New Book: Real Food Fermentation

by Ann Marie Michaels on June 18, 2012

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Alex Lewin, author of Real Food Fermentation

My friend Alex Lewin is a officially a published author. Alex, fellow Real Food Media blogger, is author of the Feed Me Like You Mean It blog.

The book is called Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen.

Real Food Fermentation is a photo-illustrated cookbook that shows you how to make fermented foods.

This is an absolutely gorgeous book with beautiful photos. Alex sent me an advance copy and I’m really impressed with the design, the photography and the amount of information he has provided.

There are other fermentation books out there, but this one is so much more visual. It really shows you step-by-step how to make fermented foods — everything from sauerkraut to corned beef to ginger ale.

If you want to buy it, please order today on Amazon! Alex wants to create a spike in Amazon traffic, which will help his ranking in Amazon.

Real Food Fermentation is currently on sale on Amazon for $15.83 — you’ll save about $9 off the retail price of $24.99.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Lewin June 18, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Thanks Ann Marie!! I am so excited about this! Initial signs are very good…
If anyone has questions about the book, I’m very happy to answer them here.


Paula June 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I have to mention the following :o) No idea what methods are used in this book….

A couple months ago, I quit making and eating ferments with whey and in mason jars with a standard lid.
Switched to an airlock jar (really, any anaerobic method is fine) to see if all the fuss was worth while. Made my own, to keep costs low.
Guess, what? Those pesky health issues that refused to budge, started to vanish a few days after. Everyday since has been better and better. And now I am teaching a class later this week. Its well worth the change. Whey ferments may taste good, but they are far lower in health benefits in the end.


Bebe June 19, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Paula… are you my Alaskan neighbor or is this a different Paula? I am VERY interested in the class if you are teaching it locally. Let me know, please!


Paula June 19, 2012 at 11:15 PM

You got it right. Class is Thursday in Palmer at 2. Get with me asap for directions and what to bring. Paula _ JoAnne @ juno


Theresa August 6, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Hello Paula. Do you know how to (or of a book) that converts ferment recipes to the anaerobic fermentation method. The length of time seems to be quite different as well as type of brine since whey isn’t used. There are just a small hand full of recipes that I’ve found on line and nothing on meat ie pickled salmon.

I must not be using the right search terminology online? This is driving me nuts :(

Thanks so much for any advice


Aimee Durham June 19, 2012 at 9:47 AM

Do you mainly use whey to ferment your stuff…or do you use a airlock jar to ferment your stuff like Paula mentioned.


Alex Lewin June 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM

For vegetable ferments, I generally use no starter at all. I find that this works great as long as there is some amount of cabbage, turnip, or radish involved. So when I’m making vegetable ferments, I just generally include some of these well-behaved vegetables along with whatever else (carrot, beet, parsnip, whatever). The influence of the good vegetables is enough to guide the potentially difficult ones in the right direction–i.e., lactofermenting rather than yeasty weirdness.

For preserved lemons, I don’t use a starter either.

For other fruit ferments, I generally use whey. It is possible to use sauerkraut, but it doesn’t always work, especially with sweet fruit. If you don’t like whey, you can always buy the starter that comes in an envelope, although if you are a purist you may not want to do this.

Paula, when you say you’re using an airlock jar, what vegetables or fruit do you use it with?

So are you able


Alex Lewin June 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM

(you can ignore that last little bit…)


Paula June 19, 2012 at 11:18 PM

I am doing all ferments with it. I have not seen your book, but I am guessing I can safely recommend it to the class. Not too keen on the ones where every recipe uses whey. It never helped my health to ferment that way. It may work well for others, but its sounding like those that make the switch are noticing huge changes in digestion improving almost overnight.
I will try and buy it for myself prior to the next class this summer.


Paula June 19, 2012 at 11:20 PM

I should note though, that I need to get a starter culture for fruit. Then see if I can use a bit of juice from each previous batch, rather then having to purchase another ingredient.
Most people taking the class are as financially strapped as we are, so anything that makes it cheap helps.


Alex Lewin June 19, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Fruit ferments (and ferments with beets and parsnips and sweet things in general) can get yeasty and alcoholy and weird if everything isn’t perfect–in the summer, for instance, when things are warm (and when fruit are getting ripe). They generally need a strong shove in the right direction. If you are cool with whey, it’s a good option. Sauerkraut juice can work, too, but keep in mind that (a) it is less powerful than whey by a factor of two or three, so you have to use a lot of it; and (b) it tastes like sauerkraut, so its flavor might not be ideal for some applications. Starter-from-an-envelope is pretty much a sure thing, but costs money, and is sort of cheating. :-)

A friend of mine who makes beet kvass for a living uses just sauerkraut juice as a starter, and beets are temperamental like fruits. So it can definitely be done.

Some nice things about fermentation:

– if something goes wrong, you’ll know it, because it will go REALLY wrong–you’ll know it

– you can experiment with small batches without huge financial risk

So I invite you to try stuff out and see what works for you!

Happy fermenting,



Pamela July 17, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Yes, Paula ( Alex, she’s my daughter ) you can safely recommend Alex’s book at all your classes!! It’s exactly as Ann Marie describes it. The visualstep by step illustrations are great!!


