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Beverages and Foods From Fungi

Chapter Summary

1. The fermentation of sugar to alcohol through the action of yeast is the crucial step in the making of both wine and beer. Wine begins with the wine grape (Vitis vinifera). The wine grape is basically of two types, red or white, depending on the color of the grapes. The processing of a red or white wine differs in many respects. White wines, using either red or white grapes, are crushed, pressed, and then fermented. In the making of red wines, the red grapes are crushed, fermented, and then pressed. Newly fermented wines are racked to remove impurities, aged in oak barrels, and then bottled.

2. Champagne is made by the blending of three young white wines that undergo fermentation in the bottle to produce the excessive carbonation associated with champagne. Table wines have a final alcohol content ranging from 9% to 14%; in fortified wines, brandy has been added to raise the alcoholic concentration to levels of 15%–21%.

3. Beer is the product of a fermented grain. Because beer making begins not with sugars but with starch, preparation of a malt, mash, and wort are the steps necessary to provide a source of fermentable sugars. The alcoholic content of beer averages around 4%–6%.

4. In the production of distilled spirits, beer or wine is boiled and the alcoholic vapors are collected and condensed to raise the alcoholic concentration to the 40%–50% range. Brandy is a twice-distilled white wine; whiskey, gin, and vodka are distilled beers.

5. As a psychoactive drug, alcohol is classed as a depressant of the central nervous system; it inhibits the brain centers that control speech, vision, balance, and judgment. The French paradox is the acknowledgment that moderate drinking of alcohol can significantly reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease despite a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not recommended because of the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

6. Many fungi are edible and several cultures have a tradition of collecting wild mushrooms. Recently, it has been possible to cultivate a greater variety of edible mushrooms and other fungi, eliminating the risk of accidental poisoning by mistaking a poisonous mushroom for an edible one. Fungi have been employed to modify foods through the fermentative process. Fermented foods are often enhanced nutritionally and have improved flavor and appearance through the action of enzymes released during fermentation.

7. Quorn mycoprotein is a high-quality protein food made from the mycelium of the fungus Fusarium venenatum. The product has a texture similar to that of meat, and, after processing, it is used to make a large variety of meat substitutes.