Lactic Acid Fermentaton
Lactic acid fermentation is caused by some fungi and bacteria. The most important lactic acid producing bacteria is Lactobacillus
. Other bacteria which produce lactic acid include:
- leuconostoc mesenteroides
- pediococcus cerevisiae
- streptococcus lactis
- bifidobacterium bifidus.
Lactic acid fermentation is used throughout the world to produce speciality foods:
- Western world: yogurt, sourdough breads, sauerkraut, cucumber pickles and olives
- Middle East: pickled vegetables
- Korea: kimchi (fermented mixture of Chinese cabbage, radishes, red pepper, garlic and ginger)
- Russia: kefir
- Egypt: laban rayab and laban zeer (fermented milks), kishk (fermented cereal and milk mixture)
- Nigeria: gari (fermented cassava)
- South Africa : magou (fermented maize porridge)
- Thailand : nham (fermented fresh pork)
- Philippines : balao balao (fermented rice and shrimp mixture)
The presence of lactic acid, produced during the lactic acid fermentation is responsible for the sour taste and for the improved microbiological stability and safety of the food. This lactic acid fermentation is responsible for the sour taste of dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and kefir.
Lactic acid fermentation also gives the sour taste to fermented vegetables such as traditionally cultured sauerkraut and pickles. The sugars in the cabbage are converted into lactic acid and serve as a preservative.
Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with friendly bacteria, mainly Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Yogurt fermentation was invented probably by accident by Balkan tribes thousands of years ago. Yogurt remained mainly a food of eastern Europe until the 1900s, when the biologist Mechnikov created the theory that lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt are responsible for the unusually long lifespans of the Bulgar people. The milk sugar or lactose is fermented by these bacteria to lactic acid which causes the characteristic curd to form. The acid also restricts the growth of food poisoning bacteria. During the yogurt fermentation some flavours are produced, which give yogurt its characteristic flavour. Yoghurt can easily be made at home using a live yogurt as the starter culture. To make you own yogurt use the following process. Bring the milk (or soymilk) to boiling point and cool down to 40-45°C. Pour this milk in a sterile container and and per liter milk about 100 ml live yogurt. Mix with a sterile spoon and incubate at 40-44°C during 4 to 6 hours or until the yogurt is set. Put the yogurt in the refrigerator. If you worked under hygienic conditions, you can use your own yogurt as a starter for your next batch.
Magou is very popular in South Africa, especially among the Bantu people. Magou is a lactic acid fermented porridge made from maize. To make magua a 10 percent maize meal slurry is cooked, cooled and inoculated with wheat flour, which contains the bacteria. Magou is also produced on industrial scale and is then packed in cartons. In the industrial process the magou is inoculated with lactobacillus delbreuckii
Kefir fermentation is similar to yogurt fermentation. Yogurt is only fermented by bacteria but kefir fermentation involves the help of bacteria as well as yeasts. These yeast produce some alcohol and carbon dioxide, which gives kefir its typical fizzy aspect. Kefir is inoculated with special kefir grains. These grains are mixtures of bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Kefir fermentation is done at room temperature, which makes the process easier. On the other hand, not everyone likes the taste of kefir.