Zine Review: Wild Fermentation: A do-it-yourself guide to cultural manipulation
When I first got interested in kombucha, my friend Gabrielle mentioned a book written by Sandor Ellix Katx, who she called the guru of fermentation. You might already be familiar with his book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (2003), but he’s also written a zine distributed by Microcosm Publishing called Wild Fermentation: A do-it-yourself guide to cultural fermentation (2002).
I was lucky enough to come across a copy of the zine at the Herbivore Clothing Company in Portland where I recently attended the 2010 Let Live Conference. At just $2.50 for a 33-page booklet filled with 16 recipes for common and popular ferments (like sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kimchi), it was a sweet deal.
I normally don’t like to do food zine or cookbook reviews without having first tried at least several recipes. But having read through Katz’s zine a few times, I’m super excited about all the delicious possibilities I could have brewing away in my kitchen. Katz makes things like creating a sourdough starter ridiculously easy, especially after my previous experience of trying to make and use my starter went nowhere. He provides simple directions in creating sourdough starter and using it in bread. Previously, this seemed quite daunting to me after my searches for a simple sourdough recipe turned up all kinds of complicated information about hydration ratios and days long rising times, and way too much snootiness about “artisan” breads. All I wanted was a cheap, organic, no fuss loaf of bread I could make at home. And, thankfully, this is what Katz’s zine provides.
Although it’s not a vegan zine, Katz does make suggestions for vegan substitutions, such as in his yogurt recipe, which doesn’t require an expensive electric yogurt maker. You need only a very few simple items you probably already have at home. And you know what making your own yogurt means? If you’re soy intolerant or just like limit your soy consumption, you can always try making your own rice, oat, or even coconut yogurts using those milks instead of soy milk.
Katz also gives directions at trying your hand at amazake, a Japanese fermented rice drink. Early on in the process of fermenting amazake, the breakdown of starches from the rice creates sugar that naturally sweetens the resulting beverage that is much like a mellow, thickish smoothie. It can also be eaten, as Katz says, “…as a pudding, strained into a drink, or used as a bubbly base for pancake batter or bread.” It’s a great alternative to cow’s milk and is a great source of energy-sustaining carbohydrates. And because you can use brown rice to make your amazake, all the nutritional benefits of brown rice, like fiber, B-vitamins, iron, and calcium, are readily available alongside live enzymes that will help to improve digestion.
While you might not be enthusiastic about the smell of or process involved in making your own sauerkraut, there are plenty of options offered in this zine that are sure to tempt your creative culinary hands. After all, it’s rewarding to be able to easily make enjoyable foods from scratch while saving a few dollars in the process. So go ahead and buy or borrow a copy of this zine, and the even more extensive book, and create some delicious food that’ll have both your mouth and your digestive system singing a happy tune.