Introduction to fermentation, for tasty foods that are good for the microbiota

They give pep to your dishes, are excellent for your health and easy to prepare at home, fermented foods are investing more and more in kitchens. Decryption.

Lacking oxygen can be good! You only need to leave some carrot or celery sticks in a tightly sealed jar for a while to be convinced. Under the action of various micro-organisms (bacteria, yeasts and other moulds), these vegetables come out of their salt bath transformed in terms of appearance and taste. “Fermentation is life without air,” explained Pasteur, who became interested in this anaerobic mode of preservation in 1849 and received the Jecker Prize from the Academy of Sciences in 1861 for his work on this subject. research, fermentation has come a long way in homes.

living food

Although chefs like to use it to spice up their dishes, the general public is often unaware of the extent of fermentation methods. “There are a lot of fermented foods on our plates,” insists Marie-Claire Frédéric, founder of the blog Ni cru ni cooked, a true reference on this topic. “Bread and pastries, cheeses, cold cuts, such as ham, certain fish, such as herring and anchovies which can be fermented, olives, sauerkraut, beer, wine, vinegar… And these are not just a few examples related to French culture. Because what is fascinating about these foods is that they are found in all the cuisines of the world.

People want to take control of how they eat

Marie-Claire Frederic

Passionate, Marie-Claire Frédéric has just inaugurated a specialized school which has met with great success. “People want to take control of how they eat,” she says. The food industry provides us with sterile, therefore dead, food. However, the dishes resulting from fermentation are themselves alive. You can see it quite simply by observing the evolution of a cheese during its maturation: it is very different when you eat it young or several weeks old. The micro-organisms that have made it possible to transform fermented products arrive active in our body, and contribute to our health, in particular to the proper functioning of our microbiota, the importance of which we know today.

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Enzymes at work

During her classes, Marie-Claire Frédéric discusses different types of fermentations – lactic, acetic, malolactic… – and shows that practicing them at home does not require advanced knowledge. “For vegetables, for example, she explains, there are two very simple main methods: salt or brine. The first concerns vegetables that can be grated, such as cabbage, carrots. We pack the minced flesh well in a jar to evacuate the air pockets, and we add the salt. This will bring out the water in the vegetables. Once the jar is closed, they will quickly be immersed in their own juice which will replace the air. For vegetables in large pieces or whole – leeks, radishes, green beans… – we use brine, a mixture of water and salt. The liquid fills in the spaces where the air is, and the micro-organisms can work in the airtight container.”

What motivates these microorganisms? The stress linked to the lack of air! The latter pushes them to make enzymes, proteins that break down the large sugar molecules present in vegetables. The atoms then recombine differently, creating substances like lactic acids, which are powerful antiseptics.

Long shelf life

“These preparations are safe, because no pathogen can develop in this bath, explains Marie-Claire Frédéric. Of course, you have to respect some hygiene conditions at the start, but if the process is well controlled, you can keep your jars of vegetables for several months, while the products would have rotted in the air. Once reassured, you can embark on many experiments: Japanese miso, prepared with cooked soy mixed with koji, a ferment used for sake, or Korean kimchi, which are vegetables prepared in brine with spices, chilli, ginger, garlic. There are also fermented drinks. Kombucha, made from sweet tea that is fermented using a scoby, a gelatinous-looking mother composed of a set of bacteria, or kefir, to which Marie-Claire Frédéric adds pineapple skin . Combining fermentation and antigaspi, that should very quickly convert the simple curious into “ferments” followers of this type of recipe.

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