Fermented foods are known to be a traditional part of diets all over the world and throughout time. How long have people been making fermented foods? According to Mark’s Daily Apple, wine, bread and fermented milk have been around for at least 7,000 years. Mark continues:
“The Inuit traditionally wrap whole seabird carcasses in seal pelts and bury them underground to ferment for months; rotting fish is another feature of their traditional diet. Fermented dairy is a major aspect of the traditional Masai diet, as is clotted steer’s blood. The list goes on and on: East and Southeast Asia with natto (fermented soy), kimchi (fermented cabbage), soy sauce, fermented fish sauce, fermented shrimp paste, to name just a few; Central Asia with kumis (fermented mare milk), kefir, and shubat (fermented camel milk); India and the Middle East with fermented pickles, various yogurts, torshi (mixed vegetables); Europe with sauerkraut, kefir, crème fraiche, and rakfisk (salted, fermented trout); the Americas with kombucha, standard pickling, and chocolate; the Pacific region with poi (fermented, mashed taro root) and something called kanga pirau, or rotten corn.
What a list! The benefits of fermented foods are well known to many, especially those educated about Kombucha, but I’ll give a quick list of the most commonly accepted ones:
- Improve Digestion
- Restore Pro-Biotic Balance to Your Gut
- Full of Vitamins, Especially Bs
- Deliver Necessary Enzymes
- Help the Body to Break Down and Absorb Nutrients
- Save Money
- Preserve Food for Later
“Similar compromises apply to most of the fermented foods that have survived the last century of food industrialization. Pickles and relish are no longer fermented at all, but preserved in vinegar and sterilized with heat in the canning process. Wine is treated with sodium metabisulfite before fermentation to destroy wild bacteria and yeasts that make the results less predictable. Beer is usually pasteurized or microfiltered to kill or remove living yeast. Yogurt survives, but it just isn’t as good after the first day; the same is true of bread. Sauerkraut is usually pasteurized. To be sure there are niche brands, available in health-food stores, which are still living foods, but then freezing or refrigeration is necessary. This is rather ironic, since a major motivation for fermenting foods in the first place was to preserve them, in the days before refrigeration.”
(By the way, the article linked above is one of the best articles I have read on the relationship between food and community. If you have the time, it is well worth it.)
Yeah, that qualifies as bad news at first, but then at least you are educated. You can go to the store and look for the real stuff, or even better, make it yourself at home.
4. Sourdough Bread
Poking around online turned up this recipe for a more traditional raw yogurt (warning: pdf), though it does require a yogurt maker. I’ve heard a heating pad and metal pot can work instead.