Fermented Fundamentals

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Fermentation is the latest DIY food trend to hit the mainstream. It may seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these tips for homemade yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and more.

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Fermentation is the latest DIY food trend to hit the mainstream these days. But what is it exactly? It's a way to extend the edible life of produce while also introducing added health benefits and allowing new textures and flavors to develop. One of the most-popular fermented vegetable products is sauerkraut, with its spicier cousin kimchi giving it a run for its money. And that wonderful tang we love in yogurt? Fermentation.

How does it work? Sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt are all created by a process called lacto-fermentation. This is when bacteria converts sugar into lactic acid, which acts as a preservative and is the source of that tangy flavor. These lactic acid bacteria are already present in cabbage, which is why you can make sauerkraut out of just cabbage and salt. For yogurt, however, you need a starter to get the fermentation process going. That's commonly accomplished by adding a small amount of already made yogurt to the soon-to-be-yogurt milk.

There are also a few beverages that you might not have realized were fermented: Beer, cider, wine and all other alcoholic beverages are all fermented by yeast, which converts the sugar into alcohol. Another fermented beverage taking the world by storm is kombucha. Kombucha is a sour beverage that starts as a sweetened tea and is then fermented by a combination of bacteria and yeast. Though there are trace amounts of alcohol created by the yeast and the sugar, kombucha is generally considered nonalcoholic because most of the sugar is metabolized by the bacteria.

Sound complicated? Sure, but it doesn't have to be. At-home fermenting can be incredibly simple to do — some of the most-basic recipes require only fresh produce, salt and time. Kimchi-making party, anyone? Once you've got all of these fermented products, here are some great ways you can eat them (aside from straight out of the jar):

Kimchi:

Yogurt: