TWIN FALLS — Kimchi. Kombucha. Kefir.

All funny words. All fermented foods.

Dietitians across the country predict the good bacteria-packed beverages and foods that promote digestive health will continue to become more popular.

Renee Birch, a dietitian at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, said fermented foods are worth trying.

“I think there’s interest in trying things that are outside the typical American diet,” she said. More people are thinking about their health and want to age well.

Lots of restaurants are promoting the fermented foods trend as well, she said. “It’s things you don’t normally get at home.”

Jessica Gough has been doing lacto-fermentation at home for about nine months.

“It’s relatively simple,” said Gough, who’s cooking class coordinator at Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise in downtown Twin Falls. “Everybody can do it with some jars and some salt.”

The probiotics in fermented foods have made them more popular, she said. “That’s kind of how I got into it. People are more interested in kind of healing their gut.”

Gough makes lacto-fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. Pickles and sauerkraut are the two easiest ones to do at home, she said.

Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise sells fermentation kits with the equipment you’ll need and offers recipes to those who are interested in trying it out. Or you can use Fido jars, a European jar with a clamp-style lid.

The cooking store held a “Fermentation 101” class in October. Now, the store plans to hold another session due to high interest.

What’s in fermented foods? They contain beneficial live bacteria and yeast, Birch said. Some foods “are more well established,” she added. “Some are not as well researched, but have benefits.”

There are areas of the world where people have long life expectancy and often eat fermented foods, she said.

Fermented foods can help improve digestion, provide immune system benefits, decrease urinary tract infections and help with the absorption of minerals, Birch said.

Some evidence also shows if pregnant women consume fermented foods, the likelihood of their baby having eczema is reduced, she said.

Buttermilk is an example of a fermented food — in some cases. “Many times, it is pasteurized and no longer has active cultures,” Birch said, so it isn’t as beneficial.

Kefir, a fermented milk drink, has “bundles of healthy bacteria,” Birch said. If you make your own, “it’s worth eating,” she said. “It’s good.”

Fermented milk products are also beneficial for people who are lactose intolerant, she said.

Other examples of well-known fermented foods: Beer, wine, vinegar and leavened bread.

Lesser-known examples are tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food made using soybeans, and ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink.

“Kimchi is becoming very popular,” Birch said. It’s a Korean dish with fermented cabbage and spices. You can also add fish to the dish.

There’s some evidence, though, that eating too much kimchi can increase the risk of gastric cancer, Birch said.

But one benefit: It may have anti-obesity properties, she said. “It will take more research to know for sure.”

Here are three fermented food recipes, courtesy of Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise:

Rudy’s Lacto-fermented Pickles

Ingredients:

5 tbsp. Himalayan or sea salt

2 quarts water (chlorine free)

4-6 grape or oak leaves or other tannin containing leaves (this helps the pickles stay crisp)

7-8 peeled garlic cloves

Fresh dill heads

Spices to taste: peppercorns, cardamom, coriander, red pepper flakes and mustard seeds

Optional — fresh horseradish to give your pickles some heat

Enough pickling cucumbers to fill a half gallon jar

Instructions:

1. Make a brine by dissolving 5 tablespoons sea salt in 2 quarts of chlorine-free water.

2. In your jar, add a couple of the leaves, some garlic, the dill and about a third of the spices.

3. Pack half of the cucumbers tightly on top of the spices.

4. Repeat with a layer of leaves, garlic and spices. Then another packed layer of cucumbers, and top them off with more garlic and spices.

5. Pour the brine over the pickles, leaving about 2 inches of headspace. Place another leaf on top as a cover. If necessary, you can use a fermentation weight to keep things under the liquid. Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.

6. Set the jar on the counter and ferment at room temperature until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, you will need to burp daily to release pressure. Your brine will turn cloudy and will bubble. You can start tasting after 7 days or so your pickles will taste sour when done.

7. Eat right away, or store in a refrigerator or root cellar for months, and enjoy them all winter long.

Kimchi

Ingredients:

¾ cup coarse sea salt

Water

2 heads Napa cabbage, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces, discard root

1 bulb garlic, separated and peeled

1 (2-inch) piece of ginger root

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1/4 cup fish sauce

1 Asian radish, peeled and grated

1 bunch of green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths

1/2 cup Korean chili powder

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 gallon jar

Preparation:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve 1 cup salt in a 1/2 gallon water. Soak cabbage in the salt water for 3 to 4 hours.

2. Combine garlic, ginger and fish sauce in food processor or blender until finely minced.

3. In large bowl, combine radish, green onions, garlic mixture, chili powder, 1 tablespoon salt and the sugar. Toss gently but thoroughly. Use rubber gloves if hand mixing. The chili will burn.

4. Remove cabbage from water and rinse thoroughly. Drain the cabbage using a colander. Gently squeeze as much water out as possible. Mix the cabbage and radish mixture together. When well mixed, move cabbage into 1-gallon jar, pressing down firmly to remove any air bubbles.

5. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 24 hours (the mixture may bubble). Open the jar to burp about once a day, then reseal. Kimchi is best after fermenting about a week. Refrigerate at least 48 hours before eating. It will keep for up to 1 month.

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Cultured Pickles

Ingredients:

Pickling-style cucumbers, sliced

Fresh garlic, chopped or minced

Fresh or dried dill weed

3/4+ cup water

One of the following:

1 tbsp. salt and 1/4 cup whey

Instructions:

1. Dissolve the salt in water, then add the whey. This makes the brine.

2. Mix the cucumber slices, garlic, and dill together and place in a glass jar or fermentation container. Pour the brine over the vegetables. The vegetables should be submerged under the liquid. Add more brine as needed to cover. Leave a small amount of room at top of jar for air.

3. Cover the top of your jar with clean, dry cotton-type cloth secured with a rubber band.

4. Ferment for 7 to 14 days or longer at room temperature. After the first 7 days, pull a cucumber out with a clean dry plastic utensil and taste it. If it’s to your liking, cap the jar and store in the refrigerator.

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