Kosher Fermented Foods: Ready-Made and DIY

Common fermented foods.

Common fermented foods.

Fermentation breaks down foods to yield new tastes and flavors. Bacteria-based starter cultures serve as the medium to effectuate this change. Fermented foods are packed with probiotics, which are bacterial microorganisms, that replenish the bacteria-filled gut. A healthy gut is crucial for good digestion and can help with mood, anxiety and sleep.

Convenience tends to push shoppers to buy fermented foods, but they can be prepared at home as well. For instance, OU kosher-certified Fermentaholics, produces The Complete Kombucha Brewing Starter Kit, which enables you to live and feel the experience of making fermented kombucha tea from the comfort of your own home.

The Different Types of Fermentation

In the dairy, as well as in the vegetable arena, the molecular type of fermentation that occurs is called lactic acid fermentation. In this process, bacteria cultures convert sugars into lactic acid that produces new tastes. This type of fermentation occurs in such items as cheese, yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh.

Another type of fermentation is alcohol-based fermentation where yeast converts sugar into alcohol. This is how wine and beer are made.

Kombucha, a tea, has its own type of fermentation process that is similar to vinegar, where the yeast first transforms the sugar into alcohol, which is then followed up by the fermentation of alcohol into acetic acid.

Fermentation in the Dairy Arena and Select Products

To produce cheese, manufacturers first pour large quantities of milk into giant vats. Then they add the starter cultures to the milk which converts the sugar in milk, known as lactose, into lactic acid. The enzyme rennet is then added which makes the natural protein of casein that is found in milk to thicken. Whey is then removed, and the cheese is shaped and aged by the company based on the desired final product.

Chobani's fruity yogurt flavors.

Chobani’s fruity yogurt flavors.

Yogurt uses starter cultures, known as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which give it its unique taste, texture and health benefits. Besides gut health, one study showed that yogurt can help lower blood pressure. Currently, fruit flavors are the most popular and the OU kosher-certified brand Chobani has an extensive variety of choices within this category.

Kefir has similarities to yogurt but is different in terms of the types of bacteria strains used and the taste and texture, as it’s normally consumed as a beverage. It has a fizzy and foamy feel. Kefir is made using milk kefir grains that are mixed with milk and then removed leaving a kefir drink. As reported by Fortune Business Insights, consumer awareness regarding digestive health has spurred beverage manufacturers to increase production in this category. OU kosher-certified Fresh Made has a nice selection of kefir milk flavors, such as blueberry, strawberry and peach.

Vegetable Fermentation and Fer-Real

Napoleon Bonaparte is reputed to have offered a hefty sum to the person who could figure out how to pickle and preserve food for his soldiers. Nicolas Appert succeeded, and the resulting pickles are actually vegetables submerged in saltwater brine that generates lactic acid.

Avrumi Grossberg is in the business of fermenting vegetables. After pickling at home and feeling the health benefits, he founded Fer-Real and moved his passion to the stores.

The expansive nature of the health benefits that can be realized through consuming fermented vegetables are noted on his website: “Fer-Real foods have made a noticeable difference in so many ways, treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, digestive issues like acid reflux and H. Pylori, intestinal tract issues like Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, and so much more.”

Fer-Real's fermented pickles.

Fer-Real’s fermented pickles.

He offers a wide array of pickled vegetable products, including fermented pickles, fermented borscht, fermented sauerkraut, fermented beets salad, fermented garlic, fermented green beans and fermented carrots. Their products can be found in all major supermarkets in the tri-state area.

Some fermented vegetables are native to Korea, Japan and Indonesia. Kimchi consists of fermented vegetables with different seasonings that are prevalent in Korea. Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans that’s common in Japan. Tempeh is an Indonesian dish also made from fermented soybeans, only it’s more in cake form.

Home-based Kombucha Fermenting

Kombucha is prepared by combining yeast, bacteria, sugar and tea. Because it undergoes a double fermentation process, a minimal amount of alcohol is produced. The finished tea has a tart and fizzy taste and is profusely rich in probiotics.

Kombucha kit.

Kombucha kit.

Kombucha tea is a product that lends itself to being produced at home. Engaging in the home-based fermentation process allows the consumer to become more knowledgeable in the area of cultures, storage requirements and ratios of raw materials needed.

If you choose the homegrown route, Fermentaholics has a brewing kit to produce a gallon of kombucha tea. It comes with all the cultures, ingredients, jars and directions that are necessary to complete the fermentation process. The company takes pride in availing the consumer to prepare this probiotic-rich beverage and therefore has experts available to answer any questions.


In the food industry, fermentation is trending. This coincides with the fact that consumers are seeking out new tastes and health benefits. There’s no shortage of OU kosher-certified probiotic-rich and flavorful fermented foods to choose from. Whether one chooses to procure manufactured fermented products or take up home-based fermenting, it’s a new type of food experience.





Steven Genack
Steven Genack has worked at OU Kosher for more than ten years with a specialty in ingredients. He is an attorney and former editor of a newspaper. He has a wide array of interests including playing tennis, golf and basketball and reading biographies and memoirs.