It may sound gross, but fermentation is actually among the safest, healthiest way 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.
We have even included some newcomers for 2018 that are soon to become staples on the fermenter’s bookshelf.
Best Books on Fermentation for 2018
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. This was on the year 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 humans tend 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 today is yeast fermentation, as used to make bread and alcohol. In all fermentation the bacteria, in this case yeast, eats 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 breads.
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 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, 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, NPR offers an excerpt here.
- 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 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, but 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
This is a brand new book for 2017, and the author, Stronger, is 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
- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing
Meats are fermented? They can be.
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.
Also, unfortunately, there were also some mistakes made in some of the recipes, and the corrections have been published here. It’s hard to replace the vast resource this book provides, just make sure you review the corrections carefully.
- The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking by Karen McAthy
New for 2017, 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 an essential.
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 breads, and who want to make their own starters where possible. Sourdough breads are covered.
- Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule
The reliability of the recipes for homemade yogurt are 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 which use the yogurt, a nice bonus!
- The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
This favorite book is now in its third edition, now with 300 recipes. It has a huge variety of recipes, included fermented favorites like kimchi, soy sauce, etc.
- Fermented Vegetables by Christopher Shockey
- 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,
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. Generally, you’ll prefer whichever book covers the alcohol you want.
- The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White, Jamil Zainasheff
- Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse by John Mallett
- The Everything Hard Cider Book by Drew Beechum
- Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond by Alex Lewin
- Crafting Distilled Spirits by Bettina Malle
- Make Mead like a Viking by Jereme Zimmerman
- Techniques in Home Winemaking by Daniel Pambianchi
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
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.
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