As harvest season draws to a close, it’s time to preserve the bounty. And what better way to do it than with the time-honored method of fermentation? With the earliest known examples of fermented foods appearing in the Fertile Crescent over 8,000 years ago, it seems that wherever you go around the globe, every culture has its own…um…culturing tradition. Beer, wine, sourdough bread, cheese, chocolate, sauerkraut, coffee and yogurt are just a few of the well-known examples, but the truth is, almost any food can be preserved by the process known as lacto-fermentation or “pickling”. Lucky for us, extending the harvest this way is delicious, so our ancestors perfected the process, not knowing that they were teaming up with important beneficial microbes to increase the nutrition, digestibility, and vitamin levels of the foods they preserved, as well as giving anyone who ate them a stronger immune system.
Over time, as heavily processed, chemically preserved foods became popular, traditional fermentation practices faded to the background. Pickles were made with vinegar and canned foods replaced cultured ones. And in the process, we lost an important ally in our pursuit of health and happiness: the billions of beneficial bacteria that fermented foods had provided humans for thousands of years. Did you know that 2 ounces of lacto-fermented sauerkraut has more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules? It’s true!
Thankfully, people are starting to understand the value and flavor of fermented foods again, and the shelves of health-food (and some mainstream) markets are brimming with formerly exotic items like kimchi, tempeh, kefir, kombucha and kvass.
(FYI: The best kombucha I have ever tasted —ever — is made by IT’S ALIVE KOMBUCHA in Bayside, CA between Eureka and Arcata. We’re in luck — it’s available in flavors like Pear Apple, Cactus Berry, Electric Lemon and more. Try some. You’ll love it.)
It’s nice to be able to buy these foods, but why stop there?
Fermentation is easy (and inexpensive!) to do at home, and Mary Karlin’s book Mastering Fermentation—Recipes for Making and Cooking with Fermented Foods is by far one of my favorite how-to manuals to recommend to beginners and fermentation buffs alike. Beginners don’t be scared! As you master fermentation with this book, you’ll experience a good spectrum of delicious and doable recipes! Mary goes broad and deep in the mysterious, magical practical topic. Kiri Fisher, the Owner of The Cheese School of San Francisco notes about this book, its author and fermentation, “Ordinary foods—vegetables, milk, juice, tomatoes, tea—are transformed by it into the most extraordinary pickles, cheeses, vinegars, ketchups and kombuchas….Mary Karlin is the sorceress and this is her book of culinary spells.” I couldn’t say it better.
Look at the topics covered and tell me you don’t want to try at least one recipe. Or five.
Equipment, Ingredients, and Troubleshooting
Fermented Fruits and Vegetables
Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and Aromatics
Fermented Grains, Breads, and Flatbreads
Fermented Beverages and Meats and Fish
Cooking with Fermented Foods! Sample from such recipes as:
Fruit and Vegetable Juices, Sauces, Pastes and Stocks
Bran Fermented Vegetables
Maple Port Vinegar
Coconut Milk Yogurt
Plum Raisin Mustard
Apple Caraway Sauerkraut
Sprouted Chickpea Hummus
Fermented White Tofu
Smoky Chipotle in Adobo
Tapenade of Herbs, Citrus, and Olives
Savory Walnut Thyme Butter
Saffron Yogurt Cheese
Wild and Creamy Muenster
Blue-Eyed Jack Cheese
Sprouted Corn Tortillas
Rosemary-Lemon Dutch Oven Bread
Seeded Sprouted-Grain Crackers
Asian Fish Sauce
Pickled Sardines with Fennel
Water Kefir Coconut-Ginger Soda
Sparkling Fruity Kombucha
Black Pepper Pilsner
Toasted Kale and Spinach Salad
Warm Potato and Caramelized Endive Salad
Grilled Yogurt Naan – Stuffed with Herb-Nut Butter
Potato-Herb Gnocchi with Creamy Whey Reduction Sauce
Tea-Smoked Trout with Walnuts and Crème Fraiche Lentils
Sourdough Walnut-Parsley Sauce
Chocolate Sourdough Cupcakes with Coconut-Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting
Yogurt-Cardamom Ice Cream with Goat Crème Fraiche Caramel Sauce
Yumm…! This book will enable you to ferment lots of recipe ideas of your own!