The Austin Chronicle

Fermentation Party in Your Mouth

By Jessi Cape, July 22, 2013, 3:45pm, On the Range

Fermentation is a Neolithic metabolic process employing bacteria and patience to create food and drinks for flavor and health. From ancient ales to modern twists on kimchi, the culture of bacterial cultures has evolved into a fun and increasingly popular art form.

My love for kombucha is unending and our relationship has reached a pivotal point: Homebrew is around the corner. Recent forays into preserving, pickling, and canning combined with my longtime dedication to another beverage darling - craft beer - mean I have been pouring through pages of fermentation books. Here are five that each serve unique and wonderful purposes in flavor profiles, health benefits, and creativity in the kitchen.

True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home

By Emma Christensen, photos by Paige Green

Ten Speed Press, 160 pp., $23

This approachable guide to tasty, fermented beverages is simple and colorful, and it is a great way to embark on the initially intimidating process. The first nineteen pages offer brief explanations of the brewer’s pantry, toolbox, and handbook. Each of the eight chapters begin with an expert interviews from a master of the particular fizzy drink section, and then proceeds to Emma Christensen’s master recipe for every type of fermented beverage. Over fifty recipes, all geared for small spaces and batches, and all farmers’ market friendly, span categories ranging from naturally fermented soda pop to fruit wine. Recipes to try: Blackberry-Sage Kombucha, Watermelon-Mint Soda, and Sparkling Raspberry Kefir Wine.

Cheese & Beer

By Janet Fletcher, photos by Ed Anderson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 106 pp., $24.99

The surge in craft beers and artisan cheeses means the possibilities for pairings are virtually endless, and the stars of the fermented and aged world - cheese and beer - make a lovely couple. Whether the search is for a perfect cheese to accompany an IPA or the ideal lager to wash down an extra-aged asiago, this handy book gives detailed descriptions and mouthwatering suggestions. Complete with a Beer Index and Cheese Index, the book skips recipes and simply offers style notes and categorical definitions to help a beginner, plus bold and uniquely flavorful pairings for more refined palates. Cheese and Beer Pairings to try: Triple Cream Brie and Gueuze; Spicy Blue and Barley Wine; Young Robiola and Pilsner.

Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness

By Dierdre Rawlings, Ph.D., N.D.

Fair Winds Press, 208 pp., $21.99

Taking a medicinal and healthful approach to food is advisable, but as this books demonstrates, it can also be delicious. Rawlings dives into the nitty gritty details of the fermentation process and how it affects the human body, with thorough but easy-to-read explanations of related micro topics including the human body’s microflora, digestive issues caused and solved by dietary details, and how fermentation can solve – or at least positively influence - a range of health issues (from kidney stones to sinusitis). This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in internal biological happenings as related to digestion and food. Meal plans for various dietary and health needs precede the section of recipes aimed at kick starting the journey toward better health, and the latter appear delicious and doable. Recipes to try: Fermented Mango, Cinnamon, and Peach Chutney; Weight- Reducing Tempeh Coconut Curry; Must-Have Honey-Dill Mustard.

Preserving: Putting Up the Season’s Bounty

By The Culinary Institute of America, photos by Ben Fink

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 186 pp., $19.99

Next door to fermentation station are the time-honored traditions of preserving, pickling, and canning. Who better to explain the myriad pro-tips than The Culinary Institute of America? This pint-sized book is deceptively stuffed with information, explaining every preservation method, and offering techniques such as freezing, drying, curing, pickling, and more. Preserving is perfectly suited for someone just scratching the surface of a new hobby or a seasoned home chef stumped with a question mid-process, and the helpful book boasts many tasty recipes to accompany the vital information. Recipes to try: Orange Marmalade; Gravalax; and Fruit Leather.

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World

By Sandor Ellix Katz, Foreward by Michael Pollan

Chelsea Green Publishing, 498 pp., $39.95

Referenced in at least one of the aforementioned books is this big, beautiful beast with the potential to do for fermentation what Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking did for French cooking in America. A veritable encyclopedia of all things fermentation, this hefty book travels the globe and reports back in expert, veteran fashion. Explaining the ancient rituals in lovely, experienced narrative while providing perhaps the most intensive education on the subject, Katz knows his culture: from bacteria to geographical representations of traditional fermented foods. Personal testaments to his own experiments in the kitchen pepper the pages dedicated to processes, techniques, and historical tidbits. Slightly more textbook than cookbook, Katz's definitive guide offers a friendly, helping hand for first-timers or anyone venturing into the weird, healthy community of probiotics especially as related to localism, sustainability, and global food culture. To read The Art of Fermentation is to enter a whole new realm of food culture. Recipes to try: Local Roots Cafe Black Mission Fig Butter, Fruit Kvass, Nata (Kombucha Candy), and Miso Pickles.

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