Wild fermentation is a fantastic book about naturally fermented foods. Fermented foods have been the culinary building blocks for countless cuisines since the beginning of civilization, and this book touches on many of them.
The recipes begin with simple vegetable ferments, such as sauerkraut, and follows with interesting variations. There are also, for example, recipes for the French version, choucroute, a salt free sauerkraut, one with wine, and one with savory seeds. The book then moves on to other basic but authentic vegetable ferments, such as sauerrà¼ben (fermented root vegetables), with variations. There are also recipes and variations for kim chi, various pickle brines, miso, tempeh, yogurts, cheeses, sourdough breads, homemade wines and beers, and vinegar. And many of the recipes include additional recipes in which to use the fermented ones. Its needless to say that this book delves plenty deep into fermented foods through recipes.
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.
The book is written in thirteen chapters, the first three-Cultural Rehabilitation, Cultural Theory, and Cultural Homogenization-discuss why and how fermented foods were used, how they actually helped form culture into society, and why our modern society needs to return to these most basic foods.
Chapter thirteen, Cultural Reincarnation-Fermentation in the Cycles of Life, Soil Fertility, and Social Change, is the chapter I found most intriguing. Mr. Katz is a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor and discusses how these "living" fermented foods are a key ingredient to maintaining good health. The chapter is very eloquently written and he reveals a great deal about himself it's a sort of personal essay, really, on how these foods relate to his life.
"I feel there is wisdom in making peace with death. It will come. When death comes it will be out of my control. All I can do is to embrace life as best I can, and when I die, I know, I believe, I have faith, that all that is me will continue to be part of the cycle of life, fermenting and nourishing and becoming a myriad of other life forms. My fermentation practice is a daily affirmation of this faith."
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.