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A new voyage
Soon after Lake Superior boat captain Andrew Sauter Sargent picked up the book, Salt, A World History, by food historian Mark Kurlansky, he embarked on a new voyage. Andrew learned about using salt to preserve cabbage and how sauerkraut has been around for 3,000 years.Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
A family adventure
Andrew and his wife, Jennifer, did some research and found there was a market for homemade sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented vegetables. They decided this was something they and their three children could produce on their 70 acres of rolling land, called Spirit Creek Farm, near Cornucopia, Wisconsin.
In this photo, Ivy Sauter Sargent, 8, helps with the chores for 100 chickens that provide manure for compost. This fertilizer is added to the cabbage fields.Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
After some trials and experimentation, they settled on lacto-fermented purple sauerkraut, beans, kim chi, green sauerkraut, ginger carrots, Curtido, beets, and garlic dill beans. To make the products, they use sea salt from California that is solar evaporated. “We did a lot of research on what was best,” says Jennifer. “We like the minerals and pureness of the sea salt.”Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
The salt brings out the liquid in vegetables and makes the brine. In the brine, bacteria converts sugar in vegetables into CO2 and lactic acid. The briny-vegetable mass acidifies and the pH decreases.
“The final produce is acidified and preserved and enhanced,” says Andrew. “The lactic acid and the probiotics, the lacto-bacilli, makes it all work. When canning sauerkraut with the boiling process, you zap a lot of the nutrients’ value out with the heat. Our process doesn’t do that.”Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
What's old is new again
The process of lacto-fermentation might be thousands of years old, but it’s new to many of their customers.
“We get a lot of questions,” says Andrew. “One guy wondered if the sauerkraut would keep on a car ride from Wisconsin to Minneapolis. I reminded him that Captain Cook kept sauerkraut just fine for years on ships on the high seas without refrigeration.”Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
The family has won Good Food Awards (a national contest for artisans) for purple sauerkraut and Curtido, a lightly fermented relish made with cabbage, onions, and carrots.
Andrew is still a little surprised at the venture. “We didn’t buy this land to plan a business. We just knew we were getting out of town and would have a garden. Little did I know that in a few years I’d be peddling lots and lots of sauerkraut.”Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
Philosophy of sustainability
The farm’s mission statement says it all: “We at Spirit Creek Farm continually work to cultivate our philosophy of sustainability through working with the land and animals, collaborating with local farmers, bringing good food to people, and raising our children as stewards of the land.”Date Published: August 29, 2013Date Updated: August 29, 2013
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