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Foreword by Michael PollanAcknowledgmentsIntroductionFermentation as a Coevolutionary ForcePractical Benefits of FermentationBasic Concepts and EquipmentFermenting Sugars into Alcohol: Meads, Wines, and CidersFermenting Vegetables (and Some Fruits Too)Fermenting Sour Tonic BeveragesFermenting MilkFermenting Grains and Starchy TubersFermenting Beers and Other Grain-based Alcoholic BeveragesGrowing Mold CulturesFermenting Beans, Seeds, and NutsFermenting Meat, Fish, and EggsConsiderations for Commercial EnterprisesNon-Food Applications of FermentationEpilogue: A Cultural Revivalist ManifestoResourcesGlossaryA Note on ReferencesBooks CitedNotesIndex
Excerpt from Chapter 2
Practical Benefits of FermentationBeyond sacred alcohol, fermentation has been valued throughout history primarily for its usefulness in preserving food. Think about how stable cheddar cheese is compared with milk, for example. Although recent generations have seen fermentation eclipsed as a food preservation method by canning, freezing, chemical preservatives, and irradiation, this ancient food preservation wisdom is still applicable, and may be a key to continued survival in a future filled with uncertainty. Many people are becoming interested in fermentation for its nutritional and health benefits, which are considerable and can be quite dramatic. Scientific investigation has been confirming the link between live-culture foods and good health intuitively understood by cultures around the world. Bacteria play crucial roles in many aspects of our physiological functioning, and fermented foods can support, replenish, and diversify our microbial ecology, which may also be key to adapting to shifting conditions. Fermentation has also been used as a strategy for saving fuel, since fermentation digests certain nutrients that otherwise would require long cooking, and enables foods to remain stable at ambient temperatures without refrigeration. This energy-saving aspect of fermentation also has increased relevance given all the uncertainty about future energy supplies. Yet ultimately more compelling (at least for me) than preservation, health, or energy efficiency benefits are the complex edgy flavors of fermentation, which got me interested in all this in the first place. Food is not strictly utilitarian, after all. It can and does bring us great pleasure. In this chapter, we will explore each of those four major benefits of fermentation: preservation, health, energy efficiency, and flavor.