Fermented
Ancient Foods

Fermented ancient foods have been around for a very long time and some of these fermented foods have remained popular to this day. 

Did you know that artisan cheese and sourdough bread are ancient foods?

Some of these foods have been around since the days of ancient Egypt.  And some of these fermented foods came from the Far East. 

In fact, most ancient cultures had some sort of food that was fermented as fermenting was a great way to preserve food and their nutrients.

And if properly prepared, some of these ancient foods are known to help with keeping your gut healthy.

You see, eating fermented foods that retain "live" micro-organisms help with the digestion of cooked foods and will also produce more nutrients. 

Also, grains like wheat will be more digestible if they first go through a fermentation process.

This helps to remove anti-nutrients before ingesting grains in the form of breads or other baked goods.


Sourdough Bread

Lots of people make their own sourdough bread at home by first creating a "starter" that will help to ferment their bread dough.

I recently made a sourdough starter and was able to use it in about 1 week.  It was relatively easy to make, but becomes quite a commitment like kombucha.

The grains (wheat, rye, etc.) used in a good sourdough bread are typically fermented along with a sourdough starter for a minimum of 24 hours. 

Sometimes this process from start to finish can last up to 3 days.  Long-fermented sourdough bread is known for its sour or tangy taste. 

Some think that sourdough bread may have originated from ancient Egypt.

Yogurt, Buttermilk, and Sour Cream

These ancient foods taste better and are more nutritious when made from 100% raw grass fed whole milk.

Fermented dairy foods also come with a tangy taste because of their lactic acid content which comes from the lactic acid bateria.

Lactic acid bacteria are usually present in dairy foods, but are also now added to culture these foods.

Lactobacillus which is found in fermented dairy foods is probably the most well known lactic acid bacteria which does include many different species. 

Yogurt appears to be one of the oldest fermented dairy foods and may have first been eaten 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic period. 

Cheese

Some think that cheese may actually be the oldest fermented dairy food and may have been created over 10,000 years ago.

No one really knows who made the first cheese, but cheese is found in every ancient civilization that domesticated milk-producing animals including ancient Egypt.

Did you know that different types of cheese are made with different types of lactic acid bacteria?

Cheesemakers will deliberately use "starter" bacteria to enhance the lactic acid bacteria already present in milk which creates the many types of artisan cheese that have a distinct flavor.

Cheese can be made from the milk of goats, cows, and sheep.  And it can also be made from more exotic animals like water buffalo.

Chocolate

It has been said that chocolate is a gift from the Mayans and Aztecs from Ancient Mexico and maybe even elsewhere. 

At first, cacao beans were consumed in a ceremonial drink.  It was later that cacao beans were transformed into the chocolate that we all love today.

Are you aware that fermentation is the most crucial step to create a great chocolate?

The complex chemical changes that occur during fermentation is what gives cacao beans their chocolate flavor and color.

The correct fermentation of cacao beans will take between 3 to 7 days. 

And then the beans will be dried to further develop their flavor.


Traditional Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is traditionally made from fermented soybeans.  And a certain type of mold is used to ferment this salty and rich flavored condiment.

The fermentation process for soy sauce usually lasts between 6 to 12 months.

Soy sauce is a staple of Asian countries and is heavily associated with Japan.  Although, soy sauce may have actually originated from a fermented soybean paste from ancient China.

It may have been a by-product that collected in barrels of this fermented paste.

However, the evolution of fermented soybean paste into soy sauce may have first occurred in ancient Korea or Japan.

Miso

It looks like "miso" also originated from ancient China and was later brought to Japan by a monk from China.

And there is a theory that the liquid that came from miso was the prototype for Japanese soy sauce.

Miso is the key ingredient in miso soup which is consumed on a regular basis in Japan.  It appears that miso soup may have first been consumed by monks and people of the "privileged" class.

Today, miso is also used as a flavoring agent for Japanese cuisine.  And it is thought to contain many health benefits.

