Fermentation in Foods

As I was enjoying my carrot-beetroot kanji glass yesterday, on my swing on the balcony of my apartment, I was planning my next day's dinner. I thought of dosa, so took out my phone to order the dosa batter from BB daily. The days are getting warmer. It is like an increase of almost 1 degree every day for the last few days, so thought of ordering a packet of chaas too. I looked another time in the list before ordering and found a similarity in all my orders. 

What is the similarity - Can you guess?😏
All the items were fermented. 

Fermentation is an ancient way of preserving food. We are still using this in preparing some delicious and healthy foods and drinks. 

                           Evidences of Fermentation in History

Natural fermentation has evidence way beyond human history. The earliest evidence of fermentation found by archeologists is 13k years old remnants of beer found in a cave in Israel. Other evidence of fermentation was found in the Neolithic Chinese village of Jiahu. It was said to be dated back to 7000 to 6600 BC. In the University of Pennsylvania, seven thousand years old jars of wine are on display. These are found in excavations from Iran. there are pieces of evidence that people were fermenting alcoholic drinks in Babylonia, ancient Egypt, Mexico, and Sudan. ( 3150 - 1500 BC).
When we think about fermented drinks, what comes to your mind? 

🍷Wine, chaas, and kanji are three drinks that are my favourite. If we speak about fermented foods, dosa, idli, pickles, jalebi, bhatura, kulcha, kadi, curd are a few to name. 

These days, there is an increased awareness about health and fermented foods and drinks are rich in prebiotics and help in keeping a healthy gut, which in turn maintains good digestion. A strong and well-oiled digestive system is the first condition for a healthy body. This results in better and stronger immunity. A healthy gut helps in the absorption of vital minerals which are much needed by our body. 

What is food fermentation?

Fermentation is a natural process through which the carbs like sugar and starch are converted into alcohol and acids by yeast and bacteria. This process takes place under oxygen-free conditions. The alcohol and acids act as natural preservatives and also add the typical tarty taste and distinct zest to the food. Fermentation also promotes the growth of good bacteria, we know as prebiotics. 
Historically, fermentation had been used as a method of preservation. We still use it when we make pickles. It is also used to enhance the taste and texture of some fruits like olives, which are inedible without fermentation.
Fermentation can be done by two methods. In one, a starter is added like we do when we make curd. We add a spoon full of curd from the old curd bowl. This way, we have added some bacteria into the milk and they multiply in warm milk. After a few hours, we have freshly set curd. You must have noted that in summers, it takes less time in setting up the curd while in winters, it takes more time. We also keep the bowl in a casserole or cover it with some clothes so that it is kept warm in the winter season. During the day, a common practice is to keep it under the sunlight. So, this way, you have a solar-charged curd. 😁
But when we let dosa batter sit for almost 12 hours with salt added ( to enhance the rate of fermentation) for fermentation, it is said to be spontaneous or wild fermentation.

The branch of science that studies fermentation is named zymology and was founded by French chemist Louis Pasteur. Fermentation studies have been rewarded even a Nobel prize.

We now find fermented foods in almost every cuisine of the world. In recent years, these foods have gained popularity as they are found to be beneficial for gastrointestinal health. As food is fermented, it converts sugar and other carbohydrates into alcohol or carbon dioxide, or preservative organic acids. These have been found useful by humans. Fruit juices are converted into wine, grains are made into beer, and food rich in starch like potatoes are fermented and distilled, spirits like vodka and gin are made. Carbon dioxide is the leavening agent, used in bakery products like bread, cakes, etc. Organic acids produced in fermentation are used in preserving and flavouring vegetables and dairy products. Food fermentations enrich the food with essential protein, amino acids, and vitamins. It also reduces the cooking time and eliminates the antinutrients. 
Popular Fermented Foods 

As fermentation has been popular all over the world, there are different items produced through fermentation. Every region has different products, But I would like to share the most popular products used worldwide - alcohol (beer, wine) vinegar, olives, bread, yogurt, cheese. 
In Southeast Asian cuisine, popular fermented foods are -  appam, dosa, achar, idli, uthappam, pickle, dhokla, paneer, etc. 
However, most fruits, legumes, and vegetables, contain some type of prebiotic.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

1. They improve shelf-life, add unique aroma, taste, texture, and appearance of food items.

2. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, inflammation, and diabetes. 

3. They help in keeping better mood and brain activity.

So, now we know that fermentation as a process creates healthy foods.

  Vote for health. Opt for fermented foods!


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