March 30, 2013
Book Review: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
from Chelsea Green Publishing
Available from: Amazon , (also on Kindle ), Barnes and Noble (also on Nook)
I tend to avoid old fashioned fermented recipes for a number of reasons; they require specific time requirements, you run the risk of gushing or exploding bottles, they typically have sediment that most people don't like, they can have a yeasty flavor, the fermentation can run away and get too alcoholic, and so on.
For some people, old school is the way to go, so if you've come to this blog in search of fermentable recipes, I apologize for disappointing. But there are plenty of resources available. Katz's The Art of Fermentation was published last year as a wonderful reference for all things fermentable. From beer and wine to pickles and vegetables to yogurt and dairy, if it's fermentable, you'll find it here, or at least something very similar. There are even non-food applications such as latex paint alternatives and soil remediation. It's definitely an interesting read.
The section that I had interest in was Chapter 6: Fermenting Sour Tonic Beverages. Basic fermentation principles are explained along with some cursory discussion of carbonation plus a number of recipes and some troubleshooting tips. If you're interested in fermenting soda but don't know where to start, this book is for you. Even if you don't plan to ferment anything there are some interesting recipes that could easily be adapted to force carbonation with a little experimentation. Some of the recipes such as Kvass and Ginger Beer I've seen before. I thought the discussion on the Jamaican roots beer (yes, apparently it's plural in Jamaica) was of particular interest. First, because I've never seen that particular history before or the plural, and second, to see the variation of roots that go into it. The list included "sarsaprilla root, strongback root, shuteye marker plant, dandelion plant, coconut root, guava root, vervain plant, chainy root, bloodwrist plan, bug-me-close root, tan pan root, jack saga root, long liver, cold tongue, dark tongue, dog's tongue, search-me-heart, soon-on-earth, God's bush, devil has whip, water grass, and raw moon." And I thought five roots was exotic. I'm guessing most of these are native to Jamaica. Another thing that I haven't seen before is a discussion on how to start your own Ginger Beer Plant or Ginger Bug. The small amount of information I had read on this subject suggested one would have to get a starter culture from someone else first. Some of the recipes are from around the world, such as Pru - a botanical/herbal beverage from Cuba, Sweet Potato Fly from Guyana (this one is on my list to try), Smreka - a juniper berry soft drink from Bosnia, along with some discussion on Kombucha, Kefir, and other drinks.
When I say the book contains recipes, it doesn't necessarily give you ingredient amounts as many are accustomed to seeing. The book is more a guide on how to make fermentables, rather than what fermentables to make. So a "recipe" might seem more like a discussion on what one would commonly do to make a particular thing, indicating that it's up to the reader to concoct their own recipe according to their individual tastes. If you're a huge do-it-yourselfer looking to start your own cultures and fermented foods, this book would be an excellent buy to have on hand for a reference. If you're mildly curious about fermentation, it may be information overload and be something that would be better borrowed from the library on the occasions you might want to whip something up.
Posted by The Homemade Soda Expert