Book Review: The Art of Fermentation

Austin with Sandor Katz, middle Tennnesse, 2014

I was excited when Sandor Katz’s latest oeuvre hit the bookshelf, and not the least because he let me read an early manuscript months before it was published!

The James Beard award winning bookĀ The Art of Fermentation takes a deeper dive into the wide world of fermented foods.

Reading it feels like you’re sitting on a couch chatting with Katz. His writing style is conversational and accessible. He makes scientific references where appropriate, but not to the point where I felt like I was reading a PHD dissertation. His humility comes across beautifully in how he writes, avoiding making dogmatic declarations of “always” or “never”.

There are recipes here and there, but it’s not a recipe book. If you’re comfortable with basic fermentation recipes, you’ll find its narrative style useful to prepare things (e.g. a table with proportions of beans, salt, and koji for making miso.) For a straight-up recipe book, refer to his first book Wild Fermentation, (now in its second edition!)

There are also thorough troubleshooting sections for various ferments such as kombucha and tempeh.

The design and layout are gorgeous, featuring watercolor illustrations, as well as a section with color photographs of the more interesting and exotic ferments from around the world.

The chapter on starting your own fermented food company is especially enlightening. It provides a sobering reality check for those who want to scale up from the home environment to a commercial-level company making and selling fermented foods and beverages.

This shouldĀ be part of every fermenter’s collection!

Have you read The Art of Fermentation? Leave us a comment about your favorite part!

Book Review: Bone Broth: 101 Essential Recipes

As “real food” advocates, we believe slow-cooked broth from properly raised animal bones is a highly nutritious and ancestral food. Our friend (and one of the first “founding members” of Fermenters Club way back in 2011) Quinn has written a great cookbook that’s all about the broth, entitledĀ Bone Broth: 101 Essential Recipes & Age-Old Remedies to Heal Your Body.Ā Here is our review.

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The author at one of our early Fermenters Club meetings in summer 2011.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bone Broth. It provides no-nonsense advice on everything related to this ancient elixir, from how to source the best bones, to which cooking vessels work best, and even how to clean up afterward! I really appreciated the focus on traditional nourishing foods and ways of growing and raising food. Bone broth is an age-old recipe and technique for getting the most from our meat animals. I really admired the author’s personal story of how broth healed her, and how that inspired her to write this book!

It also details the health reasons why broth is so nourishing, which appeals to my geeky left-brain! (The author shares what science knows about broth, and admits that there is currently limited scientific research. We are just starting to understand why it is such a healing food.)

There are a dozen “basic” broth recipes from various animals, followed by a hundred recipes incorporating finished broth. The “neutral broth” recipe is the key to allowing you to incorporate broth into other recipes!

Chapters are well organized by food type (beverages, sauces, veggies, e.g.) The recipes are well laid out and easy to read. They focus on using whole, traditional, and unprocessed ingredients (e.g. tallow or lard). The recipes even show whether they meet special diets such as paleo, gluten free, etc.

My favorite breakfast recipe is the seasonal frittata.

I was pleased to learn that bone broth can even be used in desserts! The ginger cookies are my favorite dessert recipe. They made a great digestif to enjoy after a big meal!

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Bone Broth in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Book Review: The Well-Fed Microbiome Cookbook

The Well-Fed Microbiome Cookbook is for you if any of these are true:

  • You’re looking for a basic lesson in how our guts and the billions of good microbes that reside there work
  • You are curious and have heard about the benefits of probiotics but haven’t tried them yet
  • You’re constantly on the go with family commitments, but still want to feed your family in a healthy way that supports good “gut health”
  • You have specific gastrointestinal issues and are looking for a long-term solution which focuses on restoring your gut flora (rather than a “quick fix” solution)

The book begins with a very accessible explanation of gut health and the human microbiome (the sum total of the microbial community in and around our body), aka the gut flora. The author is a scientist, but the information is understandable by anyone. Probiotics, prebiotics and the working of the human gut are all explained.

As a scientist, the author is careful not to make any claims beyond what is currently scientifically known. Admittedly, modern science is in the early stages of understanding how this newly discovered “organ” operates within the context of our body.

The fermented food recipes are basic and really illustrate how simple it is to get started fermenting food at home (eating fermented foods is one of the key elements of keeping a healthy gut!)

As a mom, she has made the advice, technique and recipes family- and budget-friendly.

The book provides common sense dietary guidelines on how to work with, restore, and feed your gut flora. She lays a foundation of how to change your habits in order to be most successful, with tips such as “go shopping once a week” and “shop the perimeter” of the supermarket. I think the phased approach for people suffering from ailments is wisely prescribed. The recipes are simple and made from ingredients found at any supermarket. I especially loved the section devoted entirely to fermenting your own foods at home.

The dietary disagreements I have with the author are minor. She advocates unfermented soy products like tofu, eschews saturated animal fats from pastured ruminants, and doesn’t address the proper preparation of seeds and grains (soaking, sprouting or fermenting prior to cooking).

These few nitpicks certainly don’t take away from the plan’s overall usefulness. In fact, the author acknowledges that no two people are exactly the same, and nor should their diets be. She encourages substitutions based on allergies or other preferences.

The WFM cookbook is a wonderful addition to any kitchen bookshelf!

Disclaimers:

  • I received a free advance copy of this book.
  • Kristina Campbell, aka the Intestinal Gardnere, and author of this book has written guest blog posts on Fermenters Club.

Book Review: “Good Morning, Kimchi!”

Good Morning, Kimchi! is a 128-page paperback, glossy volume, translated from Korean author Dr. Sook-ja Yoon. Part recipe book, part cultural lesson, it serves a great primer on kimchi, the ancient Korean fermented dish. The translator is Dr. Young-hie Han.

What I liked

  • The early sections of the book cover the history, techniques, and equipment used to make kimchi.
  • The recipe pages are well laid out and easy to understand.
  • Beautiful photos of the the finished dishes and of the step-by-step procedures.
  • The “tips” on many of the recipes are very helpful. In fact, many of them could be moved to an earlier part of the book (e.g. “Chinese cabbage and radishes are the most important vegetables in Korea.”) I’m looking at you, Dr. Han!
  • The recipes are divided into two major sections: Traditional and Fusion. The fusion recipes use non-native vegetables such as green bell peppers, carrots, and cauliflower. These recipes are a nod to other cultures and give great ideas on how to prepare kimchi with more readily available veggies (at least here in the United States).

What I didn’t like

  • Most of the vegetables mentioned in the book are native to Korea/Asia, and the Traditional recipes are based largely on them. I had never seen or even heard of several of the ingredients (e.g. the “vitamin” leafy vegetable, and theĀ glue plant or glueweed).
  • In the introduction, the author eludes to an unabridgged version of this book (presumably not translated, as I could not find it on Amazon) which contains 111 recipes! Why hold out on us? I would definitely pay more than $20 on Amazon for the full unabridged version!
  • Many of the recipes are practically duplicates of each other, varying only slightly in one version being the “watery” version of another (e.g. Young Radish Kimchi, Young Radish Watery Kimchi)
  • The translations are inconsistent at times.
  • The descriptions of the various vegetables are helpful (especially because they focus on the native Korean vegetables, which may not be available here), but not every listing has a picture, which would be helpful (.
  • I would love to see another edition to correct the numerous inconsistencies.

Nitpicks aside, Good Morning, Kimchi!Ā is a solid, reliable volume which deserves some space on your fermentation bookshelf.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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Movie Review: “Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle”

Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle is a wonderful, complex and nuanced film about family, love, motherhood, restaurants, and of course, kimchi, a source of pride for the Korean people. It is in Korean with English subtitles. The plot revolves around a family with two grown step-siblings. Each has a very different perspective on life. The older sister, Jang-eun, is an award-winning chef, meticulous and driven. How meticulous? In one scene, she wants the finest quality sea salt but her normal salt seller doesn’t have any and tells her to go to the supermarket. Not satisfied with that answer, she goes to a dry seabed nearby and spends weeks digging holes and building an oven so she can make her own sea salt, the old-fashioned way.

The younger brother, Sung-chan is more down-to-earth, working as a produce distributor. His gifts are more instinctive and his knowledge of produce and kimchi is remarkable. The two wind up competing against each other head-to-head in a national kimchi championship.

And of course, the KIMCHI! The cooking scenes made me shoot up off the couch with excitement! Fast cuts were shown long enough to see the many different ways kimchi is prepared and celebrated. I also learned a lot about the traditions and history (mostly during the contest scenes) and found myself pausing to take notes. For example, did you know that white kimchi (not spicy) was made for many years before red peppers were introduced to Korea?

Along the way, you learn about familial relationships, mostly around mothers and their children. This metaphor is also expanded to the entire country. There is aĀ nice interweaving of modern scenes with flashbacks to fill you in on the multiple plotlines.Ā The scenery is beautiful. I’ve never been to Korea, but the film showcases its beautiful countryside.

I loved this movie! I will certainly watch it several more times to catch all the great food shots!

I recommend watching with a box of tissues to get you through the emotional scenes, and of course, a nice bowl of spicy kimchi. And be ready to call your mother after watching.

And lastly, here are some kimchi recipes when the inspiration strikes.

Available on Netflix instant streaming.

PS I don’t know what the first film in this series is about, but from what I’ve read, this is not truly a “sequel” in that this film doesn’t pick up where the first left off.

