Basics about Fermentation
One of the main ingredients of OKAZU is miso paste, so we were really fortunate to meet Yumi Miyamoto, a miso sommelier from Japan. Yumi shared her knowledge about miso, and Japanese fermentation processes in general, and we are glad to pass along these interesting tidbits with you. Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a series of articles to jump start your miso education. Read on for the first article in the series, Fermentation Basics.
3. A Concise History of Miso
4. 3 Varieties of Miso You Need to Know About
Fermentation basics ～Introduction: What is Fermentation? ～
Fermentation is defined as the process by which microorganisms (or the enzymes they contain) produce substances that are required by the human body, or assist in making its processes more efficient. When put this way it may seem somewhat difficult, but to explain it more simply, it means “a state in which germs that are beneficial to the human body multiply.”
The English term “fermentation” comes from the Latin word “fervere.”
The word “fervere” means to surge or spring out.
It is believed that the humans of the past most likely came to adopt this word once they observed that their food and drink would suddenly begin to bubble up as a result of the fermentation process.
The Difference Between Fermentation and Decay
～What’s the Difference?～
Fermentation and decay are actually very alike in that they both involve the growth of bacteria.=
So, what is the difference between them?
Please look at this diagram.
For example, if you were to put milk in a glass at room temperature and let it remain in the summer heat all day, it will develop a terrible odor. However, if you instead add lactic-acid bacilli to the milk and heat it, it turns into delicious yogurt.
In the example on the right we have soybeans, something that will also rot and start to smell if left out in the summer. However, if you add to it the microorganism bacillus subtilis natto, it becomes delicious nattō (fermented soybean).
As stated before, while fermentation is “a state in which germs that are beneficial to the human body multiply,” decay is a state in which germs that are harmful to the body propagate.
Fermentation was once a technique for preserving food.
The reason why this food was able to last a long period of time without decaying is because the bacteria involved in fermentation are very strong and able to curb the growth of other bacteria, including those involved in decay. This is known as bacterial antagonism (It gives me the mental image of a game of bacterial capture the flag. ※ Fumi - or maybe chess?)
Food in which microorganisms have grown due to fermentation not only are less prone to decaying but also experience an increase in flavor and nutrition that it did not previously contain. And through the disassembly of enzymes within the bacteria, the bodily processes of digestion and absorption become much more effortless, making the food altogether a much more rewarding piece of nourishment.
A Definition of Fermentation
In other words, fermentation is the process by which tiny invisible germs perform tasks that benefit the human body.
From ancient times humans have utilized the process to enrich their day-to-day lives.
In eras before the advent of the refrigerator, humans devised means of food preservation.
Alongside drying, salting, and smoking food, fermentation was one such method.
Yumi was raised on her mother's homemade miso, inspiring a lifelong love of the stuff. Believing that mIso can forge love and bonding in families, she's been teaching folks how to make it since 2013. Yumi loves miso more than anything.
Currently, she is in charge of consumer education at Yuasa Soy Sauce Ltd, which has a long history of miso and soysauce making in Japan.
Yumi doesn't just teach adults, but also teaches elementary school kids how to make soy sauce, Kinzanji miso and tofu.