Fermentation means many things to many different people. At it's heart, fermentation and fermenting is about harnessing natural biological processes to preserve and improve the foods we eat. Nearly every community on earth has some culture of fermentation, and you are probably already familiar with some of these. In the UK, foods like cheese, sourdough breads, vinegar and beer, are all examples of fermented foods that are consumed regularly. Fermented vegetables, through a process called lacto-fermentation, are another example of something that used to be much more commonplace in our kitchens. In recent years however, like much of whats available in the supermarket, they have been replaced by short-cut, factory-produced substitutes that not only miss out on a wealth of health benefits, but don't taste as good.
Lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi have been with humans for thousands of years. The powerful combination of salt and naturally occurring bacteria has provided us with an incredible ability to preserve and improve the foods we eat.
Sauces and condiments
Applying the processes of fermentation to foods other than vegetables also has a long history. Hot sauces, mustards, ketchups and other cooking sauces all gain a great depth of flavour by allowing ingredients to get to know each other a bit better.
Vinegar is the product of a unique two stage fermentation process. It has been used as a food, medicine and a tool for thousands of years. Countless types of vinegar exist but in the UK our healthy apple crops give rise to one particularly good type of vinegar.