What it ain'tMaybe it's easier to answer "what is real fermenting?" in the negative. Yogurt made with thickening agents and high fructose corn syrup ain't real fermenting. Neither is Lite beer made with cheap adjuncts. That dyed orange springy stuff Americans call "Cheddar cheese" certainly isn't. All these things are not made with taste, informed practice or healthfulness in mind.
The Three Factors of Real FermentingI am going to run with those three factors as the core to my manifesto.
Taste is primary for me. I will not make something twice if I didn't like the way it tasted. This drives experimentation and resourcefulness in me, as I attempt to alter things to make them taste good to me, with my limited means.
Informed Practice does not mean using only recipes or existing methods. But it does mean reading about them and reacting to that information. We are sailors in a sea of cultural practices. I can read about how the high-end homebrewers make their excellent beers, but I can't afford to use their equipment right now. Fine, so how can I reproduce that? I'm a dislocated Brit living in Bakersfield CA, so I have a wealth of cultural baggage and learned prejudices that I carry with me, but I try to be open to new flavor profiles and experiences. I guess we'll see when I come face-to-face with fermented fish-egg cheese on a cracker!
Healthfulness means whole foods and biologically active processes. Fermented foods in their original state are fantastic aides to our microbiome - the microscopic lifeforms we share our bodies with and upon which we depend. Using whole foods is not always the easiest way, but it is essential to our nutritional fulfillment. Real fermenting means making healthful foods for a fraction of the price of commercial products. It's amazing raw sauerkraut for 50 cents/lb rather than $10/lb. We're all on a budget and real fermenting means getting more health for your buck. Now, I'm not claiming the beer I make is healthy (although, some are better than others). But when I drink homemade beer, I drink one glass at a time and savor every drop. Lite beer does not encourage that behavior.
So that's about it. You'll see in future and past posts this manifesto manifested (!). It's why I make 1 gallon of beer at a time, and why I always have the next batch of sauerkraut on the go. I'd like to gently encourage each of you to ferment something, if never have. And if you have, share with the rest of us your experience.