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Book Review: The Farmhouse Culture Guide to Fermenting

December 2019/January 2020 Issue
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The Farmhouse Culture Guide to Fermenting: Crafting Live-Cultured Foods and Drinks with 100 Recipes from Kimchi to Kombucha
by Kathryn Lukas and Shane Peterson (Ten Speed)

Many of us who adore the bold, layered flavors of pickles and sauerkraut will never learn to make them. But for some fans of these foods, enjoyment is not enough—they want to learn to make their own and, perhaps, even master the craft. Curiosity grows into determination and obsession, which ultimately leads to expertise. If you are one of those people or you need a gift for one of those people, here it is: the only book on the subject of fermented foods that you will ever need.

The authors, a mother-and-son team, are the founders of Farmhouse Culture, the award-winning food-and-drink business based in Santa Cruz, California. And both of them fall into the obsessive camp, which is exactly how you want your live-culture gurus to be. Kathryn Lukas’s fixation with fresh ferments began when she was working in a restaurant in Germany. Upon returning to her native California, she decided to learn everything she could about fermentation and to share her knowledge by building a business around the craft. Shane Peterson inherited his mother’s passion. He is Farmhouse Culture’s master fermenter and chief product developer, the wizard behind many of the company’s award-winning products.

Their book is textbook-level comprehensive. But unlike a textbook, it’s a thing of beauty with a lot of heart. The chapter “Fermentation 101” provides everything you need to know about equipment, ingredients, troubleshooting, and techniques (from dry-salting to brining to crucial food-safety how-tos). After that, it’s all about the recipes. Ensuing chapters cover kraut, kimchi, dry-salted ferments (such as Beet Horseradish Mustard), pepper mashes and hot sauces, brined ferments (like Jack’s Pickled Peppers), cucumber pickles, and fermented fruit. The book concludes with two chapters on fermented drinks: from sour tonic to kombucha to mead, along with guidelines for carbonating and flavoring them.

The ferments you’ll learn to make are living foods, so no two batches will ever be exactly the same. That fact, along with the book’s abundance of information and endless opportunities for creative experimentation, make this the rare tome that will deliver a lifetime of fresh discoveries.

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