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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 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

Ingredients:

 

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.)

Directions:

 

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)

 

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Why Parents Make Great Entrepreneurs

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

By Jude Stewart

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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.”

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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

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The Pickler

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Erin Loechner for Clementine Daily’s “Inspired Interviews”. Check out the interview below and read even more interviews with amazing modern women.
Image Credit:
Image c/o Kassia Binkowski

It’s one thing to concoct a new favorite recipe in your kitchen, but it’s something entirely different to build a business around those ingredients. Meet Willow King, co-founder and CEO of Ozuké – the gal who did just that. In an effort to provide good quality nutrition for her children, she and a girlfriend refined a recipe for pickled foods to create Ozuké – the latest organic food brand making its way on to tables across the country. Equal parts mother to two sweet boys, business owner, and farmer’s market purveyor, Willow’s life exists somewhere between the down home living and cut throat entrepreneurialism that define Boulder, CO. From her sweet definition of success to her admirable work ethic, she may just be one of the most authentic fermentos we’ve ever met!

Read her inspired conversation with creative director Kassia Binkowski:

Where do we start? With connections to the local food movement, organic agriculture and physical health, you’ve been able to build so many dimensions of personal and social wellbeing into Ozuké’s business model. What did your path from a wholesome meal to a socially responsible business look like – and what sustains you to keep it growing?

Well, I would not say that it was a straight and narrow path. Loving food and food culture was certainly the seed for starting this business but I have had to learn many things along the way. There are so many pieces to running a business. Financials and accounting, tax law and incorporation status, marketing, logistics, certifications – you get my drift. The learning curve has been steep, but it has been great to add things to my toolbox and there are so many rewards. I love seeing the pigs from a local farmer gobble up our compost, I love the pickle jokes and jovial vibe of our staff in the kitchen, I love knowing that the food we make supports organic farmers and in some small way helps back that movement in this country. I love hearing from people that the food we make helps them feel healthy and good. I love the slow food, slow money, slow ferment ethos that we have grown our business with: linking the pleasure of good food with commitment to the community and the environment.

Let’s talk about that “we”. Your business partner is a professional chef and expert fermento (chef of pickled foods), but she also happens to be a close friend. How have you balanced being business partners and friends?

It’s true – I have an awesome partner, which has made a big difference for me. Mara and I have the same last name – which is just a coincidence, but we joke that we really are married now. She and I have spent many hours bouncing ideas back and forth, scratching our heads and encouraging each other when the paperwork, accounting or logistics felt overwhelming. We share the ups and downs of having a business and it can get very stressful at times. I think our history really helps us out – we have seen each other through many phases of life, which gives us perspective.

No question that you two make a great team! Ozuké is a huge success, being sold from farmers markets to Whole Foods across the western United States. We’d certainly say that you’ve made it, but was there a moment for you when you felt like you “made it?”

To be honest, I think I am still waiting for that moment. There are always so many moving pieces to a business that I never feel like it’s all sorted, but we have had triumphant moments. For us, success is really having a thriving culture around our business – people we love working with, farmers whom we support and who support us, and a platform to talk about health and nutrition on a larger scale.

Speaking of that platform, you built your business in Boulder, CO which is one of the nation’s hot spots for natural food start ups. How has geography influenced your professional pursuits?

We really do live in a very supportive community – both for food and for entrepreneurship, which is a huge factor in the successful growth of our business. From day one we have had so many people offer to support us with knowledge, networking, investment and business acumen – many of whom have grown natural food brands in the past. We realize how fortunate we are and try to support new businesses in whatever way we can as we know what a helping hand can do early on. In the end it really is about who we are surrounded by and how we relate. It takes a very diverse group of people to make something a success and we have reached out many times to members of the community to answer questions about technical issues, distribution, sales, food safety. It really does take a village.

It’s amazing to see how far you’ve come since those early days, and now it’s safe to say that the benefits of pickled food are as diverse as your skill sets as a successful entrepreneur. With so much new research coming out about the benefits and consequences of different diets and food groups, how can young women navigate the endless aisles of information to make the best decisions for their health?

I really think simple is best. It’s true that there are so many fads, diets, trends and shifting tides that it can be hard to keep up – but in the end I believe it is about clean, nourishing foods, drinking lots of pure water, getting outdoors and pumping your heart, laughter, rest and breath. The rest is just frills.

Despite your no-frills ethos, you’ve lived a life packed with adventure. Before co-founding Ozuké you traveled the world working for international organizations. How do you balance your sense of adventure with your desire to put down roots for your family?

