As those of you who have read my past postings surely know, I think that fermentation is not only a) really neat but b) key to understanding what Viking food was like. One of the best resources for those wanting to learn about fermentation at home is Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods Well, Mr. Katz has gone one better and just published a new book, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. I just got my copy yesterday, so I’ve only skimmed it, but I think I’m going to have to start reading it cover to cover. It covers the basics of fermentation, some history, talks about how we coevolved with bacteria, etc. Then the book goes through various chapters on different materials (vegetables, grains, dairy, alcoholic fermentation from honey or fruit, etc.) and for each chapter provides some examples of fermented products from around the world and how they can be made at home, along with numerous sidebars, anecdotes, quotes from practitioners, and more. At the end of each chapter is a troubleshooting section that describes common problems and their solutions. The descriptions of each product are mostly narrative, rather than formatted as ‘recipes’ with strict quantities, so the reader will have to rely on some experience to make sense of some of them, but there are plenty of descriptions that are more than accessible to those just getting started. There’s quite a bit on fermented porridges, which I’m excited to try, and some great descriptions of making beer from dry barley on up (including malting) which I’m dying to try as well.
I’m looking forward to reading more, and I would heartily recommend the book to anyone looking to understand and practice more fermentation for fun, for health, for understanding historic foods, whatever.