The principle of fermentation
Wild fermentation is the one I prefer, because it leaves nothing to chance. In fact, much of the fermentative techniques are based on understanding what kind of selective environment is needed, and to create and maintain it over time. Having grown up professionally in a scientific research environment, I have become accustomed to always seeking the cause-effect of every event and understanding the mechanisms that regulate biological and chemical processes. This passion for the “scientific logic” (pass me the term) has made me fall in love with fermentation, because every choice you make leads to a precise consequence.
Fermentation is not instinct and intuition but logic and science
When we decide to proceed with a fermentation, we proceed like this: choose what to process and what we want to obtain; theorize what to do and the tools needed to get the result; proceed with the fermentation by monitoring all the possible parameters to verify that the choices have proved to be winning and taking note of all the ingredients, tools and environmental parameters. All this will serve to replicate the same fermentation in the future, obtaining a similar result, if not the same.
Obviously, there are many variables that are not measurable and each fermented will be slightly different, but the satisfaction of having achieved a result that “we theorized” is great!
First of all, lets analyze the ingredients we use as “tools,” the ingredients we use as a means of fermenting raw materials.
- Water. Water is a very important fermentation medium. This ingredient-tool will have to be first of all potable and possibly without the addition of chlorine. Chlorine, present in the tap water, serves to kill all the microorganisms and make it safe for home use, but may prevent or slow fermentation. If you are forced to use tap water, boil or leave it in a large mouthpiece for a couple of days to let evaporate most of the chlorine.
- Salt. Another essential ingredient for many fermentations. It is better to choose non-iodized salt, as iodine may complicate the fermentation. If you can, use salts that contain other minerals that will be useful to microorganisms to grow and multiply. Unrefined whole sea salt is a good choice, although it contains traces of iodine, these do not significantly affect fermentation.
- Sugar. It is often necessary to add sugar in our fermentations. In fact, sugars are the main food for yeasts and bacteria and can help a fermentation start without making big aromatic changes to other ingredients. However, by choosing non-refined sugars, see the various types here, we can add aroma to our fermented ones.
Without going too complicated, let’s consider three great categories of tools: transformation; containers; of measurement.
All the tools we need to process the ingredients before fermentation. The most classic are knife, chopping board and muddler. Possibly all in polycarbonate and not in wood. We can also have blenders, mixers or other small household appliances that will make life easier. We love technology that simplifies life!
Any jar, vessel or container in which to ferment the ingredients and store them. The important thing is that it is large enough and that it can be taped. Prefer glass to plastic and wood. To cover the containers without tapping them, use a cloth or something similar, blocked with a rubber band. Instead, to tap the cans in a hermetically sealed manner, there are several solutions, but if you are afraid that they may explode, prefer vent caps or apply an airlock bubbler. Be careful! Fermentations can generate a lot of carbon dioxide, creating great pressure in the containers, which could explode in extreme cases. You do not always need a cap to create an anaerobic condition: just make sure the ingredients remain submerged in the fermentation liquid, also by helping yourself with some weights. Use funnels and filters to make it easier. Finally, fermentation containers can be understood as very complex systems: for example, rooms with controlled temperature and humidity.
Let us objectively control what we do. The first tool is definitely a notebook. Write EVERYTHIG! Even the least important details. Then there are the tools to measure weights and volumes, such as scales and graduated carafes. Finally, the tools that measure the parameters. The most important are: thermometer (temperature), refractometer (sugar concentration) and pH meter (pH). Without them, it is more difficult to understand what we are doing.
Take note of everything you do.
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