Getting nutritious and flavorful fermented foods are easy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thanks, in part, to The Brinery, another of the thriving food enterprises in this community.
With a tag line of “Stimulating your inner economy,” The Brinery’s naturally fermented sauerkraut, hot sauces and seasonal pickles, including cucumbers and asparagus, are 100-percent fermented, so you’ll need to keep them refrigerated. Worth noting, these live culture fermented food products are different than the high acid cottage food products that do not require refrigeration because when the cottage food products are canned, the fermentation process is stopped.
The convivial, bearded and grinning Chief Fermenting Officer, David Klingenberger, swells with enthusiasm, intimate knowledge of the microbial world and passion for ferments. With his business, he’s serious about scaling up, supporting local farmers and helping people lead healthier lives by eating more fermented foods. But he’s more than willing to share some of his secrets and recipes (see below).
No heat canning and vinegar pickling here. The Brinery uses lacto-fermention of their vegetables in large food-grade containers, It’s a low-energy way of letting bacteria do the work. Fermenting actually retains vitamins, produces beneficial lactobacillus, and predigests some of the plant material, making more nutritive elements available to our bodies.
As many homesteaders know, making a batch of sauerkraut is easy, affordable and fun, especially if you have many helping hands. The ancient art of food preservation is rather simple – and safe. Only fresh vegetables, a natural salt brine and a crock are needed. As for safety, the salt and anaerobic environment in your fermenting crock stifle harmful bacteria and prevent decay with the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria multiplying to eat the sugars in the veggies, converting them to lactic acid and carbon dioxide -- the signature bubbles and sour taste that characterizes fermented foods.
The Brinery turns out over 12 varieties of sauerkraut, some available only seasonally, three types of kimchi, three types of seasonal pickles, and five types of hot sauce. For all these products, they purchase over 150,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Tantre Farm, Pregitzer Farm and the Michigan State University Student Farm. “We use many certified organic ingredients, but none of our products are certified organic themselves,” says Klingenberger who can sometimes be caught selling at their booth at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market. “Some of our small farmers are not certified organic, but grow along organic principles.” The latter point is becoming increasingly common among direct producer-to-farmer relationships.
“We sell mostly throughout the Midwest, and our hot sauce is available in all Northern California Whole Foods Markets,” cheers Klingenberger. “We use organic ginger from Hawaii and sea salt from Europe. My idea of local keeps evolving. I consider the Great Lakes region to be our backyard. We sell our products mostly throughout the Midwest and the Great Lakes area.”
Just in time for some fall crops, Klingenberger was excited to share his Sea Stag Sauerkraut recipe below. As a bonus for some of us, the recipe puts to good use some roots of a common and stubborn “weed,” burdock, at least where we homestead.
“We created this recipe with a friend, after visiting the Seaweed Man in Maine,” explains Klingenberger. “Inspired by hand harvesting the wild seaweed, Sea Stag Sauerkraut brings together the briney nutrients of seaweed with the deep earthy essence of burdock root, all united by the golden hue of turmeric!”
“Don't worry if the top layer dries out or gets funky looking,” he advises, when making this kraut. “Anything under the brine is fine and completely safe. The cabbage leaves will help protect the kraut, and can be discarded. If you see any white film on the surface, it's not mold, just a harmless pesky yeast. This recipe is very adaptable, and can be adjusted to your liking. Vegetable fermentation is a very safe and forgiving art.”
The Brinery Sea Stag Sauerkraut
Provided by David Klingenberger, Chief Fermenting Officer
Yield: a little less than 32 oz.
1.5 pounds, cabbage
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/4 cup burdock, shredded
2 T. sea veg (we use a mix of dulse, kelp, and digitae)
1 t. powdered Turmeric, or ½- inch chunk of fresh turmeric root
1 T. salt
1. Chop cabbage by hand, into thin slivers (or use your favorite cabbage shredding device) and set aside.
2. Break up seaweed by hand, knife or food processor into small, bite size pieces. You can use any type of your favorite seaweed. We use the soup mix from the Seaweed Man; they harvest by hand, in row boats off the coast of Maine.
3. If using fresh turmeric, finely grate it, or puree in a food processor.
4. In large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all shredded vegetables with salt, turmeric and seaweed. Squeeze, agitate and pound with your fist. This will break up the cell walls, get the juices flowing, and help to jump start the fermentation process.
5. Pack tightly into a 32 oz. wide mouth mason jar (or similar food grade container), until it is 80% full, ensuring that your jar does not overflow during fermentation.
6. Place larger, leftover leaves of cabbage into the top of the jar, covering the surface of the kraut.
7. Place a drinking glass filled with water inside your wide mouth fermenting jar. This will act as the weight to keep kraut submerged under the brine. This is crucial for proper fermentation! There should be plenty of natural juices covering the kraut. Remember: If it's under the brine it's fine, if it's in the air, beware!
8. Place your kraut on a counter, out of direct sunlight, at room temperature. It will be ready in 2 to 6 weeks, depending on your taste preference!
9. For long term storage, keep in refrigerator with a lid on.
John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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