Glossary of fermenting terms
Fermenting foods and beverages requires a little bit of know-how. It’s definitely more complicated than grilling a chicken or baking a cake. But if you take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the processes and ingredients, you’ll have a much easier time creating delicious fermented items. The following glossary should help:
Amasake: A sweet fermented rice drink that has traditional roots in Japan.
Anaerobic: This term refers to environments without oxygen. In fermentation, an anaerobic environment is necessary for breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into sugar.
Brine: A saltwater solution. A brine is made for pickling or fermenting and acts on the food by drawing out the water from its cells and killing any bad bacteria that might spoil the food.
Enzyme inhibitor: An enzyme inhibitor decreases the enzymes function and can interfere with one’s digestion.
Incubator: Any object or supply that will help to keep your fermented food at the desired temperature during the fermentation process.
Koji: A fermented starter made from cultured soybeans and rice. It is responsible for breaking down the carbohydrates and sugars in food products.
Kombucha: A healing fermented drink that has its roots in Asia. It is made from a SCOBY (see below), tea, and sugar. It has a slightly tangy taste
Kvass: This fermented beverage began as a Russian brewed drink made from rye bread or beets. Has a flavor that’s similar to root beer or cola.
Lactic acid: This acid stops the growth of bad bacteria that might spoil your food, turning it into consumable fermented goods!
Lactobacillus: A bacteria that helps to produce lactic acid from carbohydrates. It is responsible for turning starches into sugars and acids and is essential for fermentation process.
Phytic acid: These anti-nutrients are naturally occurring in some grains and can prevent healthy minerals from being absorbed by your body.
Probiotics: Like lactobacillus, probiotics are micro-organisms that are healthy for our body and especially our gut! They are naturally occurring in foods.
SCOBY: Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It is an essential culture needed for kombucha making, an ancient healing fermented drink.
Starter: Just another name for any pre-fermented product. Starter cultures can be purchased commercially or made at home. All starters are made up of naturally occurring microorganisms, most notably the Lactobacilli, and a combination of other food products such as water and flour or dairy product such as milk or yoghurt.
Wort: In homebrewing, the name for the beverage or soda mix before you have added your starter and initiated fermentation.
Cleaning and sanitizing your fermenting tools
When fermenting, having a clean work space and tools ensures that your good bacteria outnumber the bad. Cleaning your work area and equipment is essential to for creating a delicious final product. Here are some general steps you should follow when preparing to ferment food:
Wash all containers, utensils, and weights that you’re going to use in a dishwasher or by hand with hot, soapy water just before use.
Sanitize or sterilize equipment and containers, as called for in the recipe you’re following.
Rinse items in cool, clean water. (Sterilized items don’t need rinsing.)
Air dry items or dry them with paper towels; use a fresh paper towel for each item.
Store items on clean paper towels on clean countertops or tables until you use them.
Remove pets and small children from the room before you begin to work.
Before beginning to work with food, tie back your hair if it’s long, and scrub your hands, including under your fingernails.
Don’t use dishcloths or rags to dry the cleaned items. Cloth is notorious for holding huge quantities of harmful microbes, and you spread those from item to item as you wipe them. Instead, use a clean paper towel for each item if you need to dry them. Aprons made of cloth also spread bacteria, especially if you wipe your hands on them, so keep paper towels close by for wiping your hands.