How did you get interested in fermented foods?
My interest was first piqued in Germany, where I tasted unpasteurized kraut for the first time. I was intrigued by the barrel of kraut sitting in a cold dusty corner of a farmer’s root cellar. How could food sit out this temperature and not rot? Many years later I attended a natural chef culinary program and learned the basics of lactic acid fermentation and have been hooked ever since.
Ten years ago an artisanal sauerkraut business would have sounded kind of nuts. What's changed?
You’re so right—and we still get a lot of “OMG, Sauerkraut, really???” at farmers markets. I think the trend towards “real food”—traditional foods that have morphed into less interesting and less nutritious versions of their original forms—have in part fueled the interest. A deeper understanding of the important role that the right type of bacteria play in good health has also increased interest.
Unpasteurized kraut in particular was ripe for revival because not only is flavor and texture improved, the health profile is exponentially better. Probiotic bacteria and vitamin C are both destroyed by the heat used in pasteurization.
What's the trickiest thing Farmhouse Culture faces as it grows in popularity?
Only one thing? Hmm, where to start? Sourcing consistent, large quantities of vegetables from small farms and finding sustainable, affordable packaging are probably on the top of the heap.
What are your favorite ingredients right now?
Beets, beets, beets.
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing instead?
At one point I thought seriously about opening a chain of diners that serves organic, sustainably raised versions of our favorite diner foods, but then I remembered that I never wanted to own another restaurant. Kraut is my calling. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What's on the horizon for Farmhouse Culture?
We’ve recently decided to expand our operations right here in the Sash Mill and automate some of processes. Two big steps. We’re also fermenting a couple of “soon to be released” new recipes like our tasty Lemon Ginger Carrots.
Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut is at the Downtown and Aptos farmers markets, New Leaf Markets (Westside, Capitola, downtown, Felton), Staff of Life, the Food Bin and Whole Foods in Santa Cruz and Capitola.