Author: Rebecca Newburn

Bacteria help transform some things into the foods we love. This tutorial is an introduction into fermentation.

See More
Introduction to Psychology

Analyze this:
Our Intro to Psych Course is only $329.

Sophia college courses cost up to 80% less than traditional courses*. Start a free trial now.


Think About It

  • What is fermentation?
  • What common foods are fermented?
  • Are there fermented foods that I can make at home?


Humans have often preserved food so that it is available when they need it. Long before refrigeration and canning became ways to keep food, fermentation was used as a means of preserving food so that it would be safe to eat at a later time.

Remember in "We Are the Petri Dish" that we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in our body. The fermented foods and drinks we consume can increase our health. For example, kombucha contains active cultures of "good" bacteria. Foods and drinks that contain these beneficial bacteria are sometimes called "probiotic."

Fermentation is a process where wild or introduced bacteria or yeast, a single-celled type of fungi, change sugars in foods to acids, gases or alcohol. These chemical reactions transform (change) the original food into some delicious as well as some strong tasting foods. Some fermented foods, such as yogurt, can taste sour because acid is one of the byproducts. Many of these fermented foods are eaten to improve health.

All traditional cultures have some form of fermentation and yet many modern eaters no longer make their own ferments. However, there are a number of fermented foods that have remained a part of our diet. What fermented foods are common today?

Common Fermented Foods

Here are some starting ingredients & their fermented products;

  • Milk: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheese
  • Vegetables: sauerkraut, some types of pickles*, kimchi
  • Soybean: tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce
  • Grains: breads
  • Condiments: chutneys, vinegars
  • Beverages: kombucha, coffee, tea
  • Meat: salami, fish sauce, pepperoni
  • Chocolate

* There are two main types of pickles: fermented in brine (salt and water) and vinegar. Also, there are many things that can be pickled. For example, you can have pickled cucumbers, pickled beets or pickled carrots to name just a few! Only the fermented type of pickles have the probiotic (helpful to life) health benefits.

How to Make Homemade Yogurt

Many store bought yogurts have added sugar. If you want super healthy yogurt and want to save money and reduce the amount of plastic you use, learn how to make your own yogurt. It's fun!

Source: Healthymamainfo

Make your own pickles (Optional but cool!)

Pickles can easily be made at home. They are probiotic and super healthy!

Sauerkraut from the King of Wild Ferment, Sandor Katz (Optional)

Did You Know

You may recall the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet, but did you ever know what it meant?

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey*

Along came a spider and sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away.

*Curds and whey are products of the fermentation of milk. A tuffet is a little stool.

Full Screen

Source: Rebecca Newburn

Learn More

Wild Fermentation - Sandor Katz's blog