The process is used globally for hundreds of products and for a variety of reasons.
inemakers tend to be enocentric. We forget that beyond winemaking, the world’s population dines on a huge variety of other fermented foods. In the west we all enjoy breads, sauerkraut, yogurt, soy sauce, pickles, and cheese, but there are hundreds of other foods that we have never heard of, let alone tried.
The book I’ve been reading lately is Fermented Foods and Beverages of the World, J.P. Tamang and K. Kailasapathy (editors) 2010. CRC Press. 445 pp. ISBN 978-1-4200- 9495-4.
Alternative fermented foods have gained public attention recently because research has documented the beneficial effects of probiotics, live microorganisms in our diet that contribute to our health by changing the spectrum of microorganisms in our gut. A large industry has become established to supply these bacteria in pill form, but frankly, I prefer to receive my bacteria from fermented foods. This is not to ignore the long history of fermented foods. Winemaking history has been traced back for 6,000 years, but the origins of many fermented foods are probably just as old or older.
In the west, fermented foods were mainly based on grains, but the Asian countries based their diet on rice and beans. Recent dietary research has indicated that there may be no optimal diet for all populations. The diet for individuals within a population may require adaptation to the genetic heritage from which a person has descended.
This led me to suggest facetiously that perhaps with my northern Scottish heritage I should consider a diet based on oatmeal porridge, venison, beer and whisky.
The book opens with a broad survey of fermented foods consumed throughout the world, and the reasons why they were created. In a temperate
By Gary Strachan There are other kinds of fermentation
climate such as ours, it’s easy to recognize that fermentation provides a means to preserve foods through the winter season when food crops can’t be grown. Think pickles and sauerkraut. The acidity of these
foods makes them immune to infection from spoilage organisms, and the vitamins and amino acids released during fermentation enhances their nutritional value.
Another good reason to ferment foods is to enhance flavours. A great many regional foods are
fermented with herbs and spices to do this. Think of the spicy,
fermented meats of Italy.
Fermented foods are not unique to the world’s temperate zones. Many
fermentations from warmer climates occur spontaneously, or are inoculated by
transferring a small inoculum from each old batch to the next. The strategy that we in the west are most familiar
with is culture transfer for sourdough bread. Many other products are listed in this volume.
There is also differentiation based on geography. For example, many Asian countries typically use soy beans as a base for fermented products such as tofu, miso and soy sauce, whereas western countries use milk for cheeses, yogurt and buttermilk. One comment was that soy beans are the cows of Asia. The book explores the influence of religion on the choices of ethic foods because religious practices differentiate eating habits. In some cases they dictate regional food consumption patterns, but in others the effects may cross national borders. For example, some religions dictate that the faithful must be vegetarian.
This is a scholarly publication, with British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016
extensive references at the end of each chapter and literature citations throughout the text.
The base material for the broad
range of products is first classified into 10 broad categories, ranging from rice- based products, to milk, vegetables, grains and meat or fish. There are also categories such as non-alcoholic fermentations, alcoholic fermentations and distilled products.
The processes are discussed in as much detail as possible. Separate tables summarize cereal products, milk products, fish products etc. and include the substrate, sensory property, culinary use, microorganisms involved, and the country of origin. The chapters go into further detail and list the genus and species of the microorganisms that ferment the various foods. In total, over 200 ethnic fermented foods are described.
A typical fermentation may be conducted by a hierarchy of species of microorganisms. Sourdough bread becomes sour by the presence of acid- producing species such as Pediococcus. Lactobacillus, or
Acetobacter, followed by a
yeast such as Saccharomyces to contribute carbon dioxide bubbles, which raise the dough.
Many of the same species of lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria occur throughout the world as natural inoculum for fermented products. In order to ferment grains, the fermentation is generally initiated by a mold that secretes an amylase to break down starch into glucose.
Even though the names seem exotic when examining such a wide range of fermented foods and beverages, the pattern soon emerges.
This book is a great resource for anyone who may be interested in moving forward into the manufacture of healthy fermented foods. Kimchi, kombucha and kefir are moving into the mainstream market. What will be the next one?
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