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Fermentation..."As in Beer"?

Last weekend I drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend a Fermentation Workshop.  When I shared what I was doing with my family, they said..."As in beer?", not beer.  Although true, beer is a fermented beverage...which on occasion I do enjoy.  However, on this particular journey, I would be learning the art of fermenting veggies.  I shall leave beer fermentation for a later date.
Fermentation of our foods is a lost art.  It is something that our ancestors did many, many years before us.  I can remember as a little girl, my grandmother always having a large crock of pickles in her cellar.  Together we would go down her creaky basement stairs, lift off the plate that was sitting on top of the crock (usually weighted with a brick) and scoop out crispy, delicious pickles that we would then put on the table for our dinner.  Delish. 
Unknown to me (and probably my grandmother), was that those pickles were full of living probiotics that are good for our health, digestion and well-being. 

Fermented foods are all the rage, but they’re cool for more reasons than just being hip. Fermentation is good for the gut, and increases the digestibility of foods; it’s a reliable preservation technique and research shows that it increases the nutrient content in certain foods.  The best reason to eat fermented foods though are for their flavor. The process of fermenting adds layers upon layers of complexity to foods.

Natural fermentation precedes human history. Links between fermented foods and health can be traced as far back as ancient Rome and China, and remain an area of great interest for researchers in modern times.

Evidence-based reviews indicate that certain strains of probiotics found in fermented foods, contribute to the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract...supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation in the gut. Health conditions that can benefit from probiotics therapy include diarrhea, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

Long before probiotics became the heroes of the microbial world, cultures throughout history and across the globe were celebrating fermented foods. Born as a preservation method and used for millennia, the tradition of fermentation has sparked modern use and interest in these fascinating probiotic microbes.

Most research focuses on fermented dairy products. However, vegetables such as cabbages, carrots, garlic, soybeans, olives, cucumbers, onions, turnips, radishes, cauliflower and peppers, in addition to fruits such as lemons or berries, offer novel flavors and textures—partly explaining why home fermentation, and particularly lactic acid fermentation, is becoming an increasingly popular trend.  Home fermentation enthusiasts continue to look to the past as the wave of the future.

Popular ferments include:  yogurt, cheese, sourdough bread, cultured butter, crème fraiche, wine, salami, beer, kefir, tempeh, miso, vinegar, fish sauce, kombucha, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and beer! 
Whether keepers of culinary tradition, those interested in potential health benefits or folks who simply enjoy trying new foods, fermentation enthusiasts are bringing new life to this ancient practice.



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