YU Should Know: Sandor Ellix Katz, Author and Fermentation Revivalist

This is a looong overdue post that I’ve been very excited to share with you, but the YumUniverse book release was going on at the time of this interview, and then some exciting new projects began and well, shoot, it’s late February. Please forgive me for holding onto this gem for so long.

As we make changes in our diets, habits and mindsets, sometimes the things we believed for so long can hold on like a vice grip—it can be hard to let. G. O.

For me, as I explore the incredible creativity, nourishing tradition and healing benefits of fermented foods (I’m simply smitten with it all), I have had fleeting moments of concern when I stray from exactly what I’ve been told by someone with more experience with it. Which is not like me because I tend to color outside of the lines every chance I get. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life because I always want to play and push boundaries. Here’s why I’ve struggled a tad when it comes to fermented foods: I have a tremendous respect for the unknown and this includes the powerful bacterial world we cannot see, the world we are culturing when we prepare fermented foods.

A while back, I posted a recipe for Kombucha Mother/SCOBY Candy and before I did, that doubt about the safety of my recipe experiment snuck in, even though I had thoroughly read (more like devoured) The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation by fermentation revivalist and experimentalist Sandor Ellix Katz. As I questioned my recipe, I could almost hear him asking “if you can eat the spices and foods you’re mixing with the kombucha mother, why wouldn’t it be safe?” But the cultural fear of bacteria that had been with me for half my life made me doubt. For only a millesecond. But that was long enough for me to question whether I should share the recipe with YU. But I HAD to share it—kombucha candy is a revelation. So, the only thing to do was to reach out to the man himself and see what he had to say. He immediately and enthusiastically agreed to chat with me. I was so excited, that I reached out to you all on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to gather more of your questions and I’m happy to report, we covered them all in the audio interview below.

I hope you enjoy it. And be sure to share your thoughts and additional questions in a comment below.

Interview notes
Here’s the link to the gluten-free bread Sandor mentions

And his books:

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz   The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz   9k=-1

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I have to thank filmmakers Anne Husaini, Emily Lobsenz and cinematographer Craig Marsden for sharing gorgeous stills from their documentary Sandorkraut for the interview above. If you enjoy my chat with Sandor, you should definitely check out their film. It’s currently being screened at film festivals and you can find out about screenings by visiting Facebook and @sandorkrautfilm!

Sandorkraut film trailer:

“Tucked away on a small organic farm in rural Tennessee lives a man whose personal obsession with salt and cabbage has inspired a movement. Sandorkraut is a character-driven exploration into the world of Sandor Katz,  America’s foremost home fermentation revivalist.  A native New Yorker, Sandor abandoned a life in politics in the early ’90′s after a health crisis. He relocated to an off-the-grid queer community in rural Tennessee, where his passion for gardening and an overabundant cabbage harvest led him to make his first batch of sauerkraut. A personal obsession with fermented foods was born.  Humorous and gentle Sandor welcomes us into his world of winter gardens, miso crocks and culinary rituals, revealing how his connection with fermentation’s microbial processes has transformed his understanding of life, death and the microcosmos of who we are.”


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