Well before probiotic supplements became popular, lactic acid fermentation (lacto-fermentation) provided the gut with an abundance of beneficial bacteria. Lacto-fermentation is a technique that has been around for several centuries.
Lacto-fermentation was born as a preservative method, with the earliest record of fermentation dating back as far as 6000 B.C. Since then, almost every civilisation has incorporated at least one type of fermented food into their diet. This includes foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and cheese. Many cultures have created their own unique flavours based around fermentation.
Sometimes fermentation is an essential food safety practice which goes beyond simply preservation. This can be seen in some West African countries where garri is a popular food source. Garri is made from the root vegetable cassava. Cassava contains natural sources of cyanide and can be poisonous if not fermented properly.
There are different types of fermentation, these include:
- Yeast fermentation: used to make beer, wine and sourdough.
- Mould fermentation: used to make some cheeses and tempeh.
- Acetic fermentation: a crucial component when making apple cider vinegar and malt.
- Lacto-fermentation: as mentioned above, this process is used to make foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as many other fermented vegetables and fruits.
- There is also another type of fermented food which uses a specific culture called SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This culture is specifically used to make kombucha and kerfir.
Consuming fermented foods on a regular basis helps to nourish your gut by providing a good source of healthy bacteria. A healthy population of gut bacteria can aid digestion and help to boost the immune system.
Fermentation Is Easy
Lacto-fermentation is a fairly easy process and not as complicated as many people might think it is. The process is mainly cutting and salting the vegetables, then allowing the natural fermentation process to take over. There is some basic equipment that is needed, and precautions to take, however, the process is simple.
What You Will Need?
Depending on what you are fermenting you will need some basic equipment. Complete fermentation kits Australia can be found here.
Glass is the best option to ferment your vegetables in. Glass is clean and doesn’t contain any chemicals that could get into your food. You should avoid using plastic containers for fermenting. Plastic can be easily scratched or damaged which may allow bad bacteria to grow. Also, some plastic can contain chemicals which may seep into the food while fermenting, so it is not recommended for this process. Equipment, fermentation kits and accessories for vegetable fermentation can be found here.
Airlocks or Lids
Properly covering your fermenting vegetables is an important part of the process to avoid contamination. Ideally, you want to use a cover that will keep the oxygen out but still allow the natural gases produced during fermentation to escape. There are a few choices for this process, you can use a lid, a cloth cover or an airlock.
An airlock is one of the more popular choices. A jar with an airlock allows the natural gasses from fermentation to escape while keeping the oxygen out. This reduces the risk of harmful mould and yeast from forming.
You may choose to use a tight lid instead. As long as it seals tightly you can reduce the risk of harmful moulds or yeasts from forming. However, this method needs more attention. You need to regularly ‘burp’ the jar to release the excess pressure as the carbon dioxide builds up. This avoids explosions or overflows.
You may choose to use a cloth cover instead. There is a risk of mould with this method, but it can be done safely. You should make sure the cloth is secured tightly with a rubber band to keep contaminates out while allowing the gasses to escape. The advantage of using a cloth cover is that’s it’s easy to see how the fermentation process is going, however, mould and yeast can form more easily on the surface of the vegetables.
Regardless of the method used to cover the jar, it’s important to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine during fermentation. This greatly reduces the chances of exposure to oxygen. To keep the vegetables submerged you can use many objects, as long as it’s free from any chemicals or glues which could contaminate the vegetables. To be safe, purchasing a fermentation weight is recommended.
Other Equipment and Accessories
Knife: To prepare your vegetables, a high-quality knife will be needed. You may also choose to grate or process the vegetables.
Pounding tool: When fermenting vegetables in their own juices you will need something to break the vegetables apart, such as a pounding tool.
Kombucha second fermentation bottles: second fermentation adds an additional step to the Kombucha process. You can fund kombucha second fermentation bottles here.
Everything You Will Need
For all your fermentation needs, glasses, lids and other tools, can be found here. If you need more information about fermenting vegetables and other foods, you can purchase a variety of fermentation books here to guide you through the process.
Fermenting Safety Tips
Fermenting food has some risks associated with the process that you should be aware of. You should ensure that you perform the process correctly to avoid any harmful moulds or yeasts growing on the surface. The main risk of fermenting foods comes from contamination, so the following precautions should be taken:
- Follow the instructions carefully
- Avoid cross-contamination
- Use good hygiene
- Use clean equipment
- Make sure the container is free from damage
- Use fresh ingredients
- Keep solids in the brine to avoid oxygen exposure
- Make sure you add enough salt
- Do not use metal or non-food-grade plastic containers
Why Glass Is Recommended for Fermentation
Glass has a smooth and nonporous surface. This means that there is no place for bacteria to hide and grow. Glass also doesn’t stain or collect odours like plastic and other containers. It’s not recommended to use metal containers. According to the Queensland Health Department, metal can react with the acids produced during fermentation and recommends that only glass or food-grade plastic containers are used for this process.
Making fermented foods may seem daunting initially, however, the process is quite simple as long as you follow the instructions and maintain good hygiene. For more information about fermenting many different foods, everything you need to know can be found here.
All the tools, fermentation kits and other equipment you need can be found here.
Author: Kriben Govender
Food Scientist and Founder of Nourishme Organics
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kribengovender/