Fermentation Magic

fermented vegetables in jars


Probably the earliest recorded usage of fermentation is for the purpose of making alcoholic drinks – for example, beer, wine or mead. These alcoholic beverages could have been made from as long ago as 7000 BC in some parts of the Middle East. Fermentation of other products like milk and vegetables is thought to have begun much later, happening concurrently both in China and the Middle East. Even though the main principles of fermentation can be applied to all foods and drinks, the exact way of achieving the results, and the final products, are different for each.

Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. A more restricted definition of fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol. The science of fermentation is known as zymology

Fermentation usually implies that the action of microorganisms is desirable, and the process is used to produce alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and cider. Fermentation is also employed in preservation techniques to create lactic acid in sour foods such as sauerkraut, dry sausages, kimchi and yogurt, or vinegar (acetic acid) for use in pickling foods.

Food fermentation has been said to serve five main purposes:

  • Enrichment of the diet through development of a diversity of flavors, aromas, and textures in food substrates
  • Preservation of substantial amounts of food through lactic acid, alcohol, acetic acid and alkaline fermentations
  • Biological enrichment of food substrates with protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins
  • Elimination of anti-nutrients.
  • A decrease in cooking times and fuel requirements

Out of all the preser­va­tion and prepa­ra­tion tech­niques, fer­men­ta­tion is the only type that does not destroy some nutri­ents, can cre­ate more, and enhance oth­ers. Omega 3 fatty acids, detox­i­fy­ing agents and many B vit­a­mins includ­ing folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thi­amin, and biotin are pre­served through fermentation.

The improved digestibil­ity of foods caused by fer­men­ta­tion allows for proper nutri­ent absorp­tion. For exam­ple, the process trans­forms the sugar in dairy into lac­tic acid, a more tol­er­a­ble form of lac­tose, allow­ing per­sons with an intol­er­ance to stand fer­mented forms of dairy.

Fer­men­ta­tion Removes tox­ins and harm­ful bac­te­ria found in many foods to resist poten­tial infec­tion and illness.

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