Fermentation: How it works

Sure, fermented may not be the most appetizing word, but don’t let that fool you. Words like braised, baked, roasted, whipped, and flambéed may be more familiar descriptors of yummy things. Despite its name, fermented food is in fact delicious—and extremely healthy. But how exactly does fermentation work? Let’s talk about it.

In our case, we will discuss lacto-fermentation, which is the process that creates things like pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut—and all of Ozuké’s products.

The earliest evidence of fermentation dates as far back as 7000-6600 BCE. This was long before machinery was involved in food processing. In fact, fermentation requires only salt, lack of oxygen and a cool temperature.

Microorganisms (yeasts, molds and bacteria) in foods that are harmful to humans do not tolerate salt. Since salt is the key operator in the fermentation process, these undesirable microorganisms (also called microbes) are killed off, letting the beneficial microorganisms thrive. This happens in stage one of the fermentation process, when vegetables soak in brine, and are denied access to oxygen.

The salt-tolerant survivors of this process are lactobacillus. These are beneficial microbes that improve digestion, increase vitamin levels, act as anti-inflammatory agents, and are even linked to preventing cancer.

Once salt and the lack of oxygen have killed off harmful microorganisms, fermentation moves to stage two. In this stage, lactobacillus organisms (the good guys) begin to convert sugars, starches and carbohydrates into lactic acid. Besides being nature’s preservative, lactic acid supports the growth of healthy flora in our intestine. Read more about the many benefits of healthy microbes here.

At the end of the fermentation process, you are left with a better version of the food you started with. To top it off, you can store this delicious food without worrying about it going bad. That means, if you can manage not to eat all of your favorite Ozuké items in one weekend, they will be there for you to feast on for many weekends to come. We wish you the best of luck.