The consumption of fermented foods and beverages has skyrocketed, especially in the post-COVID-19 era.In an attempt to boost immunity, more and more consumers are resorting to healthier foods. For many, one such healthy alternative is fermented food.
Fermented foods are chock full of positive probiotics that benefit the human gut and are delectable too.
Are you new to the world of fermentation? No need to worry, as we’ve got you covered. In the following post, we’ll look at how fermentation started and the different types. And if you’re ready to take the plunge, we’ve highlighted the tools you need to make fermented foods at home.
History of Fermentation
Did you know that fermentation dates as far back as 10,000 BCE? That’s right.
In the past though, this existed mainly in the form of fermented drinks. Proof of fermented beverages made using rice, fruit, and honey, were found in Neolithic China around 7,000 BCE.
Before the discovery of alcoholic beverages, humans unknowingly fermented one type of food – dairy. It’s believed that the milk from sheep, goats and camels, was naturally fermented around 10,000 BCE.
The naturally-existing microflora bacteria in milk allowed this process to occur spontaneously.
The subtropical climate also played a huge role in facilitating this dairy fermentation. It’s believed that the first yogurt ever produced was in a bag suspended over a camel’s back in the sweltering heat of North Africa.
The daytime temperatures that would soar to 110°F provided the perfect conditions for fermentation to occur. However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that humans began to understand how fermentation took place.
Louis Pasteur, a renowned French chemist, was the first person to learn the correlation between yeast and fermentation. Even then, most people thought the only benefit of fermenting food was preserving it.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that they discovered fermented foods offered health benefits as well. Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian bacteriologist, made this discovery
He observed that Bulgarians lived longer. Upon further research, he realized that most residents drank fermented yogurt daily. Given that the beverage contained Lactobacillus bulgaricus, he concluded that it was the compound that improved their lifespan.
Types of Fermentation
There are two main types of fermentation processes, namely:
Ethyl alcohol fermentation
This is the fermentation process at work when making wine or beer. In this process, yeast organisms break down sugars, converting them to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. The ethyl alcohol is what gives these beverages their kick.
An interesting fact about this type of fermentation is that it occurs in two stages: primary and secondary.
In the primary stage, the yeast starts working on the raw ingredients as soon as it’s introduced. This process takes place within the first 3 to 5 days.
The secondary stage takes longer, lasting anywhere between 1 and 2 weeks. By this time, the alcohol levels are pretty high.
This, in turn, causes any remaining yeast to die off, preventing further fermentation. Since the second stage takes place gradually, it allows more complex flavors to develop.
Lactic acid fermentation
This is the science behind popular fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, and sour bread dough.
It’s a straightforward process involving submerging your preferred vegetables in a salty brine. Salt is an essential ingredient as it destroys any bacteria that would cause food spoilage. The only bacterium that’s not destroyed in the process is lactobacillus.
So once the food has been soaked in the salty brine for a while, the lactobacillus bacteria kicks into action. It breaks down the sugars present in the vegetable, releasing lactic acid as a byproduct. This lactic acid improves the food’s shelf life while adding a tangy flavor.
What is Wild Fermentation?
The phrase ‘wild fermentation’ is often used synonymously with words such as ‘indigenous’ and ‘natural.’
So what exactly does it mean? Well, it means using naturally-occurring microorganisms to activate the fermentation process. The opposite of this would be to introduce commercial or “industrial” yeast into the food you wish to ferment.
Wild fermentation is quite simple. In fact, it’s something you can do from the comfort of your home. You can make your very own fermented hot sauce, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and more. The only tools you’ll need are:
- A fermentation vessel – you can use any container available, such as a mason jar or fermentation crock.
- A fermentation lid or airlock – this is necessary to let out the carbon dioxide that accumulates during the fermentation process. It also impedes the free flow of oxygen, which can trigger mold formation.
- Fermentation weights – they ensure that your veggies or fruits remain submerged in the brine.
It’s a no-brainer that you’ll also need salt and water to create the brine you’ll soak your vegetables/ fruits in.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods, especially those that have undergone wild fermentation, offer several health benefits.
- Source of the beneficial microbiome – fermented foods contain bacteria that offer positive probiotic effects. Put simply, they help to replenish the number of healthy bacteria in your gut.What many don’t know is that restoring the balance of healthy bacteria not only increases your immunity but also minimizes the risk of inflammation in your gut.
- Boosts the availability of nutrients – did you know that fermenting food also makes certain nutrients more readily available? Specifically, research shows that fermenting reduces phytic acid, which inhibits the efficient absorption of zinc and iron.
- Enhances bowel movement and digestion – a lesser-known benefit of fermented food is that it improves bowel movement. This study shows that consuming kefir – an example of fermented milk – improved stool frequency. Besides, fermented foods are generally easier to digest than their non-fermented counterparts.
If you have not tried our Tabchilli sauce yet, you’re missing out. It has an intricately-crafted flavor profile that completely transforms your hot sauce experience.
We make our hot sauce using wild-fermented Thai chili peppers that give it a nice tangy flavor. More importantly though, the lacto-fermentation that these peppers undergo make the hot sauce very rich in probiotics.
Probiotics are the organisms that work with our microbiome to boost digestion, promote a healthy immune system and enhance the availability of essential nutrients. Better yet, our hot sauce is infused with Extra Virgin Olive Oil further adding to its health perks.
Whether you’re slathering it over some chicken wings or using it as a marinade, a dash of Tabchilli sauce is sure to add dimension to any dish.