Before I started on my healing, whole-food journey a few years ago, things like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pak dong were not even on my radar. As far as I was concerned, fermented foods smelled way too strong and I had absolutely no interest in trying them. But as I began to read more and more about their benefits, and how fermented foods related to optimal gut health, I decided to give them a try.
Let me tell just you, I noticed an immediate difference and I will never go back!
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process in which natural bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in the food, creating lactic acid. This process, called lacto-fermentation, not only preserves the food, but it creates beneficial enzymes, omega-3s, b-vitamins, and multiple strains of healthy probiotics. Lacto-fermentation also preserves the food’s essential nutrients while breaking it down into a more digestible form which, along with the probiotic cultures created, helps to greatly improve digestion.
Eating fermented food introduces those beneficial probiotics to our digestive system helping to keep our gut health in balance. Probiotic cultures have been shown to help slow (and even reverse) disease, aide in digestion, and improve overall immunity. Dr. David Perlmutter, a board-certified neurologist and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition, says having healthy gut bacteria can greatly improve brain function, weight, blood sugar, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
People around the world have been enjoying fermented foods for centuries, from sauerkraut in Germany to kimchi in Korea and everywhere in between. In fact the earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C.! Sadly however, due to advances in technology and food preparation, these time-honored traditional foods have been largely lost, especially here in the US. Instead of the nutrient and probiotic rich fermented foods that our ancestors ate, our modern day supermarket shelves are filled with pickles and krauts that have been preserved by a quick-method called “pickling” which uses high heat and pressure. Unfortunately, “pickling” destroys all of the food’s beneficial nutrients. A great way to tell the difference is that pickled foods can be kept at room temperature, and fermented foods need to be refrigerated.
But Honestly, Who’s Got Time?
Realizing that it was far from realistic for me to regularly make my own, yet determined to find and incorporate true fermented foods into my diet, I happily discovered local gem, Puckers Gourmet at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market.
Puckers Gourmet offers a variety of delicious, true lacto-fermented foods including: Dilly Sweet Pickles, their take on the sweet-and-sour bread-and-butter pickle; Half-Sour Pickles; Full-Sour Pickles, which use up to 30 pounds of garlic in each batch; Habanero Sour Pickles; Sauerkraut; Spicy Kimchi; Giardiniera, a mixture of garden veggies; and –my personal favorite– their Thai inspired Pak Dong, which has a great kick!
Owner Kelley Goldman ferments every batch for up to five weeks, in whiskey and bourbon barrels that hold 600 pounds each. Everything Puckers Gourmet offers is made by hand and is 100% preservative-free, raw, vegan, vegetarian, wheat, soy, gluten and peanut free.
I also appreciate that she uses all local ingredients during the growing season.
If you’re new or intimidated by fermented foods like I was, you may be inclined to stick with their pickles and sauerkraut.
But trust me, if you don’t try Puckers’ Kimchi, and Pak Dong, you will surely be missing out!
Honestly, my family loves to eat them both straight out of the jar…
But here are TEN great ways to add Puckers’ Kimchi and Pak Dong to your daily menus:
2. Stews and soups
4. Steamed veggies
7. Chicken, steak, or seafood
10. Roasted potatoes
Puckers Gourmet can be found at the Market every Saturday, from 9-1pm at High Rock Park.
Here’s to good health and happy eating!