Miso is a paste that is made from fermented soybeans and grains.  There are hundreds of types of miso that now exist and the deeper its color the more intense its flavor.

Kimchi

Kimchi is a fermented food that I grew up eating because of my Korean ancestry.  Also, my Korean grandmother made a living in her later years from making and bottling kimchi.

She ran her kimchi business until the day she passed on from this earth and unfortunately did not pass down her knowledge to me probably because she could barely speak any English.

Kimchi is known as a very pungent fermented condiment that originated from Korea.  In ancient Korea, kimchi was not spicy at all and was first made with greens or radishes.

It was later that kimchi evolved into the spicy and tangy condiment that we are all familiar with today.  Today, kimchi is usually made from Chinese cabbage, red peppers, scallions, garlic, and a seafood paste. 

Kimchi is a Korean ancient food that is eaten for its numerous health benefits and there are literally hundreds of types of kimchi that exist these days.

Sauerkraut

Fresh raw sauerkraut is a lactic acid fermentation just like kimchi.  And just like kimchi contains probiotics, vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and promotes gut health.

The word sauerkraut is German and means sour cabbage.  However, it may be an ancient food that stems from China and was later introduced to Europe.

Traditionally, this fermented condiment is usually made from cabbage and salt.  And sauerkraut is usually fermented in large crocks for weeks to months before eaten.

Sometimes herbs and spices are added for additional flavor.  Find a decent sauerkraut in the refrigerator section of a good health food or grocery store.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea that's very popular in America as of late.  Although, kombucha is an ancient drink that's been around for thousands of years.

This ancient drink has quite a long history with Ukraine and Russia.  However, kombucha's ancient roots may have started with China, Korea, and Japan.

I've made kombucha a few times so far, but I kind of prefer to buy kombucha from the grocery stores or at farmer's market.  Although, my favorite brand of store-bought kombucha is now adding kiwi juice to their formula (too many oxalates!).

Kombucha is relatively easy to make as long as you have a SCOBY, good tea leaves, and sugar.  SCOBY is an odd looking blob that's often referred to as a mushroom.

Yeast and bacteria from the SCOBY consume the sugar to transform or ferment this ancient drink.

Raw Vinegar

Most are familiar with raw apple cider vinegar that's made from apples and comes with a "mother" that develops during the fermentation process.

Many people have proclaimed many health benefits from drinking raw apple cider vinegar.  It can also be used in salad dressings and to pickle foods.

Raw vinegar goes through two ferments and can be made with fruits like berries, pears, pineapple, and figs.  First, yeast ferment the sugars into alcohol and then Acetobacter bacteria will ferment the alcohol into vinegar.

Vinegar comes from the Latin words for sour wine and may have been created by the ancient Babylonians thousands of years ago.

The first vinegar may have been derived from the date palm and used as a food as well as a preserving agent.

Fermented Sausage

It appears that the first people to make sausage were the Sumerians a long time ago.  Sumeria would have included modern day Iraq, Kuwait, and some of Saudi Arabia.

Sausage is an ancient food preservation technique and fermented sausage is made in many countries around the world.

My favorite and probably the most well known fermented sausage is called salami or salame.

Fermented sausage is created by salting ground or chopped meats like pork, beef, venison, and even horse meat in the past.

Salt helps to remove the moisture from the meat while allowing beneficial bacteria to break down sugars in the meat.

These Ancient Foods
Have Been Eaten for a Long Time!

Most people are familiar with almost all of these popular fermented foods or ancient foods. 

And it must be hard to believe that humans have been consuming fermented foods and controlling the fermentation process for thousands and thousands of years.

It's important to remember that a healthy fermented food should come with a "live" quality.

Sometimes, you'll have to make some of these fermented foods yourself to ensure that you get an authentic ancient food. 

You can also cut down on the amount of salt added which is often too high in some of these fermented foods.

To find the best quality ancient foods or the "real" fermented foods - you may have to visit health food stores, farmer's markets, or specialty stores.

Go to What is Fermentation?

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