It has been a bit of a push-me-pull-you as far as laying down roots goes – I’m the mother of two boys and can’t resist the character reference to Dr. Dolittle! But it’s true. After my first son was born we moved to Asia for a teaching stint. It was such a rich time for me – wandering the streets of Ho Chi Minh City with my little son, taking in the smells, sounds and tastes of the markets. It was wonderful but I could also feel a new desire to be closer to the source of my food, my water, my community and my family. We continued moving about until after my second child was born and then we moved back to Boulder, at which point it felt like time to dig in and do something that could work with family life and still have branches. It is a juggling act and we would certainly like to spend time abroad again but for now we are super happy to be elbow-deep in cabbage here at home.

Tell us more about that jugging act. On any given day you’re a mother, wife, business owner, taste tester, marketer, and sales manager just to name a few. What habits have you built into your daily routine to keep you feeling healthy?

Some days are better than others. I work odd hours sometimes – very early or very late so I can have down time and meal times with my family. I need yoga, I need good novels to disappear into and after that it’s just pedal to the metal.

Speaking of pedal to the metal, I can’t imagine how much you’ve learned building a business in an industry that is evolving so quickly. What have you learned about yourself on that journey?

What a good question. I have learned that nothing I do happens without the support of a whole web of good people. I have learned that doing something the right way does not always make it the most sensible, profitable or practical, but it is worth it. I have learned that I love old farmers and the vernacular of the earth and above all I have learned that letting go can be just as difficult as holding tight to one idea – and often has a far better outcome.

Alright, we have to ask – if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Warm bread with really good butter!

p.s. Want to hear from another entrepreneur changing her world with food? Meet the baker.

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Boulder County Home & Garden

BOULDER COUNTY HOME & GARDENH&G Logo_web

Fermented Foods Find a Following

Fermented foods are making a tasty new splash as “good-for-you-foods”–although our grandparents knew it all along. By Mary Lynn Bruny

RECIPES FOR FERMENTING

fermenting-redrice Red Rice Make this recipe once, and I promise you, your family will ask for more. My daughter, Kailee, would never let a beet near her lips in any other way! Ingredients Butter or olive oil, to taste 1 jar Ozuké the best pickled things Beets, Dulse & Kale 3-4 cups rice, cooked 1 teaspoon garlic (or to taste), minced Toasted sesame oil Optional: sprouts, kale, fried eggs Directions Put butter or olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add one full jar Beets, Dulse & Kale. Sizzle for a bit, then add cooked rice. Stir over medium heat until everything mixes together. Add minced garlic and drizzle with toasted sesame oil. We serve this rice with a fried egg on top with sprouts and baby kale on the side. You can always snazz this up with another kind of protein and call it dinner. —Mara King, Esoteric Food Company

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Ozuke and Boulder Shout Out in The Guardian UK

 

Boulder: a Rockies’ road to extreme sports, yoga and smoothies

Gateway to the Rocky Mountains, the ‘republic’ of Boulder, Colorado, is also a bastion of liberal, exercise-crazy freaks

A mountain biker at sunset in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder and the scenic regions around it are ideal for extreme sports. Photograph: Soubrette/Getty

The Republic of Boulder, as Boulder, Colorado, is fondly known, is a town of almost 100,000 people nestled up against the red sides of the Flatirons in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The “Republic” has a reputation for being at once snooty and strange, a combination that works to bring in tourists and keep out the haters, who love to criticise this odd university town for being a bastion of liberal, peace-loving, spiritual, exercise-crazy freaks.

And we are, and are proud of it. Even the preppy country-club conservatives (there are more than a handful) are openly accepted by the town as they, too, study Buddhism and drink green smoothies. So open-minded we can’t even hate the haters, Boulderites are known to live on raw foods, drink local gluten-free beer, and have become the poster children for cannabis legalisation: because we are so left of centre, we meet up in the back with the libertarian right and want to live as we please, mountain bike where we will, and go to our chiropractor/acupuncturist/psychic when we need to.

North Boulder is your spot to visit like a local. Start by getting a green juice on Pearl Street at Whole Foods Market and a jar of Zuké pickled beets, by Esoteric Food Company, which is the celebrity pinnacle of the flourishing farmer’s market locavore scene here.

Meditation on the Continental Divide Yoga in Boulder … find some peace amid the extreme sports. Photograph: Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis

Then head on to a yoga class. The yoga attitude lives large in this town, as does being a professional athlete training at altitude – but that’s harder to drop in on.

If you want authentic Boulder, skip the big box yoga places that have popped up and visit the Anjaneya Yoga Shala, a little studio owned by long-time Boulder yoga teacher Jeanie Manchester and run out of her garage. These classes, which will introduce you to yoga, meditation, and real live Boulderites with time in the middle of the day, will make you hungry.

