Fermentation Friday: The Basics
Here at CHEF iQ® we’re passionate about pickling. Our recipes use heat and a short soak in vinegar to give quick pickled vegetables that classic tang. Some pickled vegetables that have a longer shelf life are made through a different process called fermentation, an ancient method of preserving that brings unique flavors and health benefits to all kinds of foods. In this installment, we’re taking a step back from short recipes to begin a foray into fermentation, beginning with the basics.
The Facts of Fermentation
Fermentation is a naturally occurring process in which a microorganism, such as bacteria or yeast, causes an anaerobic breakdown of another product. We commonly hear about fermentation when talking about wine or sourdough. However, we’re going to focus on something called lacto-fermentation. This is a method of preserving food that uses solely salt, water, and, perhaps most important, time. During lacto-fermentation, microorganisms break down sugars in the food creating lactic acid, which lowers pH levels and preserves the food. Lacto-fermentation gives food like yogurt its welcome zing and gives sauerkraut and kimchi their fun and funky flavors. It also preserves vitamins and minerals and makes food more easily digestible while promoting beneficial bacteria, like probiotics, in your gut.
Fermenting at Home
While you can buy lacto-fermented products like miso and kombucha, you can also ferment foods at home to create intriguing flavors and promote healthy living. The CHEF iQ Smart Cooker™ even has a Ferment function built right into it!
The Essential Environment
Fermenting doesn’t require fancy equipment. You will need to supply a sealed environment, so you can invest in a fermentation crock if you like. However, mason jars can work well for small batches. Other specialized equipment includes cheesecloth to cover—this will allow bacteria to get in while keeping dust and debris out. You’ll also need fermenting weights to keep submerged foods down, and a tamper or pounder. If you’re in a pinch, these tools can be jury-rigged with objects like a cloth towel, river rocks, and a rolling pin.
We plan to share some of our favorite fermenting recipes soon, including easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. Stay tuned for our top tips and tricks!