Canning & Preserving Made Easy: Fermentation

— Written By Kerry Jones
en Español / em Português

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What is fermentation? It’s the process of using microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, to convert carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation is a food preservation method that has a very long history, perhaps as long as 12,000 years. Cheese, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, olives, salami, jerky, and bread as well as beverages such as hard cider, wine, beer, and coffee are all produced by the fermentation process. Some fermented foods have been critical to the food culture of a country or region. Think yogurt in the Middle East, sauerkraut in Germany, and fermented sausages in Italy.

There are several health benefits to fermenting food. First, fermentation serves to enhance the digestion of food. Your body needs adequate digestive enzymes to properly absorb, digest, and utilize nutrients in food. When vegetables like cabbage and cucumbers are left to steep and sit, the sugars break down, promoting the growth of bacteria. Sauerkraut is also a good source of vitamin C in the winter. Probiotic yogurt is extremely high in calcium, zinc, B vitamins, probiotics, and protein. In other words, fermented foods are filled with beneficial bacteria that reinforce the good bacteria in the digestive system. Since 70 percent to 80 percent of the immune system lies in the gut, having proper balance of gut flora is important. 

Want to learn more about fermentation, safe processing methods, and how to make sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurt, and kombucha? North Carolina Cooperative Extension will be offering two fermentation workshops locally. The first one will be held on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 2 p.m. at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Polk County Center. Register online  CLASS NOW FULL or call (828) 894-8218.

The second fermentation workshop (covering the same material) will be held at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center on Thursday, October 22, 2020, at 2 p.m. You may call (828) 697-4891 to register for this workshop. There is a $15 materials fee for each workshop.