Fermentation is a fun and tasty way to preserve foods. It’s also somewhat of a lost art and a process many people today are not familiar with. So I am starting a series of posts about the process and it’s benefits to you. I will also be sharing some recipes on occasion that feature local foods preserved by fermentation.
Fermented Foods And Beverages
Fermented foods and beverages have been consumed by people from every culture in the world for centuries. There is archaeological evidence proving this.
Before the invention of canning and refrigeration, ancient people relied on fermentation as a way to preserve food for long periods of time.
I consume something fermented almost every single day. And not just because fermented foods taste good and are really, really fun to make.
When I mention that I love to ferment, people’s thoughts often turn towards alcoholic drinks like beer and wine. While it’s true both beer and wine are fermented, I don’t make them and it’s an extremely rare occasion that I will drink them.
I create and consume fermented foods and beverages for their unique taste and their health benefits, not for their alcohol content.
Right now, many of you may be thinking that you have never eaten a fermented food. But the truth is you have, you probably just didn’t know it at the time.
Some examples of commonly eaten fermented foods are cheese, yogurt, pepperoni, salami, bread, coffee, chocolate, and vinegar, just to name a few.
Fermented Foods And Beverages- How they’re made
I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so the explanations that follow are simplistic.
Fermentation is the process whereby sugar and/or carbohydrates are converted to acids, alcohol (ethanol) and/or gasses by yeasts and bacteria.
Fermentation can be accomplished using two different methods: wild fermentation or fermentation with a starter culture.
Wild fermentation, utilizes wild yeasts in the air and the yeasts and bacteria naturally present on the surface of plants. Most vegetables are fermented using the wild fermentation method.
Starter culture fermentation begins with a microbiological culture that has been colonized with the microorganisms used for fermenting. Most dairy and fruit ferments use a starter culture.
The fermentation process can happen without human intervention. For example, have you ever forgotten about a bottle of grape juice in the back of your refrigerator for weeks? Or had a nice bottle of wine turn into vinegar? That’s fermentation.
But centuries ago ancient people discovered how to manipulate the fermentation process. And what resulted was delicious!
Thankfully, they passed down their fermenting knowledge. Carefully teaching each new generation the art of making fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and more.
I find this amazing, as they had no knowledge of bacteria, yeast or microorganisms at all!
The first archaeological proof of people fermenting foods and beverages dates back to 6000 B.C., but it wasn’t until about 1856 that Louis Pasteur discovered that microbes were responsible for the fermentation process.
Sadly, the creation of raw fermented foods and beverages in home kitchens has largely become a lost art. Maybe you can help change that?
Fermented Foods and Beverages- why you should be consuming them
You should give raw fermented foods a try because they are so good for you! Notice I said raw, that’s because once you heat them it kills the good stuff.
Raw fermented foods and beverages contain beneficial bacteria AKA Probiotics, yeasts and enzymes that aid digestion.
It’s also suspected that probiotics like those found in fermented foods, can help treat medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, female urogenital problems and more. source 5
Are Bottles Better?
A lot of folks I know get their probiotics (beneficial bacteria) from bottles of pills they buy at the drugstore or a certain yogurt brand that touts the benefits about the good bugs it contains on it’s TV commercials. But getting them getting them from consuming homemade, raw fermented foods might be even better. If you don’t have any underlying digestive issues.
Making fermented foods and beverages at home is less expensive than a bottle of pills and they contain a greater number and a larger diversity of probiotics too!
For example, one 2 ounce serving of raw sauerkraut may contains as many probiotics as 100 probiotic pills! And milk kefir contains up to 31 different strains of beneficial bacteria. While most probiotic pills only contain just a few strains. source 6, source 7
In some cases, fermenting a food increases their vitamin content too! Did you know that fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut increases cabbages vitamin B and vitamin C content? source 8
And when you get your probiotics in pills form, your missing out on the helpful enzymes contained in many real, live, raw fermented foods.
Not to mention, making fermented food is really, really fun!
But, if you have underlying digestive issues, consult your doctor before skipping the proboitic pills in leiu consuming fermented foods. I’m not a doctor, but from my research, it seems those with gut dysfunction (like me) likely receive the most benefit from both consuming raw, live probiotic foods and taking a quality probiotic supplement.
Still not convinced about raw fermented foods? Stay Tuned! I’ll be addressing fermented fears next.
Are you a local food lover or a proud Hoosier?
If you are, we hope you’ll keep in touch!