Ferment all the way with Ozuké


Originally posted by Alexa @ www.superfoodsuperlife.com

Ferment all the way with Ozuké

One of the foods that I never thought I would fall in love with is pickled vegetables. I had grown up loving deli pickles, but nothing more than that. How was I to know there is such a simple yet beneficial world of food out there — all things pickled, fermented, cultured and alive! I read about this exciting world of microbes contained in these foods in Dr. Perlmutter’s recent book Brain Maker. A must-read or must-listen for anyone who wants to improve their gut health!

I wanted to speak with the people who actually make these foods. Willow and Mara King are the chefs behind Ozuké, one of my favorite brands of fermented vegetables. To think that ingesting living organisms being beneficial for our gut is utterly fascinating! It used to totally freak me out, but now I try and get some form of probiotics into every meal. It has made a significant difference in my digestion, my immunity and so much more.

Q&A with Mara and Willow King of Ozuké

Q: What inspired you to create Ozuké?

A: Ozuké was born out of the kitchen… that fun space where you go with your friends to create deliciousness, make something brand new and share your creations with what invariably ends up being a party.

Q: What does ozuké mean?

A: Ozuké means “the best pickled things” or “honorable pickles” or “from pickles” or even more esoterically… “from cooking without heat”.

Q: What’s your philosophy on health?

A: Health is your participation in the creation of an inspired life.

Q: How long have you been pickling/fermenting for?

A: Kombucha since the 1990’s… I picked up a scoby from a cute french girl and nurtured it in my mountain home at the time. That little scoby became a giant scoby in the back of one of the sushi bars I ran in the 2000’s along with smelly pickling experiments all in recycled 5-gallon sushi ginger buckets. In 2009 I was the head chef of a nutritionally sound fine dining establishment and we had my kimchis and probiotic krauts on the menu as well as my kombucha in the bar.

Q: What are some of the benefits to eating cultured foods?

A: Eating cultured foods is good for your digestive health, your immune health, your mental health and is even (through vitamin A and K) supposed to be good for regenerative or skin health.

Q: How much do you consumer regularly? How much should the layman consume?

A: I drink fermented beverages daily and have done for many years. I eat about 1/2 – 1 cup of fermented veggies daily. I eat yogurt quite often and I have recently started playing with fermented grains as well. I often hear that when folks are new to fermented foods there can be a period of adjustment that can be gassy and painful. My recommendation is that if you are brand new to it go slowly… a bite here and there and then build up your tolerance.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to pickle and why?

A: I have really enjoyed making fruit ferments the last couple of years… I started with plums making umeboshi and then applied the same logic to cherries. My latest obsession is fermenting grains… idli and dosa batter, injera, sourdough pancakes.

Q: Are there any individuals in the food movement that inspire you?

A: I recently spent a week living at Sandor Katz’s Tennessee home and studying fermentation with a group of 10 complete food nerds. It was such heaven! Sandor is an amazing human being through and through. A thought leader, a kickass mover and shaker in the kitchen, patient, accepting, full of humor and sweetness.

I like Mark Bittman’s can do approach to food and his commitment to food activism / politics as well.

Q: Is it possible to mess up a culture?

A: It is possible to mess up anything. What’s more important is paying attention to how and why. Processes, ritual, attention and an openness to learn are more important. Nature has been teaching us all lessons for ever – having a living thing in your care is a sure fire way to learn and grow.

Q: Why do believe cooking is important?

A: For me cooking is a practice. Like yoga or meditation for some. I get to tune in to flavor, seasons, color, fragrance and texture, to use these things along with technique, time and effort to create, to nurture and to share. If I do this more often than not I know that I am infusing the people that I love the most with my unique and distinctive inspirations. Cooking every darn day is also a political stance. I choose where my food comes from, I support my local farmer, I participate directly with the health of my local food shed, I choose not to buy processed crap. Some days I am tired and I don’t feel like cooking… good thing I married a man who also did his time slinging hash, working in bakeries and various restaurants in his youth who is perfectly capable of producing deliciousness and playing his part.

Q: Could you share an easy recipe with us?

A: We call this “Red Rice” at home. It is my daughter’s favorite and she will make it by herself (and a huge mess in the kitchen too 😛 teenagers!) This recipe starts with plain white rice and stains it red with beets. Start with butter melting in a pan. Add a full jar (you heard me!) of our fermented Beets, Dulse & Kale. Sizzle for a bit then add cooked rice.

