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(There you go, folks. You’ve probably learnt something new for the day now – so you can put your feet up and relax.) “The process of fermentation in foods increases the amount of B vitamins, folic acid, choline and glutathione. B vitamins are important for brain function, energy and heart health; folic acid benefits the brain and many systems within the body; choline helps the body regenerate cells; and glutathione is an antioxidant.”  So, have we talked fermented foods up enough now that we’re all totally sold, and can move on to the subject of mould? ’Cause that’s where we’re heading... During the course, Lucie brings out a block of tempeh to marinate and cook. Tempeh is a soya bean product that’s basically bound together with mould that’s been left to grow around the beans. (Stay with us.) “The process is very similar to fermentation, involving yeast and bacteria, though rather than using wild ferments and cultures found on the outside of fruits and cabbages, as we would with sauerkraut and kimchi, the mould is introduced as a culture: R. oligosporus. This mould is activated when added to soya beans and germinates, growing around the soya beans to create a mycelium network (which is very similar to the growth of white mould on a Camembert or Brie). “The mould, as it grows, releases enzymes which then pre-digests the basic nutrients of the soya bean. The rhizopus moulds produce an enzyme which breaks down phytates, thereby increasing the absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium. This process softens the beans too, making them easier to digest.” Before anyone starts to reach for that stale crust in the bread bin though, mould is, of course, not usually good for us. You’ve not been chucking out funky-smelling jars of stuff for no good reason. “This mould, grown for tempeh, is specifically grown within a lab, from original Lucie Cousins and her Bath cultures found on Hibiscus leaves. It has Culture House been tested microbiologically to ensure no kombucha (above left and pathogens are present,” Lucie explains. Okay, so it’s understandable to be cautious above): slightly less rustic than when growing moulds, especially seeing as we our Jess’s efforts don’t really get taught to prepare food in this (below left) way – for such an ancient practice, it’s relatively unfamiliar to most of us. If you do fancy giving it a go, though, Lucie recommends starting with sauerkraut – which is basically cabbage and salt, and takes two to three weeks to ferment – or milk kefir, which is almost like yoghurt (it can be made from cow’s milk or a non-dairy alternative), and takes a couple of days. As we learn in the class, though, you do have to ignore all you’ve been taught about going easy on the salt. It’s important you get plenty in there. “Not adding enough salt, or allowing oxygen to get in contact with the fermenting vegetables and fruit, can allow spoilage bacteria and yeasts (non-desirable microbes) to grow,” Lucie says. And the two are connected: salting the cabbage makes it release liquid, which is what the cabbage needs to be submerged in, in order to properly ferment. “It is important that the brine naturally produced when salting shredded cabbage always remains above the top of your ferment. This prevents oxygen from getting in contact with the ferment and non-desirable microbes from growing. It also aids the naturally healthy fermentation from the naturally occurring lactobacillus bacteria growing on the outside of the vegetables.”

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Crumbs Bath & Bristol - Issue 68  
Crumbs Bath & Bristol - Issue 68  
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