Fermentation is a fascinating process used for centuries to preserve and transform food. It involves the action of beneficial bacteria, yeasts, or molds that break down sugars and carbohydrates in the food, unlocking new flavours, textures, and beneficial compounds. Let's dive into the world of fermented foods and explore some different types available, along with their unique flavours and characteristics.
Sauerkraut is a classic lacto-fermented food made from shredded cabbage (usually white cabbage) that has been salted and left to ferment. The cabbage releases liquid, creating its own brining solution. The fermentation process gives it a tangy and slightly sour flavour. It's often used as a topping or side dish and is rich in beneficial bacteria, vitamins, and fibre.
Originating from Korea, kimchi is a spicy lacto-fermented vegetable dish, typically made from nappa cabbage or radishes, and a blend of seasonings such as chilli powder, garlic, and ginger. Kimchi follows the same principle as sauerkraut: Lactic acid bacteria are present in the raw cabbage. When submerged in a salty brine, these bacteria convert the sugars into lactic acid, which is a natural preservative.
Kimchi offers a vibrant combination of spicy, sour, and umami flavours. Kimchi is known for its probiotic properties and is a versatile ingredient in various dishes. In Korea, they usually eat it as a side dish or mixed with rice.
Kombucha is a popular fermented drink made from sweetened tea that undergoes fermentation by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Acetic Acid Bacteria usually dominate this bacterial community in kombucha. It results in a fizzy, tangy, and slightly sweet beverage with a wide range of flavours, depending on the ingredients used during fermentation. Common flavours include fruity, floral, or herbal variations. You can enjoy kombucha on its own, in a cocktail, or add it to your smoothies and vinaigrettes.
Water kefir is a non-dairy fermented beverage made by fermenting sugar water with water kefir grains. These grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast cultures (different from the milk kefir) that transform the sugars into organic acids, carbonation, and other beneficial compounds. Water kefir has a mild and slightly sweet taste, often with fruity or floral undertones. It is a great alternative to milk-based kefir that also offers a range of probiotics and enzymes.