Meet the Chemist Who’s Bringing Funky Flavor to Fermented Foods

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Fermented foods get a flavor boost from science.

No one wants to see bacteria, fungi, or mold in their house. Except of course for delectable fermented foods.

A recent article written by chemist Arielle Johnson in the journal “Nature” reveals that microorganisms help chefs get creative in the kitchen. How? Well, it turns out that microorganisms’ ability to transform their growing environments make them the perfect tool chefs can use to create “new flavors from existing ingredients.”

Johnson was able to meld the world of microorganisms and cooking because of the work she does with restaurants, such as Noma in Copenhagen. Noma is best known for its progressive attitude toward flavors.

Johnson’s Current Obsession

Fermentation, plain and simple. As most foodies know, fermentation uses fungi and bacteria to turn tea and barley into kombucha and beer. This change happens because of a biochemical transformation.

"Fermentation's always been a home thing," Johnson says. "But I think the sort of reinterpretation that's happening is opening up people to, I don't know, different ways of doing it, like more of a creative thing."

Cooking in the Lab

So, how is Johnson and her cooking crew creating these new flavors via fermentation? They’re using a dab of creative innovation and a heaping cup of science.

“Johnson and Lars Williams, Noma's head of research and development, run a lab out of four tricked-out shipping containers that make up seven climate-controlled rooms,” The Verge reports. “They can dial the temperature down to -30 degrees Celsius or the humidity up to a drippy 99 percent to create conditions perfect for the various vinegars, misos, yeasts and fermented products they design. So when René Redzepi, founder of Noma, needs to add some acidity to a new dish, Johnson and Williams create it for him."

Do it at Home

And as The Verge notes, you don’t have to be a scientist or a chef to make your own fermented foods — you can do make all sorts of fermented foods in your kitchen. And Johnson hopes the "fun" fermentation trend catches on. "I think, if anything, fermentation's gonna become like less of an esoteric thing and... just sort of like an accepted part of the kitchen repertoire,” she says.

Related on Organic Authority

10 Fermented Foods You Can Easily Make at Home

Food Fermentation for Beginners

Fermentation: The Next Big Thing in Skin Care

Image of fermented foods via Shutterstock

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