Sauerkraut: the smellier, the better

We typically know good food when we smell it: Freshly baked bread, floral fruits, spicy sauces, charred meats all tickle the nose.

It’s the unique and usually off-putting smell of fermenting sauerkraut, however, that tells you this is the good stuff. To put it in other terms, Kirsten Shockey’s father-in-law, who lives above the family’s rooms for aging sauerkraut, told her last summer that he smelled a gas leak. They don’t have gas at Mellonia Farms, Shockey replied.

The Shockeys can joke about the stench and, as their children point out, their habit of eating fermented food at EVERY meal. But they’re getting the last laugh with good health that they believe comes from the live, beneficial bacteria in their homemade krauts.

Christopher Shockey’s father is living proof of the power of “probiotics,” the family says. Last fall, some medical procedures compromised his digestive health. The Jacksonville resident was losing weight at a rapid pace when the Shockeys started supplementing his diet with krauts and kefir, a fermented dairy beverage. Within a week of starting the new regimen, his weight stabilized, and he eventually gained back 20 pounds.

“And we were just floored,” says Kirsten Shockey.

They didn’t have to convince me. I couldn’t wait to try their krauts, particularly an apple-fennel version, while researching a story for this week’s A la Carte. It’s been kimchi, though, that I can’t get enough of. That uniquely tangy, sour, spicy flavor warrants snacking at any time all on its own.

And this is just a preview of the finished fermentation. Because Mellonia’s kimchi was so popular that it sold out through the online farmers market, Rogue Valley Local Foods, Shockey still is in the process of making a new batch. But she packed some in a jar for me to try.

And when I say packed it in, I mean it’s really packed in. While the market’s price of $7.80 per pint may seem expensive, there’s a lot of kraut in there. I’ve dipped into the kimchi several times and barely scratched the surface.

The price may be slightly lower when the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market commences next month in Ashland and Medford. Whistling Duck Farm, which supplies Mellonia’s vegetables and already stocks the krauts in its farm store, likely will sell them at its market stall. And Mellonia will man its own stall at the Saturday market in Ashland, where customers also can purchase bulk quantities of kraut from 15-gallon crocks. Apart from a half-dozen mainstay krauts, recipes will change with the seasons and farmer surplus, says Shockey.

The Shockeys recommend kraut as a condiment next to just about anything, mixed into salads and on top of tacos or the more predictable sandwich. And as long as its not boiled, the kraut can be heated and maintain its beneficial bacteria.

I’ve also relished Mellonia’s beet kraut with homemade chicken liver pate and its pickled cranberries with raw mozzarella melted on garlic toast. And instead of bothering to make coleslaw to accompany fish and chips, I’m tempted to just finish the plates with kraut — if I can persuade my husband to look past the smell.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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