Live-culture fermentation is one of the hottest food topics of late. It’s both a fun, delicious adventure in home cooking and a way to maximize our health through what we eat. Here are a few tips and tidbits on the subject from your friends at Edible East Bay!
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Meet the King of Fermentation
It’s intriguing the way scientific research has been revealing the health values in so many of the whole foods and pre-convenience-era processing methods that make up traditional foodways around the world. We’re learning about how natural fermentation processes make nutrients more available to our bodies while also adding great flavor to foods. For many, there’s also the discovery of the enjoyment to be had while creating a wide variety of fermented foods at home.
Standing at the head of the recent revival of interest in this subject is a self-taught experimentalist named Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation (2003) and a more recent book, The Art of Fermentation (2012), which received a James Beard award. The gentleman from rural Tennessee is also a fantastic speaker, as we learned when we heard him talk about food preservation at the inauguration of the Good Food Awards a few years ago in San Francisco.
So it is with great enthusiasm that we are letting our East Bay Appetizer readers know about the following lecture/demonstration by Sandor Katz at Pollinate Farm & Garden in Oakland, but we advise that you register soon, since this certainly will be a sold-out event:
Wednesday October 16, 6:30-8:30pm
Introduction to Fermentation with Sandor Ellix Katz
Pollinate Farm & Garden, 2727 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland
Learn how simple it is to make your own kimchi, kefir, and other fermented delicacies. Learn about the healing qualities and nutritional importance of live-culture ferments, as well as their illustrious history and integral role in human cultural evolution. Empower yourself with simple techniques for fermenting these healthful foods in your home. Be part of the fermentation revival! Following this lecture/demonstration and Q&A, Sandor will be on hand to sign copies of his books (bring yours or buy one at the store). $45 Register
For more information on Sandor’s books and workshops, check out his website wildfermentation.com.
A Fermenter’s Bookshelf
Reviews by Kristina Sepetys
Creating fermented foods is a science, art, and craft with a very long and multicultural history. The more you delve into fermentation, the more you’ll want to know about it. Here are some of the best books on the subject, new and old, to give you some creative inspiration for putting up all the delicious fall bounty being harvested right now.
The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green, 2003)
When “fermentation revivalist” Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentationwas published in 2003, it was described as “the only comprehensive recipe book of fermented and live-culture cuisine” on the market. While no longer alone on the shelf, this book, with its easy-to-follow instructions, accessible style, engaging stories, and historical anecdotes, shows its staying power. It’s a must-have for anyone interested in home fermentation.
Real Food Fermentation:
Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures
in Your Home Kitchen
by Alex Lewin (Quarry Books, 2012)
Real Food Fermentation is a helpful primer for beginners, offering practical skills for making cultured foods. Through step-by-step photographs, Lewin explains everything you need to know about the fermenting process, including how to choose the right tools and ingredients.
Recipes for Making and Cooking with Fermented Foods
by Mary Karlin (Ten Speed Press, 2013)
This beautifully photographed guide offers more than 70 recipes covering a wide variety of lacto-fermented foods. You’ll be enticed by such concoctions as Plum-Raisin Mustard, Wild and Creamy Muenster Cheese, Worcestershire Sauce, Pickled Sardines with Fennel, and Ginger Mint Shrub. Author Mary Karlin, a Bay Area resident, presents straightforward recipes that home cooks can easily master to create delicious fermented condiments, beverages, breads, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables.
Preserving Wild Foods:
A Modern Forager’s Recipes for Curing,
Canning, Smoking, and Pickling
by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel
(Storey Publishing, 2012)
Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel’s captivating book is focused on preserving wild ingredients foraged from the sea, fields, forests, fresh water, and even urban landscapes, so it covers more than just fermentation techniques. Inspired by his love of the natural world and walks through the woods, chef-author Weingarten shares more than 60 recipes. Ferments include things like Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns, Pickled Garlic Scapes, and Lactic-Fermented Mixed Pickles. The interest in lesser-known and -used plants like Irish moss and stinging nettle, combined with evocative photographs, storytelling, history, lore, and descriptions of centuries-old preservation techniques make the book a transporting and delightful read.
