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It may sound gross, but fermentation is actually among the safest, healthiest ways to preserve food, before or after SHTF. Whether you’re already a fan, or a beginner just looking to make your first batch of home-brew, we have found the perfect books to get you started.
In this article, we’ll go over the reasons why fermenting is a good idea, as well as the best books on fermentation that should be a part of every prepper’s bookshelf.
Unlike canning, which has only been around since Napoleon, fermentation has been used by our ancestors since the Neolithic age.
Archeology has revealed that, in what is now China, ancient humans were already mixing rice, honey, and some kind of fruit (probably hawthorns or grapes) to create a fermented beverage as early as 7000 BCE. Fermentation to make bread was later invented, likely in Egypt 5000 years ago.
From the ancient world, knowledge of fermentation spread or was re-invented, in virtually every human society.
Why? Fermentation was among the earliest ways to preserve food.
It tends to preserve and increase the levels of protein, nutrients and minerals in food, which our ancestors were usually lacking. Anthropologists have noted that early humans tended to leave the hunter-gatherer life behind once they discover how to ferment alcohol.
So, knowing how to ferment when SHTF will allow you to preserve food in a much safer, healthier way than many other preservation methods allow for. Long after your neighbors have run out of rings for their cans, you’ll still have a bounty in the winter.
You will also be able to make the staple food of most societies: bread. Not to mention you could brew beer, which could be an important product both for morale and for barter.
The type of fermentation we are most familiar with today is yeast fermentation, as used to make bread and alcohol. In every fermentation process bacteria eat sugar, changing the chemical nature of the food, in this case into alcohol.
But, you can make several other products through fermentation, including sauerkraut, soy sauce, vinegar, yogurt, cheese, other fermented vegetables (including pickles), along with other kinds of alcohol and bread.
Foundational and/or Beginner Books
Each of these books aim to give you an overview of the whole world of fermented food and drinks. It’s generally best to start with one of these, as few books on specific foods will mention the others, or go indepth into the safety and chemistry of fermentation.
Each of these books have their own strengths and weakness, in comparison to each other, which I’ll guide you through.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
This book is referred to as the “bible” of fermentation. It is beyond thorough, but still accessible for beginners. Not only does it explain in detail the chemical processes behind fermentation, but it also makes it clear that fermented foods have superior taste and texture.
Katz is a food-lover, who covers every imaginable kind of fermented food. If you’re not sold yet, check out Katz’s interview with NPR.
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, 2nd Edition By Sandor Ellix Katz
This book is known as the one that started a revolution. A lot of people got started fermenting their own kefir, miso, hot sauce, beet kvass, and more because they were inspired by this book. If you are just starting out in the world of fermentation this is one of the best books on fermenting you can get.
This book also doubles as a cookbook because it offers recipes to help you learn how to implement fermented foods into your daily cooking. Check out our full review of this book by following this link.
Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin
The recipes in Lewin’s book are basic and explained in a very straightforward manner, with lots of pictures to serve as your guide. The recipes range from easiest (Sauerkraut) to challenges (corned beef) in each section of the book.
For those who are already comfortable with fermenting, this book isn’t an ideal choice, as it only has 25 recipes. This book is also rather political. The Art of Fermentation is more thorough but also more intimidating.
Mastering Fermentation by Mary Karlin
This simple and thorough book has 70 recipes and is full of stunning pictures. It is a great book for beginners, with clear instructions and advice on what to look for to judge how the process is going.
The downside is that you won’t get as complete an understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing as you would from reading “The Art of Fermentation,” which may lead to some confusion.
Yet, this book has more recipes than “Real Food Fermentation” and offers unique recipes that makes it valuable even for those who are familiar with fermenting.
Traditionally Fermented Foods: Innovative Recipes and Old-Fashioned Techniques for Sustainable Eating by Shannon Stronger
Released in 2017 by a biochemist turned off-grider, the book covers every category of ferment imaginable with 80 recipes, and offers great advice on how to tell how the recipe is going and whether the final product is right.
Books for Specific Foods
If you’re already familiar with fermentation, but want to hone your craft and take your skills to the next level, these books might be just what you need.
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing
Who doesn’t love some cured meats?
There’s a book on specifically fermented sausages (The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Stanley Marianski and Adam Marianski), but it assumes a base level of knowledge about making sausages you probably don’t have.
To contrast, this book covers all sausage making, fermented meat, and other ways of preserving meats.
Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin
This book has straightforward directions for every cheese you can imagine. Although, you will need one of the foundational books to fully understand the processes behind cheese creation.
In earlier versions, there were some mistakes made in some of the recipes, which have since been corrected. It’s hard to replace the vast amount of resources this book provides, just make sure you get an updated copy.
The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking by Karen McAthy
This book is not just for vegans, but also for those of us who don’t own our own animals, but would like the taste of completely home grown and made cheese. This beauty is full of recipes and ideas you can’t get elsewhere.
