Hejsan! I created this blog to encourage you to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, by sharing recipes here. My recipes are also strictly gluten free, vegan and made with passion. Hope you will enjoy them. In the waiting time of preparing your favourite one, if you wish, you can read a little bit about fermented foods below.
What are fermented foods?
Natural fermentation processes are older than human history and food and beverage fermentation said to be evolved with humans. Fermented foods and beverages play an important role in community building, and the baker and brewer are probably the two most celebrated figures of a grain based economy. Not only they are celebrated, but people from the older ages used to dance around the fermentation tanks, to encourage the processes (I find it a beautiful tradition). Cheese and wine are also two strongly desired products of milk and grapes. Fermentation has been applied across the world by different cultures in different forms. Whether we talk about the Korean kimchi, the German sauerkraut, the Indonesian tempeh, the Turkish ayran, the Swedish surströmming or our daily bread, kombucha drink, beer, crème fraiche, cacao products and the list could go on and on, they are the result of the same process. Have you ever thought that about one third of all food consumed by humans in the world is fermented?
What happens during fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process in which sugars are consumed by microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, fungi) in the absence of oxygen to form acids, organic gases or alcohol. Fermentation stabilizes, preserves, transforms and adds value to the raw products of an agriculture. Let’s see how it works. A typical example for fermented food is sauerkraut (sour cabbage). If we didn’t decide to make sauerkraut, very probably some bad bacteria and mould would make the cabbage less enjoyable for human consumption. Once we start the fermentation we provide conditions for the good bacteria to grow and to protect the food from the bad bacteria. It is important to keep the cabbage immersed in its own liquid, as oxygen would kill the fermenting bacteria and what is left out is not protected by the acids, and could get mouldy. Via the fermentation process of the cabbage, the bacteria pre-digest the food, by opening up the cell walls of the cabbage more than our digestive system would do. So, the bacteria simplify the work of our digestive system, as well as make the flavours more enjoyable and produce vitamins. Definitely seems a win-win situation to me.
Why to eat fermented foods?
People use the transformative power of fermentation not only to make alcohol and preserve food, but to make the indigestible parts more digestible, enhance flavours and remove toxins. When we eat fermented foods, we also consume additional probiotics. These additional probiotics will thrive in the gut, making a strong and healthy gut flora (interestingly we call it flora, although they have nothing to do with plants). A strong and healthy gut flora certainly provides a better absorption of nutrients and vitamins and less absorption of toxins. All this sums up a healthier body and mind.
- Preserve food: Fermentation is the oldest and healthiest way of food preservation. The acids and the good bacteria present in the food will protect it against bad bacteria. The process will also enhance the flavour as well as increase B vitamins and facilitate omega-3 fatty acids.
- Happier and healthier you: A new researches show that there is a connection between our gut and brain, and the type of bacteria we have in our gut has a strong influence on our behaviour, thoughts and mood. So more good bacteria we have inside ourselves, the merrier we are. Good bacteria also fight off bad bacteria, as part of the protection system.
- Remove toxins: Via the fermentation process, toxins are broken down to simple compounds by the enzymes produced by the microorganisms. In our body a healthy gut system expels toxins and heavy metal from the cell tissues.
- Keeps you slim: A better digestion results a faster metabolism, as we know and increasing number of researches depict a link between obesity and bad gut bacteria.
- Cost effective: Apart from the several other benefits of consuming fermented food, it is also a cheap way of taking care of your immune system, as you can save on other supplements.
There is something important to remember. Today’s pasteurization is meant to kill all good and bad bacteria, to prolong shelf-life of the food, especially dairy. It is not a question that our grandparents were more naturally connected with good bacteria, via consuming less processed food. The canned and jarred pickles are often made using vinegar to make the flavour sour. For a flavour-rich and healthy side dish, I recommend to make your own ferments.
How to prepare fermented foods at home?
Fermentation occurs naturally by Lactobacilli, a bacterium that is present everywhere, producing lactic acid, and it is then called lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation has also been the traditional way of sauerkraut preparation. The cabbage is cut into pieces, some salt (1-1.5%) is added to get the liquid out of the cabbage. The mixture is then transferred into a fermentation tank, while making sure everything is covered with the liquid. Then we just need to wait for the process to start naturally.
What I call the modern way of preparing fermented foods would be the addition of probiotics, that opens up new doors and fastens the process to adapt to our continuously accelerating life. Not only a sauerkraut would be ready in just 5 days, but the variety of other good bacteria is present in the jar. I am obsessed with fermented puddings and cakes, and those certainly could not be made with leaving the food out at room temperature for some hours and adding some salt.
Fermentation is fun and creative. Use your passion when making food with microorganisms. Love them and let the microbes cook for you.
- Sandor Katz: The art of Fermentation
- Giulia Enders: Gut – The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ
- Jenny Neikell: Fermentera – Mat med jäst, mögel & bakterier
- Mark Lyte: Microbial Endocrinology in the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis: How Bacteria Production and Utilization of Neurochemicals Influence Behavior (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003726)
- Mahony et al.: Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027)
- Santacruz et al.: Interplay Between Weight Loss and Gut Microbiota Composition in Overweight Adolescents (https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2009.112)
- Zhang et al.: Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. (https://doi.org/10.1080/09637486.2016.1181156)