Blog | Rainbow Co-op Grocery in Jackson, MS

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Community

Rainbow on the news

Posted by shelby on August 16, 2013

Rainbow was featured on WLBT’s “Small Business Matters” segment this week. Watch the video here.

Produce

Fermentation Madness

Posted by Patrick on August 16, 2013

With the arrival of the new coolers, the produce department certainly enters the new millennium, but at the very heart of the our operation is an ancient technology.

Lactic acid fermentation in stoneware crocks.

Excitement

Not pictured - my immense excitement


Humans have been using controlled fermentation to preserve and enrich foods since the neolithic era (that’s about 10 thousand years ago, if you’re one of our rare dear readers unfamiliar with archeological nomenclature). Cato mentions fermented cabbage in his work De Agri Cultura, the oldest surviving work of Latin prose, which also includes a lot of recipes for wine.

Since then, Sauerkraut has undergone a wide variety of permutations - modern recipes may include juniper berries, bay leaves, carrots, wine, garlic, onions, and pretty much anything that will ferment.

Vegetable fermentation is also a worldwide phenomenon. Germany is famous for sauerkraut, Korea for kimchi, miso in Japan, gundruk in Nepal, and of course there are plenty more.

And what did these people use to make their fermented vegetables? The time-honored stoneware crock.

Just like ours.

You see, the fermentation environment provided by the stoneware crock is ideal for controlling the invisible bacterial legion that does most of the work. To get it going, we first clean, then slice and shred our vegetables, to release their pure and precious water into the mix. To further this transportation of liquid, we add salt, which pulls more water out of the ruptured cells. This juice and water mix enriches the brine in which the entire batch will stew for the next thirty to ninety days.

But before we hand-pack the mix back into the crock, we season it and add a starter brine. Our starter brines are not store bought, they’re just pulled from a previous, successful batch of ferment.

This inoculates the mix with a healthy microbiological flora, containing any number of the hundreds of known species from the lactobacillus genus, the dozens of species from leuconostoc , and a wide variety of wild type fermenters that give us the healthy sour flavors our customers desire.

Keep in mind - when I say lactobacillus,  I’m talking about more than 100 species, each of which has multiple strains, sometimes one or two, sometimes a dozen. And there’s a lot of these guys in a jar. How many? I’ll give you an idea, later. It’s going to take a minute to count.

Now, once we’ve set our ferment safely away in the stoneware crock, leuconostoc  is the first bacteria to get rolling. Thankfully so! They produce copious amounts of carbon dioxide in the process, creating an oxygen-free environment that helps our microscopic fermenting minions while inhibiting spoilage and preserving precious vitamin C.

It’s the design of these crocks that allows carbon dioxide to displace oxygen - which is vital to a proper pickle. You see, each crock has a “lip” which is filled with water. The heavy stone lid is set into that lip, below the level of the water. There is a tiny hole at the bottom of the lip which allows the building pressure of produced CO2 to push out of the container, until it eventually displaces all the oxygen, saving our friendly bacteria and our vitamin C.

After the three day mark, lactobacillus kicks into action - it thrives in a slightly lower pH than does leuconostoc, so the lactic acid that leuconostoc produces provides a wonderful environment for the workhouse lactobacillus.

Unfortunately, leuconostoc has brought about it’s own demise. Lactobacillus thrives by creating an environment in which only it can survive. This is why lactobacillus is so useful in preserving food - it’s harmless to us, but deadly to harmful microorganisms. So poor leuconostoc either dies out or goes into hibernation. Then lactobacillus takes over. It ferments more, and more, dropping the pH to a point at which it can no longer use it’s own enzymes to eat. The crocks stop bubbling, the kraut stops churning, and lactobacillus drops into a hibernation phase, waiting for someone to eat it, pour in more food, or transfer it to another more delicious environment.

 

DELICIOUS

A more delicious environment


When the ferment is ready, the crock is quiet. An active ferment shelf is a burping, bubbling thing. I like to pretend that it’s talking to me. Telling me things. Happily gurgling about what’s going on inside the crock - new colonies springing up, dying out, moving on to new nutritious leaves, or coming back to old feeding grounds to find new bacteria taking up residence. It’s the sound of invisible war, minute empires the size of a pinhead going through birth, magnificence, and decline.

