How to Master the Art of Fermentation – Part 3 – Aerobic Fermentation
In today’s vodcast, I chat about how to master the art of fermentation when making aerobic ferments. Aerobic fermentation occurs with the presence of air or oxygen.
These conversational vodcasts are available to the Kitchen Pioneers who have joined my YouTube membership community—The Traditional Foods Kitchen Academy.
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Is Aerobic Fermentation Really Fermentation?
We usually think of fermentation as lacto-fermentation. This is the traditional type of fermentation where we:
- Submerge the contents of our jar—usually some type of vegetable— under a brine.
- Add a weight to ensure the contents stays under the brine.
- Allow the fermentation process to proceed over time to create lactic acid and turn our veggies into nutrient-rich ferments. Yum!
A common lacto-fermented vegetable is when we turn cabbage into sauerkraut.
Fermenting with Air?
It’s funny to think of fermenting with air because technically, fermentation is an anaerobic process, which means no air is present. But when it comes to making vinegar, we need to rely on air for the acetic acid bacteria, specifically acetobacter. This bacteria helps to start the two-step process of aerobic acetic acid fermentation:
- Create alcohol through alcoholic fermentation.
- Transform the alcohol to vinegar through acetic fermentation.
Aerobic fermentation is a bit of an oxymoron! However, it has become commonplace to use these two words together, so don’t become alarmed or confused when you see this term. From now on, you’ll know that it just means you’re going to begin the process of alcoholic fermentation.
Step 1: Making Alcohol
About a week into the vinegar-making process, you might notice an aroma wafting out of your jar that smells yeasty or beer-like. This odor occurs because the first step in the process of making vinegar creates alcohol.
This alcohol is formed from yeast consuming sugars within the fruits, vegetables, or grains you are using to make the vinegar. The yeast consumes these natural fruit, vegetable, or grain sugars during the process and then excretes alcohol. This process is what we refer to as alcoholic fermentation.
Alcoholic fermentation is what beer, wine, and spirit makers use to make their alcoholic beverages. But once their drink reaches the right stage of taste, they have to bottle it to prevent further exposure to air.
But what happens if the alcohol is left exposed to air? You get vinegar! Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, but not finished it and then tasted it a few weeks later? It’s usually quite vinegary tasting!
Step 2: Making Vinegar
So when it comes to making vinegar, we want to go past the alcoholic fermentation stage. We want to move on to step two and transform our alcohol into vinegar. And we do this by relying on air and continued exposure to acetobacter for the second step to take place.
This second step is known as acetic fermentation. Acetobacter are found in the air and on all types of fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain natural sugar. A combination of the acetobacter and an aerobic (air) environment creates the process of acetification, and in turn, vinegar!
Art of Fermentation Member Series
If you are new to this Mastering the Art of Fermentation series, be sure to catch up and watch Part 1 and Part 2 in this series. Part 2 discusses anaerobic fermentation, which I know many of you have shared can be very persnickety! Not to worry. I go over all the problems you can run into and how to solve them.
Aerobic Fermentation Recipes
Now that you have learned about the science behind making vinegar and know why they call it aerobic fermentation, I hope you will give it a try. It’s quite easy to make homemade vinegar, including raw apple cider vinegar, fruit scrap vinegar, and citrus vinegar.
If you like the pine-scented cleaners sold at your local market, how about trying to make your own? It’s easy to do and follows the basic formula for making vinegar.
And yes, maybe I should have called this evergreen cleaner because technically, I am not using pine. But, keep in mind, I live in central Texas so cypress trees—or what we call cedar trees—are much more common. But whether you have pine or cypress, the process is the same.
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