Living food: cultured pickles, fermented soda and vegetables that breathe


It used to be the way we made or preserved much of our food- cheese, wine, yogurt, sourdough bread, soda and pickled vegetables.

For Alex Hozven food is either living or dead. At her Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, California, she tends 20,000 pounds of vegetables that “breathe” carbon dioxide.

She’s simply pickling vegetables, but to most of us used to “dead food”, it’s a foreign concept.

For four millenia, fermented foods were part of every culture’s diet- e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled herring, giardiniera, miso, kombucha, kefir-, but today with our modern industrial food system, even our “pickles” aren’t usually pickled, but are simply cucumbers soaked in vinegar and heat-treated to kill any pathogens. Even our sauerkraut is pasteurized.

Instead of using the modern shortcut (vinegar and pasteurization), Hozven pickles her vegetables (cabbages, carrots, radish, beets, etc) relying on the slower method of fermentation.

Pickled vegetables may pack more vitamins than the plant pre-fermentation (Korean research points to high doses of vitamin B). The probiotics in fermented foods have been credited with being antioxidants, immunity-boosters and anti-inflammatories.

While Hozven warns against treating these foods as medicine, she says there’s no doubt they’re good for your gut.

Perhaps the most fun part of fermentation are cultured soft drinks. The earliest sodas used fermented vegetables for the fizz. Even as recently as a century or two, it wasn’t so uncommon to drink a “root beer” or a “ginger ale” truly cultured from roots.

Hozven also makes a Kombucha. She describes the culture (a colony of bacteria and yeast) as a jellyfish-type blob that eats tea and sugar that some people think originated in China.

Cultured Pickle’s products aren’t cheap, but that’s the price of living food. All of this fermenting takes time. Some of the pickles take up to a year to mature.

Hozven spends an hour and a half every morning just monitoring her pickling vats. She works six days a week culturing only local vegetables and only when they’re in season. She has trouble taking a vacation.

In this video, we visit Hozven at her Berkeley store where she and her associate were busy making a few of the 10 different varieties of sauerkraut. She shows us how they pickle: first the vegetables are salted and given a deep tissue massage to create a brine and then they enter “the cave” (a climate-controlled room) where they ferment for 2 weeks to a year.

Original story here: http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/the-coca-cola-fermented-foods-pickling-any-vegetable/

Music credit for first track: “Divertissement” by Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com)