Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cook Book Review - Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

Wild Fermentation is full of delicious recipes and is now part of my core collection of cook books.  I give it a solid 8 out of 10.  There is excellent cometary about nutrition and tradition surrounding fermented foods, including the difference between yeast fermentation (like natural sodas and alcoholic), lacto fermentation, and other live culture foods like vinegar.  The recipes included in the book are very casual and many of them work very well without any additional thinking on the part of the cook.

I tried a few recipes from this book including sauerkraut, kim chi, and am almost finished brewing my very first beer, Bouza, or Ancient Egyptian beer.  Other recipes in the book, like hard cider (what we call cider in these parts), sourdough, and Nuka pickles are pretty close to what I already have brewing in my kitchen - only mine seem to be in larger batches ;)

Most of the recipes in this book have been adapted for ingredients common to North America.  So for example, the Nuka pickle paste is made with wheat bran instead of rice bran.

Here are some of the goodies I made from this book.

 I think this might be the single most delicious cabbage in the world!

Home made sauerkraut is AMAZING!

And so simple.

Before now, I was always sad about sauerkraut.  I wanted to like it, in fact I really liked the after taste, but I had to get through the start taste to enjoy it.  Usually I go through these fits, usually in the fall, where my body wants to eat it, so I buy jars and jars of it, but can never really find a good way to consume it.  Commercial sauerkraut is so soggy and, for lack of a better word, wimpish.

Homemade sauerkraut not so.  It's crunchy, it's delightfully salty, it's fresh.  I can't even tell you properly how good it is!  But I can tell you, this is not at all like the commercial stuff.

Homemade Kim Chi
I took the ingredients in the kim chi recipe and made it the same way as the sauerkraut.  I liked this recipe because the ingredients list was very casual.  I didn't have onions or green onions in the house, but I did have some baby leeks in the garden.  Garlic, well, I used two buds.  I also didn't have the recommended cabbage, but my favourite Kim Chi is made from Su choy cabbage anyway.  I also added some baby dried anchovies for flavour and nutrition.  If we can add fish sauce and (in other recipes) dried shrimp, why not anchovies?  (note, leave the fish and fish sauce out if you are serving this to Vegans)

As for how it turned out... well, it doesn't taste like any Kim Chi I've ever eaten.  I have a Korean friend who makes traditional Kim Chi for most of the restaurants in town as well as a few shops.  She says that ginger is almost never added to kim chi and if it is added, maybe 1/4 a tsp per cabbage is excessive.  The recipe in this book called for 3Tbs.

But you know what, it still tastes great.  Maybe not what I'm use to, but as far as pickled veg go, I'm more than willing to eat this on a daily basis, and maybe try my hand at making some more again soon.

A few of the recipes are not as good.  Some of the instructions don't make sense.  For example, for the beer recipe I mentioned above, we make a loaf of bread and are suppose to cook the outside but leave the inside raw.  But the temperature and time given for the cooking are in no way adequate.  I'll talk more about this recipe in another post, when it's drinking time.

Because of the casual approach to method and ingredients, this isn't a good book for those who are timid in the kitchen.   I know a lot of people who can cook wonderful meals so long as they have a good recipe to follow.  But ask them to substitute an ingredient or give them a recipe that is vague about stirring or whisking the eggs, and they are lost beyond redemption.  This book is not for those people.

Vegan friendly:  Yes!  I would say most if not all recipes are vegan friendly or can be easily adapted for vegan requirements.

Allergy friendly: Depends on your allergy.  If you have a strong yeast allergy then stay away from the breads, sodas, and alcohol.  I would love to see the miso section include recipes or tips for making miso with beans other than soy.  On the whole, most recipes can be modified to accommodate allergies.  There are even some low-salt options for several of the recipes - like making sauerkraut in wine instead of salt.

Like I said earlier this is now par of my core collection of cook books.  I've enjoyed making, and especially eating, recipes from this book.  I've even taken to eating sauerkraut for breakfast.  But given the small adjustments that some recipes require and that sometimes the recipes are a bit too vague, I can only give it 8 out of 10.

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