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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

What do you know about Fermentation?

jar of sauerkraut on wooden surface

Fermentation has been around since ancient times, but with the surge of people wanting to preserve their own food, it’s been enjoying a revival. There are three main types of fermentation, producing an industry of fermented products: alcohol (wine, beer), acetic acid (vinegar, kombucha) and lacto-acid (sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt).

In lactic-acid fermentation, specific microorganisms, which are naturally present on the surface of fruits and vegetables, break down the sugars in the food and convert them into lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. This production of acid lowers the pH of the food and creates the tangy flavor fermented food is known for. The benefits of enjoying fermented food are numerous. With very little equipment needed, it’s a safe and economical way to preserve food. Due to the presence of probiotics, or good bacteria, fermented products improve the digestibility of foods and support gut health. Keep in mind, however, that heat destroys probiotics, therefore many of the fermented foods you buy in the grocery store have been heat-treated to maintain shelf-stability, thereby destroying the good bacteria.

With a clean kitchen, a tested recipe and the right tools, such as a crock or mason jar to hold the food and a weight to keep the food submerged, lacto-acid fermentation can be done at home. To learn more about fermentation and practice making kimchi, come to my “Lacto-fermentation 101: DIY Kimchi” class Tuesday, August 29 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. Cost of the program is $10 per person, and you’ll get to take home your own jar of kimchi. Register at

About the Author


Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.