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The art of fermentation. Presented by Sandor Ellix Katz

Over 25 years ago Sandor Katz moved from a lifetime in Manhattan to an off-the-grid rural commune in Tennessee. He was 30 years old, had recently tested HIV+ and was searching for a big change.

Straight away he began vegetable gardening “I was such a naive city kid that it had never occurred to me that all the cabbage would be ready at the same time”. When he was faced with this very practical problem of, “What do I do with all this cabbage?", he looked in a cookbook and learned how to make sauerkraut. It was simple and delicious, and it started him on his career in fermentation. Since then, he has traveled all over the world to learn about traditional ferments, shared his knowledge through workshops and written, among others, The Art of Fermentation; the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published.

Sandor presents to us from his home kitchen in Tennessee. Aware that his audience are dietitians he explains some of the nutritional benefits of fermented foods:

  • Pre-digestion of complex compounds eg. Soy protein
  • Detoxification of some poisonous compounds in food eg. Cyanide in Cassava
  • Generation of additional nutrients, particularly B vitamins
  • Generation of bacteria as probiotics, increasing the diversity of the gut microbiome

He describes the various types of ferments:

  • Wild fermentation, made with the organisms that are already present in the food
  • Ferments using starters
    • Pure culture eg. A packet of yeast
    • Back slopping, saving a little bit of the last batch to put in the next batch eg. Yoghurt, sourdough
    • Distinct physical form eg. SCOBY, kefir

He finishes up by giving a wonderfully simple demonstration of how to make sauerkraut “Fermentation is not rocket science. You do not need to be extremely precise.”

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