Because of their German heritage, many Milwaukeeans are big fans of sauerkraut, particularly on their brats.
[caption id="attachment_326244" align="alignright" width="424"] Jeff's Zauerkraut and Jeff's Zimchi from Zymbiotics.[/caption]
But what some may not know is most commercial sauerkraut today is made by pasteurizing and then pouring brine and vinegar over cabbage in a sort of “shortcut” as compared to the traditional method of fermentation.
That quick production tactic also cuts out some of the prebiotic and probiotic benefits and nutrients that can be gained from eating naturally fermented sauerkraut, according to Jeff Ziebelman, founder of Zymbiotics LLC.
Fox Point-based Zymbiotics makes and markets naturally fermented sauerkraut, ginger carrots and kimchi. The company, which Ziebelman founded in May 2014, sells its products as much for their taste as for their health benefits.
“I am very passionate about food and health,” said Ziebelman, who recently started working on the company full-time. “Trying to help people’s health is important to me and it’s something I believe strongly in.”
“Jeff’s Zauerkraut” contains red and green cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, sea salt and caraway seeds.
“Jeff’s Zimchi” is a form of the Korean favorite kimchi made with napa cabbage, daikon radish, carrots, green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, Korean peppers, fish sauce and sea salt.
And the company’s newest product, “Jeff’s Ginger Zarrots,” is made with carrot, ginger and sea salt.
All three recipes involve fermenting the ingredients “to their highest nutritional, prebiotic and probiotic value, flavor and texture,” according to the company. The kimchi is fermented for four to five days and the sauerkraut and ginger carrots for about 10 to 14 days before they’re put on the shelf.
There are no preservatives or additives used in making the foods, and they are not pasteurized in order to achieve their particular taste, texture and health benefits. For this reason, they must be kept refrigerated at or below 41 degrees Farenheit, or the fermentation process will continue.
A friend of Ziebelman’s makes the products in his commercial kitchen in Cudahy, but Zymbiotics will likely find its own production space soon.
Ziebelman’s girlfriend, Betty Holloway, is a registered dietitian who provides nutrition education at NuGenesis Farm in Oconomowoc and helps patients with weight loss at Waukesha-based ProHealth Care. In addition, Holloway helps Ziebelman with education and recipe development at Zymbiotics.
“I show people how to use food, so I can even work the fermentation and other things like that into my work,” she said.
According to Holloway, fermented foods contain live bacteria that can improve digestion and restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut, as well as help the body more efficiently absorb nutrients from food.
“It’s something that was traditional in almost every culture,” Holloway said. “We’ve lost it and instead we went into processed foods.”
The health benefits of adjusting the microbial communities in the gut are being researched on several levels, including through a large ongoing National Institutes of Health study called the Human Microbiome Project.
According to the NIH, there are 10 times as many microbial cells as human cells in the human body, but the majority of the microbial species in the body have never been isolated, cultured or sequenced, which is what the Human Microbiome Project aims to do.
Some research suggests the microflora in the gut could impact a number of health conditions, including obesity.
Anecdotally, Holloway and Ziebelman have heard from customers that regularly ingesting fermented foods has improved their digestion, and in one case even helped a diabetic lower her blood sugar.
Zymbiotics has its products in 33 local stores to date, including in small health food stores and in some locations of Woodman’s.
Ziebelman travels to stores across the Milwaukee area to sample the products several times per week. It’s a product that is most easily sold by having people taste it, he said.
“It’s mouth by mouth,” Ziebelman said. “It’s also word of mouth. You just feel like you’re putting ripples out there and the ripples bounce around.”