Food & Drink

Food Trend Alert: What Is Fermentation?

By Sophia McMeekin
7th Aug 2014

If the thought of digesting yet another food trend is enough to make you roll your eyes and turn back to your cheeseburger, you may be sceptical when we say this one is legit', but hear us out. Unlike wheatgrass, kale, and camel's milk (seriously?), this new food trend is undeniably delish, and is responsible for some of our favourite foods, like beer, bread, pickles, and cheese.  

What is fermentation?

Pickling's older, more sophisticated, brother, fermentation uses live bacteria to transform foods into (partially) living entities. The basic process involves transforming sugar into alcohol using yeast (think beer). And, as it happens, all that yeasty bacteria is great for your gut.

You've heard of probiotics? Fermentation has the same health benefits, without the yick factor, of a bottle of Yakult. 

So, is it actually good for you?

The good bacteria found in fermented foods are thought to aid digestion, boost your intestinal flora, improve your overall immunity, and help with weight loss.

Probiotics have been found to help with intestinal issues like IBS and scarier conditions like hypertension and heart attacks. 

Bacteria's the best!

Who's doing it?

Like, everybody? Fermentation is an age-old practice (believe it or not, bread is not a new invention) and we've been enjoying the yeasty goodness of soy sauce, sauerkraut, wine, and kimchi for years, oblivious to the good it was doing our insides. Fermentation has recently come into vogue in a big way, largely thanks to hipsters and their penchant for pickles. Bless 'em. 

David Chang of Momofuku fame has been onto the fermenting thing for a while now, and has set up fermenting labs as part of his restaurant empire. And where Momofuku goes, we follow.

And now that fermenting has been found to be both good for you and cool it's popping up everywhere, and folks are even fermenting at home. More and more restaurants are also getting on board with the trend, so you can expect to see a lot of in-house pickling going on in the near future. 

If you want to get your own fermenting fix fast, treats like coconut yoghurt and Kombucha tea are delicious ways to dip your toe in the fermentation waters. 

Or, to get you started on the road to hard-core fermenting, try your hand at an easy pickling recipe. Mahlzeit Catering's Steven Herold—long-time fermenter and master pickler—hails from a German background (a.k.a. the sauerkraut motherland) and has pickling in his blood (not literally). He's generously handed over his pickles recipe and we can't wait to try it.

Mahlzeit Pickles Recipe

You'll need...

1 continental cucumber sliced 5 ml thick discs
250ml of water
100g raw sugar
100ml chardonnay vinegar
50ml of pickled ginger juice
3 sprigs of thyme
½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
½ teaspoon lightly toasted fennel seeds
1 clove crushed garlic
½ small bay leaf


Place all ingredients except the cucumber into a saucepan and bring to simmer, remove from heat and allow flavours to infuse for approximately 10 minutes. 

Bring back to the boil, add sliced cucumber, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and leave in the fridge overnight before using. 

We use our pickles for our Mahlzeit sliders but they can be used for sandwiches or salads. This recipe is made for casual eating and to be consumed within a week.

Tip: For long-term storage, air-tight jars/containers are required and whole baby gherkins would be recommended to avoid breakdown.

Image credit: Marrisa McClellan, Food52

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

You May Also Like