Head for Lucky’s Bakehouse and Creamery on Broadway Street and indulge. You can sit out at the front and watch the parking lot, the kids on bikes, the dogs and their walkers, as you sample one of Lucky’s renowned cinnamon rolls before you head on the obligatory Boulder hike.

Boulder is about extreme sports: extreme hiking, century (100-mile)bike rides, and skiing your age in days every winter. But everyone loves the Anne U White Trail. Named after Anne Underwood White – an environmentalist, scientist and open-space advocate, who donated 20 acres for the creation of this trail – this is a three-mile trek where you do need to be careful about real Boulder mountain lions as you follow the bed of a creek through a verdant valley.

Fig and goat's cheese tart, Lucky's Bakehouse and Creamery<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Fig and goat’s cheese tart, Lucky’s Bakehouse and Creamery

Real locals eat out. A lot. Who you’ll spot at the finer restaurants includes families, college students, couples on dates, workers from the funky ad agency with the “Disruptive Thinkers” bus and cannabis capitalists with new money. The people at the next table at Radda, a NoBo Italian fave run by a local who rides to work on his sexy black motorcycle with his dreads flying, are likely to be wearing patchouli and eating an enormous amount of food for obvious reasons.

To fit in you need to … wear yoga clothes, go hippy chic, or settle into real designer clothing. All of which reminds you that Boulder has been invaded by New York and California transplants with money and taste. Luckily, their clothes are resold at Common Threads, an essential stopoff for fashion followers and yogis alike, with consignment clothes curated by the hip 30- and 40-something employees who live in the mountains but like a good label.

Beware Chief Niwot‘s curse – the one that says once you fall in love with this place you are doomed to spend eternity trying to find a way to live here. That’s a modern paraphrase, but it does justice to the strong feeling this place inspires in visitors and locals.

Michelle Auerbach, author of The Third Kind of Horse

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The Pickling Revolution takes Boulder

The pickling revolution takes Boulder

By Camilla Sterne

Photo by Camilla Sterne

You wouldn’t think things stuffed in jars and steeped in salt, brine, spices or even their own fermented juices could be beautiful. But all lined up, pickles present a range of unique natural colors. There’s something enchanting about tidy jars all in row holding fragrant and shapely combinations of carrots, beets, onions, ginger, cauliflower, cabbage, soybeans and peppers. The result is far from our pickle archetype, but instead presents an artful array of colors, shapes, tastes and textures.

Throughout Boulder County, citizens and businesses alike are lining their shelves and pantries with a similar assortment of carefully pickled goods. A long-standing cross-cultural tradition has found its place in the community, in the form of instructive classes and local products.

Three Leaf Farms and Cure Organic Farm in the Boulder area offer classes in these time-tested techniques, classes that fill up quickly, according William Kelley, chef at Zucca Italian Ristorante and teacher of the pickling class at Three Leaf Farms.

“First day we had sign-up for this class, I mean granted it was only eight people, but it filled up on the first or second day,” Kelley says of the upcoming July 20 class.

Both Kelley and Marilyn Kakudo, pickling instructor at Cure Organic Farm, have noticed a resurgence of interest in the craft of pickling. So why the sudden interest in a process that has been in use for thousands of years?

“I think people are trying to eat closer to home. And here in Colorado since we don’t have produce year-round, the only way you can really eat local in the winter-time would be to preserve in some way,” says Kakudo, who teaches the six-person class at Cure Organic Farm.

Kelley, too, has noticed an increased awareness of pickling, particularly in the broader foodie world.

“Right now what’s trending are means of preservation like curing, smoking and pickling,” says Kelley. “Nationwide, you read a lot of articles from Bon Appétit to Food and Wine to publications in Chicago, New York, L.A.; all across the nation they’re doing pickles and whatnot. In Colorado we do have a little bit more want or even need to do it, because it gives us an extension of the season.”

But the term “pickling” is not limited to one specific technique. Quick pickling, fermentation pickling, relish pickling — all of these methods have received greater interest and recognition.

Kakudo will teach traditional pickling at her class at Cure Organic Farm, and attendees will leave with three jars of traditional cucumber pickles. Kelley, however, plans to cover all three techniques.

“I will be going over every process of pickling, from the quick pickle to the fermentation to the relish,” he says. “But we’re going to be making quick pickles to allow the people from the workshop to have something to take home with them.”

And amateur picklers seem to be open to different techniques, though fermented pickles are of particular interest to health-conscious consumers because of a recent wealth of information on the positive benefits of probiotics.

