Who is Sandor Katz? If you wanted to blame one person in the U.S. who brought about a revival in home fermentation, then he is the man. I wrote a review about Sandor Katz’s first book, Wild Fermentation, last year. If you want to know a whole lot more about Katz, his personal life, philosophy, and love of fermented foods, you can read this book. It is a good book with a lot of recipes.
However, The Art of Fermentation, is a great book, and it contains virtually no recipes. Almost everyone is familiar with the old saying, Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. His first book had a lot of fish giving (and to be fair it had a decent dose of teaching), but his latest book is a veritable fishing clinic. And just so we don’t get too lost in the analogy, let me say it clearly: The Art of Fermentation is the most comprehensive book on fermenting foods available today; It teaches the what and why of fermentation so that a person can go out and ferment any food.
The natural question then arises, “Why would I want to ferment food?”
Fermentation has been used throughout the world to preserve foods without refrigeration. I have homemade sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), beer (fermented grains), and melomel (fermented honey and fruit wine) at my house right now. And, to be honest, I also have one failed batch of pickles (fermented cucumbers) in my compost bin right now… I attribute the failure of this batch of pickles to my not following Sandor Katz’s suggestions on how to properly make them. I was trying to make do with what I had on hand, but that is another article I will soon write.
Fermentation has given people around the world the ability to feed themselves in lean times by preserving the bounty of the growing season. However, in many places in the world where electricity and refrigeration are now an underappreciated luxury, fermented foods are still made because they taste so good. Fermentation also can make food more nutritious and can make some foods edible that are inedible in its raw state.