Scroll Top

Sandor Katz and The Art of Fermentation


You may have read my post on Capturing Cultures at Real Food Projects with Holly Davis? Nothing’s changed. I’m still fascinated with fermenting my own foods, primarily vegetables.

So much so, that I have bought Sandor Katz’s most recent epistle on the subject, “the Art of Fermentation”. I’m about half way through. I’m finding it un-put-downable.

'The Art of Fermentation' by Sandor Ellix Katz You'll note my beautiful bookmark courtesy of Kitsa's Kitchen! (Image by TSL)
‘The Art of Fermentation’ by Sandor Ellix Katz
You’ll note my beautiful bookmark courtesy of Kitsa’s Kitchen!
(Image by TSL)

If you have an interest in traditional or cultured foods and nutrition, you will already know that Katz is considered the Godfather of lacto-fermentation. If not, his story is quite fascinating.

In brief, he grew up in New York and attended Brown University. He is openly gay and suffers from AIDS. In 1993, in his early thirties, he moved to rural Tennessee where he joined a “queer international community deep in the wooded hills”. (I bet there are some stories to tell there!) His particular interest in fermentation grew from overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. And, it all started with an old crock he found at the back of an old barn, in which he made his first batch of sauerkraut. Since then, this self-proclaimed ‘fermentation revivalist’ has developed his love of fermentation to the extent that he now travels the United States, and the world, teaching workshops on home fermentation.

Sandor Katz (Image from Wild Fermentation)
Sandor Katz
(Image from Wild Fermentation)

And, as Michael Pollan explains in the book’s foreword, “Sandor Katz writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens”. It’s true. He does. He writes with a wonderful passion that is open and full of warmth. I’d love to meet him…

Our perfection lies in our imperfection. (Sandor Ellix Katz)

Well, guess what? I’m going to. In February 2014. Because Sandor Katz is coming to Sydney (and Brisbane and Byron Bay and Hobart and Melbourne!)

The lovely people from Milkwood Permaculture have organised a weekend of intensive sessions here in Sydney on the art of fermentation with none other than the man himself. I’ve booked myself into two sessions – the first is on fermenting vegetables which includes dry salting vegetables to make dishes like sauerkraut, kimchi methods, and making basic brines to pickle vegetables. The second is on fermenting beverages which covers simple alcohols from fruit and honey, vinegar, kombucha, water kefir and homemade sodas.

How excitement!

It should be said that after much deliberating, I decided to forgo the remaining sessions on fermenting milk and fermenting grains, legumes and starchy tubers. In a house where one of us is gluten intolerant and another is allergic to dairy, that just seemed like overkill.

Anyhoo, if you have an interest in meeting the delectable Sandor Katz and learning from him about the art of fermentation, I urge you to head over to the Milkwood Permaculture website to get all the details. Maybe we can start a wee lacto-fermentation collective…?

Related Posts

Comments (9)

How excitement indeed.

I’m delighted to find this – I have to eat fermented foods for health reasons but have never really got the hang of it beyond sauerkraut. I think I shall book myself into the workshops so I can then kombucha with the best of ’em.

I’ve been enjoying your blog for a short while now – it’s always good to find someone blogging about the city you live in.


PMB – thanks for stopping by with your lovely comment. It’s nice to find another fermented food advocate. LM reckons the craze hasn’t taken off yet – this post was not one of my more widely read!

Look forward to seeing you at Sandor’s sessions!

I was loving the man’s name, “Sandor Katz,” and then I saw his middle name – Ellix! I totally want to make him a character in my next book. I guess I should just say, “my book,” since I would have to have a first book in order to have a next book.

As the reality TV people say – I 110% agree with you, SSFAM. That name takes the prize, I reckon. And, I’ll buy your book. No, I’ll buy two and send one to Jon Stewart!

How the hell can you have 110%, anyway…?

I find it extraordinary that you would speak of someone being “openly gay” in this day and age. It’s not as though he is a Catholic priest.

Polly – I agree that it should be unremarkable that someone is ‘openly gay’ in this day and age. However, I would make the following observations:
1) Sandor’s sexuality is intrinsic to his story of discovering the value of ferments, and
2) I would not say that the struggle for gay rights and acceptance has yet been won. One only has to to look to Australia, let alone Uganda, to see this.

It was simply the word “openly” that seemed strange to me, or were you worried someone might think you were outing him? I know his story and honestly, I don’t think his sexuality is that important to the fermented foods question, while HIV/AIDS is. I have SLE, a systemic autoimmune disease. My health has also brought me to an interest in nutrition over the past 30 years.

But It’s your blog, you get to describe him as gay or not as you choose. Like I said, I just don’t understand the “openly” part. In Sydney, most people basically either identify as gay (or whatever) or they don’t: We don’t tend to talk about “openly gay”, at least not in my experience. To me “openly” is not speaking to or for the GLBTQ community, it sounds like its speaking to those who might judge or be offended. That’s just my sense when I read it.

Comments are closed.