How many of you can recall your parents or grandparents making sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, buttermilk yogurt, sourdough breads, or wine? I fondly recall that odorous crock of fermented buckwheat pancake batter sitting on our wood stove all winter long, with tangy fresh pancakes made each morning.
As a child I was simply eager to taste the results, and certainly didn’t realize that regular consumption of fermented foods is a wisdom-driven, old-fashioned culinary custom.
Did you know these facts about fermented foods?
• The bacteria in fermented foods are essential for our well-being. They produce vitamins, protein, and essential amino acids, enhance our digestion, increase our immunity and much more.
• Consumption of a wide range of aged and cultured foods has provided humans with beneficial bacteria that crowded out pathogenic bacteria, supporting life in many ways.
• Bacterial fermentation extended the “shelf life” of highly perishable milk by transforming it into much less heat-sensitive cheeses, yogurt, and butter. When fermented, cabbage and other vegetables could be stored and consumed all winter long; meat—dried, salted or aged—could last on long voyages.
• The use of fermented foods advanced food security around the world and extended human possibilities.
• With the introduction of home refrigerators in the late 1920s, fermented food lost favor, much to the detriment of our digestive and immune systems. In addition, Louis Pasteur’s identification of harmful pathogenic bacteria cast a shadow over the microbial world as a whole.
Fermented foods today – back in vogue!
Luckily, fermented foods are coming back into vogue. For enrichment of health and enhanced food flavor, I suggest daily consumption of our tiny “good guy allies” in the form of kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, aged cheeses, olives, kimchi, fermented pickles (made without vinegar), pickled garlic, beets or radish, miso, tempeh, fermented soy sauce, and kombucha.
What’s your favorite fermented food?