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Why fermentation is awesome and how it works

The word “fermenting” has been doing the rounds more and more in recent years and, especially if you’re in a health-conscious bubble, at least one person in your circle of acquaintances is likely to have already told you about their obsession with fermentation. If, in this case, the first reaction was to secretly roll my eyes at this supposedly new health trend amidst the overwhelming amount of hype already circulating around the topic of health and nutrition, I can well understand that, but I have to defend the fermentation camp in this matter. Fermenting is actually cool and the following report will try to convince you of this.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a process that has been used by humans for thousands of years to preserve food, improve its taste and increase its nutrient density. Fermentation involves a variety of biochemical processes carried out by different microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and molds. These organisms consume the carbohydrates in the food, producing various by-products such as alcohol, acids and gases.

Sauerkraut in a preserving jar

In lactic acid fermentation, as used in the production of kimchi and sauerkraut, for example, the relevant fermentation bacteria are already naturally present on the vegetables. The targeted removal of oxygen and the addition of salt during the fermentation process prevents “bad” bacteria from multiplying, which could spoil the food. The lactic acid bacteria, on the other hand, do not need oxygen. They feed on the sugars and starch in the vegetables and convert them into lactic acid. This lowers the pH value of the food. The end product becomes acidic, which means it keeps for a long time and retains its unique acidic taste. At the same time, healthy ingredients such as vitamins C, B2, B12 and folic acid are retained.

Fermented foods improve intestinal health

A Stanford study shows that fermented foods are extremely beneficial for gut health, which is why it is recommended to eat fermented foods every day:

  1. Probiotics for a balanced gut flora: Fermented foods contain a variety of probiotic microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. These probiotics colonize the gut and help maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora. A balanced intestinal flora is crucial for good digestion, a strong immune system and the absorption of nutrients.
  2. Prebiotics as food for probiotic bacteria: Some fermented foods also contain prebiotics, complex carbohydrates that can be fermented by probiotic microorganisms in the gut. Prebiotics promote the growth and activity of healthy bacteria in the gut and thus support intestinal health.
  3. Improved availability of nutrients: The fermentation process can improve the availability of nutrients in food. Fermentation makes certain nutrients easier to digest and increases the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals. This helps to improve nutrient absorption and reduce deficiencies.
  4. Anti-inflammatory effect: The Stanford study suggests that fermented foods may have anti-inflammatory properties. The probiotic bacteria and other compounds in fermented foods could help reduce inflammation in the gut, contributing to digestive health.
  5. Digestive enzymes: During the fermentation process, enzymes are produced that can help with the digestion of food. These enzymes aid digestion and help nutrients to be absorbed more efficiently.

How to ferment

If you’ve now stopped rolling your eyes and want to give the fermentation trend a try, we won’t leave you out in the cold – we’ll also tell you how it works!

Fermenting is very easy and basically only requires the following ingredients: Vegetables, salt and a sealable glass container.

The most important thing during preparation is to pay attention to hygiene, then nothing can really go wrong.

You can basically ferment any vegetables, whether winter vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, radishes, beet or watery summer vegetables such as zucchinis, cucumbers and tomatoes.

The process is usually as follows:

Cut or grate the vegetables into the desired size. Grated or finely chopped vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi are mixed with salt and kneaded. General rule: The amount of salt is 2% of the weight of the vegetables.

chopped vegetables in a bowl

Vegetables that should remain crunchy and in large pieces, such as pickled cucumbers or zucchinis, are placed in a 3% brine (30g salt to 1 liter of water) in a glass container. Depending on your mood, the vegetables can be spiced up with spices – be it ginger, chili, coriander, dill, etc. It is important that the vegetables are completely covered with the brine at the end, as fermentation only takes place in a low-oxygen environment – cabbage can be weighted down with weights or freezer bags filled with water so that the fine vegetables do not rise to the surface. Fill the jar almost to the brim with the brine, seal and then leave to stand at room temperature for 5-7 days. It is advisable to place a plate under the jar, as gases are produced during fermentation which can cause the jar to overflow.

You can find lots of great fermentation recipes on Fermentation.Love!

Kimchi, which originally comes from Korean cuisine, is particularly delicious. Kimchi consists mainly of finely chopped Chinese cabbage, carrots, spring onions and radish and is refined with soy sauce, ginger, chili, apple and garlic and is a real taste sensation.

I can highly recommend the recipe from Fairment.

Basically, fermentation is not rocket science and with a little practice it is quick and easy to prepare

homemade kimchi in a preserving jar

It’s a dream for your digestion (as I’ve already discovered for myself) and it’s fun to transform unpopular vegetables such as cabbage, kale or beet into unique flavor creations through fermentation (which may take some getting used to at first due to the sour taste).

In addition to the taste and health aspects, seasonal vegetables can be preserved for a long time and regional, perhaps less popular vegetables can be transformed into a delicious and exotic product. Fermenting can revive the joy of local, traditional vegetables and conjure up new and unconventional taste sensations.

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