What is Fermentation?

What is Fermentation all About?  Basically, microorganisms that are involved with the breakdown of sugar.

Fermentation is the conversion of sugar molecules, which exist in almost all foods ... into alcohols or acids.  This is done with the assistance of favorable bacteria, yeasts, and molds.

Furthermore, these microorganisms utilize enzymes to breakdown the sugar molecules and create by-products or waste-products (depending on who you talk to).  Lactic and acetic are the most common acids produced from this process as well as alcohol or ethanol.

Any Food can Serve as a Substrate for the Fermentation Process

  • Grains are used to make beer and liquor
  • Grapes are used to make red and white wine
  • Cabbage is used to make sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Milk is used to make cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, kefir, and buttermilk
  • Coffee berries or beans are used to make coffee
  • Soybeans are used to make soy sauce, tempeh, and miso
  • Sweet tea is used to make kombucha
  • Cacao beans are used to make chocolate
  • Red wine is used to make red wine vinegar

What is Fermentation Microorganisms?

Nearly all ferments are the result of more than one microorganism either working together or in a sequence.  What is fermentations most common group of microorganisms that work together?  Answer:  Bacteria, Yeasts, and Molds.

Bacteria and Bacterial Fermentation

  • The most important bacteria involved in bacterial fermentation are the Lactobacillaceae (lactobacillus is part of this group of bacteria). They produce Lactic Acid.
  • Most important bacteria for fruit juice and alcohol ferments are the Acetobacter bacteria. They produce Acetic Acid.
  • Both of these types of bacteria help to impart a sour taste to foods.

Yeasts and Yeast Metabolism

  • Even though there are several hundred species of yeasts that have been identified, the most "Beneficial Yeasts" are from the Saccharomyces family, especially .... S. Cerevisiae.
  • These are the yeast responsible for making Wine, Beer, and Bread.
  • Yeast metabolism occurs when these yeast are feeding on sugar and this action produces alcohol and carbon dioxide (which raises bread).

Molds and Moldy Food

  • Molds do not play an important role in fruit and vegetable ferments (for the obvious reasons), but they are important for the flavoring of cheese and soybean ferments.
  • Some molds are considered rather harmless, but some of them can make you sick. I wouldn't eat the stuff that grows on old bread. That's moldy food that isn't worth the risk of consuming!

You will find some very helpful tips on fermentation as well as recipes by reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. 

Go to Kombucha Tea Recipes and Kimchi Recipes
Return to Healthy Eating Guidelines

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