For the Love of Fermented Veggies

fermented veggies2final

I have been enamored by fermented veggies for the last 10 years. I not only love the tastes and the fact that fermented veggies are so good for digestion and building up the good bacteria within our bodies but that I get to literally “experiment” with food. The process of fermenting feels like a science experiment to me because of the process and changes that occur with the veggies over time. And every batch comes out different than the last.

I have made some really fun concoctions over the years with my german made K&K Keramik Fermenting Crock Pot . My first trials were mostly versions of sauerkraut and Kimchi. I experimented with different cabbages like savoy, napa cabbage, purple cabbage, bok choy with the addition of other veggies like carrots, parsnips, red pepper, brussel sprouts, radishes, kohrabi and hot peppers. I also had fun adding various flavors from roots, spices and herbs like cilantro, basil, ginger, horseradish, and turmeric. Many of my first ideas came from the book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Love this book! So informative and Sandor Katz is a pioneer in the modern day fermenting world.

I tend to play with different cooking techniques and am always trying new creative ways to make food. Fermenting for me was one of those food adventures. And with all food adventures I eventually stray away as I get onto the next creative cooking adventure (fickle or A.D.D.?). When I don’t have my fermenting crock out I still eat fermented veggies on a weekly basis. Lucky for me, I met a local fermented veggie producer named Jeff Ziebelman (www.ZymbioticsLLC.com) at my local farmer’s market last summer. At the time, he was selling his first two products which are Jeff’s Sauerkraut and Jeff’s Zimchi. I sampled both and was hooked. I met up with Jeff recently as he asked me to do a review of his products on my blog. And, since I love his products so much I of course said yes! He shared with me his latest product to market, gingered carrots and we had a great talk about his products and his passion for fermentation.

Jeff has been in the fermenting business only 7 months but his background in fermented foods came from making sour dough bread and beer. It was in this last year that he and his partner Betty Holloway came up with the Zymbiotics recipes. Betty is a nutritionist (www.nutriphoria.com) and teaches plant based cooking techniques. Together they ventured into this business. Their products are made from locally sourced food grown right here in Wisconsin. I am impressed with Jeff’s commitment to health, wellness and a low carbon foot print in his products. Right now Jeff said he is able to produce about 200 lbs. of product a day in his shared commercial kitchen. He says as the business grows so shall his space and capacity. His ferments are made in food grade buckets and will ferment from 3-12 days. After this time, the veggies are jarred and refrigerated. In the refrigerator the veggies will continue to ferment extremely slowly over time. And they have an incredible shelf life of 1.5 years! Yes, years. How great is that?

Over the years I have eaten fermented veggies in a variety of ways. I love them as a condiment to lamb, beef and pork. I also love to top my salads with them as they become not only a vegetable component but a tasty substitute for dressing. You can find some of Jeff’s recipes on his website here. I asked Jeff for his favorite recipe using one of his products. Here it is:

Sassy Zauerkraut Salad

Salad greens–crunchy romaine or spring mix
Carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
Jeff’s Zauerkraut
Red onions, thinly sliced
Blue cheese, gorgonzola or feta, crumbled
Hard-boiled egg, sliced or chopped
Sunflower seeds or roasted nuts
Layer all ingredients on a big platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add a liberal grinding of fresh pepper.

After meeting with Jeff, he gave me a jar of each of his products and I conducted my own taste testing. Here are the results:

fermentedredkrautfinalThis is Jeff’s Zauerkraut, made with green and red cabbage, carrots, red onion, garlic, sea salt, and caraway seeds.

This Sauerkraut is slightly sweet and slightly crunchy. It reminds me of a traditional sauerkraut with the flavor of caraway throughout. I like that it tastes “fresher” than traditional processed and canned sauerkrauts. It tastes lively!

fermentedkimchiclosefinalThis is Jeff’s Zimchi. It’s made with napa cabbage, daikon radish, carrots, ginger, green onion, garlic, sea salt, red chiles, sugar and fish sauce.

The fist thing I noticed is the mix of crunchiness of the radish and carrots and slightly softened cabbage and green onions. Next thing to become apparent is the complexity of the flavors and the ZING of heat…but not too much. I love the spiciness. I am a fan of spicy food and this is definitely less than my limit but enough spiciness to be interesting. I would love this with a bison brat or elk steak.

fermentedcarrots2finalAnd this is Jeff’s Ginger Zarrots made with carrots, ginger, sea salt. The carrots are crunchy with a subtle ginger flavor. The ginger does not over power the carrots. This would be excellent mixed into a more traditional coleslaw.

You can buy Jeff’s products at any of the stores and farmer’s markets listed here on his website.

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  • Marjory @ Dinner-Mom

    I’m so inspired to add fermented vegetables to something! I’ve never been a fan of Sauerkraut…and suddenly I can’t wait to use it!:)

    • http://fabulousfoodstyling.com/ FabFoodStylist

      That’s great Marjory. It’s a funny thing…at first you eat fermented veggies a few bites at a time as you develop a taste for them. Then suddenly you are craving them! And so many ways to enjoy them which I love.

  • spabettie

    I have been enjoying fermented foods for a few years, after learning the process and fermenting several things in a plant based chef training. that was fun! I now make rejuvelac often and turn that into cheeses and sauces. I haven’t gone beyond that, but my mom recently started making kimchi, and we plan to make more soon. I LOVE sauerkraut, my husband does not – more for me!

    Jeff’s products look wonderful – so bright and vibrant!

    • http://fabulousfoodstyling.com/ FabFoodStylist

      Awesome! You must be a raw food chef? I too, took raw food classes and love the many different techniques for turning plants into amazingly delicious dishes.
      Kimchi rocks!

  • Jerry Russell

    Fermented veggies are a favorite in our house, too. We’re about to buy a Japanese pickle press for making our own, and I can’t wait to dive in and see what happens. I guarantee that daikon and cucumber are on the top of the list. But now I just want brats and ‘kraut.

    • http://fabulousfoodstyling.com/ FabFoodStylist

      A Japanese pickle press? Wow, so cool. Love experimenting with different techniques and equipment. Let me know how it goes!

  • Valerie Hoff DeCarlo

    What beautiful pictures! I can’t wait to try some of these, I love store bought kimchi.,

    • http://fabulousfoodstyling.com/ FabFoodStylist

      Thanks Valerie!