Fermentation is a naturally occurring process that alchemically transforms vegetables, beans, grains, fruits, milk, nuts and seeds into savory and nutritious substances that are full of enzymes and specific phytonutrients unique to each ferment.
Lactic acid fermentation is caused by some fungi and bacteria. It is used throughout the world to produce speciality foods:
- Western world: yogurt, sourdough breads, sauerkraut, cucumber pickles and olives
- Middle East: pickled vegetables
- Korea: kimchi (fermented mixture of Chinese cabbage, radishes, red pepper, garlic and ginger)
- Russia: kefir
- Egypt: laban rayab and laban zeer (fermented milks), kishk (fermented cereal and milk mixture)
- Nigeria: gari (fermented cassava)
- South Africa : magou (fermented maize porridge)
- Thailand : nham (fermented fresh pork)
- Philippines : balao balao (fermented rice and shrimp mixture)
The presence of lactic acid, produced during the ferment is responsible for the sour taste and for the improved microbiological stability and safety of the food. This lactic acid fermenting is responsible for the sour taste of dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and kefir.
Lactic acid fermentation also gives the sour taste to fermented vegetables such as traditionally cultured sauerkraut and pickles. The sugars in the cabbage are converted into lactic acid and serve as a preservative.