Fermentation of foods and beverages has existed for centuries across the world. Yet ask someone if they ferment foods at home and they’ll probably scoff.
In a time where we focus on antibiotics for illness, anti-bacterial for defense, and everything seems to have an expiration date; the thought of leaving foods or drinks to ferment is quite a stretch. Most of us unknowingly consume fermented items regularly, such as yogurt, pickles, beer, sourdough bread, and (perhaps less commonly) sauerkraut.
For all of the bad bacteria we remove from our bodies, fermenting experts are pointing to the good bacteria needed to maintain healthy gut function. These good bacteria help us break down our food and absorb more nutrients. Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, explains “By eating a variety of live fermented foods, you promote diversity among microbial cultures in your body. Biodiversity, increasingly recognized as critical to the survival of larger-scale ecosystems, is just as important at the micro level. Call it microbiodiversity.”
Talk of the need for good bacteria in the gut has meant an increase in supplement companies selling probiotics, more people drinking kombucha, and wider adoption of kefir and yogurt as live bacteria superheroes. Seeing as evidence of fermentation can be found in several ancient civilizations including Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Mexico and the Sudan, there are more economical, yet still practical, ways to ferment your own food without purchasing it from a health food store.
Are you a kitchen adventurer ready to try your hand at fermenting? Here are some recipes to get you started:
- Pickles using fermentation, not vinegar. I’m currently experimenting with this recipe from Nourished Kitchen.
- Kimchi (fermented dish popular in Japan made from cabbage) from fermenting foodie My New Roots
- Fermented Cranberry Relish from Fermenting for Foodies