Fermentation is one of the most beneficial food transformations, according to author Michael Pollan. "Fermentation is made with earth bacteria," Michael explains, "and it's everything from sauerkraut to kimchi to pickles." Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of fermented foods and to find recipes for fermenting foods at home.
Fermented food is any food that has gone through the fermentation process—any metabolic process in which the activity of microorganisms causes a desirable change in food and beverages.
Fermentation can improve the flavor of food, increase its shelf life, and provide health benefits. Fermented foods contain prebiotics and probiotics that help restore the microbiota in the gut, potentially improving digestion, reducing bloating, and lowering the risk of obesity.
Potential Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Some fermented foods are high in probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms that aid in the maintenance of a healthy gut and allow you to extract nutrients from food. The following are some potential health benefits of fermented foods:
1. Probiotics are beneficial to the immune system. Probiotic foods create an acidic environment unsuitable for pathogens by producing antibiotic, anti-tumor, anti-viral, and antifungal gut bacteria. The term "probiotic" literally means "good bacteria."
2. Fermentation boosts the amount of vitamins and minerals in food. Fermentation can boost the levels of vitamin C and B vitamins in foods (such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and biotin). Probiotics, enzymes, and lactic acid found in fermented foods may also aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
3. Fermented foods can help your heart. Fermented foods contain prebiotics and probiotics, which can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How Does Fermented Food Taste?
Fermented foods have a wide range of flavors due to differences in raw ingredients and the microorganisms present. Lactic acid bacteria cause many fermented foods to taste acidic. Fermented foods may have a strong odor, a bubbly mouthfeel, or a high umami content. Some consider these foods to be an acquired taste.
10 Examples of Fermented Foods
Continue reading to learn about some of the world's most popular fermented foods:
Kefir is a dairy product that is fermented by combining milk with kefir grains, yeast, and bacteria. The fermented beverage that results is a thick, tangy concoction full of live microorganisms that promote digestive health. Kefir can be consumed on its own or blended into a superfood smoothie.
Kimchi (also known as "kimchee") is a traditional Korean dish. "This food comes from a region of the world with four very extreme seasons," Chef Roy Choi explains. "So you take the harvest and ferment it, and the fermentation process allows you to eat it all winter."
The most well-known kimchi is made with napa cabbage layered with salt, red chili pepper, and aromatics. "But kimchi isn't napa cabbage," Roy points out. "Kimchi is a broad term that refers to kimchi-fying whatever you're going to kimchi. So kimchi is practically a verb." Roy likes to make an all-purpose kimchi paste that he can use to ferment different fermented vegetables like radishes and cucumbers because the flavor base for different types of kimchi is usually the same.
Kombucha is a fermented green or black tea beverage that is thought to have originated in China and spread through Russia, Eastern Europe, Japan, and Korea at least a few hundred years ago. To make kombucha, mix room temperature brewed tea with a SCOBY (a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast) and leave it to ferment until fizzy and slightly alcoholic. Because of the acetic acid fermentation process, kombucha will turn into vinegar if left out for an extended period of time.
Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste made by combining soybeans, salt, and a fungus known as koji (Aspergillus oryzae). Miso paste comes in a variety of flavors. Saikyo miso from Kyoto is the lightest. "You might recognize that miso as the one used to marinate black cod in many Japanese restaurants." And then it's really lovely. It's insane. It becomes sweet after cooking. "It caramelizes,"
Japanese natt is made from fermented soybeans with the bacteria Bacillus subtilis var. Natt. This traditional Japanese ingredient has a gelatinous, sticky texture similar to okra and a pungent, nutty aroma similar to aged cheese.
Sauerkraut is made from finely shredded raw cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus), which gives it its distinct sour flavor. "I think cabbage is one of the most underappreciated ingredients in the world," Chef Dominique Crenn says. "Do you know why I like cabbage?" Because it's a common ingredient in Brittany, where I grew up."
"Sauerkraut, choucroute in French, is fermenting cabbage for about two weeks with just salt." It's very simple. The process... is known as lacto-fermentation, and it uses a salt base and only the product." It will create an environment in which mold cannot grow." In her recipe for roasted cabbage with sauerkraut, Chef Crenn walks you through the steps.
Sourdough bread is made with a sourdough starter, which is a mixture of flour, water, and wild yeast. "People think of sourdough as a type of bread, but sourdough is the rising agent," says a third-generation sourdough baker.
When left at room temperature, the starter begins to ferment, promoting the growth of lactic acid bacteria. Microbes consume the starch in the flour and produce carbon dioxide, resulting in gas bubbles in the starter, which gives sourdough bread its signature open crumb and tangy flavor.
8. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is a naturally fermented liquid byproduct of soybean and wheat paste. Its warm, inky brown color is primarily due to the sugar released during the fermentation process, which is an example of the Maillard reaction, which occurs when sugar and amino acids are exposed to high heat. In Japan, there are two kinds of soy sauce: dark and light.
"The light one, despite its name, is actually a bit saltier in a sense because the color depth that you see in regular soy sauce is the result of a longer fermentation process for the soy, which develops more of that deep umami flavor. So the light one is used more for kaiseki cooking and in foods where you don't want the color of the soy to penetrate into the food." As a result, it's more for show."
Tempeh is a compressed cake made from fermented, whole soybeans, as well as grains such as brown rice and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. Tempeh is a high-protein, cholesterol-free plant protein that is high in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This meat substitute is typically gluten-free, but some blends may contain grains such as barley.
Yogurt is made from fermented milk. Heat milk and combine it with two live cultures—Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus—to make it. Warm milk provides an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, thickening the milk to produce yogurt. You can buy yogurt at the grocery store, but making your own homemade yogurt is a great way to get started with fermentation. Alternatively, Madhur Jaffrey's cucumber raita recipe or Yotam Ottolenghi's pasta with yogurt sauce recipe can be used to transform store-bought yogurt.
Do Probiotics Exist in All Fermented Foods?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that form as a result of microbial growth and fermentation. However, probiotics are not present in all fermented foods. In some fermentation processes, the probiotics are removed or killed. This is true for beer, wine, and the majority of canned and baked goods. Yogurt, kefir, and apple cider vinegar are some common foods that contain live probiotics.