Firstly, I'd like to say that I majored in microbiology in college, so perhaps I'm slightly biased when it comes to this book. But then again, my food microbiology professor was a major germophobe, who instilled her fears into her students with horror story after horror story, usually involving potato salad at a picnic in Georgia, in the middle of a hot and humid summer, and people dying of some horrid bacterial toxin. This was followed by an unfortunate incident involving culturing and tasting our own yogurt, in a lab shared by the pathogenic microbiology class. It didn't end well, especially for our TA, who'd eaten the leftover, tainted (yet still somehow tasty) yogurt that the rest of the class only sampled out of fear and threats that failure to eat our creations would result in a dreaded F. He ended up in the hospital for several days and the rest of us ended up with major stomach aches and other unpleasant intestinal issues.
To summarize, I did not eat yogurt for probably 5 or 6 years following that incident, and I became my OCD germophobe professor, scrubbing everything with sterilants and heating my food until nothing could possible live in or on it.
Then came Sandor Katz.
I procured a copy of his first book, Wild Fermentation, and somehow fell under his lactic acid induced spell! The scientist in me wanted to play with making things like kimchi and sauerkraut, just for the FUN of it. I went forth and made them, and I liked how these things smelled, but I only sampled teeny bits, savoring them, but expecting to become sick because of the fear I'd been instilled with in college. I fed them to my friends and family, who inhaled them and then asked for me to make more. So I did, and in the meantime, I started reading "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, and became less and less convinced that my education that bacteria are always the bad guys, maybe, just maybe, was not true.
I made more kimchi, and determined to taste it -- it was delicious!! I made more, and also cortido, and fermented ginger carrots, then came kombucha, and fermented turnips and beets, sour dills, pineapple vinegar, fermented hot sauce, and many, many more!
Gone is my fear of yogurt. I eat miso on a regular basis, while a new batch ferments in a big crock in my kitchen for next year. I purchased a Harsch crock from Germany for huge batches of sour dill pickles. I have a continuous brewer full of kombucha set up permanently on my counter top, and as I write this, plans for trying coconut milk yogurt swim around my head, as well as fermented french fries (as described in "The Art of Fermentation") with a fermented ketchup to accompany them. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Katz! (And take THAT, crazy germophobe professor!!)
With this new book, so many more ideas are given to you for unlimited creativity in fermenting everything from fruits and veggies to dairy, drinks and alcoholic beverages (and grains, and pulses). It includes very nice detailed microbiological information on how these ferments work, taking away much of the mystery (and therefore, fear) that comes when starting out as a novice fermentos. A background in microbiology isn't necessary to understand these concepts, yet in no way does it "talk down" to you.
As other reviewers stated, this book does not really have recipes with exact amounts of each ingredient. It, rather, tells you the process, and lets you go forth, creatively, to make your own, unique concoctions. I find this so exciting, and I'm already revved up to go see what I can create! As the author explains, there are tons of recipes online, with exact measurements, if you need that to get started (I can attest that I did on my first ferment). Also, his book "Wild Fermentation" is chock-full of recipes with ingredient lists that might appeal more to the novice. In "The Art", he does list general guidelines of how much salt to use in veggie/brine ferments, and also ratios to use in things such as mead. That really is all you need!
I especially enjoyed the sections on tempeh and koji, and how to derive your own cultures, thus eliminating the need for having to purchase cultures online.
All in all, this is an encyclopedic volume on everything you ever wanted to know about fermented foods from all corners of the world, and the processes involved to produce a delicious array of fermented foods and drinks at home.
Go forth without fear! Ferment for health and for taste -- you will never look back!!