Boulder-based company Esoteric Foods has broken into the local fermented pickle market with its variety of krauts, and in two years has expanded from its first sale at Lucky’s in North Boulder to selling its products in more than 65 natural grocers. Co-founders Mara King and Willow King will also teach a class in pickling on Sept. 10 at the Lyons Farmette.

“For us fermentation in some ways is sort of a philosophy, if you will,” says Willow King. “It’s like this sort of magical interaction between the world we can see, the vegetables, the salt, the things that we’re touching, and this invisible world, which is all the microbes and the friendly bacteria that come into the process and make the food this super-vital, healthy, raw food that then, when we ingest it, kind of invigorates the whole digestive and immune system.”

Willow King credits the success of their Zuké “pickled things” to the supportive Boulder food and entrepreneurial community as well as the growing awareness of the health benefits of fermented products.

“I think there’s a real renaissance of sort of hands-on, do-it-yourself food processing,” Willow King says. “People are getting a lot more interested in where their food comes from, and once they know where it comes from, and how things are made, which is really how this business was born.”

In keeping with the conventional purpose of pickling, Esoteric Foods is trying to create much of its product at the end of the season, when there is excess crop production.

“We’re trying to buy as much local produce as we can when it’s plentiful, pickle it and then have it to sell throughout the winter until we break back out into spring,” Willow King says.

Pickles are not just practical, either. Many picklers are partial to the aesthetic qualities of pickled varieties. Willow King’s favorite Esoteric Food product is the Zuké beets, dulse and kale recipe, pointing to the deep purple color as part of her attraction to the recipe.

“My kids are huge fans of them,” she says. “You can always tell when they eat them because they have these big purple mustaches.”

King pickles for her young children, as does Kelley, who praises the process for its ease and low cost.

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Photo by Camilla Sterne

“I have three children, and a wife and a dog,” he says. “It gets expensive buying vegetables, unless it’s the summertime. The seasonality of it marks up the price. Pickling gives me the opportunity to have that type of ingredient to utilize on my own without having to necessarily pay for it.”

But many people do pay for their pickled goods, which can be found at local vendors for not-so-minimal prices. Lafayette vendor Isabelle Farm Stand carries Esoteric Foods products as well as the canned and pickled creations of Boulder-based MM Local.

The employees at Isabelle Farm Stand are no strangers to the pickled revolution. A big underground food movement is “starting to bubble to the surface and pickle,” says the farm stand’s wholesaler, Tyler Bair.

The place is teeming with farmers, all of whom seem to be extremely familiar with pickling. And most of their farmers do their own pickling, according to employee Annie Beall.

“Everybody gets the leftovers, and the best way to use them is to pickle them,” says Beall. “I bet there are a few of them around, they’d probably give you tips.”

There is one thing all picklers agree on: It’s easy to do. With one caveat: Be wary of the health risks of pickling at home. Kakudo warns about the hazards of air entering canned goods during the brine pickling process.

“There’s a whole science and food safety issue about canning; whenever you can food you have to make sure you’re canning food that has a certain amount of acidity,” says Kakudo.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many home picklers and canners are unaware of the risks of Botulism, a serious illness caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can find its way into canned goods if pickling methods aren’t executed properly.

Pickling in vinegar also tends to diminish some of the nutritional content of food, according to Kakudo and Kelley.

“The rule of thumb is that any time you take something from a raw state and you cook it or manipulate it, especially when you add intense pH levels on each side, you are going to break it down and it will lose some nutritional value,” says Kelley. “It’s definitely better to eat fresh and raw as far as nutritional value is concerned.”

Most pickles are used to augment a meal, whether through texture, spice or even color on the plate, and according to Willow King, many cultures have used fermented pickles to aid in the digestion of meats.

“It’s also just sort of a side, so you always have a pickle as a palette cleanser or a flavor enhancer with each course,” Willow King says. “There’s lots of fun creative ways to use it.”

Willow King suggests using Esoteric’s krauts on salads, in sandwiches and even in something like a fish taco. Kelley uses pickles at the Zucca Italian restaurant as a subtle palette enhancer.

“It’s a nice accoutrement to our paninis for lunch, our antipastis, our saloumis. We utilize pickles in lots of different ways. I’ve got pepperoncinis on my calamari dish, we have pickled red onions in our pork chop dish.”

And the vinegar brine in non-fermented pickles doesn’t have to go to waste, according to Kakudo, who suggests using the solution in place of vinegar during cooking.

However, the outburst of published books on pickling, pickling classes and pickling companies is still in its relative youth. It has yet to be seen whether the pickling craze will last as long as the preserved goods themselves.

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