Stir over medium heat until it is all incorporated. Add finely minced garlic and drizzle with toasted sesame oil. We love to serve this rice with an egg on top and some sprouts or baby kales on the side. You’ll definitely enjoy the bright red pearly grains juxstaposed with a vivid white of eggs and the greens. It’s such an attractive plate and you can always snazz this up with another kind of protein and call it dinner. Make this one time and I promise your family will start harassing you for more and more beets. Enjoy!

Check out 10 fun facts about Kim chi and find out how to make Ozuké style kim chi at home


Our recent video with Hatchlab is creating quite a buzz! Find out more kimchi secrets (and watch our video) !

Hatchlabs 10 fun facts about kim chi

You will never guess how Mara and Willow wowed 5280 magazine! (hint: with Ozukés napa kim chi)

Mara and Willow make another awesome Ozuké appearence in 5280 magazine’s “Urban Homesteading in the Mile High City” feature.  Learn about their new video from Boulders HatchLab and how our favorite pickle princesses make their Napa kimchi at home. Read the rest here:

Ozuké Ume Boshi makes consciouslivingtvs list of hot natural products from EXPOWEST

By Alexa Grey

Mara and Willow King are the groovy girls behind this incredible company and they call themselves probiotic pickleteers. The Umeboshi is a pickled plum that is common in Japan and has an incredibly strong salty and sour taste. I did not know how well I would do with this food (for the record it was my first time) but my boldness rewarded me! I was drawn into the complexity of the taste and it stabilized my sugar high from all of the other expo west samples I had previously been consuming. While this food is acidic, it alkalizes the body and serves as a dietary staple for preventative medicine.

Read the original post here

Ozuké makes Edible Aspens top 20 list

Ozuké made Edible Aspens top 20 picks for made in colorado foodstuffs.  Lauded for our flavor and health benefits we are proud to have been picked by Edible Aspen for their top 20 list.


Denver Tidbits: Ozuké umeboshi to liven up the season


‘Tis The Season To Get Toasted

With plans to schmooze and booze your way through the holidays, your hostess skills will be put to the test to come up with creative twists to prolong the party and keep guests from getting so tipsy they break your tinsel. We checked in with Mara King, co-owner of Boulder-based Ozuké, on a suggestion for a lighter version of a festive and flavorful martini. What we got? A yummy cocktail made with Shochu, a Japanese liquor similar to vodka – but lower in alcohol content and calories. The star of this sip is a locally-made gem: sweet umeboshi plums pickled by Ozuké.


1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar and sea salt
Few drops of orange water (or plain ol’ water if you don’t have it)
1 large Ozuké umeboshi plum (or 2 small)
3 oz Shochu
Dash of simple syrup
Dash of lemon juice
Mint or, if available, shiso leaf

Lightly moisten rim of cocktail glass with orange water or water. Mix together sea salt and superfine sugar, place on a flat dish, dip rim of moistened glass in mixture. Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Crush umeboshi under flat side of knife. Add umeboshi and muddle with ice. Add Shochu, simple syrup, lemon juice and some mint or shiso leaf. Shake well and strain. Garnish with mint or shiso leaf. 

Read the original post here

Ozuké: Old World Fermented Food to new level

On the cusp of a comeback: Lafayette company brings old world fermented food to new level

By Pam MellskogFor the Times-Call

Posted:   09/30/2014 06:21:23 PM MDT | Updated:   about 21 hours ago


Mara King, left, and Willow King, co-owners of Esoteric Food Company in Lafayette, chat while checking cabbages from Front Range Organic. Some of the

Mara King, left, and Willow King, co-owners of Esoteric Food Company in Lafayette, chat while checking cabbages from Front Range Organic. Some of the cabbages will be made into kimchi on Friday. For more photos please go to www.timescall.com. (David R. Jennings / Daily Camera)

The occasional bubbling sound in the factory’s dark back room hints at the work happening there.

A bacterial war within dozens of blue 55-gallon drums creates gases that escape through valves while food ferments.

Apple, fennel, parsley kraut



2 medium cabbage heads

2 tart and firm apples

1 small fennel bulb

1 parsley bunch, chopped

Salt to taste (Note: Salt is optional. However, it does help the fermentation process. Definitely use a starter in the absence of salt.)

1/4 cup starter (This optional starter could be whey water, sauerkraut juice from previous batch or from jar of ozuke, kombucha, etc.)



