Wild Fermentation–A Book Review

When learning a new skill, having a list of go-to books on the subject is always helpful. That is why Fermentools loves to include book reviews for our readers. To find more helpful books on fermenting, simply click “Book Reviews” in the sidebar.

Book review of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Sandor Ellix Katz is something of a celebrity in the fermented foods world.  His award-winning book, The Art of Fermentation, released in 2012, made the New York Times Best Seller list.  Wild Fermentation was released in 2003, and is a “comprehensive and wide-ranging fermentation cookbook” with over 100 recipes!

Wild Fermentation’s focus is on “wild” or natural ferments, created without the use of a starter culture.  Think of regional sourdoughs, captured from the air in San Francisco, or even your own homemade sauerkraut, lacto-fermented with nothing more than cabbage and salt.  Katz goes well beyond sourdough and sauerkraut, however.  His book includes recipes for well known ferments such as Kraut, Kimchi, Miso, Tempeh, Yogurt, Kefir, Buttermilk, Farmer’s Cheese, Vinegar, Beer, Mead and Cider.

Book Review--Wild Fermentation | Fermentools.com

Katz also includes a number of “wild” ideas, including: Nasturtium Capers, Coconut Chutney, Fermented Sweet Potato Drink, Injera (Ethiopian pancakes), T’ej (Honey Wine), Cherokee Sour Corn Drink and Fermented Millet Porridge.  He goes out of his way to include recipes from every culture he can find, even hard-to-research recipes from Native American cultures that were all but lost during the colonization process.  His goal is to show that fermentation is an integral part of the human culinary experience, present in every culture world wide.

Katz notes that, “Hungry people everywhere have innovated fermentation techniques not only to preserve food but also to turn otherwise inedible parts of animals into nutritious food.”  He then goes on to cite examples from dozens of cultures world wide, including 80 distinct fermentation processes used to process a single animal in the traditional fermentation of Sudan.

Beyond the exhaustive “how to” recipes portion of the book, I particularly enjoyed the historical and social discussion of fermentation.  Katz takes us through the history of fermentation from the earliest times, to the backlash against bacteria with the advent of pasteurization.  He notes that even in a time when humans were trying to actively eradicate bacteria to promote human health, they also recognized that bacteria had the potential to promote health as well.  He quotes a book from 1908 entitled, Bacteria in Relation to Country Life as saying,

The deepening current of human existence now forces us to study bacteria and other microorganisms.  In so far as they are dangerous to our health and happiness we must learn to defend ourselves;  we must learn to destroy them or to render them harmless.  In so far as they are beneficial, we must learn to control them and to make their activities widely useful to human society.

Even today we find ourselves with the same struggle.  In a society full of hand sanitizers, chemical washes and pasteurized processed food, how do we healthfully bring bacteria into our lives to maintain a healthy balance?  Sandor Ellix Katz’s book, Wild Fermentation was written specifically to help us walk that line, and safely bring bacteria and a little bit of the wild, un-sterilized world back into our lives.


The Fermentools store has everything you will need to create your own fermented foods at home. Armed with Wild Fermentation and a Fermentools 12-Pack Kit you are ready to go “wild” fermenting.


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