Let’s start at the beginning—on the farms that grow the ingredients for our fermented products. These farms are organic, as is the produce that they grow. No agricultural chemicals are allowed. Instead of using factory-made fertilizers, organic farms fertilize their soil by composting the farms’ leftover organic matter and spreading its nutrients back to the soil. In other words, recycling.
Composting is a wild fermentation in which nature’s recyclers—the tiny specks of life we call microbes—are given a feast of fresh organic matter, which they transform into a crumbly black fertilizer that contains all the nutrients the next generation of plants will need to become healthy and bountiful. Because compost is made in the presence of air, it’s an aerobic fermentation. The microbes don’t have to be added to the organic matter. They are already here, there, and everywhere. On everything. Floating in the air. Ready to do their thing.
Nature’s mix of microbes includes thousands of species. If you’ve ever encountered compost at full fermentation, it’s actually hot from the multiplication of trillions upon trillions of these microbes working on the organic matter. Nature likes diversity. It’s her key to good health.
The products we make here at wildbrine are also made with a wild fermentation. Some commercial pickling operations inoculate their brine with a single species of microbe they think is best, but we think nature knows best. Others simply soak their products in a vinegar brine that has no probiotic microbes. But we let nature choose which microbes to use because her choices are already present.
If you peruse our website, you’ll find many choices of sauerkraut, kimchi, salsa, and blazingly good probiotic srirachas. All were made with, and by, naturally-occurring beneficial probiotic microbes that turn raw vegetables into nutritional gold and that are still in the products, ready to work their magic where it counts most—in your gut. To further enhance the enjoyment, we layer on the flavor, ’cause that’s what we do.
Before the fresh vegetables go into the brine, they are naturally covered with many different kinds of microbes. Once the veggies are covered with brine, that changes drastically. Two things start happening. First, the salt in the water keeps spoilage microbes from propagating, and the water excludes air that would promote the growth of spoilage organisms. Salt also makes the veggies crunchy and crisp, and it acts as a vitamin preservative. It also slows down the fermentation process, allowing the flavor in the vegetables to develop more fully.
Second, bacteria, yeasts, mold spores, and other microbes begin to compete for dominance in the brine. Thankfully for us humans, the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose in this scenario. And that’s because the lactobacilli (the good guys) turn carbohydrates in the vegetables into lactic acid, while others convert starch into sugar, then sugar into alcohol, which is further converted into acetic acid, the acid found in vinegar. The lactic and acetic acids give fermented vegetables their savory tang. And very importantly, they lower the pH of the brine. These good microbes thrive in acidic solutions. Spoilage and disease-causing microbes need an alkaline environment, so they die off.
Another way of looking at this fermentation process is that the lactobacilli and other good microbes that carry it out make their environment hospitable to themselves but inhospitable to any microorganisms that could spoil the vegetables for human consumption. This is why pickling vegetables under brine has been a wholesome way to preserve food for thousands of years. When you eat wild fermented foods, you are ingesting living lactobacilli and other microbes that become part of our gut microbiome, where they continue their work of dismantling our food into its component nutrients and feeding them to us through our intestinal wall.
Nature favors diversity. A diverse ecosystem, whether in a forest or in our gut, is the source of health. That’s because a healthy ecosystem is characterized by checks and balances where no one organism can cause trouble. When the gut microbiome is well supplied with a diversity of probiotic microbes, its health benefits are maximized. That’s why we do wild fermentation.
Find out more about the health benefits of fermented foods here.
About the Author: Sonoma County resident Jeff Cox is the author of 24 books, including The Essential Book of Fermentation (Avery, 2013)
I have recently, happily tried Wildbrine Sauer kraut. Wonderful! I had a German American grandmother who made Sauer kraut on her back porch every year. I hadn’t had any in many years. Wildbrine tastes like I remember hers. Thank you and I’m looking forward to trying all your flavors and don’t forget to drink or use the juice.
The wild Bunch
Thanks so much for the kind words!
I found Wildbrine at Walmart and bought a jar of Korean Kimchi. I really like the taste. It isn’t as salty as other kimchis I’ve tried which is good because I don’t eat brine fermented foods regularly because they are extremely high in salt. Wildbrine seems to have just the right amount of salt. I’m looking forward to exploring more of your products.
The wild Bunch
Judy- Thank you so much for the kinds words!
How long is the sauerkraut good to eat if it hasn’t been opened and has been refrigerated? Thank you.
The wild Bunch
Hi Judy – The sell-buy date is printed on the lid but sometimes the printing isn’t super easy to read. But as for how long it stays fresh unopened, it is the same as if it were opened – about a month or two after the sell-by date.
How long is your sauerkraut left to ferment? hour, days weeks? before you bottle it. also how much probiotics does your kraut have, typically, ballpark is fine
The wild Bunch
Hi Arthur – Thanks for the questions! Because we use wild fermentation, our kraut does its thing for as long as necessary. We keep a watchful eye on it. And for the same wild fermentation reason, we don’t know the exact probiotics that are present in the our products. With wild fermentation, we rely on naturally occurring bacteria and yeast to ferment our products. We do not add commercial cultures to the products so we are not able say exactly which probiotics are present and in what percentages. Since we rely on the cultures that naturally exist on the vegetables to perform the fermentation, the probiotics are different for every batch of sauerkraut that we produce. We do know that the products are high in lactobacillus.
Are any of your fermented products safe for people yeast allergies?
The wild Bunch
Jada – The technical answer is that it depends on the sensitivity of the individual and their allergies. Since we use natural wild fermentation, there is some presence of naturally occurring yeasts which are part of the wild fermentation. The amount present and the specific species of yeasts varies throughout the season with different fermentation and produce growing conditions. The degree to which those fermentation yeasts might be a concern to a person with yeast sensitives is not something we’d be able to say. You are better off discussing with your doctor what the effects may be for you, taking your total health into account.
This batch of sauerkraut tastes like beer. I’m not sure if it’s ok to eat or not. It’s not tangy, kind of bland. Thoughts?
The wild Bunch
Hi Julie – Is this a batch of wildbrine sauerkraut you’re referring to or something you made? If it’s one of ours, please email email@example.com and let us know the type of kraut, where you bought it, and all the numbers on the jar. Thanks!