Fermented foods are among the oldest processed foods and have been eaten in almost all
countries for millennia. They include fermented cereal products, alcoholic drinks, fermented
dairy products and soybean products among many others. Details of the production of
individual fermented foods are given in the following Technical Briefs:
• Dairy products: Cheese making; Ricotta Cheese Making; Soured Milk and Yoghurt;
• Fruit and vegetable products: Gundruk (Pickled Leafy Vegetable)
Banana Beer; Grape Wine; Toddy and Palm Wine; Tofu and Soymilk Production; Dry
Salted Lime Pickle; Dry Salted Pickled Cucumbers; Green Mango Pickle; Lime Pickle
(Brined); Pickled Papaya; Pickled Vegetables; Fruit Vinegar; Pineapple Peel Vinegar;
• Meat and fish products: Fresh and Cured Sausages.
This technical brief gives an overview of food fermentations and examples of fermented foods
that are not included in the other technical briefs.
Types of food fermentations
Fermentations rely on the controlled action of selected micro-organisms to change the quality
of foods. Some fermentations are due to a single type of micro-organism (e.g. wines and beers
fermented by a yeast named ‘Saccharomyces cerevisiae’), but many fermentations involve
complex mixtures of micro-organisms or sequences of different micro-organisms. Fermented
foods are preserved by the production of acids or alcohol by micro-organisms, and for some
foods this may be supplemented by other methods (e.g. pasteurisation, baking, smoking or
chilling). The subtle flavours and aromas, or modified textures produced by fermentations
cannot be achieved by other methods of processing. These changes make fermentation one of
the best methods to increase the value of raw materials. The process is particularly suitable for
small-scale processing because the technologies are relatively simple and locally available
equipment can have low capital and operating costs; the products usually have a high demand
and added value; and processing has low energy consumption due to mild (often ambient)
operating temperatures. There are many hundreds of types of fermented foods and a small
selection is shown in Table 1.
Appam (or hoppers)
A type of pancake bread from South India and Sri Lanka made from rice
batter with toddy (fermented palm, palmyrah or coconut sap) baked on a
A pickle used in the Philippines, made from shredded unripe papaya,
carrot, ginger, bell pepper, onion and garlic, mixed with vinegar, sugar
and salt and fermented in airtight jars.
Fermented anchovy sauce used as an ingredient in curry and as an
accompaniment to traditional food dishes in Philippines.
Fermented cake or beverage from Indonesia made from rice wine, white
or black glutinous rice.
A drink from yellow maize with a slightly milky appearance and mildly
sour taste, containing 1-3% alcohol.
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