Fermented: A Four-Season Approach To Paleo Probiotic Foods – Book Review

Okay you crunchy hippy mommas out there. YOU WIN. I’m finally getting into fermenting. After being asked about this topic, and having to confess my complete ignorance, I finally decided to educate myself. And in educating myself, I’ve decided to give it a try.
And if fermenting is like anything else in the DIY, healthy eating, crunchy momma blogosphere, then I’ll most likely be hooked and nonchalantly dropping lines about “SCOBY’s” and “Kombucha” and “lactobacillus acidophilus” in no time.

Why Try Fermenting Your Own Foods?

In all seriousness, the more I journey on this quest for holistic wellness that I can pass on to my daughter, the more it becomes apparent that the bacterial environment of the gut is the root of our health in regards to food.
Roughly 60 to 80 percent of our entire immune system resides in our digestive tracts, and maintaining the ideal balance of bacteria in the gut is CRUCIAL for overall health. After all, bacteria greatly outnumber our own human cells by nearly 10 to 1. There are trillions upon trillions of beneficial bacteria living in our digestive tracts, and without them, we simply could not survive.
The art of fermenting foods – producing or preserving foods through the intentional action of microorganisms – is a very old craft that is currently undergoing a renaissance. Eating fermented foods is one of the key actions we can take to ensure that we achieve the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut, and improve our overall health and immunity.

Reading Through Fermented (And Fermenting Cabbage!)

In my request for this book to review, I expressed to author Jill Ciciarelli that I was a little bit intimidated by the whole fermenting food topic – visions of bubbling concoctions brewing in expensive sterile cauldrons under, I dunno, science lab heat lamps or something flood my mind when people talk about their water kefir in the works. But Jill she assured me that once I read the book, I would be surprised at how easy and safe it was. And she was right!
I should mention that I am rather OCD when it comes to books. Especially so when I’m reading a book that I intend to review. I have to read everything. EV.ER.Y.THING. And since my knowledge of fermenting rests somewhere between knowing absolutely nothing and suspecting demonry in the process, I was approaching the book as an educational one and I intended to take my time reading it, soaking in a few pages per day.
Theeeeen, on the coldest day in Pensacola, Florida’s recent history, with inches of ice and snow and freezing rain keeping me trapped in my apartment – the power went out. And as I huddled up to a beeswax candle, with a fussy infant and an uncharged phone, I decided to read Fermented to keep myself (and Tessa) entertained. For, like, five hours straight. (Not. Even. Kidding.)
There I was, in a freezing, powerless, dark apartment, ACHING to try all of the fascinating projects and recipes in this book, glued to the pages, and unable to embark on my fermenting journey right then and there! Lol. But I did take lots of notes!
The fact that Fermented captured my attention for five straight hours during a blackout (when I had a stack of other books to review handy) should speak volumes on the book right off.
A couple days after my near freezing to death in my own apartment experience, Jonathan and I decided to make our very first fermented project together out of Jill’s book.. the Basic Sauerkraut Recipe!
I had no idea that the brine in sauerkraut is produced solely from the cabbages. I always assumed it was added vinegar. But nope! It’s just salt massaged into the cabbage strips. First time I read that I was skeptical. When we first started massaging our bowls of cabbage while watching Doctor Who on the couch, we remained skeptical. Then, suddenly our cabbage was.. crying?
That’s the only way I can think to describe it. So there. Cabbage ferments in it’s own brine of tears.
Our cabbage produced enough brine to completely cover the strips in liquid in it’s airtight glass container! Our cabbagy concoction is still brewing right now, and unfortunately I really shouldn’t embark on any more projects from this book, what with us waiting for orders out of Pensacola any day now. But I fully intend to jump in and take on Fermented as a year-long project, starting in the spring once the military moves us to our “forever (for now) home”.

