What: Sandor Ellix Katz will be in Chattanooga to discuss fermentation and sign copies of his latest book “The Art of Fermentation”
Where: Velo Coffee Roasters, 509 E. Main St.
When: Thursday, July 19, 5-7 p.m.
For more information: www.slowfoodchattanooga.com
Guests are invited to bring along homemade fermented kefirs, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, wine, beer, sour pickles, kombucha, sourdough or miso for tasting—or make a $3 to $5 suggested donation.
Author Sandor Ellix Katz has spent the last decade promoting the nutritious—and delicious—benefits of fermentation, an ancient practice in which foods are transformed by naturally occurring organisms to enhance their flavors and extend their usefulness.
Considered a “fermentation revivalist,” Katz describes fermentation as "the flavorful space between fresh and rotten." With his new book, “The Art of Fermentation”—a comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation—Katz hopes to empower people to reclaim the ancient process.
According to Katz, some of today’s most cherished gourmet foods are products of fermentation.
“The prized cultures of a San Francisco sourdough or the finest bleu cheese have their roots in wild fermentations that took place in someone’s kitchen or farmhouse long ago,” he said.
Other popular fermented foods and drinks found in today’s American diet include bread, cheese, wine, beer, cider, chocolate, coffee, tea, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, vinegar and yogurt.
Katz—also known as "Sandorkraut"—began his love affair with fermentation in 1993 after he moved to Cannon County, Tenn., from New York City and started a garden.
“My interest in fermentation grew out of my overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening,” Katz said. “It started with sauerkraut. I found an old crock buried in our barn, harvested cabbage from our garden, chopped it up, salted it and waited. That first kraut tasted so alive and powerfully nutritious. Its sharp flavor sent my salivary glands into a frenzy and got me hooked on fermentation.”
Since publishing his first book, “Wild Fermentation,” in 2003, Katz has taught hundreds of fermentation workshops in the United States and around the world. Some of his followers include noted food author Michael Pollan, who wrote the foreword to “The Art of Fermentation.”
“Many people have memories of a grandparent or great-grandparent that had some annual ritual of fermentation; however, we have become severed from traditional food preparation methods over just a few generations,” Katz said. “I am finding a tremendous hunger for this information as people work to reclaim food traditions.”
“The Art of Fermentation” provides detailed information on vegetables, sugars into alcohol (meads, wines and ciders), sour tonic beverages, milk, grains and starchy tubers, beers (and other grain-based alcoholic beverages), beans, seeds, nuts, fish, meat, and eggs. It also explains how to grow mold cultures and use fermentation in agriculture, art and energy production; and it includes considerations for commercial enterprises.
Many medical and scientific studies have confirmed the health benefits of fermented foods, and Katz is open about sharing his firsthand experience with the health and healing benefits of fermentation.
“By eating a variety of live fermented foods, you promote diversity among microbial cultures in your body,” Katz said. “Biodiversity, increasingly recognized as critical to the survival of larger-scale ecosystems, is just as important at the micro level. Call it microbiodiversity.”
According to Katz, one of the biggest challenges is overcoming today’s cultural fear of bacteria in food.
“In our culture, what makes people fearful is our generalized fear of bacteria,” Katz said. “However, fermentation is an incredibly versatile process, and it is intrinsically safe. There is no safer food. There has never been a case of food poisoning reported in the U.S. from fermented vegetables. There are very few foods you could say that about.”
Katz said he is impressed with the revival of local food in Chattanooga, and he looks forward to his stop at Velo Coffee Roasters in Chattanooga on Thursday, July 19 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss fermentation, answer questions and sign copies of his books.
“I am very inspired by the local food scene that is developing in Chattanooga,” Katz said. “There are a lot of producers, a really good market and lots of integration with restaurants—all the things that are critical for revival of local food. It seems like it’s happening in Chattanooga in ways that are more dramatic than in other similar locations.”
To learn more about Sandor Ellix Katz and his books and upcoming workshops, visit his website at www.wildfermentation.com.
Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.