Sandor Ellix Katz and the Wild among us

May 18, 2009 in cookbook, Gardening, review

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Sandor cutting cabbage)

It is always inspiring to meet people who are passionate about food. Sandor (Sandorkraut) Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, spoke at BU’s “The Future of Food: Transatlantic Perspectives” conference and I snagged a front row seat.

Sandor was there a bit early (along with us early attendees) and chatted with us as he methodically cut up a cabbage and carrots, salting them as he went.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz


He then launched into an extremely well articulated and impassioned talk on his journey into wild fermentation, about why fermentation is such a powerful method of food preservation and transformation and how fermentation, especially lacto-fermentation, is really important for our health.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Talking about his love for fermentation)

Take home message 1: Fermentation is the OPPOSITE of canning.

Take home message 2: Fermentation is safe BECAUSE of the beneficial bacterial populations (lactobacillus) that create an acidified environment which suppresses the toxin producing bacteria.

Take home message 3: When canning fails it is dangerous BECAUSE it kills all of those beneficial bacteria and allows toxin producing ones like Clostridium botulinum (botulism) to thrive in the oxygen-free environment.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Pressing kraut into pint jars, showing how to get the juice going)

Here is some kraut I am making (red from red cabbage).

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Week old sauerkraut)

And here I am pressing down on the covering plate to get the juices up – to suppress molds on surface of the kraut.

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Pressing down on the plate to push up juice)

Sandor also spoke of other popular ferments such as kefir. In the image below he is showing us some kefir grains, necessary for making a sparkling kefir drink!

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kefir grains)

The wikipedia describes kefir as:

Kefir (alternately kefÄ«rs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep’s milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

kefir grains

(Kefir grains – wiki source)

Someone asked him about kombucha and he talked about its history and culture. Someone in the audience “just happened” to have some on hand so he got to show us the “mother” culture (called a mushroom by some but it is DEFINITELY not fungal in composition).

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother)

Wiki describes kombucha as:

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother culture)

Sandor was of the opinion that you would be better served with whole food ferments like kraut versus a tea and sugar water one like kombucha.

There is SO much more to learn from Sandor about this lacto-fermented world! Pick up his books Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved – and also visit his site – Wild Fermentation.

If you get a chance to see him speak in person, you will not be disappointed!

I showed you my new sauerkraut above. I have also been starting a wild sourdough culture too.

Wild Sourdough starter

My first one got too stressed out and was harboring mostly an acetone producing bacteria, dumped it. I am now onto the second try.

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Am crossing my fingers this one will take off!