How to Ferment: Fermenting101
Fermentation has been established as a way to preserve food for quite some time and dates back hundreds of years. It has a long history in food production and was used quite often to keep food safe when there was no refrigeration. It started to become popular in the 17th century and science began to learn to critique and understand it in the 1900s.
The reason fermentation grew so quickly was due to its benefits for the human body. Researchers began to see that this technique could enhance food shelf-life. In fact, when done correctly fermenting can keep food safe. When researchers began to understand the value of the fermentation method, they did more research and found that it improved the overall functionality and sensory of the human body. Eventually, this led to more studies and the discovery that fermented foods had tons of nutritional properties.
What is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a chemical process that happens when glucose or carbohydrates are broken down anaerobically. Anaerobically means without oxygen or air. It is a process that involves letting the natural microscopic bacteria that are already on foods thrive in a non-oxygenated environment. This process ultimately allows the building of nutrients, while simultaneously preserving the food. This process can allow foods to taste better or taste different or can allow food textures to change.
The purpose of fermentation in nutrition is to use the bacteria on specific food types (like cabbage), to build a larger community of bacteria. This larger community of bacteria has been proven to benefit the gastrointestinal tract. The benefits of eating fermented veggies can include gut healing, helping break down foods that are hard to digest, and adding additional vitamins to the body through the use of diet.
Fermenting is a good way to build live bacteria cultures.
The amount of bacteria that can be found in a "1 cup" jar of fermented veggies is somewhere around "1 billion" live bacteria, and this count is per tsp. As well, the content of vitamins contained inside the jar also becomes exacerbated. The vitamins mostly found inside fermented products are B vitamins. B vitamins in particular are created by the breakdown of veggie products by bacteria inside an airtight environment. Therefore in the airtight jar, the bacteria begin to multiply, then the vitamins begin to multiply.
Vitamin C is also available in increased amounts in fermented products.
A Non-Oxygenated Environment
Like I mentioned prior because the jar is sealed no oxygen can get through. Thus, enabling a controlled environment or what some people call a selective environment. Bacteria are either categorized as aerobic or anaerobic. Meaning either they can thrive with air or thrive without. Some bacteria can utilize both environments. However, although the bacteria used in fermentation can do both, fermentation is meant to utilize an anaerobic environment.
To limit oxygen space inside the jar people are supposed to fill the jar with water as high as they can. Thus, emerging the foods completely under water. All foods must be covered regardless of the selected foods a persons elects to put inside. Once the air is controlled or limited, the bacteria will begin to create vitamin B via biochemical processes to create energy to survive. This is why B vitamins are found to be extremely high inside fermented foods.
Controlling the Environment
A controlled environment also prevents things from growing such as mold.
Mold actually requires air to grow.
Nonetheless, mold can still grow in a selective environment. However, the amount of time the mold grows is limited. Having a limited amount of air allows for a slower growth rate of the mold. Once fermented veggies are created, it is good to leave as little air as possible. After eating at least half a jar, the rest should be moved to a smaller jar and kept refrigerated to prevent mold growth.
It takes about one week to ferment veggies in a moderate or warm environment. Although, you can still do it in three days if you are in a rush. Best fermented veggies are made when the jar sits for at least two weeks without any change to the selective environment, such as opening the lid. In three days you should start to see your masterpiece bubble. This is how you know your fermentation is working.
What can you ferment?
You can literally ferment any type of veggie. Cabbage is the best kind to ferment due to the type of bacteria it has on it. You can, however, use the Whey (dairy) method to initiate fermentation as well. Most people think all fermentation needs whey, but you can make fermented foods without. Some call this method the Brine method.
Fermentation with whey is called Lacto-fermentation
Fermentation without whey is called Wild Fermentation.
Special recipes with certain types of veggies and herbs can help the healing process of the gut and help build beneficial bacteria inside the gastrointestinal tract.
How to Ferment
Retrieve a jar with a clamp on lid or created for canning.
Place veggies inside jar.
Place herbs inside the jar.
Be sure to add 1 tsp of salt.
Fill the jar up with water over the veggies.
Seal the jar tight.
Place the jar in a dark warm place (preferably on the counter).
DO NOT open the jar and let sit for 3 days to 2 weeks (the jar will bubble, this is from bacteria abuildingnd creating vitamins).
When ready open the jar and taste your treat!
Place in the refrigerator after opening.
16 oz Jar
1 cup (loose filled) Cabbage
1/8 cup Red Onion
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
Spice up bell peppers or jalepenos
Make a salsa
To conclude, nutritionists know how to create these recipes best because they study foods on an individual basis. They are taught how to pair certain foods with specific nutrients to best benefit certain health conditions and disease states. For a complete breakdown of how to ferment foods, beverages, and more I recommend the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Borresen, E. C., Henderson, A. J., Ajay Kumar, A., Weir, T. l., & Ryan, E. P. (2012). Fermented Foods: Patented Approaches and Formulations for Nutritional Supplementation and Health Promotion. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agriculture, 4(2): 134–140.
Katz, S. E. (2012). The art of fermentation: An indepth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world. Chelsea Green Publishing.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). Fermentation. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Retreived from https://www.britannica.com/science/fermentation