Suzieā€™s Sourdough Circus: A book for lilā€™ fermenters

Most kids donā€™t need much enticement to get involved in the kitchen. The sensory experience alone is what draws them in: the thunk of the wooden spoon against the bowl, the yeasty pop of bread as it is kneaded and squished.

But letā€™s say you have a 6-year-old on your hands for an afternoon, and want to get her excited, specifically, about fermentation. Continue reading “Suzieā€™s Sourdough Circus: A book for lilā€™ fermenters”

Probiotics Primer

It seems you can’t pick up any newspaper or health magazine lately without coming across a mention of probiotics. They’re known to clear up upset stomachs. They show some effectiveness against inflammatory bowel diseases. They decrease risk factors for thrombosis. They strengthen your immune system and make vaccines more effective. They hold promise in preventing and treating colorectal cancer. And on and on…

Many fermenters know that probiotics are live microorganisms that you introduce to your gut in order to obtain some health benefit. They’re definitely not a new innovation. It’s estimated that humans have been ingesting probiotics for more than 1.5 million years. (That’s how long we’ve known about lactic acid fermentation as a way of preserving foods.)

Despite the clear benefits of consuming these helpful bacteria, they are conspicuously absent from most people’s diets in North America. Unless, of course, you regularly consume fermented foods!

If you want to know the full story, I’d suggest picking up one of the many good books on the topic of probiotics. I’ve just finished a 4-book probiotics reading spree myself – the brief reviews are below.

Probiotics areĀ a hot topic of study in labs all around the world – but you’ll noteĀ that these four books were all published several years ago so they don’t contain every bit of up-to-the-minute scientific research. Nevertheless, they can give a good overview. And one more note: some of the books are weighted toward recommending probiotic supplements rather than probiotic foods, since supplements give you maximum control over the specific strains of bacteria you are consuming.

I’d recommend the books in the order below:

1. The Probiotics Revolution (2007) by Gary Huffnagle with Sarah Wernick

Huffnagle, a professor at University of Michigan Medical Center, authored this book with the help of a professional writer. As a result, this book struck a good balance between readability and scientific detail. It covered everything from the biology of the immune system (likening lymphocytes to “officers” and phagocytes to “foot soldiers”) to practical advice on consuming probiotic foods. I trusted the information, since it stuck to the evidence from scientific studies. This book is good for both the health professional and the average person who wants a science-based overview of probiotics.

2. Probiotic Rescue (2008) by Allison Tannis

This book was a straight-to-the-point scientific overview of why we should all be ingesting probiotics. The bulk of the book covered the evidence for how probiotics improve specific health conditions: diarrhea, infant colic, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel diseases, allergies, and more. Heavy on biological detail and lighter on practical advice, this book is ideal for health professionals and the science-minded. If you are interested in knowing the unique benefits of different probiotics – Ā listed by genus, species, and strain – this book is for you.

3. The Gut Flush Plan (2009) by Anne Louise Gittleman (author of the bestsellingĀ Fat Flush Plan)

I had this book on the table during dinner and my husband said, “Gross! Can’t you put that away while we’re eating?” Despite the somewhat unpleasant image brought to mind by its title,Ā The Gut Flush PlanĀ contained interesting practical information on overall gut health. Rather than being exclusively focused on probiotics, this book detailed what it considered to be a comprehensive “cleansing program” for ameliorating gut-related health problems. Gittleman’sĀ book appeared extensively researched, but was far from having scientific evidence to back up every one one of its claims. (Case in point: the sidebar on how to give yourself a coffee enema definitely raised my “quack” radar.)Ā The ideal reader of this book, I think, is someone with major gut issues who wants a step-by-step plan for addressing their problem right away. According to the online scuttlebutt, the supplements and foods recommended in this book – probiotics and a host of other things – can get expensive. But even if you have no intention of following the plan, the book can serve as an interesting informational resource.

4. The Wonder of Probiotics (2007) by John R. Taylor and Deborah Mitchell

This book confused me with its opening story, which essentially said: “Aren’t probiotics great! I went to China, took probiotic supplements, and didn’t even have to use diarrhea medications!” I was left thinking, “So what?” But the book went on to offer a decent amount of practical advice; it provided a list of disorders and a “probiotic program” for addressing each one. In going through this book, I found its readability to be inconsistent: sometimes it reported personal anecdotes in a very accessible and lighthearted manner, and other times it said things like, “Lactulose is a semisynthetic prebiotic that is composed of galactose and fructose,” full stop. Overall, the book had value as an information source but was conspicuously light on scientific references. I’d say it’s best for those who want a very quick overview of probiotics from a naturopathic perspective.

This post originally appeared on Kris Campbell’s blog:Ā http://intestinalgardener.blogspot.comĀ