Fermented food is one of those things that we all eat but most of us know little about. Bread, Cheese, Wine, Beer, Cider, Coffee, Tea, Pickles, Sauerkraut, Salami, Miso, Tempeh, Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha can all be fermented foods that you can make yourself if you like. Why bother? Well everything is better when you make it yourself, fermented foods store longer than the fresh version, and fermented foods are awesome for your health.
Fermentation is the process of turning carbohydrate or sugar into acid or alcohol through yeast or bacteria. For example wine is made by yeast converting sugar into alcohol or yogurt is made when bacteria converts sugar to lactic acid. The acid or alcohol give us the flavors we seek to create and also act as a preservative for the foods.
Living on a homestead we will be doing a lot of food preserving for winter storage. One method of preservation is fermentation. It’s not like canning where the preserved foods last forever, but they will last much longer than the fresh stuff. Think about pickles. How long are fresh cucumbers good for? How about the pickles? They last quite a while in your fridge and are much more flavorful. Preserved foods often don’t retain the nutrients of the foods when they were fresh. Think canning again. The heat required for canning kills much of the nutrients and enzymes that you would find in the pre-canned food. Freezing is a little better than canning, but fermenting actually increases the nutrient value of the foods.
Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics and enzymes that are created through the fermentation process. Probiotics are great for your digestive tract and help with the absorption of nutrients. Fermented foods are living foods that have active enzymes that also help with digestion. As I mentioned before, most of the nutrients of the fresh food are preserved in addition to all of the good stuff added through fermentation. I’m not sure how exactly, but apparently fermenting foods increases the availability of the vitamins the foods already contain. I assume that this has something to do with the enzymes and the breaking down process, but I’m not positive.
I plan on working on our fermenting skills over the rest of the winter. I think this will end up being quite a valuable tool to us in the long run. Both for our health and for the longevity of our garden foods.