After nearly three years of becoming more and more involved in the local food movement in the Charlotte area, I have finally found a way to become an active participant versus just being a consumer.
Sauerkraut and other naturally fermented products represent a time honored food preservation technique. Food fermentation is believed to have originated during the construction of the Great Wall of China. Now a variety of fermented products from cabbage to cucumbers are available in the marketplace.
Natural fermentation is a terrific way to not only preserve foods, but also to get a good dose of healthy bacteria and vitamins. Sandor Katz in his book and website on Wild Fermentation goes into great depth about the variety and benefits of fermented foods.
In doing initial market research about the sauerkraut industry, I discovered that North Carolina is one of the best cabbage growing states in the country. Fully 10 out of 12 months feature a cabbage harvest. Over 10% of the cabbage consumed nationally for the production of sauerkraut is grown here in North Carolina, but there are no local producers of sauerkraut.
With the help of Dean Mullis from Laughing Owl Farm, Walter Harrill from Imladris Farm in Asheville, Chad Andrews of Uwharrie Vineyards, Dan Rosenburg of Real Pickles in Montague, MA, Mary Roberts of Windcrest Organics, Blue Ridge Food Ventures in Asheville, a variety of state and local governmental-type folks, and several very open-minded and open-mouthed friends, we are finally in the "recipe-testing" stage of our first naturally fermented product, Carolina Sauerkraut.
We have been discussing several ways to make samples of our sauerkraut available. The idea at this point is via the local farmer's markets with local farmer's who actually grew the cabbage or have a complimentary product. We hope to be in commerical production with the ability to actually sell the product by Fall 2008.
Additional products that will follow will include naturally fermented pickles, fermented ginger carrots and a red cabbage sauerkraut.
I have owned several service businesses and currently own and operate Parker Web located in Matthews, NC. However, this is the first product business I've ever undertaken. I am now completely of the opinion that it takes a collective effort to get any product on the shelf. The last few months have been an education in the food business and I certainly feel as if I am just getting started.
Over the next few months, I'll keep you apprised of my progress. We have some neat programs coming online in conjunction with our local foods, local tables philosophy. See you around the markets!