Fermented Food






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Fermented food....Microorganisms dominate the world. They can adapt and thrive in almost any environment. Bacteria have been found in the cold icy region of Antarctica or near the hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic Ocean. They have become experts in adaptation. They are constantly disrupted by changes in environment, a shifting food supply and attacks by specialized viruses.


Yogurt Structure, with Bacteria (Lactobacillus Bulgaricus) in Milk Protein Matrix
Yogurt Structure, with Bacteria (Lactobacillus Bulgaricus) in Milk Protein Matrix

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Some microbes have cooperated with the competition, to form symbiotic relationships. Examples of this would be Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus working together to convert milk into yogurt or the thirty or more strains of bacteria and yeast working together in Kefir, the traditional fermented drink of the Caucasians.

Our ancient ancestors lived in a non-sterile environment. They ingested the numerous microbes that were naturally found in their food. Some were beneficial to them while others caused disease. At some point they found themselves allied with certain species that took up habitation in their intestines. The bacteria got a home and plenty of food while our ancestors received beneficial nutrients and help in defending off pathogens.


Prehistoric Man Hunting Bears, 1832
Prehistoric Man Hunting Bears, 1832

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Benner, Emmanuel
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About one thousand years ago our ancestors began to experiment with fermenting their own foods with beneficial strains of bacteria to prevent spoilage, fight infections and increase absorption of nutrients. Fermented milk products were being consumed way before that, probably 3,500 years before. This deepened the alliance our bodies had with the world of microbes.

The one thing that microorganisms do well is detoxifying things. There are hundreds to thousands of different bacterial species in any teaspoon of soil. "You could go out in your back yard and if you really put your mind to it, you could find a thousand new species in not much time," states John Holt, a microbiologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Many of these bacteria live off of the contaminants in the soil. These microbes help to purify the earth. They can help to clean up oil spills or sewer plants and detoxify our food and water.


Row of Barrels with Fermenting Wine, Maison Giraud-Hemart, Ay, Vallee De La Marne, Ardennes, France
Row of Barrels with Fermenting Wine, Maison Giraud-Hemart, Ay, Vallee De La Marne, Ardennes, France

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Karlsson, Per
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For centuries the Europeans used wine as a clean lasting source of water. Bulgarians perfected the art of preserving milk and transforming it into cheese or yogurt. The Caucasians used kefir grains to detoxify milk into kefir. Vegetables were fermented to preserve them and became, for example, pickles or sauerkraut.


Pickle on a Fork, Fresh from the Jar, Bath, Maine
Pickle on a Fork, Fresh from the Jar, Bath, Maine

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Perry, Heather
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There is a fierce competition between microbes. The good bacteria that normally inhabit our intestinal tract will fight off pathogens. They are seen as our first line of defense against infection. Many substances that are produced by lactobacilli or lactic acid bacteria, and have been found to inhibit harmful microorganisms, have been documented by scientists. One example is Lactobacillus acidophilus produces substances, while fermenting milk, such as acidolin, acidophillin, lactobacillan, and lactocidin. These substances have been shown to inhibit pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, without harming other lactobacilli or human cells. These bacteria are found in fermented milk, but not always in a probiotic pill. In the year 2000, Dr Chitra N. Wendokoon of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, led a study, which showed that fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir can kill the ulcer causing bacteria Heliobacter pylori, but not the beneficial bacteria alone. This means that probiotics in a pill would have no effect on the H. pylori.

This shows that when you purchase a probiotic pill it may be lacking in the ability to kill harmful bacteria. They only offer convenience to a certain degree. Once you start eating fermented food and incorporate them into your diet it becomes just as easy and if you ferment your own food at home it can also be fun.


Ingredients for Salt-Pickled Lemons
Ingredients for Salt-Pickled Lemons

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Weiner, Danya
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Another benefit of fermented food is that it is a good source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. In ancient times, sauerkraut was used by armies, most notably the Mongolian army, to ward off scurvy. Fermentation also increases the bioavailability of the foods.

There are two warnings in regard to fermenting food. The first is fermentation must take place outside the body. If you ingest food and eat a lot of sugar, the bacteria will ferment the food inside of you. But an overgrowth of fermenting bacteria inside of you can lead to many health issues, which include candidiasis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Crohn’s Disease. So the rule is ferment your food before you eat it.

The second rule is to not eat fermented food that is spoiled. In rare cases, fermented food can be overtaken by mold or become spoiled. If this happens, please throw it away.


Pickled Octopus, Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan
Pickled Octopus, Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan

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Stanfield, James...
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The key to fermenting vegetables is to make sure your vegetables are submerged in liquid. If not, they will just mold. Usually the liquid is salty water, which is called brine. Other liquids, which are used, are whey or wine. Pretty much any vegetable can be fermented.

When you make your own fermented food you have the ability to control what you eat. You can pick organic foods that are good quality. You can use raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized.

How do you know how much salt to use? Traditionally food has been fermented with lots of salt. It enables vegetables to be stored for longer periods of time. But if you like you can use less salt. The rule is to start out with 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of food. More salt can be added if you like. If you put in too much salt, just add some water. The more salt you use the longer the fermentation process. Ferments with less salt will be prone to have mold on the surface. Any vegetable that floats to the top and become exposed to the air will mold.

As far as what kind of vessel to use, it’s best to stay away from metal. The best vessels are crocks or glass. Crock-pots make good vessels as crocks tend to be expensive, unless you are lucky and you find a good buy at a flea market or rummage or garage sale. Plastic could be used in a pinch, but they tend to leach toxins.


Crock with Apples
Crock with Apples

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Sibley, Peggy...
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As far as how long to ferment food, it is ultimately up to you to decide. Many recipes will say ferment until ripe. Longer fermentation leads to a tangier flavor, while less will result in a milder flavor. By experimenting you can conclude how long to ferment.


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The information on enzyme-facts.com is not offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease or disorder nor have any statements herein been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We strongly encourage you to discuss topics of concern with your health care provider.

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