Pickle Me This: The Wonderful World of Fermentation
Nowadays, if you wanted to preserve food you would put in the fridge or the freezer. But, in the past, we didn’t have such easy access to cool temperatures. Instead, it was desirable to pickle as much as one could. In today’s blog, we talk about the process of fermentation, its benefits, and how to get started at home.
How to Pickle
Pickling is the process of preserving food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. This procedure typically affects the food’s texture and flavour. Common picked foods include vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. The resulting product is a pickle. Although, often the food is preface with pickled to avoid ambiguity.
To pickle, the pH of the liquid must by 4.5 or lower. Thus, being sufficient enough to kill most bacteria. Additionally, there is the inclusion of antimicrobial herbs and spices such as mustard seed, garlic, cinnamon, or cloves. If the food contains sufficient moisture, the additional step of salting the vegetable helps to draw the water out. Natural fermentation occurs at room temperature.
Pickling first originated in ancient Mesopotamia around 2400 BC. It has long been used as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys. Especially those by sea.
So, why should you treat yourself to a pickle? Well, apart from being an appealing salty taste to people, fermented food also packs a healthy punch of nutritional value. By enjoying them you are:
- Improving Digestive Health. The probiotics produce during fermentation help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut. Feeling bloated? Eat some kimchi!
- Boosting Your Immune System. Alongside helping the bacteria in your gut, fermented foods are rich in Vitamin C, iron, and zinc.
- Easing Your Digestion. Fermentation helps break down the nutrients in food. Thus, making them easier to digest. This is why those with lactose intolerance are generally fine eating fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is your salt intake! Too much of it can be disastrous to heart health. But, you can control this if you pickle the food yourself.
Fermented Foods to Try
Keen to try your hand at pickling? Check out these beloved fermented foods!
- Kefir – a type of cultured dairy product. To make, add kefir grains to milk. The result is a thick and tangy beverage often likened to yogurt.
- Tempeh – a high protein meat substitute. Simply, press fermented soybeans into a compact cake.
- Natto – a probiotic Japanese food. Similar to tempeh, it’s made from fermented soy beans.
- Kombucha – a fermented fizzy and tart tea. Made with either green or black tea, SCOBY (standing for symbiotic culture of bacteria and year) helps to achieve its unique flavour.
- Miso – another soybean Japanese staple. Used in soups and as stock, this paste consists of fermented soybeans with salt and koji (a type of fungus).
- Kimchi – a popular Korean side dish. Cabbage is massaged with a spicy salty red paste and left to ferment. Enjoy it with any meal from noodle bowls to sandwiches!
- Sauerkraut – a popular European pickle. Like kimchi, it consists of shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria.