Fermentation for the health of it

Age old technique preserves foods, adds healthy live bateria to diet

By Matthew Lapp, Columnist, The Times

CTColLogoMattLappFermenting is an age-old method used to preserve food.   In fact, according to Robin Foroutan, MS, RD the earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent. Since then, nearly every civilization has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage. Long before refrigeration was an option, various cultures began to use the natural fermentation process to preserve foods including dairy, cabbage, carrots, garlic, soybeans, olives, cucumbers, onions, turnips, radishes, cauliflower, peppers, and various fruits like lemons and berries.

Not only is fermenting an excellent way to preserve foods, but it’s also a great way to add more “live” foods into your diet. Recent research into the human microbiome has helped to demonstrate the beneficial impact that healthy bacteria, living both inside and outside our bodies, have on our overall health. This research has also shown that a diverse diet that is rich in live foods and foods that contain healthy bacteria, actually help to improve our digestive and immune function.

Although there are some fermented foods that you might already be familiar with like yogurt, sauerkraut, and beer, you may not have realized that almost every culture across the world has some sort of fermented food that is a staple of their respective cuisine. For example, in West African countries, cassava is fermented to make garri.   In Tanzania, togwa, has been found to help protect against foodborne illnesses in regions with poor sanitation. Japanese natto (soybeans), Vietnamese mám (seafood), Chinese douchi (black beans), Lao pa daek (fish sauce), Korean banchan (side dishes) are a few more commonly consumed fermented foods in Asian cultures. Some cultures, dating back to ancient Rome and China, even use fermented foods for medicinal purposes.

If you’re interested in trying some fermentation for yourself, Lactic acid fermentation is one of the easiest and most common methods to try at home. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process that uses the Lactobacillus species of bacteria to convert sugar into lactic acid. The lactic acid then acts as a preservative for the fermented food.

Another common way to ferment various foods is to use salt. The salt pulls water out of the ferment and helps to create conditions that are favorable to “good” bacteria. In doing so, the salt adds flavor and also helps to prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.

One of my favorite resources for fermenting ideas and recipes is the book, The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. In, you can find recipes for almost any kind of fermented food that you can think of, and probably a few that would have never crossed your mind.   Another great resource is the website Cultures for Health. Here you can find starters for yogurt, sourdough bread, vegetables, kefir, cheese-making supplies and many more tools of the trade.

One of the simplest and quickest fermented foods to make is yogurt. All you need is a thermometer, a small amount of plain yogurt with live cultures, and some milk. Just pour as much milk as you want in to a heat safe bowl (I usually use a crock pot). Heat it to 165 degrees, turn it off and let is cool down to 115 degrees, then add the yogurt. Last, mix it thoroughly and let is sit in a warm place (inside an oven with the light on is perfect) for 8-12 hours. That’s it. You’re done. Now you have a fresh batch of yogurt to enjoy!

My guess is that once you start fermenting, you’ll really enjoy both the process and the results. It’s simple, easy, and produces healthy, tasty food. Feel free to share any of your favorite fermentation recipes in the comments section or on Facebook.

Drs. Allison and Matthew Lapp are the owners of Salus Chiropractic Studio in Thorndale. For more tips on living a health, happy life, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SalusChiropracticStudio

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