Wash produce. Slice cabbage, fennel, and apples into narrow strips. (Alternatively, use a processor or mandolin.) Chop parsley. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Salt to taste, and mix thoroughly. Use a mallet or meat tenderizer to pound produce for approximately 15 minutes. This releases natural juices. Pack kraut mix into quart jars (between 3 and 4 jars) and tighten lids. Juice must cover kraut mixture completely. If temperatures are warm, store approximately 3 days on counter. If temperatures are cooler, store for as long as a week or until desired taste is reached. Check fermenting jars every day to release gasses and to press kraut back down below level of liquid. Refrigerate up to 12 months.

Source: Mara King, Ozuke

Yield: 3 to 4 quarts


If you go

What: Food preservation class taught by Ozuké’s Mara King

When: McCauley Family Farm, 9421 N. 63rd St., Longmont

Where: 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday

Cost: $30

More info: Contact Elizabeth Uhrich, of The Living Arts School, at info@livingartsschool.com or 720-383-4406.


If you go

What: Food preservation class

When: County Colorado State University’s Boulder County Extension Office, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont

Where: 9:30 a.m. to noon, Saturday

Cost: $27

To register: Visit eventbrite.com/e/fermenting-foods-longmont-tickets-11780546933 by 3 p.m. Thursday.


“Think of this as a party,” Mara King, co-owner of Esoteric Food Company in Lafayette, said. “We invite everyone into the jar — the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. But we create an environment where the good guys win.”

Fermenting has preserved food safely for millennia by creating a high acid, low ph environment, she continued.

“This is not rocket science. This is grandma science,” King said.

Lacto-fermenting, the process she and partner Willow King, no relation, use to produce their Ozuké (Japanese for “the best pickled things”) brand of sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi — a spicy Korean condiment made with softer napa cabbage— only requires salt, lack of oxygen and a cool temperature.

That style of fermenting kills harmful microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, and aforementioned bacteria.

Meanwhile, the lactobacillus — a bacterium “friendly” to the human body — survives.

From there, those organisms start converting sugars, starches, and carbohydrates into lactic acid. Apart from naturally preserving food, fermentation is considered probiotic — nourishing to the healthy flora in the digestive, urinary, and genital systems, according the National Institutes of Health website.

Mara King also credits fermented foods rich in lactobacillus as increasing vitamin levels and act as anti-inflammatory agent, among other benefits.

But that’s not all.

Fermenting food also kills the one bacterium — botulism — that can survive the high heat related to canning preservation methods, she added.

For all these reasons, their fermenting business has taken off.

The women, both 40, once made all sorts of from-scratch food together for their families in their respective kitchens including cheeses, butter, nut butter, sausages and more.

But their fermented foods always won the rave reviews from family and friends, they said.

So, with an undisclosed amount of seed money from a Boulder Angel Investor, the two in 2011 went into business.

Both remember hand-cutting Ozuké labels and pressing them on every jar then.

Now, they process a literal ton of vegetables daily from five organic farms in Colorado. Their 4,000-square foot space buzzes with seven full time employees, and Ozuké jars now line refrigerator cases at natural grocers such as Whole Foods Market, Lucky’s, and Vitamin cottage in about a dozen states.

Mara King, a former sushi chef, oversees kitchen operations.

Willow King taught English as an adjunct professor at Front Range Community College in Longmont. Now, she manages the company’s marketing and sales.

Both feel that however old world, fermented food is on the cusp of a comeback.

“You sort of get the fire and the fizz in your belly when you eat it, and it comes with a great combination of health benefits and fringe culture,” Willow King said.

For more information, visit ozuke.com.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at p.mellskog@gmail.com or 303-746-0942.

A pallet of Napa cabbages wait to be processed into Kimchi at Esoteric Food Company in Lafayette.

A pallet of Napa cabbages wait to be processed into Kimchi at Esoteric Food Company in Lafayette. (David R. Jennings / Daily Camera)


Edible Front Range

efr-header1 EFR Template

Local entrepreneurs see fermented veggies as superfoods

By Eileen Dolbeare

Photo By Rebecca Stumpf

Winter 2013 Issue Number 20


Ecosalon Foodie Underground: You Can Ferment That

Foodie Underground: You Can Ferment That

by on August 6, 2012 in Food

You’ve been making your own kombucha for months (ok, years) and pickling is old news to you, but have you taken your fermented food obsession to the next level? Grabbed a slot at the local market and opened up a stand to sell your goods? Spend any time at your weekend farmers market and you’re sure to find an artisan pickle, kraut or kim chi maker.

