Every third Thursday of the month, the Sustainable Open Living Lab workshops take places at the Impact Hub Geneva. The aim? Foster the development of solutions that accelerate the transition to sustainable lifestyles.
Last month’s subject was fermentation. Wait, what? Fermentation? For those who have never heard of it, here is some explanation. Fermentation is a very old technique, a way to preserve foods and drinks in absence of a refrigerator. It has been used since the origins of time and is nowadays still very common in certain East European and Asian countries. Examples of fermented vegetables are sauerkraut, miso and tempeh. Only a few people know it’s also a very healthy way of eating vegetables!
Invited for this Sustainable Open Living Lab edition was Suzanne Drouet, a Geneva-based food entrepreneur and currently in the early start-up stage of providing information and materials on fermented products such as kombucha (fermented tea) and fermented vegetables.Suzanne explained us in a three hour-workshop everything you need to know about fermentation and its health benefits. After that, participants got the opportunity to prepare their own jar of fermented vegetables.
A Century-Old Practice
How does it exactly work, this fermentation technique? To simplify a bit, during the fermentation process, good bacteria convert organic compounds, such as sugars, into alcohol or lactic acid. This specific process enhances the initial food by preserving or even creating vitamins and making minerals more bioavailable, i.e. more easily absorbed by the digestive tract. And that’s where the health aspect comes in. As some nutrients in food are broken down through the process, fermented foods are easier to digest and contain more minerals and vitamins than raw vegetables. The live bacteria present in the end product, also called probiotics, are also extremely beneficial and are linked to increased immunity.
Two commonly used methods for fermentation are dry-salting and brining. Dry-salting is used a lot in the fish or meat industry. Brining (using a saltwater solution) is typically used when vegetables are fermented whole or in large chunks.
When it comes to the final taste of the product, this is something one has to get used to, since it’s quite distinctive, strong with slightly sour flavors. Therefore, fermentation is often used as flavour enhancement or in the production of many condiments (vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce.)
Do it yourself!
Did you know that it’s easy to make your own fermented veggies at home? So, for everybody who got inspired, take note!
It all starts with the vegetables. You can choose whatever you want but try to buy vegetables as fresh and local as possible, since the fermentation will only be as good as the ingredients you use.
Some vegetables work better than others. Cabbage, apples and beetroots for example work very well. Chop the vegetables to increase the surface area so the juice from the vegetables is pulled more easily. Prepare the saltwater solution (the brine), but keep in mind: always use high quality salt and dechlorinated water! Pack the vegetables in a jar tightly and pour the brine until the veggies are submerged.
Don’t forget to leave a bit of space between the vegetables and the top of the jar, since CO2 is released and vegetables may take more space in the jar while fermenting, forcing liquid out! And then… wait one to three weeks! Bon appétit!
Want to know more about fermentation or future workshops on this subject? Contact Suzanne!
Want to know more about the Open Lab editions? Have a look at the Impact Hub website!