Fermentation is an ancient way of preserving foodstuffs that dates back as far as Neolithic times. It’s modern-day comeback to our kitchens is as exciting as ever and foodies and health-nuts alike are raving about the health benefits of fermenting your food. In a day and age where the quality of foodstuffs readily available is questionable, eating foods that restore imbalances and contribute to the overall health of your gut is essential (70+% of your immune system stems from your gut…)!
In this blog we’ll whet your appetite to start experimenting and address some of the most simple questions there are to fermentation.
So what exactly is fermentation?
Fermentation is a process where carbohydrates are converted to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions. Beer, bread and wine are all by-products of the process of fermentation and, in the more recent culinary scene, fermented vegetables such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut can also be counted among them.
What makes it healthy?
There are numerous health benefits to fermenting your food. Firstly, it aids the digestion of food. The process of fermentation is put into motion by bacteria, molds or yeasts (which are collectively known as enzymes). These organisms assist in breaking down complex molecules found in our food to form smaller (and therefore more digestible) compounds and nutrients.
Not only are the enzymes working to break down complex molecules, they also contribute to the consumer’s intestinal microflora balance. Fermented foods are packed with nutrients and live organisms, which assist in restoring and maintaining the balance in one’s gut. Not all fermented foods contain probiotics, as some foods are heat treated or canned, rendering the live bacteria inactive and in some cases, killed off. Thus, knowing where your fermented food comes from is key (uh hum… making it at home solves this!).
Another benefit to fermenting your food is that it is a natural way of preserving food (heck yes to not having to add things we can’t pronounce to our food to make it last). During fermentation, enzymes breaking down the carbohydrates produce acetic acid, alcohol and lactic acid (known as bio-preservatives). Lactic acid acts as a preservative by reducing pH in fermented foods, which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. These bio-preservatives retain nutrients and ward off spoilage, a win-win combo if you ask us!
Where can I start?
Starting on your own journey to fermentation can seem daunting, but it does not have to be! Rome was not built in a day, nor will you be making Kimchi, Kombucha and Beet Kvass within a week… unless you’re a fermentation-fundi (in which case we’ll be super impressed and we want to know all about it).
To start, identify one type of fermented food that you’d like to experiment with. Read up on different types of fermented foods, some of the information will surprise you! Many people do not realise that cheese is a type of fermented food, and making it at home is not difficult (contrary to popular belief). Think about foods and tastes you normally enjoy, and use this in deciding which food you’ll ferment first, e.g. if you enjoy yoghurt/sour milk, try making your own yoghurt and Kefir. We can guarantee you, once you’ve tasted home-made yoghurt, you will never want to buy store—bought yoghurt ever again… and what makes the taste even better? Knowing that there are live bacterium in every delicious bite strengthening your immune system and fortifying your healthy gut.
If you’re looking for a no-fuss, easy transition into fermentation, we’d recommend starting with Kefir or Kombucha, both fermented, probiotic beverages that can be used and consumed in many different ways (#versatile). Once you’ve identified the type of ferment, see what equipment and consumables you typically need to start fermenting, acquire the abovementioned and get fermenting!
What are examples of fermented foods?
Some examples of fermented foods are Kefir (milk and water Kefir), Kombucha, Sauerkraut (yes the beloved Kraut), pickles (can we get a whoop-whoop from all the pregnant-cravers out there?), Miso, Tempeh, Natto, Kimchi, Cheese (thank goodness because we were not ready to let our love for cheese take the backseat) and yoghurt. This might blow some people away, but even bread (it must be love, love love) is a fermented food.
We here at Crafty Cultures are passionate about seeing fermentation regain its popularity in the new millennium, knowing its importance and benefits – we just can’t get enough! We hope you’ll join us in this food-revolution because one thing’s for sure, next time you’ll have a feeling in your gut, it’ll be a good one!