We can pickle that,” might be the mantra of any lover of the television show Portlandia, but all jokes aside, fermented foods are good for you (and often served in mason jars). Making fermented foods at home however is one thing, running your own fermented business is quite another.

“You should start a restaurant/catering company/baking business/etc.” are words that many a foodie have heard from a friend or two, but turning a passion for food into a business is a feat in and of itself, which is why it’s inspiring to meet people that are doing just that. I perked up recently when I got an intro to the co-founder of what a friend called “the most elegant pickle company on the planet.” When you’re the Foodie Underground columnist, you just can’t turn such an introduction down.

The pickle company is called Esoteric Food Company, based in Boulder, Colorado and responsible for jars of fermented goodness like Beets, Hijiki & Kale and Dill, Caraway & Cabbage. As they put it:

We love food. Learning about food culture is our impetus, our drive and our reward. We live to tinker with, to savor, to understand flavor and nutrition in old and new ways. We simply love making good things to eat to share with others and these pickles are our way of inviting you in to the esoteric circle.

If there ever was an intriguing food mission statement, that might just be it.

I caught up with co-founder Willow King to learn more about the fermentation business and we even got a recipe out of the deal.

Tell us about your food background, what got you into fermented foods in the first place?

My business partner Mara grew up in Hong Kong and is a long time sushi chef and general food goddess. She and I started getting together for “Food Mondays” about 2 years ago and making things that were hard, weird or that we just generally curious about. We made raw cheeses, butter, sausage, sourdough, we canned and we fermented. Something about the ferments sort of just took over (no pun intended) and we have been doing them ever since. We have a mutual friend in town who has grown many businesses from Karaoke bars to energy drinks and he encouraged us to take it to the wholesale level. Mara and I are both English majors and at the time I was teaching Literature and Mara was teaching yoga and getting ready to give birth to her third child. It seemed like a bit of a pipe dream, but we starting tinkering with label designs, jar options, a website and pretty soon we had a business on our hands.

You have everything from carraway to kale… how do you come up with your recipes?

Our recipes come from both Asian and Euro traditions- Korean, Japanese, Polish, Scandinavian, German. They are a pastiche of flavors from our past and new combinations. This week’s market specials were daikon and d’anjou pear kim chi, juniper berry kraut and brined baby carrots with dill.

Why do you think fermented foods have had such a revival? 

Fermented foods are a really great metaphor. They are a sort of alchemy that you can eat and I think people are really waking up the fact that sanitized, factory made, processed foods have lost a lot of their magic by the time they make it to your mouth. There is a growing awareness and live, raw, organic foods can balance and support our immune and digestive systems, as well as boost our moods.

You are certainly part of a growing movement of artisan food makers. In a world of mass marketed foods and big businesses, why do you think “underground” businesses like yours are seeing such success and positive response? 

We know so many amazing food crafters- bakers, jam makers, kombucha and jun brewers- you name it. It is really encouraging to see these small businesses thriving and really being supported by their communities. In many ways, we are just going back to what we have always known: Good food is simple and comes straight from the source. We like to know who is making what we are eating- it is the oldest form of food safety!

How does one get started doing their own fermented foods?

Fermenting vegetables is a pretty simple process and very fun to experiment with. Fermenting dairy and meats can be a bit more complicated and requires exact procedures and temperatures to be safe. If you are interested in experimenting we recommend starting with simple sauerkraut and then expand from there.

Recipe: Simple Sauerkraut

To begin you will need a ball jar, 1 medium cabbage, sea salt and starter like whey or for a vegan option you can use kombucha. Each starter produces different results and flavors so you can try a few and find the one you like best.

Core and shred the cabbage and then spread on a tray or work surface. Pound the cabbage with a wooden hammer (or a rolling pin can work) until the juices start to release and the cabbage softens. Place in a wide mouth ball jar and press down with a fist (you can use a cabbage leaf as a top and the press on that) until the veg is submerged in liquid- you can add the starter at this time. Cover and leave at room temp for about 3 days- you may like it stronger in which case you could let it go a few more days. When you are satisfied with the taste transfer to cold storage where it will last for up to 6 months.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Image: Esoteric Food Company