Guest Post: Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food!

This is a guest post by Hannah Crum & Alex LaGory with Kombucha Kamp. Hannah is known as “The Kombucha Mamma” and speaks at consumer and corporate events nationwide.


If you’re trying to cut processed food out of your diet, two of the most common challenges (and ones we might overlook while cooking the entrees and side dishes) are drinks and condiments. Most commercial offerings are loaded with unwanted chemicals and corn syrup. But our family gets so bored drinking straight water, and we like bold flavors. Fortunately, people have been using fermentation to make delicious drinks, such as kombucha, and much more since before recorded history.

Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food! on 100 Days of Real Food
Photo Credit: Matt Amendariz for The Big Book of Kombucha – Storey Publishing (c) 2016

Thanks to a recent fermentation revival, many of these freshly made foods and drinks can be purchased at local grocery stores, or you can save money and ferment them right on your own kitchen counter. Even better, fermentation adds nutrition and shelf life, not to mention that kick of flavor and a boost to digestion and immunity, just to name a few benefits.

But keep in mind that fermented foods aren’t just a luxury. They have been critical to human history and development. Before the invention of the refrigerator, fermentation helped us preserve foods for leaner times. When water was often unsafe to drink due to pathogens, fermentation was the process we used to make it potable via beverages like naturally made ginger ale and root beer.

20th-century industry gradually replaced our traditionally fermented foods with warehouse stable versions for convenience and ease of manufacturing, but mostly for profit. Ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, mayonnaise: these were once living, probiotic “dressings” for our meals, prepping our digestive systems and helping us break down the food. Unfortunately, modern day versions lack the healthy bugs and natural enzymes that keep us feeling great, not to mention they’re made with unwanted additives!

Science is starting to uncover the vital role that bacteria play in every aspect of our immunity and well being. The brand new research into the human microbiome bolsters the principles of many progressive food movements, which have long encouraged a shift away from foods of convenience back to foods and preparation methods similar to those of our ancestors. The great news is that as these food movements have picked up steam, many of these naturally fermented foods are now making their way to grocery store shelves, often produced by small family businesses!

Once you start looking, fermented foods are everywhere. Here are some fermented foods that you’ll probably find in your grocery store aisles today:

  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Yogurt (avoid ones with sugar added!)
  • Pickles (some brands)
  • Milk Kefir
  • Water Kefir
  • Miso paste
  • Tempeh

Kombucha

The breakout star of this 21st century fermentation revival is kombucha – fermented tea with natural fizz and lots of fun flavors. There are literally hundreds of brands on store shelves around the country and the world, from farmers markets and natural foods stores to traditional grocery, big box (Costco, Target), and even convenience stores and airports. If you’ve never tried kombucha before, it may be love at first sip or it might take a few tries to find your flavor. But don’t give up, there’s a brand out there for everyone, or you can always make it taste however you want by brewing it at home. We call it a “gateway ferment” because people often start with the “booch” and love it so much they get hooked.

Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food! on 100 Days of Real Food
Photo Credit: Alex LaGory Kombucha Kamp

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is typically salted, fermented cabbage, while kimchi is its popular spicy Korean cousin. A little bit adds a lot of flavor and assists the body in digesting meat and other dense foods (that’s why there’s sauerkraut on Reubens!) Choose brands that are raw and not pasteurized so you get all the good bugs. These days, so many delicious varieties from spicy to mild can be found in creative combinations that include carrots, horseradish, beets, and other veggies. A little bit goes a long way with kraut, so use it sparingly but frequently. Often paired with meats in traditional cuisine, it makes a great addition to sausage, sandwiches, and just on the side as a cold “salad.”

Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food! on 100 Days of Real Food
Photo Credit: Jenny McGruther Nourished Kitchen
Hannah Crum, the Kombucha Mamma!How many fermented foods do you already include in your diet? These are my favorites: kombucha, cheese, salami, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, wine, kefir, and tempeh. Which favorite of yours did I leave out? Share yours in the comments! ~ Hannah

Yogurt and Kefir (and More!)

Lifeway Storebought Kefir is a good option for those who cannot make their own

Yogurt has been around for a while now, and it’s become popular enough that the processed food companies have gotten in the game. Watch out for those brands and choose ones that do not add sugar, binders, or thickeners. Milk kefir is a tangy, drinkable version of yogurt with more bacterial diversity. It can also be made into kefir cheese, which is a great substitute for commercial sour cream or cream cheese.

Water kefir is a lightly flavored ferment of sugar water into a probiotic “pop.” If you don’t find these at the mainstream grocery store, check the local co-op or health food store. Some are also made with coconut water for a unique, healthy treat.

Fermented soy, consumed for millennia, is used to create many delicious dishes. Miso is a salty paste that lends umami and rich flavor to soups and stews, while tempeh is a great meat substitute for Meatless Mondays!

Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food! on 100 Days of Real Food
Photo Credit: Alex LaGory Kombucha Kamp

Making Fermented Foods at Home

The great thing about fermented foods is that nearly all of them are incredibly safe and easy to make at home – an ideal option for those on a budget. Sometimes a culture is required, such as when brewing kombucha, milk kefir, or water kefir, but the cultures are prolific and offer a lifetime supply if cared for properly. Others, like sauerkraut and kimchi, simply require salt and time. Plus, making fermented foods as a family is a great way to pass on healthy habits, create unique flavors, and revive this ancient practice that has nourished humans for thousands of years.

If you are brand new to ferments, as with any new habit, the road to success begins with a single step. Pick out one ferment to try from your local grocery store this week and see how you like it. If you enjoy it and want to learn more about fermenting at home or need cultures, visit KombuchaKamp.com today. And as we say, Trust Your Gut!

What is Kombucha and How to Make It on 100 Days of Real Food

Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory created Kombucha Kamp to provide the highest quality brewing supplies, information, and support. Known as “The Kombucha Mamma,” Crum speaks at consumer and corporate events nationwide. LaGory is a writer and producer who, with Crum, mentors homebrewers and serves as a commercial brewing consultant. The couple co-founded Kombucha Brewers International in Los Angeles, where they reside.

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

21 thoughts on “Guest Post: Kombucha + Kraut are Real Food!”

  1. Stephanie Chandler

    I am SO excited that you did this post. I’ve enjoyed Kombucha from my local co op for many years but hate the high price. A friend makes her own and I’ve been intrigued but never felt I had enough knowledge or know-how to try it myself. Thanks for equipping me to I can go from curious about it to actually DO it!

  2. How does Apple Cider Vinegar rate as a pro-biotic? Also grew up with raspberry vinegar cordial. Both make great refreshing drinks!

  3. I would like to know if the store bought kombucha are good products in terms of sugars, fermentation process and so on. Any commercial brand you would recommend?

  4. Lifeway is pictured above, but yet is loaded with sugar, which we are supposed to avoid according to the article.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out Tracey! We don’t consume store bought kefir as we make it ourselves at home – do you have a recommendation for a low sugar commercial brand?

  5. Hannah, have you ever heard of a kombucha scoby causing problems with a sourdough starter? I’ve made sourdough bread for over ten years now and never had a problem, but about six months back I started to have green mold growing on my starter (while stored in the fridge between uses – sometimes when things are busy it can be a few weeks in between, but if I make it very thick it has always lasted just fine). The only difference I can think of is that just before this started happening I was given a scoby, which I also stored in the fridge. I know a scoby is bacteria and yeast, not mould, so it’s not a matter of direct contamination, but can having multiple cultures in the fridge upset the balance in a starter and make it more prone to a mould? (I also ferment vegetables, but have been doing that on and off for a couple of years; never a problem until I tried making kim chi, and it too developed mould, just before i noticed the mould in the bread starter). Any advice much appreciated! (I hope this doesn’t put anyone off trying any of fermenting – I’ve never heard of it happening to anyone else, plus I am a big fan of ferments, heartily recommend them, I really believe eating cultured veg and drinking kombucha has helped my digestion a lot.)

    1. First, take the SCOBY out of the fridge – they can go dormant if left in there too long, they are best stored at room temp in a SCOBY Hotel – https://www.kombuchakamp.com/scoby-hotel-maintenance

      You can also use your spent Kombucha yeast to make a sourdough starter –> https://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-recipe-sourdough-kombucha-bread-starter-plus-more-recipes

      The yeast in Kombucha makes for a denser texture and rich flavor.

      As for cross contamination – it is highly unlikely in the fridge. Yeast and bacteria (the ones in our ferments) truly prefer temps more similar to what humans prefer – it sounds like the cold temps has prevented them from being able to protect the ferment and the mold may be due to other airborne contaminants. The older the culture, the more “strength” it has to protect itself. So if this were a fairly new start, it may not have enough “sour bugs” to prevent the mold as the flour and sugar create a delicious substrate for all kinds of organisms.

  6. If anyone wants to make a trip out to Wisconsin in October there is Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg. It’s a week long event with many demos, lectures, classes, dinners and tastings about different fermentation processes. Art and music are also incorporated into a some of the events and it’s a great way to take the fall color.

    http://fermentationfest.com

  7. Enjoyed post. If I remember right, you had something on this topic a couple years ago. I just cleared my fridge of some fermented garden foods from a couple years ago.
    Today’s column is different.

    I do eat FAGE’ plain yogurt. I really liked fermented carrots over many veggies. Also green tomatoes.

  8. I’ve been making water kefir for over a year! Love all the probiotics I get in each glass! Great article.

  9. This is a great article, Lisa! I’ve been wanting to start brewing my own kombucha instead of buying it at the store.

  10. Great article on fermented foods! I’m glad to see more exposure being given to these traditional foods that are so incredibly linked to our health and wellness. I’m hoping to try making my own kombucha soon! Thanks!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *