Sandor Katz is the modern guru of all things fermented. After the success of his books, Wild Fermentation (2003) and The Art of Fermentation (2012), he has secured his spot on the world stage as a culinary author and DIY food activist. Recently Katz visited Australia in partnership with Milkwood Permaculture to spread the word on the wonders of fermented foods, conducting workshops across the country that showcased his worldly wisdom about these global traditions.
Through his workshops and books, Katz helps us understand the practical benefits of fermentation and the vital part it has to play in our everyday eating habits. Katz explains eating fermented foods aids gut health and helps with an overall feeling of wellbeing. “It’s not the world’s cure to everything,” as he says, but consuming live, healthy bacteria everyday may help improve our digestive health. Fermented food is generally raw – without being treated with heat, beneficial enzymes and nutrients remain intact. Fermented foods are also culturally important, closely linked with ancient traditions of eating and preserving that may have helped the human race evolve.
This historical culinary process came to life throughout Katz’s workshops, covering how to ferment vegetables, fruits, drinks, dairy and more to create the likes of sauerkraut (fermented shredded cabbage), kefir (probiotic-rich yoghurt-like drink) and kombucha (sweetened fermented tea). While Katz reiterates he’s not an expert in microbiology or food science, his voracious appetite for knowledge and keenness to avoid food waste are part of a more holistic way of life. His experiences and wisdom are shared with an open heart, dispelling the myths for fermentation beginners.
Our reliance on modern refrigeration technology and our contemporary fear of bacteria has lead to a serious decline in the awareness and practice of traditional fermentation processes. We neglect to realize that most of our favourite foods – chocolate, coffee, beer, wine, cheese, yoghurt, pickles and soy sauce, to name just a few – are the result of fermentation. Katz reminds us that while there may seem to be an art to fermenting, it is a vital step in reclaiming our food and culture from the current broken system of globalized monocultures, wasteful packaging and supermarket dominance. Fermentation is one way that we can reclaim our culture and food system.