Fermentation is a chemical process that naturally occurs in vegetables, grains, and meats.
Humans quickly realized they could use fermentation to make foods and drinks safer to consume in a world before refrigerators and preservatives.
Archaeological finds suggest that people were fermenting beverages as much as 9,000 years ago!
While many of the early products of fermentation were things we’d consider adult beverages today, such as wines, meads, and other forms of alcohol, it can also be used to create some really tasty foods—some of which you probably eat all the time.
Popular foods which rely on fermentation include:
- Soy sauce
Fermentation is even used to create medicines like Penicillin and Terramycin!
There are three basic forms of fermentation.
The first is lactic acid fermentation, which happens when yeasts and bacteria convert starches or sugars into lactic acid. This process is used to create some of our favourite foods, including pickles, yogurt, sourdough bread… and sauerkraut!
The second is called ethyl alcohol fermentation, which is the process used to create wine and beer. In this process, pyruvate molecules in starches or sugars are broken down by yeasts into alcohol and carbon dioxide molecules.
The third and final form is called acetic acid fermentation. In this process, starches or sugars from fruit or grains are changed into sour tasting vinegar or other condiments.
Each of these kinds of fermentation requires the work of microbes which specialize in converting certain substances into others.