How come canned beans don't ferment?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 30, 2012 at 6:46 PM

All it takes is an anaerobic environment, and a little salt to ferment things, and that's exactly what's in canned beans! I was just wondering cause I am learning how to ferment things! And just wanted to ferment some potatoes and cabbage, plus make some fermented ketchup, but am not entirely sure if it's as easy as it sounds!


on November 30, 2012
at 09:58 PM

It takes more than an anaerobic environment and salt. It also takes yeast or bacteria. It's the yeast or bacteria that do the fermenting. Canned foods don't ferment while the cans are sealed because they've been heated long enough and hot enough to kill all the yeast and bacteria inside.

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3 Answers


on November 30, 2012
at 08:16 PM

Consider fermenting foods that haven't been sterilized. Canned foods have long shelf lives precisely because the canning process cooks them under high heat just long enough to kill all bacteria, fungi, etc...

So if you do want to ferment those foods, you probably need to add your own "starter" for fermentation because salt by its own just isn't going to include the little guys needed to do the work.

As also suggested, rather than starting with canned foods you can also consider to start with fresh beans and sprout them first, or go straight to fermentation since they shouldn't be sterile...



on November 30, 2012
at 08:51 PM

When we talk about fermenting foods, it is not just about the bacteria and yeast and stuff that get added, but the reactions happening in the food.

If you dumped a can of beans out and added starter and or yeast, it would ferment. But it would not reduce all the antinutrients. The enzymes to do that are in mostly the bean, not the bacteria. They are there so when it comes time for the bean to sprout and make a plant the chemicals that the seed was using to protect itself can be gotten rid of so it can grow fully.

Canning cooks the beans and denatures the enzymes. It also kills the beans and makes it so no new enzymes can be produced.

The benefits of soaking fermenting would be highest in a whole seed, live product. Then the existing and newly produced enzymes can work and the introduced bacteria and yeast can work. Next best is soaking already ground stuff, at least the enzymes that were dried and already there can do some work and you can get the bacteria and yeast. Worst is trying to ferment/soak something already cooked. You are relying on only the bacteria and yeast to do the work and will not have all the tools necessary to do the job.



on November 30, 2012
at 07:30 PM

I don't ferment nearly as much as I'd like, but don't you also need some type if bacteria?

As for beans I was under the impression that beans have to sprout to be fermented. Canned beans don't sprout due to the cooking processes and preservatives they use during the canning process.

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