In his latest publishing effort, Katz outdoes the huge scope of his previous book by bringing us nearly 500 pages covering the history, concepts, and processes related to fermentation. You’ll find more narrative than recipes, but this is possibly the most comprehensive, highly readable book on the subject available.
Much More than a Crock
About Sarah Kersten’s Counter Culture Pottery
by Kristina Sepetys
If you’re looking to make your own sauerkraut or other solid-food lacto-ferments, you may find that most any wide-mouth container—from a plastic bucket to a large glass Mason jar—will do the job of holding the foods as (and after) they ferment. But you might also choose a container that is exceptionally beautiful, locally made, and perfectly suited to the task, thanks to Berkeley potter Sarah Kersten. In her studio at the Berkeley Potters Guild, Kersten handcrafts some especially fine 1.5-gallon wheel-thrown, high-fired stoneware crocks that follow the design concepts of the Harsch crock, which has a lid, water lock, and ceramic weights that press your ferment solids beneath the brine.
Kersten has spent the past four years honing her craft as well as her small-business management skills. “I’m 26 years old and self-taught,” she says. “Creating and bringing these crocks to market has been pretty incredible and a lot of really hard work.” She uses her pots to make her own fermented foods and claims that the high quality of the stoneware prevents the common problem of surface mold developing on the ceramic weights.
You’ll find Kersten mentioned in Sandor Katz’s book The Art of Fermentation, both in the photo section and in the “Artisan Crock Maker Resource” section. You can find her pottery at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley or at her Etsy shop. She also takes commissions and has created beautiful fermentation pots for Chez Panisse and various retailers around the Bay Area.
Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi
Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
(Used here by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing)
This is a basic kimchi. It will take about a week to make and yields 1 quart. Note: Kimchi can absorb a lot of spice. Experiment with quantities and don’t worry too much about them. If you wish, you can add fish sauce to the spice paste. Just check the label to be sure it has no chemical preservatives, which function to inhibit microorganisms.
4 tablespoons (or more) sea salt
1 pound Chinese cabbage (napa or bok choy
1 daikon radish or a few red radishes
1 to 2 carrots
1 to 2 onions and/or leeks and/or a few scallions and/or shallots, chopped (Add more if you like)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped (Add more if you like)
3 to 4 hot red chilies, chopped, crushed, or whole
(Add more, depending on how hot-peppery you like food. Use any form of hot pepper, fresh, dried, or in a sauce that’s made without chemical preservatives)
3 or more tablespoons fresh grated gingerroot
Mix a brine of about 4 cups water and 4 tablespoons salt. Stir well to thoroughly dissolve salt. The brine should taste good and salty.
Coarsely chop the cabbage, slice the radish and carrots, and let the vegetables soak in the brine, covered by a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged, until soft, a few hours or overnight. Add other vegetables to the brine, such as snow peas, seaweeds, Jerusalem artichokes, anything you like.
Drain brine off vegetables, reserving brine. Taste vegetables: You want them to taste decidedly salty, but not unpleasantly so. If they are too salty, rinse them. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons salt, and mix.
Mix the prepared onion, garlic, chilies, and gingerroot into a paste. Mix into the brined vegetables and pack it all tightly into a clean quart-size jar, pressing down until brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the reserved vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables. Weight the vegetables down with a smaller jar, or a zip-lock bag filled with some brine. Or if you think you can remember to check the kimchi every day, you can just use your (clean!) fingers to push the vegetables back under the brine. I myself like the tactile involvement of this method, and I especially enjoy tasting the kimchi by licking my fingers after I do this. Either way, cover the jar to keep out dust and flies.
Allow to ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After about a week of fermentation, when it tastes ripe, move it to the refrigerator. An alternative and more traditional method is to ferment kimchi more slowly and with more salt in a cool spot, such as a hole in the ground, or a cellar, or other cool place.