So, why am I telling you all this? Is it because I constantly consider the bubbling microbiomes lurking in our midst as the true microbial masters of the planet? Because bacteria in our gut outnumber the cells in our bodies? Because bacteria are Earth’s most enduring form, around which all known biomes have been arranged for billions of years? Have I lost my mind?

It may have something to do with the earlier question of “how many bacteria are in your product?” We get this question a lot, and it’s rather difficult to answer. You often see commercial probiotic supplements and yogurts give an estimated guess of how many bacteria are in a serving. We don’t have the biology lab equipment to do this sort of work, but I came up with a workaround.

I asked a microbiologist to make a wild guess.

Her guess was about 150-200 million cells in every milliliter. There’s 946 milliliters in a quart, which puts us at about, one hundred sixty-five billion five hundred fifty million bacteria in a quart of ferment. Give or take a few, here and there. She may have missed a couple in the corner.

Still, that’s more people than have ever lived and died on Earth.

But yet even that factoid is not the real reason for this lengthy musing! The real reason I’ve told you of this is merely to prime you for a second, much shorter tale, a bit of news with which you may whet your appetite for sour, savory fermentation.

We’ve doubled our number of crocks! You see, we have 3 small and 4 large crocks (15 and 30 liter crocks. It’s in liters because the crocks are made in Germany, but it amounts to about 4 and 8 gallons, respectively).

Now, we’ve got 6 small and 8 large crocks. So in the coming months we’ll be doubling up on the amount of delicious fermented goodness. All in our brand new ferment-only cooler.

 

Crocks

Pictured: About 5 trillion bacteria, hard at work

Community

Fitness Fest community event

Posted by shelby on August 12, 2013

One of my favorite parts of working as Rainbow’s Community Builder is experimenting with new ideas to further educate our community about eating good food, supporting our local economy, and caring about the environment.

Last month we had the privilege of running a miniature grocery store at Fitness Fest, an event coordinated by Parents and Kids Magazine. Fitness Fest is all about families getting more active and making healthy choices.

Our grocery store was full of food containers donated by Rainbow customers and employees, and kids were able to fill their baskets with whatever foods they liked. At the “check out,” myself and nutritionist Deane Peck talked about their choices and why they were healthy and unhealthy. What a fun way to teach nutrition!

Thank you so much to our Assistant Manager Leigh Anne for all of her hard work on our mini grocery store. Thank you to Parents and Kids for the opportunity!



Health and Beauty

New arrival: Mango butter!

Posted by Health & Beauty on August 12, 2013

Extracted from kernels of the mango tree, mango butter is an extremely versatile moisturizer.

1. Good for eczema, dermatitis, sunburn, rashes, insect bites, poison ivy, stretch marks and fine lines.

2. Higher level of fatty acids than coconut and shea butter, making it a more intensive moisturizer

3. Shields hair and skin from UV rays

4. Promotes cell regeneration

5. Contains high levels of antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E


Supplements

Colloidal Silver

Posted by Supplements on August 12, 2013

Colloidal Silver is one of our favorite products because it is extremely versatile. It destroys pathogens of all types including bacteria, fungal spores, parasites, and viruses. It can be used topically or internally, and can give your immune system a boost during winter months. Keep some in your first aid kit to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.

Our recommended brand of Colloidal Silver is by Sovereign Silver, which has sizes to meet every price point, starting at $13.69.


High Noon

Farm to Table Pop-up Dinner

Posted by High Noon Cafe on August 12, 2013

Last month we hosted our very first Farm to Table Dinner, which was a 5-course menu built around locally-grown, organic produce. Jackson’s demand for cleaner, healthier food truly showed at our event, which sold out quickly to a very passionate crowd.

Thank you to everyone who attended our first Farm to Table dinner and asked that we do it again.  We plan to host a Farm to Table each season to showcase seasonal produce, with the next event being held on Friday, November 22nd. Mark you calendars!



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