Marko & Hanako produce truly superb organic sauerkrauts & kimchi at Midori Farm in Quilcene, WA and a nearby commercial kitchen – shepherding the whole process from seed to jar. Because their krauts are unpasteurized and don’t ship well, we only sell them in our Seattle retail store and Amazon Fresh. You should come by and check them out!
We had a chance to interview them on why they do what they do and how they do it. Here’s what Marko had to say:
Why did you decide to start making & selling sauerkraut?
I started making kraut and kimchi after living in South Korea while teaching English. Everyone in Korea eats Kimchi every day at almost every meal. So when I came back to the states I was working on a vegetable farm and started making kimchi and kraut with the excess produce.
I knew it had health benefits similar to yogurt, and at the time I was a vegan so it was a good way to get probiotics into my diet.
After a few years of making it and perfecting some recipes, my friends started clamoring for more, so I started selling it around town. About that same time I moved to Port Townsend which had a vibrant farming community and a great market, so I started producing kraut in a commercial kitchen and selling it.
Can you talk us through your kraut & kimchi production?
The main idea is that we chop or shred vegetables (usually cabbage is the main ingredient), then mix in a small amount of sea salt. That salt draws the juices out of the vegetables in about 20 minutes are so creating a brine.
Then we pack that mixture into our fermenting vessels. We place a weighted plate on top of that to squeeze out any air in there. This creates an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment for the fermentation bacteria to start their work.
It is a succession of bacteria that do the fermenting and create the flavors associated with non-pasteurized kraut and kimchi. Each strain can live within a certain range of acidity as they work on the process of breaking down the vegetables they create acids changing the PH level of the solution and thus inviting in the next strain of bacteria that can live and thrive in an increasingly acidic environment.
We usually stop the fermentation process after a few weeks so the kraut is still a bit crunchy, but has had enough time to develop complex flavors.
What’s your favorite part of the farming/production process?
I love that we are producing a “processed” product from start to finish. We sow the seeds, cultivate the soil, water the growing seedlings, protect the plants from insect and disease damage, harvest the mature vegetables, shred them, ferment them for weeks and then put them into jars and sell them to folks all over our region.
It is an amazing opportunity to observe the entire process of bringing a food product from seed to shelf. Plus it’s an amazing opportunity for creative thought and art in action. It is all so very long term oriented, it is fun to be a part of producing something that takes such a long time to create.
For example the onions and leeks we use: They begin with spreading compost and planting cover crops each fall to nourish next year’s crop. Then seeds are planted in the greenhouse beginning each January. These onion seeds grow into onions that will be in the kraut folks are eating the following year. A full year and a half after we began preparing the soil in which they would be planted. I like the opportunity to take the long view.
Why did you decide to farm organically?
For us there is no other way to farm for long term health of the soil, the water, the animals and ourselves.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy your dill & caraway kraut and horseradish leek kraut?
On good bread with a good goat cheese. Packed with potatoes and good sausages and a bay leaf then cooked in a covered dish in the oven. On burgers, on pizza, with eggs, with anything grilled and salads of course. Horseradish leek kraut on lamb is especially good.
Any quick & easy recipe ideas beyond simply using them as a condiment?
Blending them with any fat is perfect. We make kim-cheese by processing kimchi with chevre or cream cheese. And blended kimchi butter or kraut butter which can then be added to about anything.
Braising meats with lots of kraut or kimchi is divine…We like to brine meats in kimchi and kimchi juice. Or slow cook pork or beef or tempeh or tofu with a jar of kimchi then roll up that mixture in lettuce leaves. Our standby quick soup is a big spoonful of kimchi in a hot cup of water with some miso and a boiled egg or noodles.