Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Adventures in Fermentation

I often say that I collect hobbies like some people collect baseball cards. From writing to reading, rock climbing to camping, I want to do it all. My most recent collection of hobbies stays mostly in my kitchen. Over the past several years I've spent many hours trying to perfect gluten free baking (don't even ask how many varieties of flour I have) and I think you might actually call me a skilled baker now. 

Step into the picture a new kitchen witchery hobby: fermentation. It started with a make-your-own wine kit (thanks Mama Deb) but as usual it escalated.  From kimchi to kombucha (which I didn't even used to like) I'm exploring fermented foods one mason jar at a time. 

So far my favorites are: kombucha, gingerbug sodas and my sourdough starter (yes I followed that 2020 trend)
What I want to try: everything else! 

With my kombucha and gingerbugs, I've had a few over-pressurized adventures. But hey, at least my hair smelled like pineapple kombucha so it could have been worse.

There is something magical about fermentation. You put very basic ingredients in a jar and through tiny invisible microorganisms it transforms into something new. Humans and fermented foods evolved side-by-side. It's one of the earliest food preservation methods our ancient ancestors discovered. Give me a time machine and I'd go back to the first sauerkraut or kombucha and see how the process was discovered. We know a lot about the science of fermentation, but only a sliver of the history. That's how old it is.

Interested in fermenting? Here are a few of the books that have started my journey. 

Art of Fermentation 

This is the Bible of Fermentation! But if you're looking for specific recipes, you'll need to purchase something else as well. The Art of Fermentation is mostly a textbook, but it's a fascinating read that goes into the history of ferments, as well as a variety of different types of ferments, fermenting equipment and more. It may not have recipes, but it makes up for that by inspiring an aspirational curiosity that will jumpstart your fermenting journey. 

The Big Book of Kombucha

Another book that's not a recipe book, but still a wonderful read. I devoured this book from cover to cover, thirsty to understand everything I could about kombucha before buying my SCOBY and embarking on my tea-tastic journey. It's a great reference book that I constantly look at (sorry I just can't remember how to maintain a SCOBY hotel) and is great for flavor inspirations as well as troubleshooting. 

True Brews 

When I first got my winemaking kit I was overwhelmed by all the books available on Amazon. Even more, I was overwhelmed by all the very strong opinions people had about the books on Amazon. So I asked my favorite fermenting Facebook group and someone recommended this book. It's a great starting point with recipes for everything from wine to homemade soda. It's informative without providing too much information to process.