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An old method rediscovered: fermenting is the latest food trend

You might remember your grandmother having shelves full of bottled produce in her pantry. Preserving used to be a popular way of ensuring that people could still eat fruit and vegetables in the winter when food was scarce. After having fallen out of fashion for many years, preserving jars recently made a comeback. Now used as a container for layered desserts in restaurants or as storage jars at home, they’ve become a staple item in the modern kitchen. So it’s no surprise that the methods of preserving and fermenting are now taking off again too. And there’s a good reason for this. Just like in the past, people today want to know where their food comes from. Eating produce that you’ve fermented yourself is one way to ensure that you know exactly what's on your plate. Fermenting can make almost all kinds of cooked foods – not just fruits and vegetables – last longer without using any preservatives.

Science in the kitchen

Anyone can ferment food. The process is really simple. All you need to do is layer sliced fruit or vegetables in a jar, top it up with brine and make sure it’s tightly closed. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of sugar, vinegar and Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce (or the 43% less salt or gluten-free versions) to add flavour. Other spices such as chilli or cinnamon can add an exotic touch without affecting the fermentation process. Fermentation starts as soon as bubbles form in the jar. It’s best to store the jars at 22 to 23 °C for the first few days, before moving them to a cooler spot – ideally 15 to 18 °C. This provides the optimum conditions for the enzymes, sometimes also called “ferments”, to convert carbohydrates into lactic acid, which has a preserving effect. This sour environment kills germs that would otherwise cause the food to spoil, so the fermented product lasts longer. Vitamins, such as Vitamin B and Vitamin C, and probiotic bacteria are preserved. This can provide the gut with beneficial bacteria and improve digestion.  And that's not all. The fermentation process also adds a unique, intense flavour to food. Try it yourself and see!

Tsukemono – Japanese fermented vegetables 

Fermented cucumber, nattō (fermented soy beans) and the miso in miso soup are three of the fermented foods that most Japanese people eat regularly – even for breakfast. Tsukemono is the name of the fermented vegetable dish that’s served as an accompaniment to almost all meals in Japan, alongside fermented condiments such as Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce (or the 43% less salt or gluten-free versions).

Japanese people use a tsukemono-ki to make their own tsukemono. That’s a container, traditionally made of wood, glass or ceramic. Once all the ingredients have been added, a two-kilo tsukemono-ishi (a “stone for preserved things”) is placed on the containers to create an airtight seal.

Video: Pickled vegetables

Aromatic pumpkin sauce with apples and sesame

Ingredients: 250 g Hokkaido pumpkin, 250 g sour apples, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp ginger powder, 2 tsp Linden honey, 2 tsp pectin, 3 tsp ground sesame seeds, 50 ml Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Less Salt Soy Sauce

Preparation: Clean apples, peel pumpkin, remove seeds and stems, chop into cubes. Stir fry on low heat until tender and falling apart, blend. Add all spices, mix well and cook 2-3 minutes.

Pour the sauce into clean, dry glasses, cover with seals and lids and put to preheated oven. Bake in max. 120°C for about 30 minutes. Allow cooling down overnight; don’t turn up-side-down.

Sauce is perfect as a ready spread for bread or dip for snacks, finger food, fried food, meat, fish and seafood.

Sweet chutney of melon and pears

Ingredients: 1 kg pears, 1 kg melon, 1 kg onions, 1 chili, ½ kg sugar, 500 ml wine vinegar, 150 ml Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Less Salt Soy Sauce

Preparation: Chop the pears and melon in cubes, bigger for melon and smaller for pears. Chop onions finely. Place all in a pot, add sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Mix and cook on small heat until onion gets tender (30 minutes – 1 hour), when needed add some water.

Put hot chutney in clean, dry glasses, cover with seals and lids and put to preheated oven. Bake in 120°C for about 30 minutes. Allow cooling down overnight; don’t turn up-side-down.

Serve as sweet addition to cheese, roasted or grilled meats and as a ready spread for bread.

Autumn vegetables

Ingredients: 100 ml Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce, 200 ml water, 100 g sugar, 150 ml rice vinegar, 1 kg vegetables of choice, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 pcs bay leaves, ptional spices of choice (for example coriander, cumin or pepper)

Preparation: Bring to the boil soy sauce with water, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Clean vegetables, wipe dry and chop into pieces about 3 cm. Put into the marinade and leave for 1 day.

Put vegetables with marinade in clean, dry glasses, cover with seals and lids and put to preheated oven. Bake in max. 120°C for about 30 minutes. Allow cooling down overnight; don’t turn up-side-down.

Vegetables are perfect as a ready salad to main dishes, addition to meat, fish and grilled meats.