Books on preserving food are perennial favorites, and this season, fermentation steps into the spotlight. The renewed popularity of the practice, which is integral to making kimchi and kombucha, sauerkraut and sourdough, falls in line with other culinary trends of the moment—pulling back from processed foods in the name of a more hands-on relationship with what we eat.
“People want to reconnect with food in a more elemental way,” says Jane Willson, publishing director at Hardie Grant, which will release Ferment for Good by Sharon Flynn, a how-to and recipe compendium, in May. Flynn runs the Fermentary in Melbourne, where she sells fermented goods and teaches workshops. Fermenting, which the author calls “slow food for a fast world,” may take days, weeks, or months.
Hannah Fries, project editor at Storey Publishing, agrees that, although fermenting is an exercise in patience, it demands very little of the home cook. “It’s a slow process, yes, but throughout most of it, you don’t really have to do anything, so it actually requires very little of your time,” she says. “Most ferments are easy to get started, and then they just take a little monitoring. It’s big payoff for a relatively low-maintenance process.”
In June, Storey is publishing Fiery Ferments by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, who live on 40 acres in southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. The couple’s first title with the publisher, 2014’s Fermented Vegetables, has sold more than 34,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan.
“People are discovering the health benefits of probiotics and live foods,” Fries says. “At the same time, they’re discovering the amazing flavors that these foods can bring to everyday meals. The combination is pretty irresistible.”
Elizabeth Seise, an editor at Page Street, agrees. “There’s a great appeal in fermentation right now due to accessibility and nutritional value,” she says. In May, Page Street will release Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger, who lives on an off-grid homestead in Texas and documents her agrarian lifestyle on the blog Nourishing Days, which has more than 10,000 Facebook followers.
Seise says fermentation appeals to the kinds of readers, shoppers, and cooks who want more engagement with their food and to eat with health in mind. She also believes the resurgence of the age-old process has to do with a growing open-mindedness about food preparation. “We’re going through a brilliant time in regards to the ever-expanding palate,” she says. “More people are open to trying new things, especially if they’re healthy for you.”