The Artisanal Vinegar Maker’s Handbook by Bettina Malle
Vinegar requires two steps of fermentation, is an essential ingredient in canning, and is rarely covered in other books, so a dedicated resource like this book is essential for preppers.
This handbook can be technical, but the instructions are still clear. Different methods, how to improve quality, and how to gauge acetic acid content, are all discussed at length.
Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffery Hamelman
This is the book for those who want to make all kinds of yeast bread, and who want to make their own starters where possible. Sourdough bread is covered too.
Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule
The reliability of the recipes for homemade yogurt is the main appeal of this book. People who have failed before have reported success with Rule’s clear instructions.
The book is also full of recipes that use yogurt, a nice bonus!
The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
This amazing book is now in its third edition, now with 300 recipes. It has a huge variety of recipes, including fermented favorites like kimchi, soy sauce, etc.
Fermented Vegetables by Christopher Shockey
Are you growing veggies in your greenhouse? Use this amazing book to ferment all kinds of vegetables. With over 120 recipes, you can learn the basics of sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and more.
Fiery Ferments: Hot Sauces, Spicy Condiments, Kimchis With Kick by Kristen K. Shockey
One of the advantages of fermentation over other forms of preservation is that is tends to enhance and strengthen flavors.
As such, lovers of spice will find a lot of joy in this practice, and this book is the perfect guide to get started. It has a variety of recipes, all designed to bring out the heat!
Books for Alcohol
These books are fairly self-explanatory. Each covers a specific kind of alcohol, made from a specific pairing of food and bacteria.
The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White, Jamil Zainasheff
As previously mentioned, yeast fermentation for beer is quite common nowadays. This book has all you need to know to brew your own!
Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse by John Mallett
Malt defines the color, flavor, body, and alcohol level of beer, so any aspiring brewer should try to know as much as possible about it.
The Everything Hard Cider Book by Drew Beechum
Cider is a great alternative to beer for those who can’t have gluten or simply don’t like the taste. This beverage is incredibly versatile and easy to make, so if you have some extra apples laying around, consider brewing some cider! This book provides detailed instructions and 35 recipes.
Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond by Alex Lewin
Kombucha is all the rage nowadays, thanks to its great flavor and health benefits. Luckily, it’s not that hard to brew, so in case SHTF you can make your own. This book will guide you through the process of making starters, fermenting, and provide you with several recipes.
Crafting Distilled Spirits by Bettina Malle
Looking for something that packs a punch? This book is the perfect guide for small scale spirit brewing.
Make Mead like a Viking by Jereme Zimmerman
This book doesn’t just teach you how to make mead, it also provides you with a lesson in history and a fun activity to help boos morale when SHTF!
Techniques in Home Winemaking by Daniel Pambianchi
Although not everyone will have access to a vineyard, being able to make your own wine can give you an edge for bartering when STHF, or just a fun family pastime for those homesteading.
Books for Specific Traditions
Each of these books, except the last, focuses on a specific tradition of fermentation and other preservation. The first two are practical and straightforward. But the third and fourth are more like anthropology texts than recipe books.
There’s still much to learn and experiment with in them, you’ll just need a lot of foundational knowledge and practice before you use the information. The last book, Nourishing Traditions, has recipes from a variety of cultures. It also has a lot of nutritional advice and political perspectives, which you can use, or just ignore if you only want the recipes.
Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton
Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti
Himalayan Fermented Foods by Jyoti Prakash Tamang
Indigenous Fermented Foods of Southeast Asia by J David Owens
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
You Don’t Need a Lot of Equipment to Get Started Fermenting
Fermenting some foods can be done with a simple mason jar and an airlock lid. For larger batches though, you will want to invest in fermentation crock. Check out our guide for help deciding what fermentation crock is right for you.
If you like Kimchi but are concerned about the smell, then the Krazy Korean line of fermentation containers can help you out.
Fermenting is an unusual choice in the modern era, but it offers great practicality for the prepper who is looking for a method of preservation that doesn’t rely on modern civilization, or home energy production.
Have you fermented something before? How did it go? What vegetables do you preserve this way? Let us know in the comments below!
2 Responses to “Best Books on Fermentation”
I’ve read that fermented food must be refrigerated after the bottle has been opened. If this is true, then fermenting is not a very practical preservation method because refrigeration won’t be an option if the grid goes down, which is one of the main concerns of preppers. Does anyone here know anything about this situation?
Hey Tumbleweed, while you’ll find some recipe books that will call for refrigerating your ferments, you don’t need to refrigerate most. As long as the food has been fermented with the right bacteria, that bacteria will prevent harmful bacterias from “colonizing” the food, so to speak, for a while, which is why our ancestors relied on fermentation before refrigeration. It can still happen, of course, you just need to learn the signs that the food is still safe, or has been corrupted. For that, I recommend you pick up Katz’s book “The Art of Fermentation” or Karlin’s “Mastering Fermentation”– which is quickly becoming my favourite.