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Remember too that this was done for thousands of years without any understanding of how it worked, but people knew it worked and the results were phenomenal. That’s why we still do it today.
I liken it to homebrewing. Any beginner always reads Papazian before they ever start. He stresses cleanliness throughout. With modern homebrew equipment, sanitizers, and yeast strains, I’ve only seen one batch of beer get infected with wild yeast in 5 years, but that was because we were experimenting with open fermentation.
Kimchi and other fermented veggies are the easiest thing in the world to ferment and to my knowledge no one has ever died from a bad batch. At it’s most basic, it’s just salted veg later covered in water and loosely covered to ferment for the desired time. It works every time, everywhere in the world using the same ingredients as when the technique was discovered.
With beer, we’ve used our knowledge to make amazingly better beer with just a few tweaks to the process that (generally) contain the very same ingredients as the original: water, barley, hops, yeast. The modern homebrewer can make (insert your favorite brewery here) quality beer at home.
There is always a risk of something going wrong when employing old-world techniques, but we’ve taken all the knowledge we’ve gained and stacked the deck in our favor. The only downside is that the risks are not insignificant. Listeria and botulism are crazy, nasty things I never want to experience.
Everything is so highly regulated that if a product marketed to consumers with the intent of leaving raw meat hang in your closet for 3 days was really that dangerous, the gov’t wouldn’t let them do it. Perhaps we could still get some “off’-label” for fermenting meats but they could not market it to us.
My guess is that if you get fresh, local ingredients and treat them with love, anything you create is going to be far safer than anything mass produced that suffers from a biological outbreak. Has anyone ever bought the charcuterie at Costco? Whatever company makes that had an enormous recall not long ago.
Happy Fermenting Friday!!!