Hey-ya’ll it’s another What’s the Word? Wednesday. I apologize as it went into hibernation for a few weeks. I’ve been struggling with the F-word (insert inappropriate joke here) there is so much choice but nothing uniquely vegetarian I started thinking about processes, how produce is farmed, what vegetarian should know about freezing, what fast food options are there for vegetarians and what can you make yourself that is technically healthy and ‘fast food’? I lost interest in processes and so I went on to broader topics like, fruit, fortunately most people like fruit and are familiar with it however that makes for one boring blog post. What about fats? Healthy ones, like ones sourced from plants, are great for lubricating your body, helping absorb lipid-loving nutrients and making everything it touches taste a smidgen better. Unhealthy fats (saturated) come from animal products and vegetarians still can throw their saturated fats out of whack by eating too many dairy products and/or eggs. I then tried to go over singular ingredients like fiddle heads (not in season), flax seed (too universal), fennel (no recipes on the blog using fennel – note to self use some fennel soon -it’s delicious) or farro (nope, I’ve already showcased a grain).
At the end of the day I settled on fermentation as a vegetarian, whether you think of it or not, we use fermentation for flavour. So this week’s What’s the Word? Wednesday – F is for Fermentation.
What is it?
Fermentation is a chemical breakdown of some substances (usually simple sugars) and simultaneous multiplication of other microorganisms. Usually this process is described as a ‘conversion’, meaning as one substance consumes the other thereby breaking down the original. For example, to make alcohol, simple sugars are broken down (or converted to alcohol) as they are absorbed by yeast. As the yeast multiplies it eats the sugars, leaving the byproduct; ethyl alcohol.
What does it taste like?
It’s hard to describe what fermentation tastes like. It can taste yeasty like some beer and wine. It can add earthy, savoury flavours, often described ad umami which can be hard to pin point. It adds bubbles to our champanges and ciders. As well as it brings us the tastes of kombucha, miso, and aged cheeses.
Where do I use it?
Since fermentation covers so much, it’s hard to tell you where/how to use it. It could be the pickles in your sandwich or the fizz in your drink. Fermentation aids in preserving foods as well like the use of vinegar in pickling/canning or in foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut. Dairy products use fermentation to make yoghurt, kefir or quark, soy products are fermented for flavour and preservation like soy sauce, miso or tempeh, or when making extracts like vanilla extract and hot pepper sauces. Fermentation of yeast gives rise to delicious breads, and if you are like me fermenting it for longer improves the flavour– hello delicious sourdough.
Are there health benefits?
Is it just me or are people going crazy for pro-biotics? If you have not heard of them or just go with the food trend flow and aren’t sure on what they are, probiotics are bacteria, loads of it. We have hundreds of different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tract and all of that bacteria not only helps us break down our food, but also helps our immune system stay strong.
The health benefits of the fermented foods you are eating vary from food to food however at a basic level, some increase absorption of other nutrients, or at least make them easier for your body to digest. Some studies suggest eating a diet with more fermented foods can help manage some health conditions from the common cold to irritable bowel syndrome and put you at lower risk for other digestive issues as you age.
V-Spot suggestions for using fermentation or fermented food in:
- English Muffin Bread
- Green Olive Fougasse
- Mushroom Bulgur Miso Soup
- Quick Radish and Onion Pickles used in my Banh mi Chay recipe
- Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread posted by The Fresh Loaf
- The Perfect Dosa by The Veggie Belly
- Vegan Kimchi by Serious Eats
- Vegan Artisan Cheeses using a fermentation process posted by Vegan Crunk