Sourdough bread, cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, pickles and even chocolate are just a few of the fermented foods that we eat every day. Today many of these foods are processed chemically and pasteurized to extend the shelf life. In fact many believe that these microorganisms are bad for us, when in fact the presence of certain bacteria is essential to good health. It's important to our gut health to have REAL fermented foods back into our diets.
If all this is new to you, lets first start with some basic definitions. You'll see the word cultured food or fermented foods used interchangeably. There is a difference, fermented or sometimes called wild fermented is food that is processed using no starter culture. The bacteria, yeasts, or molds in the environment are used to break down the food. Cabbage is a good example, it has all the bacteria needed on and within it to begin breaking down or ferment into Sauerkraut. The term cultured means a starter like whey, yeast, bacteria or mold was introduced to
the food in order to aid in breaking it down.
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1. Dry Salting
Through osmosis, dry salting brings out moisture in the foods. The liquid combines with the salt to create a natural brine. Cheese making, and curing meat uses dry salting to preserve it. The Salt removes the moisture and sets up a protective barrier in which the development of beneficial bacteria will thrive and keep the harmful bacteria at bay.
Brining usually involves a salt water solution in which the food is submerged in order for the process to start.
3. Whey Fermenting
Whey is the watery liquid remaining after curds have formed in milk. If you make kefir you will have an ample supple of whey. In order for the bacteria to be alive the whey must not be heated above 110 degrees. This method is most useful in fruits, and vegetables where it minimizes the use of salt.
4. Using A Starter Culture
Starter cultures are desirable bacteria, yeast, or molds that are introduced into the food to start the fermentation process. This can give a jump start to your process.
Sprouting is an effective method for getting nutritional grains, seeds, and legumes into your diet. Numerous enzymes that aid digestion are produced during the germination process.
Many nuts, like walnuts, pecans, almonds can not be sprouted. They can be soaked in salted water to improve digestion. After soaking they can be roasted at a low temperature to improve their taste.
What ever method you choose to process your food the bacteria both enrich and preserve the food. The process breaks down elements that are sometimes difficult to digest, such as gluten and sugar. The activities of these bacteria benefit digestion, increase the availability of vitamins, and promote the growth of healthy flora (bacterial balance) throughout the digestive tract. The bacteria help to counterbalance the presence of other potentially problematic bacteria in our digestive tract. The bacteria due to fermentation are often referred to as "friendly bacteria." It doesn't have to be complicated, you can take small steps and learn how to make kefir, pickles, or
Sauerkraut they all have great probiotic properties.
Mastering Fermentation, By Mary Karlin
The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz