Thursday, July 30, 2009
At Tierra Vegetables, a lot of cabbages are grown each season. Many are divided up for the CSA, displayed for sales in the farm stand, hauled off to the city for committed customers, etc... A good quantity of large cabbages are planted with the intention of making sauerkraut, a traditional method of storing cabbage through the process of fermentation thus creating a product full of natural nutritional benefits. The larger the cabbage, the easier it is to process for this purpose.
On the right, father and son field crew Pablo and Jesus display thier larger-than-head size cabbage harvest. When producing and growing vegetables the best case scenario is that the veggies are sold as is, no processing necessary to create additional labor and time consumption on the farmer's end. It just so happens Lee, the sister half of the farming team, is quite the vegetable processor when time permits. Not only is she the genius behind many of the chile products, but also works hard each season to bring fermented pickles and sauerkraut to customers. The commercial kitchen located in Windsor also facilitates the plethora of possiblities for value added products at Tierra Vegetables.
Lee and Wayne usually work together on projects like these when their schedules collide with a size-able harvest of cabbages. I have had the pleasure of learning the new trade a few times as well. In this image Wayne takes the slicing position which is best or someone with strong arms since handling the large heads of cabbages can be tiring. As the sliced cabbage piles up, Lee weighs it out and adds salt in small portions, then pouring it into the crock and firmly pressing it down. Sometimes additional creative ingredients are added including chiles, carrots or beets since they are often not hard to find around the farm.
This is the view inside the crock during processing. Once full, a proper weight and cover is placed over the top in order to allow for the fermentation process to occur. It favors a specific ideal environment. It is then left to rest, wait and ferment until a bit of taste and quality testing deems it ready for packing off to market.
What is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that becomes acidic, or tangy, in flavor as populations of beneficial bacteria go about their natural fermentation process.
The product contains shredded cabbage and salt. It is a raw, live product and ought to be kept refrigerated.
Fermented foods are alive with flavors and nutritional benefits. The acids produced during fermentation preserve and break down nutrients into more digestible forms. These acids create nutrients as microbial cultures go through their life cycles, supplying your digestive tract with living cultures to break down foods and assimilate nutrients.
Check out the current batch which is also the first batch this spring. There was a lull between the last fall cabbage harvest and the time it took to produce enough fresh spring cabbages for a new sauerkraut project. Lee and I made it one Monday about a month ago or so. We decided to add some shredded beet for a bit of pink coloring. This is just the first of many seasonal selections of fermented cabbage and pickles. Keep your eye out for these unique products. If you don't see them, just as, they are usually someplace to be found.