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Ozuké: Bringing Fermented Foods to Life in Colorado

If you’ve ever eaten sourdough bread, yogurt, or sauerkraut, you’ve enjoyed some form of fermented food. One variety called lacto-fermentation creates foods that are literally alive with probiotic microbes, which aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients. Often slightly fizzy, they also tend to boast spunky, downright sassy flavor.

“Kids really like our foods,” says Mara King, resident chef and COO of Ozuké, a Lafayette, Colo.-based company that excels at all things pickled. Mara and her founding business partner, Willow King (no relation), love offering samples of their organic foods at local farmer’s markets and watching kids (and grownups) try fermented foods for the first time.

Ozuke FoundersIt was this excitement of creating kimchi and live, raw kraut in their home kitchens—and sharing it with enthusiastic family and friends–that drew Mara and Willow into business in 2011. They started with a line of four fermented foods including Beets, Dulse and Kale, Kimchi, Citrus Ginger Kraut, and Dill and Caraway Kraut.

Today, those four original recipes remain their best sellers, and new recipes like Just Juniper Kraut and Ruby Calendula Kraut round out the offerings. When we visited Ozuké’s kitchen a few weeks ago, we were greeted by the bright scent of freshly squeezed lemons and grated ginger, key ingredients in their Citrus and Ginger Kraut.

Ozuke (17)Lacto-fermenting vegetables is pretty straightforward, Mara explains. Start with fresh veggies, add salt and chosen spices, and then deprive the mixture of oxygen by sealing the food in a vessel. A one-way valve atop the vessel allows carbon dioxide, given off by fermentation, to escape but does not allow air back inside.  The container is stored at cool temperatures for approximately one week, resulting in food that’s brimming with beneficial microbes. “We’re not used to eating living foods,” says Mara. But other cultures are: The Chinese have been eating fermented foods since 7000-6600 BCE.

In Colorado, fermented foods are making a comeback due to an adventurous foodie culture, a focus on healthy living, and a growing desire to eat (and preserve) locally grown vegetables. Last year, Mara and Willow sourced over 45,000 pounds of organic produce from local growers like Full Circle Farms, Isabelle Farm, and Front Range Organics.

Everything Ozuké makes is organic, non-GMO, vegan, Kosher and free of allergens like soy, wheat, and dairy. My favorite thing about their foods, though, is their crunchy, zesty flavors, which start to become addictive. I also like their pretty and deliberately “stained” labels that hint at each jar’s effervescent contents, like the purplish hue of a juniper berry or the familiar redness of beets. “We embrace messiness here,” says Mara.

008If you’ve never tried fermented foods, a great place to start is with a locally-made Tommy Knocker Beer Brat topped with the slightly-edgy flavor of Just Juniper Kraut. If you’re a seasoned veteran, Mara recommends the bold flavors of Kimchi or the oceanic-tang of Beets, Dulse and Kale. Whatever your level of adventure, we encourage you to give it a go by clicking here.

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