Fermentation – fer-men-TAY-shun – noun – Any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or non-living ferments that split complex organic compounds into relatively simple substances. The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.
Fermenting things is one of my passions. I believe that fermenting food is not only a good practice for food storage, but for good health.
Louis Pasteur was a french chemist and is credited with discovering how fermentation takes place. Pasteur was approached by a gentleman who was at that time fermenting sugar and beet juice to create alcohol. He used very large vats in this process, and was puzzled to find that many of his vats were producing alcohol well, but there would always be some in which the beet juice would turn to a slimy sour mess, and yield no alcohol at all. This was costing him hundreds of francs for each batch he had to discard. In an effort to find a solution for his problem, he turned to Pasteur, who examined the vats, and collected samples from some which were producing alcohol, and from some which were not. Pasteur carefully examined the samples, and found that the vats which were producing alcohol contained yeast, and the vats which were not, contained black rod-shaped bacteria. These bacteria were instead producing lactic acid, which is the substance that sours milk (and alcohol). While he was not able to tell the man how to prevent this bacteria, he was able to tell him about the yeast which was required to produce alcohol.
“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal; my strength lies solely in my tenacity” ~Louis Pasteur
The standard North American diet is lacking in fermented foods. Even the traditionally fermented foods that are being produced today for mass consumption are not fermented, but pickled, usually in vinegar. Examples of these foods are pickles and sauerkraut. The fermented versions of these foods are considered by many to be far superior to the vinegar pickled versions we are accustomed to.
Some examples of fermented foods are sourdough breads, wine, beer, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut and fermented vegetables. There are also a variety of fermented condiments such as ketchup, salsa, kimchi and cream cheese.
One of the benefits of fermentation is that it does not rely on pasteurization or high heat canning methods. These methods have their place, but the process kills many perfectly healthy enzymes and bacteria in the foods they are preserving.
Fermentation helps to replenish the good bacteria we need in order to properly digest and assimilate nutrients. We live in a world that has declared war on bacteria. The use of anti-bacterial soaps, sprays, wipes and obsessive sterilization of everything remove much of the good, as well as bad bacteria in our lives.
“Molecular biology has shown that even the simplest of all living systems on the earth today, bacterial cells, are exceedingly complex objects. Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 gms, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world.” ~ Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis