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Reconnecting with the Fermentation Revolution: Recipes from Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation

Aug. 19, 2016

Reconnecting with the Fermentation Revolution: Recipes from Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation

James Beard Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, , has returned with his latest edition of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Following the success of the 2003 edition, this installment strives to educate a new generation on the fermented foods movement with a new cohort of unique recipes. Check out these two featured recipes from the book!

Persimmon Water Kefir Soda

Water kefir sodas can be made in infinite varieties. This is one made with my very favorite fruit, the small American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), which is indigenous to this region. Every day from September through December I find these luscious fruits on the ground underneath the persimmon trees, and experience their sweet, sticky flesh as a healing ambrosia, nourishing my body and soul with all the rich goodness of the Earth. This seasonal pursuit has become an elaborate ritual of self-care, something I do for myself because it makes me feel so good. The sweet persimmon taste triggers a powerful visualization in my mind, in which I see the persimmon’s concentrated vital energy permeating my being. One thing that I’ve learned about healing is that clearly visualizing it helps enable it to happen. Sometimes there are so many persimmons on the ground that I can’t stuff them all in my mouth, and need to find other ways to use them. A soda like this is a great way to enjoy persimmon’s essence as a beverage. Unripe American persimmons have an awful astringent aftertaste, so be sure your persimmons are soft and fully ripe. Substitute any other fruit you like for persimmons.

Timeframe: 3 to 4 days

Equipment:
1-gallon/4-liter (or larger) bowl, crock, or jar
Cloth cover
2 resealable quart/liter plastic bottles

Ingredients (for 2 quarts/2 liters):
1 quart/1 liter mature water kefir
¼ cup/60 grams sugar
2 pounds/1 kilogram fresh ripe persimmons (about 1 quart/1 liter)

Process:
Combine. Mix the mature water kefir with the sugar and 2 cups of water in the vessel. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add the persimmons and cover with cloth.
Ferment in a prominent spot on your kitchen counter.
Stir frequently, at least three times a day. The water kefir should be bubbly and start taking on the color, aroma, and flavor of the persimmons.
Strain out the persimmons after about 2 days. If they still have much flavor, use them for another batch of water kefir, or eat them. Taste the water kefir soda and add sugar or water if necessary.
Bottle in sealable bottles. Plastic soda bottles are the best way I know to monitor carbonation, as described in Bottling and Carbonation, page 85.
Chill before opening, if possible.

soda

Alaskan Frontier Sourdough Hotcakes

Sourdough was an important and mythological food along the American frontier; pioneers valued sourdough for its hardiness and reliability. San Francisco’s signature sourdough is a memento of the California gold rush. And in Alaska, the frontiersmen themselves were known as sourdoughs, so dearly did they cherish this staple provision. “A real Alaskan Sourdough would as soon spend a year in the hills without his rifle, as to tough it through without his bubbling sourdough pot.”

This quote is from Ruth Allman’s longhand volume Alaska Sourdough: The Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan. Allman recounts fantastic stories about the popularity of sourdough. “Somehow, word got around that baking powder, like saltpeter, was an anaphrodisiac. The he-man of the North was justly proud of his virility . . . [and] took no chances of his libido being impaired. The old-time Alaskan would not include baking powder biscuits in his regular diet. Thus was born the fame and popularity of sourdough.”

The Arctic cold presented challenges to sourdough. “There is a serious problem when the thermometer skids down to –50 degrees,” Allman writes. “Many a winter traveler has wrapped his sourdough pot in a canvas tarp and taken it to bed to keep it from freezing—to make sure he would have his sourdough for food tomorrow. While mushing on the trail with the temperature flirting below zero, Jack [her husband] would put some sourdough in an old Prince Albert tobacco can. This he tucked inside the pocket of his wool shirt to make certain it would not freeze. It takes very little sourdough to start the old sourdough pot a-bubbling again.”

Allman recommends using baking soda in sourdough pancakes to neutralize sourness. “Sourdoughs never need to have the strong sour taste—only a fresh yeasty flavor,” she writes; repeatedly reminding: “Remember soda sweetens.” Sometimes sour isn’t what you want.

Timeframe: 8 to 12 hours (mix batter the night before for breakfast pancakes)

Ingredients (for 12–16 4-inch/10-centimeter pancakes):
½ cup/125 milliliters bubbly sourdough starter
2 cups/275 grams whole wheat pastry flour (and/or white flour)
1 tablespoon sugar (or other sweetener)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Process:
Combine. In a large bowl, mix the sourdough starter with 2 cups/500 milliliters lukewarm water, the flour, and the sugar. Stir until smooth. (Don’t forget to replenish your starter.)
Ferment in a warm spot, covered, for 8 to 12 hours.
Add the final ingredients. When you are ready to make pancakes, beat the egg and add it to the batter, along with the oil and salt. Stir until the texture is smooth and even.
Mix the baking soda with 1 tablespoon of warm water and fold it gently into the sourdough mixture.
Heat a griddle or cast-iron pan, and lightly oil.
Ladle the batter into pancakes. When many bubbles have formed on the surface, flip and cook the other side. Cook well, to a medium brown.
Serve the pancakes as they are cooked, or place them in a warm oven until they are all cooked. Enjoy with yogurt and maple syrup or preserved fruit.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods is now available for purchase here.

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