically sustainable, processes of preserving and enhancing foods that humankind has discovered. Wild Fermentation is a significant, hands-on, journey through the miracle of fermented foods.”

– Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation and The Lost Language of Plants

“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, wise woman herbalist and author of many excellent books about healing

Wild Fermentation takes readers on a tour of fermented foods from around the globe — many of them delicacies available at Zabar’s — and describes techniques for making them at home. For me the book was a nostalgic journey, reminding me of traditional foods I knew in my childhood, which are rarely found today. 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

“This is a very well written book, a pleasure to read, with excellent information and easy recipes for cultured and fermented foods. If you read it carefully, you will even find a recipe for a gentle social activism that will help you feel you can indeed do something to improve the state of the world.”

– Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., author of Food and Healing

“Writing in a delightful and sparely intelligent style, Sandor gives us in this small pamphlet, a taste of his larger work to come, and a primer (with recipes) in all the basic ferments….”

– Praise for Sandor Ellix Katz’s initial self-published booklet version of Wild Fermentation, from Peter Bane, editor of Permaculture Activist magazine