Refrigeration is something we take for granted today to the point where I often forget not everyone in the past had this luxury. Some people still don’t. In the past, people came up with other ways to preserve food such as canning, pickling, and fermenting. Today, those of us in the developed world can preserve our fresh fruits and veggies for longer and thanks to international trade, can buy a variety of produce all year round, so why should we bother using these “outdated” methods of preservation?
I recently attended Boston’s Third Annual Fermentation Festival, and I’m sure everyone there would argue strongly that yes, fermentation is something we need to keep doing.
Amanda Feifer, a speaker at the festival, talked about why fermentation is beneficial to us today. In her talk she focused on fermentation of vegetables (lactic acid fermentation) not yeast fermentation, and I this post I am going to do so as well.
|Homemade fermented sauerkraut|
Lactic acid bacteria eat the starches in food and produce acid as waste. This acidic environment kills all the rest of the bad bacteria, preventing the food from rotting.
|Plate of fermented pickles to judge at the festival|
But since refrigeration can prevent rotting too, what’s the point of eating this acidic and pungent food? Luckily for us aficionados of fermentation, there are many health benefits to eating ferments. Lactic acid bacteria are probiotic and the fermentation process makes B vitamins, preserves C vitamins, and cultivates enzymes. Actually microbiologists, like Benjamin Wolfe, are still working on understanding everything going on in ferments and why it’s good for us. There’s a bunch of unknown processes going on in one jar of seemingly simple sauerkraut. In addition to all the health benefits, known and unknown, there is one last reason to eat fermented food, and that’s because it tastes good.
|Homemade cherry jam, dill pickles, and bread and butter pickles|