09.13.2017

Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance

Practiced for centuries in Korea and recently rediscovered by chefs and DIY enthusiasts, this ancient food preservation technique is also a source of well-being and unique flavors

  • Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance
  • Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance
  • Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance
  • Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance
  • Delving into the Fermentation Reinassance

Up until a few years ago it might have sounded like a form of culinary extravaganza, but today fermentation is literally ubiquitous: from the kitchens of the world’s greatest restaurants, where it definitely seems to have overshadowed molecular gastronomy, to the homes of cooking and self-production enthusiasts, from magazines to food blogs.
 
In short, the situation is getting out of hand, yet on the other hand among the many food trends of recent years, that of fermentation is undoubtedly the most reasonable. First of all because fermented food is extremely healthy: the microorganisms it contains are detoxifying and promote the balance of the intestinal flora, a virtue that contributes both to strengthening the immune system and to improving the mood thanks to the production of serotonin, one of the so-called "happiness hormones", by the digestive system.
 
Secondly, because fermentation is a perfectly natural process that humanity has used for thousands of years to preserve food, as well as the basis of staple foods such as bread, cheese and yogurt - but also beer and wine. The term "fermentation" actually comes from the Latin word fervere (bubbling), referring to the must during the preparation of the wine.
 
There are several types of fermentation - the one used for wine, for instance, is the alcoholic fermentation, in which the sugar of the must turns into alcohol and carbon dioxide - but the most widespread one is lactic fermentation, which is obtained by immersing the vegetables in water and salt - or more simply in their own liquids extracted through compression - in a jar. The process consists in the transformation of sugars and vegetable starch into lactic acid (which gives the fermented foods its unmistakable acidic flavor) through the action of bacteria. And although this may sound somewhat dangerous, it is in fact an infallible preservation system, because when acidity reaches a certain value, the bacterial proliferation stops and the environment in the jar reaches a stability that may last for years.
 
Kimchi and the Korean art of food preservation
One of the most popular fermented foods today is Korean kimchi, a typical dish of Chinese cabbage leaves pickled in a mix of herbs and spices including onions, radish, red chili pepper, garlic, ginger, horseradish, dry fish and soy sauce.
Although kimchi has only recently become a worldwide hit and cult food, in its homeland it has been popular for thousands of years, and it is so widespread and rooted in the Korean culture that there are hundreds of recipes - one for every small village or even family.
Its origins date back to about 3,000 years ago when it started out as a food conservation technique based on the use of salt, particularly for vegetables that were scarce during the winter. With time, however, this practice gave birth to a proper recipe thanks to the addition of other ingredients, such as the spices to which kimchi owes its very special flavor.
But kimchi is also the symbol of Korean gastronomy, a sort of sacred food whose preparation resembles a veritable ritual: traditionally, families used to gather to prepare it during the Fall, awaiting the most favorable weather conditions. The process lasted several days and ended with the digging of the jars used for conservation.
 
Sandor Katz And The Fermentation Revival
Since he published his book Wild Fermentation in 2003, food author and DIY activist Sandor Katz has been promoting fermentation and its virtues through publications, workshops and interviews. Defined “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene” by The New York Times has called it, Sandor is a retired policy wonk: after leaving native New York City in 1993 he moved to the rural community of Cannon County, Tennessee, where his enthusiasm for this ancient food preservation technique was prompted by the discovery of an old crock buried in the barn that he used to ferment cabbages and make sauerkraut. Sandor has been living with HIV since the 1980s and considers fermented foods to be an important part of his healing.
 
 

Author : The Slowear Journal

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Fermentation  | preservation  | health  | sandor katz  | kimchi  |

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