Bebe June 19, 2012 at 8:34 PM

I just ordered the book yesterday! Looking forward to it arriving in my mailbox soon.


Natasha June 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Do I need special crocks to ferment the vegetables? I just purchased your book and I see that you use ball jars, so I’m hoping I can too!


Paula June 20, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Natasha, for a couple dollars, you can turn your Ball jars into a fabulous anaerobic jar. If I had cash laying around, I would by the crocks, but that is not going to happen for a long time.
Just get a box of the plastic wide mouth lids, find 1/2″ Grommets, silicone if possible at your local automotive store and a 1/2″ spade bit. You can get airlocks online or at a local brewery supply.
Lay those lids upside down on a scrap bit of wood, and carefully drill a hole. Pop in a grommet and an airlock, and you are good to go!
My mom collected bale lid jars second hand, and dad used a diamond bit and drilled holes in those lids. That had to be done under water, so its a bit more complicated. Regardless, she has fancy airlock jars for a fraction of the usual cost.

All that to say. you can use just a plain jar, but if you have pesky health issues that hang on, try out an airlock version for a bit. Its only a couple dollars, so no loss really.


Pamela July 17, 2012 at 7:55 AM

And a blog post in the near future to make your own DIY All glass Air Locks!!
Paula’s Mom!!


Alex Lewin July 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM

That would be great.


Nate June 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM

Looking forward to receiving this book. I’ve only dabbled with fermentation, having some great results, and some not so great. I just started some dill pickles using fresh gurkens and dill from our own garden. I’m going to do a batch of sauerkraut this weekend. I was lucky enough to find fermentation crocks in the Czech Republic at a Christmas Market in Pilsen this past winter. They were pretty inexpensive and work very well! Excited to do more when more of our veggies are ready!


Alex Lewin July 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM

I hope it went well! Your ferments should be pretty ripe by now…


Nate July 20, 2012 at 3:30 AM

The gherkins turned out great and only ended up taking 5 days in the crock. I also did some gherkin chips that also came out really good. However, I did receive your book last week and have learned a few new things to try that may improve things.

I love your book and the way you have written and structured it! It answers all questions I had about fermentation. I’m ago that likes to know the whys and hows of things, and your book does a great job ate explaining everything. Thank you for that!

Yesterday, I went and bought some plain pastured yogurt at the local German grocery we go to. Using cheese cloth, I extracted the whey which I then used as a starter for a new batch of whole gherkins and a small batch of gherkin spears. I also started a new batch of simple sauerkraut (no starter used, of course. You can never have enough kraut!). The thick yogurt leftover after the whey extraction is amazingly good! I put some or our fresh blueberries from out garden in with it along with a tiny dollop of honey from our neighbors hive and it was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a long time. Now, to make the yogurt from whole milk next….. and, I’d love to make some soft cheese for dipping veggies in.

One question – I can’t find any airlocks in my area. I even checked a specialty kitchen store that sells a ton of canning equipment and fermentation crocks. Will not having these be problematic?

Thanks for a wonderful book! I’ll be buying more copies as presents from friends soon!


Michele June 30, 2012 at 6:31 AM

I received your book this week and read it from cover to cover. It’s lovely.

I would like to ferment some lemons. In the book it says the total time is 6 months, and that they deepen in flavor for up to a year. Is it possible for them to be fermented in less time? And if so, how do you know when they’re “ready”?

Thank you,


Alex Lewin June 30, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Hi Michelle,

I’m so glad you liked my book!

As far as the lemons go, there’s really no harm in using them at any point in the process. When you want to use some, do it! The longer you wait, the less they will taste like raw lemons, and the more like preserved lemons. But it’s not like there’s anything wrong with raw lemons…

If you keep them somewhere warmer, they will ferment faster, but you will also increase the likelihood of their growing a little mold on top…

Hope this helps.



Michele July 2, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Hi Alex,
Thank you so much for your reply. I would be so grateful if you could answer just a couple more questions…

I packed some turnips and radishes as tightly as possible in a mason jar today, but the liquid didn’t completely rise above the veggies (almost, but not quite). Is that a problem?

Also, when I open the jar to check on it and pack the contents down over the next couple days, the veggies will be exposed to air–why is that okay when it needs an anaerobic environment?

Thank you again,


Alex Lewin July 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Hi Michele,

Happy to answer any and all questions!

Re turnips and radishes, if the liquid doesn’t completely rise above, you can add more liquid. If you’re just adding a little, it should be fine to add (filtered) water. If you’re adding more than a little, you’ll want to use brine–4% or so, two teaspoons of salt to a cup of water, should work.

It’s true that when you open the jar, some air will get in. But the veggies themselves will (mostly) not be exposed to air, because they will be underneath the liquid. There are various other measures you can take to ensure that they aren’t exposed to air: you can weight them, to make sure they stay under, for instance, or you can use something with an airlock like the Pickl-It, in which case you’ll wind up with a mostly carbon dioxide environment (because carbon dioxide is heavier than “air”).

In any case, the anaerobic environment doesn’t have to be perfect…just good enough that Lactobacillus win, and the potential spoilers lose…


Michele July 4, 2012 at 4:42 AM

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your help and willingness to answer my questions. :-)


Alex Lewin July 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM

You are most welcome…


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