What you'll learn

  • Have a greater understanding and appreciation of fermented foods and their history, culture and science
  • Have a deeper knowledge of beneficial microbes to preserve food and harmful microbes that can contaminate food
  • Have examined the underlying chemistry and microbiology of different kinds of fermentation through hands-on experiments— and honed your skills in experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation
  • Learned the scientific principles and application of instruments used for chemical and microbial characterization
  • Explored the chemistry of flavor molecules including the physiology of flavor and the microbial reactions that produce flavor molecules and other metabolites

Course description

What’s living in your food? Many of the foods that we consume daily owe their distinct characteristics and flavors to microbes, specifically through a biochemical process of fermentation (using bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to produce diverse foods). Gourmands and everyday consumers can quickly name some of the most popular fermented foods we consume—beer, yogurt, pickles—but, what about that coffee you drank this morning, or the chocolate bar you are saving for later?

Through hands-on, at-home exercises, you will experiment with your food to grow your own microbial environments to make mead, sourdough, tempeh, and more—and discover the important role science plays in food fermentation. In Food Fermentation: The Science of Cooking with Microbes, you will explore the history of food and beverage fermentations and how it changes and enhances flavors, aromas, and tastes. You will engage with your peers in kitchen science, discussing how and why fermentation does or does not happen and what conditions you should consider to create the right growth opportunities.

From chemistry to microbiology to your dinner plate, this course will analyze the role of microbes in production, preservation, and enhancement of diverse foods across a variety of culinary traditions.

Ignore the old adage. Are you ready to play with your food?

Instructors

  • Preceptor of Science and Cooking and HarvardX Fellow, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics
  • Professor of Microbiology, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School

Associated Schools

  • Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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