Archive for category: Press


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.

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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. 

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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 (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 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 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

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 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)



Why Parents Make Great Entrepreneurs

Why Parents Make Great Entrepreneurs: Advice From A Pair Of Artisanal Pickling Pros

By Jude Stewart

January 16, 2013

The prodigious juggling skills necessary for parenthood translate well to entrepreneurship. Here’s some advice on how to hang in there from the founders of Esoteric Food Company, maker of Zuké pickles.


Working women know the dilemma well: How can you start a family without torpedoing your career? America’s stingy parental-leave policies, platinum-expensive daycare, and a business culture that pays lip service to work-life balance but not much more, are enough to make any frustrated parent ask: Could you blaze a more accommodating career path on your own?The answer is yes, but it takes guts, planning, and patience to pursue this path successfully. Consider the Esoteric Food Company, a pickling business founded by two moms, Mara King and Willow King (no relation), in Boulder, Colorado. Their pickle brand, Zuké–the name derives from the Japanese term for pickled vegetables, zukemono–includes delicacies like juniper-scented Napa cabbage and a potent, earthy concoction of beets, dulse seaweed, and kale.Zuké bubbled up to prominence with surprising speed. A little over two years ago, Mara and Willow walked product samples into a Lucky’s Market in Boulder and landed their first corporate order. Says Willow, “We keep track of how long we’ve been in business by the age of Mara’s son Desmond. Our first product delivery happened right after he was born. It’s a fun parallel–plus, it just makes sense to think of the business like a child.” The two now have five children between them, from toddlers to teenagers.Zuké products are now sold regionally in 29 Whole Foods and many natural and organic groceries in an eight-state region ranging from Montana to Louisiana with Albert’s Organics. Moving from home kitchen to shared commissary to their own factory space (and pickling 25 tons of vegetables along the way), the Zuké ladies saw 100% growth in 2012 and expect 500% growth this year.

We talked with Mara and Willow about succeeding as both parents and entrepreneurs–and how you can walk into the adventure with your eyes open.1. Take opportunity where you find it–even if it arrives dressed as failure.
Like other acts of insane heroism, many startups are born not out of bravery but necessity. “I worked as a chef for many years,” says Mara. “Then I lost my job and couldn’t find another.”Willow was in a similar boat: a former English teacher, she’d moved away from Boulder to California, then moved back with two young children, uncertain how to relaunch her career with kids. “Willow and I started getting together once a week and geeking out in the kitchen,” Mara recalls. Willow concurs, “We loved experimenting, looking for the next thing careerwise maybe, but only subconsciously. Pickling was one of the many food projects we made together, but they kept coming back.” She laughs. “They had a life of their own–literally.”That joke refers to the fact that pickling foods involves live-culture bacteria. Fermentation starts by adding sea salt to vegetables in a sealed jar; bacteria take over, producing a nutritious, zesty, long-lasting product whose taste mellows and alters over time.2. Connect your product with your personal story.
You know your product has hit a foodie sweet spot when it’s the subject of a Portlandia sketch–in this case, We Can Pickle That! Zuké’s success can be partly attributed to how it intersects with a large community of enthusiasts. “Pickling is part of our cultural history,” says Mara. “Handmade things have that juju that comes with tradition–that’s coming back into vogue.”

Zuké’s marketing draws on its founders’ personal stories, and much of the product’s appeal is aspirational. The duo has logged countless hours handing out samples at local stores, chatting up customers who express envy and admiration for what they’re doing, revealing other business opportunities. “We’re also interested in teaching pickling classes,” Willow notes. “A strong component of getting people intrigued is making them part of the food’s life.” Call it social media of an intensely analog sort.Although it’s labor-intensive, offering in-store samples piques curiosity and remove objections to purchasing it. “We’ve sold anchovy and pear kimchee” that way, recalls Willow. “That catches people off guard, but our ideal consumer gets pleasure from trying something new and unusual and enjoying it.”

3. Work your network from multiple angles.
Juggling parenthood and a new business means a broad range of networks. Not only can they work their industry-specific contacts, they can also tap into the local startup scene and in the case of the Kings, the sisterhood of female entrepreneurs.Willow and Mara worked these multiple networks adroitly. They connected with other startups as members at HUB Boulder, a startup coworking and networking space. To tap Boulder’s thriving natural products community, they joined Naturally Boulder and LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability); the latter is a university-affiliated program spanning health and fitness, the environment, sustainable living–what some call “crunchy-type” businesses. They’re also thick with various Meetup groups in Boulder focused on women entrepreneurs.4. It takes a village to raise a child or build a business.
The Zuké team worked the community-marketing angle hard. Mara had local cred as a sushi chef, but zero suction in the grocery-store community. Their sales approach was grindingly face-to-face: walk into a store and ask to demo your product with a decision-maker. Amazingly, they usually got a friendly reception and practical advice, which they implemented humbly.Zuké benefited from word-of-mouth on two levels: face-to-face meetings got Zuké products into local organic stores. Word-of-mouth among friends also connected them with an angel investor who committed seed capital himself and introduced them to the right circles to raise more.As the business has grown, local contacts helped Zuké solve fresh conundrums like how to source organic Napa cabbage, an Asian staple food perfect for pickling, but rarely raised organically in the U.S.

5. Work at what you love, because you could be working for free for a while.
“I had this big fat bank balance at the beginning of the year from selling my house,” Mara recalls. “I remember just watching it dwindle, the stress of that ever-decreasing number. The month I wrote my last check against it was the same month I got paid [by Zuké].” Luckily both women had financial ballast in their husbands’ steady jobs–Mara’s husband is a graphic designer, Willow’s is an architect–but neither could luxuriate without income for long. Both women quit part-time jobs in 2012 to commit to Zuké full-time.6. Forget separating work from family life.
“For the first year, we worked Saturdays starting at 6 a.m., which nobody would be crazy enough to do but two moms,” Willow says. “We needed to pick our kids up [from daycare] in the afternoon, so we were willing to work at odd times and around each other.”If pre-dawn pickling sessions and pinch-hitting husbands couldn’t close the gap, they brought their kids to work. Here’s where a mix of ages comes in handy–babies could spend time in carriers while moms worked in the kitchen, and older kids amused themselves nearby or even pitched in with the work.In many ways, the prodigious juggling skills necessary for parenthood make mothers or fathers tailor-made for entrepreneurship. “It’s all about cramming in work wherever you can,” says Mara. “If the stress gets too much, we can always slice up a mountain of cabbage. When you get your hands on a bunch of vegetables, it’s very calming to the system.”


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