Have you heard all the buzz about fermentation, an ancient food tradition which is quite the health foodie trend these days? Well, it's trendy for good reason. Fermented foods are an incredible source of health and healing for your gut and are also beneficial for a healthy immune system, as a source of detoxification, clear beautiful skin, reducing anxiety, increasing mental clarity, promoting weight loss, balancing ph, and yummy taste bud enhancers.
Typical fermented foods are things like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchee, kefir, kombucha and I can't forget beer!
I am no stranger to fermentation, I grew up with a mom who made her own yogurt and my Hungarian Gram pickled and fermented just about everything. I, however, have never tried my hand at fermenting food on my own.
Off I went to a fermentation workshop to see what kind of knowledge I could glean from the king of fermentation himself, Sandor Katz. Sandor has written 3 of the most popular books on fermentation. I was in for a treat.
The class was held in a hip Brooklyn hideaway that offered kombucha on tap. Seriously. The class was full to capacity with, well, fermentation geeks.
As it turns out, people all over the city are fermenting anything they can get their hands on. The room was all abuzz with tales of radish sauerkraut, asparagus pickles, water kefir, fruit kombucha, and one guy was even trying his hand at coffee kefir!
So what is all this fermentation buzz really about? Let's break it down:
What is fermentation?
In the simplest form fermentation is the use of yeast to convert sugar into alcohol (hello wine and beer!) or the use of bacteria to create lactic acid in foods. Fermentation has been used for thousands of years throughout history to both preserve food and create delicious delicacies. The king of wild fermentation himself, Sandor Katz, describes it this way:
“Wild fermentation involves creating conditions in which naturally occurring organisms thrive and proliferate. Fermentation can be low-tech. These are ancient rituals that humans have been performing for many generations. They are a powerful connection to the magic of the natural world, and to our ancestors, whose clever observations enable us to enjoy the benefits of these transformations.”
Why should we all ferment? (or at least consume fermented foods)
Sandor Katz broke the health benefits down into 4 easy to digest, no pun intended, parts:
- Pre-digestion – Fermentation breaks food down from complex to simple making it easier to digest.
- Nutrient Augmentation – When food is fermented nutrients change. For instance, fermented foods have an increase in B vitamins. Sandor also explained the nutrient augmentation of fermented soy. Nutrients within soybeans are not easily absorbed, but when you ferment soy (which traditional cultures have been doing for centuries) the nutrients become bio-available. Nato, a traditional fermented soy, has shown qualities that are beneficial to dissolve plaque accumulation of hardened arteries. Un-fermented soy does not have this same health quality.
- Detoxification – When you ferment a food naturally you are detoxifying an aspect of the food that may not be beneficial. Cassava, for instance, is a staple food for nearly 500 million people around the globe. Raw cassava, however, contains cyanide which is poisonous. The “fermenting' or soaking of cassava detoxifies it and removes the cyanide.
- Live Cultures – replenish and diversify the bacteria in our gut which will strengthen digestion for improved elimination.
How to Ferment?
To learn all you can about fermentation plus tons of incredible recipes I recommend purchasing Sandor's book, The Art of Fermentation. It really is the best guide out there with all the nitty-gritty details of how to get it done.
I have a pickling date in one months time with my fermentation buddy, Autumn. She was my date for the fermentation class. Update to come. We are even considering joining the NYCFerments meetup group. Yup, I am swiftly on my way to earning my very own ferment geek badge.
Update: I have been a fermenting queen for quite some time now! Woohoo!
You can try my super easy sauerkraut recipe here.
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