Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fermented meat and oxygen

I don't understand fermented meat products.  Like, how they were invented.

And although it's not fermented meat, I recently found that beef jerky has fairly low calories, and eating some with salad makes for a pretty satisfying lunch when on a "fast " day on the 5:2 diet.

I also realised recently that I didn't know much about how the International Space Station maintains a healthy atmosphere.  Some initial looking at websites indicates it's pretty complicated.  This also made me realise that I don't know if NASA has any good idea as to the system to use on a Mars mission.  Or, for that matter, if Mars One has any idea.   Electrolysis of water is a key part of the ISS system; I guess having a Mars base near ice would be very handy, then, for a permanent base.  Provided you can trust your equipment to never break down.

I need to do more reading...

Update:   a site with the grand name "SoyInfo Centre [World's Most Complete Collection of Soy Information]"  has a lengthy essay on the history of fermentation generally, with this somewhat interesting section:
The first solid evidence of the living nature of yeast appeared between 1837 and 1838 when three publications appeared by C. Cagniard de la Tour, T. Swann, and F. Kuetzing, each of whom independently concluded as a result of microscopic investigations that yeast was a living organism that reproduced by budding. The word "yeast," it should be noted, traces its origins back to the Sanskrit word meaning "boiling." It was perhaps because wine, beer, and bread were each basic foods in Europe, that most of the early studies on fermentation were done on yeasts, with which they were made. Soon bacteria were also discovered; the term was first used in English in the late 1840s, but it did not come into general use until the 1870s, and then largely in connection with the new germ theory of disease.

The view that fermentation was a process initiated by living organisms soon aroused fierce criticism from the finest chemists of the day, especially Justus von Liebig, J.J. Berzelius, and Friedrich Woehler. This view seemed to give new life to the waning mystical philosophy of vitalism, which they had worked so hard to defeat. Proponents of vitalism held that the functions of living organisms were due to a vital principal (life force, chi, ki, prana , etc.) distinct from physico-chemical forces, that the processes of life were not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone, and that life was in some part self determining. As we shall soon see, the vitalists played a key role in debate on the nature of fermentation. A long battle ensued, and while it was gradually recognized that yeast was a living organism, its exact function in fermentations remained a matter of controversy. The chemists still maintained that fermentation was due to catalytic action or molecular vibrations.

The debate was finally brought to an end by the great French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) who, during the 1850s and 1860s, in a series of classic investigations, proved conclusively that fermentation was initiated by living organisms. In 1857 Pasteur showed that lactic acid fermentation is caused by living organisms. In 1860 he demonstrated that bacteria cause souring in milk, a process formerly thought to be merely a chemical change, and his work in identifying the role of microorganisms in food spoilage led to the process of pasteurization. In 1877, working to improve the French brewing industry, Pasteur published his famous paper on fermentation, Etudes sur la Biere , which was translated into English in 1879 as Studies on Fermentation . He defined fermentation (incorrectly) as "Life without air," but correctly showed specific types of microorganisms cause specific types of fermentations and specific end products. In 1877 the era of modern medical bacteriology began when Koch (a German physician; 1843-1910) and Pasteur showed that the anthrax bacillus caused the infectious disease anthrax. This epic discovery led in 1880 to Pasteur's general germ theory of infectious disease, which postulated for the first time that each such disease was caused by a specific microorganism. Koch also made the very significant discovery of a method for isolating microorganisms in pure culture.
Gee.  It's easy to forget how something so spectacularly important to 20th century improvements to longevity was only being worked out in the late 19th century.

But it still doesn't help with my fermented meat issue, in particular.

Update 2:   turns out European fermented sausage is not so old:

 From the 1995 book Fermented Meats.

Update the Third:   Tim, I know you have a particular interest in fermentation, and did a post on a book all about it.  Does it explain how fermented sausage making got started?  

Update 4:    Brilliant!  From Meat Fermentation at the Crossroads of Innovation and Tradition - A Historical Outlook:
 And I have learnt that there is a "Dry Salami Institute" (in San Francisco, of all places):

I also did not know of the Catholic controversy over sausages.   I'm guessing the phallic shape has something to do with it:


TimT said...

No, I Do Not Know.

But my guess would have been people made discoveries fairly early - they had to do something to preserve meat in times of plenty, after all. The earliest solutions probably would have involved salt, since it's amongst the simplest and earliest preservative we have.

John said...

In some cases fermented foods, especially plants, can be the major source of a critical but under appreciated nutrient: Vitamin K.