When someone hears the word fermentation, often the first things that come to mind are grandma’s preserving jars in the cellar, pickled gherkins and beer. Nowadays, fermentation has been rediscovered and harnessed to produce new flavours in the international culinary scene. Chefs all over the world are getting creative to produce new aromas and consistencies using the fermentation process. The sustainability and health sectors are interested in fermentation technologies too. But what actually is fermentation?
Fermentation refers to the transformation of organic substances by microorganisms. Microorganisms, too small for the human eye to see, are involved in countless organic processes throughout the world and older than humanity. Fermentation refers to the growth and multiplication of these microorganisms for the metabolism and the production of biomass.
Humanity has been taking advantage of this process for thousands of years. In addition to its taste-giving qualities, the focus of this process was for a long time on preserving foods.
The traditional staple foods of European cuisine are meat and milk, which, given that they are perishable products, cannot be stored for long. Before refrigerators and storage facilities came about, fermentation helped people to preserve their foodstuffs. Nutrients such as proteins and vitamins are retained for a longer period through fermentation.
Even today, our fridges contain many products that have been made using fermentation processes: one or more of either salami, yoghurt or cheese can be found in most European fridges. Fermentation has a significant impact on the flavour profile of foods and has strongly influenced our taste preferences.
Environmental considerations have resulted in fermentation taking on more significance once again and it could even form the basis for the non-animal-based production of essential proteins. It will be exciting to see where technologies take us with fermentation in the future.