Humans fermenting food to change/improve the taste, preserve it, or make it healthier is not a 1000 years old… it's more like 1000's of years old.
Indeed, over 2000 years ago Jesus would have eaten his fair share of olives. These delicious fruits would have been fermented in brine for several months to remove the bitterness and improve the taste before they could be eaten.
Even 6000 years ago, evidence exists that ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians fermented foods making meads and pickles to sustain themselves and preserve harvests.
However, over the past several decades, many of us (particularly in western societies) have moved away from fermented foods and have chosen sugar or freezing as our preferred way to preserve and flavour foods to eat at our convenience.
Highly processed food swimming in sugar syrup or snap frozen to death wrapped in pastry to be quickly reheated and consumed is now the norm for many people and the side effects are sadly becoming noticeable with obesity levels growing alarmingly.
But the obvious outside implications of how a poor diet affects humans is only the tip of the iceberg because it's what's happening on the inside of our body (particularly in the gut) that's more telling.
Gastronomic scientists are only now discovering just how important it is for humans to have a healthy living stomach ecosystem. And not just any living bacteria in our guts either, rather, we all need a large selection of the good stomach bacteria in order to live a long healthy life.
Good bacteria in the gut is easy to obtain. All a person needs to do is regularly eat fresh fruit and vegetables and also fermented foods, which contain high amounts of live good bacteria such as lactobacilli. When consumed, these good bacteria grow in the stomach and help our body to become healthier through a variety of complex symbiotic arrangements most of which are not yet fully understood by scientists.
Although we do understand the benefits and relationship between us humans and the billions of animals that live in or on us much better than a few years ago, there's lots more research to do before we fully know how important internal bacteria are for our overall health and well-being.
On the other hand, eating too much sugar and processed foods wrapped in plastic or cardboard to quickly open and then reheated or deep fried in fat not only discourages bacteria in the gut but also encourages a build-up of bad bacteria in the gut that craves more of the bad foods, in turn, releasing chemicals into our body to persuade us to eat more bad food. It's an unhealthy and powerful cycle that needs to be broken if one is to regain real inner and outer health.
Thankfully, the message about eating more good bacteria via specific foods, especially fermented, is starting to break through into the general public and I think this is why we are seeing more fermenting tools and kits being sold in stores and online than ever before – this is a really good thing!
Nina, my wife, is currently doing a course down in Melbourne (as at the writing of this post) and during her downtime, she managed to send me this image (above) of fermenting crocks for sale in the shopping centre in time for Christmas. For us, this is a very exciting development (hence why she thought it was important enough to send me the pic) because even though we already have our own German fermenting crock and other fermenting gear such as pickle pipes etc, to see hundreds of them displayed in store means there must be a demand for them.
Only just a few years ago, I would have had to hunt high and low to find a fermenting crock to buy but it seems like the rise of the fermenters has triggered retailers to jump at the opportunity and sell them with gusto!
This Christmas we intend to give away some of our homemade ferments to family and friends, like our wonderfully tasty tangy sauerkraut, because what could be a better gift than a hit of probiotic stomach goodness to say we care about you… LOL.
Seriously, if fermenting our own homegrown food was a difficult process I wouldn't be doing it. If fermenting our own food was dangerous, I wouldn't be doing it. And, if the fermented food tasted awful I would not be doing it. The truth is fermenting your own food is easy, safe, tasty, and good for us so I encourage everyone to get into fermenting!
We got our fermenting crock and jars online on eBay Australia here…. for those of you in the USA try Amazon here or eBay USA and for UK buyers have a look at Amazon UK for fermenting gear also.