Fermentation is a chemical reaction. It occurs naturally in some foods such as fruit. It has been used to make wine for at least 8,000 years, make yogurt from milk for more than 5,000 years and leaven bread for over three millennium. Fermentation, as defined by Louis Pasteur in 1854, is decomposition in the absence of air. It is the process of using yeast or bacteria to convert sugar or other carbohydrates into either an acid or alcohol. Fermentation only happens in oxygen-free or anaerobic conditions.
The process of fermentation
- Renders food resistant to microbial spoilage and the development of toxins
- Inhibits the transfer of pathogenic organisms
- Improves digestion and nutrient absorption of food
- Preserves food between the time of harvest and consumption
- Enhances flavor and nutritional flavor
Home canning offers several ways to use natural fermentation when making traditional pickles and sauerkraut from a crock. Fermentation is one of the simplest methods for preserving food and has the added benefit of actually making food more nutritious and more digestible. Fermented vegetables are shown to contain more vitamin C and fermented milk products are shown to have ample amounts of B vitamins. The bioavailability of these vitamins also increases with fermentation.
In Michigan, cabbage makes its debut as early as August and may continue to harvest throughout the month of December. It is during the fall I enjoy canning Raw Sauerkraut which utilizes the fermentation process rather than traditional canning methods. It is a very simple process of shredding a head of cabbage, gently breaking the skin of the cabbage to release come juices, adding seasoning and water then storing in a quart-sized mason jar. The best part, the longer it sits in cold storage the better it gets!
Another health benefit to home canning fermented foods are the probiotics, or “good bacteria” formed through the process of fermentation. This can be seen in the ever increasing popularity of lactobacilli that are found in name brand yogurts such as Activia and DanAlive.
Supplementing our diet with fermented foods offers us several health benefits:
- Helps to reduce high cholesterol levels in our blood
- Strengthens and supports our digestive and immune systems
- Provides aide to our bodies to fight off and prevent diseases like cancer
FUN FACT: Documents show that the Great Wall of China was built by Ch’in Shih Huang Ti around 300 B.C. He provided fermented a variety of fermented vegetables as part of his workers’ ration. This diet kept his workers healthy and the great undertaking could therefore be completed.
Whether you home can traditional fermented crock pickles, create a delicious meal using your cold stored raw sauerkraut or feast on Kimchi at your favorite Korean restaurant, be sure to incorporate fermented foods into your diet to experience their many health benefits.
From the Garden to the Jar everyone!
The Canning Diva®