My Thoughts On The Book

The book is large, with glossy print pages, like a luxury textbook. It’s a perfect sit-at-your-desk-and-take-notes shape. Every page sports colorful, eye grabbing images throughout the book that keeps you motivated and hungry for more fermented goodness.
Jill’s style of writing is fun and engaging. She gives thorough details on each step and process and touches on the science and chemistry of fermentation, without coming across as dry or overly clinical.
One of the things I like about Fermented, is that while staying completely on topic and focused on the issue of fermenting, Jill also thoroughly addresses and brings to mind aspects of complete wellness. She looks at fermenting foods as one cog in the giant clockwork that is providing healthy foods for your body, and she clearly outlines how eating whole foods in season and living a holisitic lifestyle is beneficial to your well-being.
If you are a cookbook junkie like me, you’ll find the recipes in this book delightfully maddening because once you’ve notched a recipe off as “made”, Jill introduces suggestions and creative challenges to tweak flavor, add elements, replace ingredients and basically do your own thing. For every recipe, there is a skeleton structure formula that enables you to make each concoction uniquely your own.
So this is not a “make all the recipes then put the book in storage” book. It’s a handy reference guide, educational tool, and inspiration source for every season of the year. As a beginner I can say it has been amazing at dispelling some fears and myths regarding fermentation – likewise I can see how this book would still be helpful and relevant to a seasoned pro.
I’d say that this is definitely a must-have for every homeschool kitchen, and an easy way to bring science and chemistry lessons into the home.
 (Also, the authors cat has a bio spot in the back of the book. Uhhhh, WIN!)
[Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this review. I am an independent product reviewer. I only review products I am truly interested in. I don’t accept payment for reviews. The products I take the time to jabber on about are either items I have personally purchased, or the product has been provided for review after me incessantly nagging for a sample. All of my reviews are unbiased regardless of how the item was obtained.]

Are you into fermenting foods? What got you started, and what do YOU ferment? Share below!

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

8 thoughts on “Fermented: A Four-Season Approach To Paleo Probiotic Foods – Book Review

  • 6 February, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I like kimchi. I know my mom likes to mix a ton of different veggies but I prefer the cabbage. Plus I like spicy things, not much of a sour kimchi girl. Luckily I can do lacto-ferm and be ok with it even with my allergies since I use whey, but drinking whey straight up I get really sick. I literally live out of mason jars, as of late. Lol. Salads come in mason jars, kimchi, smoothies, and a ton of other amazing things. If I were to write a book it would be “My Life in a Mason Jar” Lol. As far as kombucha is concerned I buy it at the store Lol. Especially when I need a kick of energy, it also has apple cider vinegar in it. So yay!

    • 7 February, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      As of right now I have NEVER tried kimchi, kombucha, water kefit, kvass… nuthin’! So I’m like, “Look at all of these delicious things I have no idea how they taste!” when I look through the book, haha. But I’m an adventurous foodie, so I’m excited to try them!

  • 6 February, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    I’d always assumed that sauerkraut was just pickled cabbage, with vinegar added. huh. Learn something new everyday. Your idea of ‘cabbage tears’ is better than what came to my mind…you mentioned massaging the cabbage w/ the salt, and I thought of cabbage ‘sweat’…*shudder*. ugh. Sorry. heh.

    • 7 February, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      LOL, this whole anthropomorphism of cabbage… whether tears OR sweat… is a liiiiiitle freaky. So let’s just say “cabbage makes it’s own brine”. haha!

  • 12 February, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I am a fermentation geek, and would love to own a copy of this book. Sounds right up my alley!

    • 13 February, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I haven’t fermented anything beyond the cabbage that is still fermenting in my pantry, lol. But I am REALLY wanting to make fermented root beer and kefir next!

  • 19 February, 2014 at 2:33 am

    I think this looks like a great book to learn how to make your fermented foods – very important in the Paleo diet.

    • 20 February, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      I have tentatively flirted with going paleo, but from what I understand coffee is a no no?? Thats like telling me AIR is a no no… then again, maybe thats not the healthiest thing… lol

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