I adore fermented foods and beverages. While my blog is not at all dedicated to these topics, I have published a few posts here and there which sing the praises of fermentation and will link to those later. Right now, I want to direct your attention to a book that is pretty incredible and it might just change the course of history. (Dramatic? No, not at all!)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Fermenting Food by Wardeh Harmon (of GNOWFGLINS fame) really is a fantastic book that anyone who HAS fermented, IS fermenting, or WANTS TO ferment foods and beverages should own. Not sure where to start? Having trouble with your ferments and not sure why? Are you already an expert in need of some inspiration? Then get this book now!
Let me cut to the chase and give you the lowdown on what’s in this resource.
Wardeh starts off with this book with a very interesting look at fermentation. She outlines the history of fermented foods, health benefits of consuming fermented foods, the different types of fermentation, and the basics of how to successfully ferment anything. I actually learned a few things that quite frankly, I am embarrassed to admit I never knew. Did you know that you can actually freeze certain fermented foods? I always thought this was a no-no.
After you are well versed in the basics, Wardeh gets your feet wet in the Fermenting the Fruits of the Vine section. These recipes focus on plant foods and include everything from your basic pickles and krauts to slightly more complex ferments like changing fruits into chutneys and relishes and making old-fashioned herbal beers. There is A LOT in this section…enough to keep you busy fermenting for many years.
The final section focuses on milk, meat from animals, and fish. You will learn how to culture dairy and make cheeses, butter, and yogurt. Wardeh then takes you on a journey or fermenting meats and fish using a variety of methods which allow you to pick and choose what works best for you.
The recipe sections are HUGE and quite frankly limitless. This book covers:
- Vegetables including cabbage, carrots, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, asparagus, beans, turnips, beets, and garlic;
- Fruits including apples, cherries, peaches, rhubarb, cranberries, oranges, plums, raspberries, figs, mangos, lemons, and pears;
- Condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup, mustards, guacamole, eggs, honey, dips, pesto, horseradish, nut butters, sauces, and olives.
- Nonalcoholic beverages like juices, kvass, water kefir, kombucha, and flavored sodas;
- Alcoholic beverages;
- Grains including sourdough recipes for waffles, muffins, biscuits, breads, cakes, crackers and more;
- Noncheese cultured dairy and simple cheeses;
- Meats and fish.
Here are 10 reasons why I love this book and you will too:
- It is well organized and easy to understand.
- Wardeh includes a short little section at the end of each chapter titled “The Least You Need To Know.” For those of you who cannot stay focused long enough to read each short chapter, this little section will provide you with the most important highlights.
- There are a lot of little nuggets of insight scattered throughout the book. I kept finding myself saying “ahhhh” and “wow.”
- For fermenting newbies, Wardeh includes sidebars with fermentation terms clearly defined, interesting facts, tips and helpful information, and warnings or red flags. I love that these stand out. Even though I have been fermenting for a few years, some of these sidebars held information that I needed or had overlooked through the years.
- The ingredient section is a must read for everyone! I think a lot of novice fermenters really do not understand how the ingredients all come together to create the perfect ferment.
- Each recipe section opens with an easy to digest breakdown of everything you need to know to ferment that type of food. Wardeh doesn’t just provide you with recipes and send you on your way. Instead, she ensures that you understand WHY you are doing what you are doing and how each piece of the puzzle is critical.
- Even the most complex ferment is easy to make! Wardeh provides a step-by-step guide that makes it really tough to mess up a recipe!
- The resource section of the book is extremely valuable. There are a lot of great books, websites, and suppliers listed making your fermentation journey a breeze!
- Many of the recipes offer variations. I really like this because often times I am trying to figure out what to do with a food item I have at home but cannot find a suitable recipe. Wardeh makes it impossible NOT to find something to ferment with what you have at home.
- And finally, it has over 150 recipes! Seriously, it is worth owning JUST for the recipes. Wardeh is VERY talented and has provided some really unique and palate pleasing recipes. She takes you outside your little fermenting comfort zone.
Ok, ok…that all sounds nice but I am sure you are wondering what ferments I made and how they turned out. Here is what I tackled:
- Spicy Cucumber Pickle Slices
- Fig Butter
- Ginger Zucchini Relish
- Fermented Tuna
- Beet Kvass
I will spare you the blow by blow since would be here forever BUT what I will share is that each of these recipes was super easy to make (as well as to understand the important components of each process) which resulting in some really wonderful ferments. They were all exceptionally tasty and got rave reviews from my ferment-hating husband. Well, not the Beet Kvass – he hates beets. Ok, and not the fig butter. He hates figs too! Here is a little fermentation eye candy…
I do have to add a couple of caveats to my glowing review. While I do believe this is a valuable resource, I want to make sure you all know that I ferment exclusively in Pickl-Its and use the brine recommendations from the Pickl-It site. Wardeh’s book uses a basic brine recipe, I am uncomfortable using this method as I firmly believe that in order to properly ferment a food, you must weight and not measure the salt. Beyond this, there are also certain salinity percentages that you want to use depending on what you are fermenting and the temperature at which your ferment will be exposed to. You can find out more about this by visiting the brine recommendations page I link to above.
Another note – I am very uncomfortable with the idea of adding a dairy based whey to a non-diary based ferment. I don’t do it. Ever. So I cannot endorse adding whey to your non-dairy ferment. Brine alone is just fine.
Please do not let these two items discourage you at all. The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Fermenting Food is so very valuable and I guarantee you will refer back to it again and again.
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