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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than expected, 30 Sep 2013
By 
I. Darren (Fi) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mastering Fermentation: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Fermented Foods (Hardcover)
A curious title for a book that is full of recipes about a possibly unfamiliar way of food preparation. Certainly your eyes are drawn to this title as it peers out on the bookshelf!

So what do you get? Over 70 recipes and a good introduction to the "art and science" of fermented foods. Still none the wiser? How about making your own vinegar and mustard or possibly curing fish and producing cheese. This is possibly one of those subjects that you haven't given much thought about and probably wouldn't have ordinarily picked up a book about either. That could be a mistake. There is truly another world potentially at your fingertips.

A comprehensive introduction notes that fermentation is one of the oldest forms of preservation that, as the process is ongoing, transforms the chemical composition of food and helps enhance its flavour. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in the science behind the subject or jump straight to the recipes and "get doing things" it is up to you although it would be a bit of a shame to ignore the great subject overview and deeper details about this fascinating subject. Bizarrely, whilst this reviewer does not think that he has the free time to be an "active fermenter", it was a sheer pleasure to read through this book, consider the various recipes, examine how they are made and to wish for a bit more free time.

Sure, some of the recipes might seem or sound simple, such as tomato ketchup, but as the old idiom says, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and one cannot compare a chemically-enhanced commercial product to a real handmade effort, boosted with red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, all made in your own kitchen. Many of the recipes are for more involved dishes but to this reader's mind, some of the greatest little discoveries were the "simple things" such as different vinegars, mustards and chutneys that can be combined into so many different dishes.

Nothing seems left to chance and the reader is given careful, clear guidance throughout this book just like a kindly uncle might explain something to a child, yet one absolutely does not feel patronised along the way. Information is presented in a clear, matter-of-fact way and it is only after-the-event that one possibly begins to appreciate just how much knowledge has been ingested. There are many fine photographs to help focus your attention but sadly not every recipe is given its own picture and that is a shame in a book of this kind. Kudos must be given for each recipe having a clear estimation of time needed for each "stage" of production but a small black mark must be given for the use of sole U.S. imperial measures - referring to a conversion table at the end of the book is not enough.

The book is rounded off by a detailed glossary, resource list, bibliography and an index, although the latter was not present with this review copy but if it is as detailed as everything else in this book there will be nothing to worry about. This is one of those books that you might not necessarily need but it is something that you should strongly consider if you enjoy cooking or care about what you eat. This could be one of those great little surprises you never thought you'd want and enjoy!
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