healthy

Interview with Joel Rosen of Rosen's Kraut

By Vicki, Local Grocery Brands Coordinator

Nowadays the "Fermentation Nation" section of the cooler at Cambridge Naturals is pretty crowded. There are SO many amazing locally made fermented foods options, can there really be anything "new" out there? Well, lo and behold we found Rosen's Kraut at the Sustainable Business Network annual conference, and were bowled over by his crunchy, tangy, delicious and totally original Butternut Squash Kraut (what?!) - along with Beets & 'Neeps and Garlic Pickled Carrots. The texture, the taste, the smell of all of Rosen's Krauts are all so enticing, so eye catching, that it will leave you with a bigger smile and a happier tummy.

Here is a deeper look into the brand, the vision they have, and some other interesting tidbits that will connect you closer to one of our newest local brands!

How did you first learn about fermentation? And how did that spark the interest in starting your own business?

Well, I remember my parents were brewing beer at home when I was ten or so, so I suppose I'd been exposed to the idea that you could ferment your own food and drink since I was a kid.  In college, I spent my summers cooking at a folk dance camp in Plymouth, where the head cook introduced me to their sourdough starter and taught me how to bake bread.  But it wasn't until after college when I lived in China that I really developed a taste for pickled vegetables.  I'd always liked cucumber pickles, but in China I was introduced to the concept of salted pickled vegetables like turnip and mustard tuber that were eaten with breakfast, alongside steamed buns or in savory crepes.  It wouldn't have occurred to me to eat salty, sour, or spicy condiments first thing in the morning, since we're more used to eating sweets with breakfast here, but once I got a taste for it I was really hooked.

When I moved back to Boston I began experimenting with making my own kimchi and fermented grated carrots that I'd eat with my eggs and coffee.  Around that time, JP also started hosting the Boston Fermentation Festival just down the street from where I lived, and I'd walk down every year and taste what everybody was making.  Just about a year ago I left my software job and had some time on my hands, so I thought I'd try selling my carrots and see if I could make a business out of it.  I played around with a ton of recipes and vegetables this past summer, including some brined ferments like cucumbers and okra, but eventually narrowed down to a line of kraut-style veggies that go particularly well on salads.  I figure, everybody eats salad, but salads can get boring, so I'm hoping my products can help fill a big need here, even with people who might not necessarily be thinking about the health benefits of fermented foods, but who are just looking for something more exciting and colorful to put on their salads.

Of course, I eat this stuff with everything, and if I can get others eating pickles with breakfast, that would be awesome, but it might be a bit of an acquired taste for most folks.

 

Why is eating fermented food important for us?

There's a lot to be said about the health benefits of fermented foods, and Sandor Katz even writes about fermentation as a kind of political act, but I just eat it because I'm addicted to the flavor.  Fermented foods, pickles, cheese, beer, wine, bread, all have that distinctive umami flavor that you can't get without it.

You have one of the most unique krauts available, how did you get the idea for the Butternut Squash Kraut?

I'd been intrigued by the color and texture of butternut squash for a while, and was curious to see how it would ferment.  Great, as it turns out.  The bright yellow color is the first thing you notice, and the texture is crunchy but also has a creaminess to it.  The most common variety of butternut was also developed here in Waltham, so I thought it would be nice to focus on a crop that's local to Boston.

Where do you source your veggies for your Kraut? Why is sourcing important to you?

Sourcing good produce, I've learned, is essential to the quality of my krauts, especially because my recipes are so simple.  I take veggies, shred them, salt them, add garlic, and that's it.  I don't cook them, I don't use vinegar, and I don't add any other spices that could compensate to mask the flavor or texture of a poorer quality vegetable.  The fermentation process is entirely natural and results can vary widely depending on the quality and ripeness of produce used, so throughout the season and as I source from different farms, the flavor of my ferments will change from batch to batch.  Since I got started in January I've been buying directly from small farms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  My last few batches have all been sourced from Red Fire Farm in Montague, but their supply of winter squash just ran out for the season so I'll need to look a little farther afield for butternut this summer. Next year if things go well I'm hoping I'll have reached a scale where I can find a farm to grow all my butternut for me, to process once at the beginning of the year to last me the whole season.  Fermentation is primarily a food preservation technique, after all!

What inspires you in life?

I like meeting people who have done a whole bunch of different things in their lives, who end up being successful at something interesting that they hadn't imagined they'd do, or could have planned for as part of a traditional career path.  For example, there was a little while when I was working in Beijing, I got a gig as an interpreter for the special effects team on the production of The Kite Runner.  My boss, the special effects supervisor, was a crusty old kiwi who had spent much of his younger professional life on deep sea excavation of naval wrecks.  That's how he learned a bunch about explosives, which turned out to be a useful skill for special effects in film.  He didn't go to film school or plan to work in movies, but now he gets paid to travel the world blowing things up and making fake snow.

I've also been inspired by my kung fu teacher for as long as I've been studying with him.  He worked in business making bean sprouts wholesale for twenty years before opening his martial arts school.

Anyway, I'm still not sure what I'm going to be when I grow up, but I figure if I keep doing things that interest me, I'm probably on the right path.

Monthly Muse: Tripp & Emily Nichols

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols  .

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols.

Since we left you to find your own muses throughout the holiday season, we decided to bring readers a double hitter this month! What better way to celebrate the start of a new year than by celebrating a power couple that shares small, local products every day? Tripp and Emily Nichols are the creators of Small Batch Daily, an Instagram account sharing a curated collection of American made artisanal food products. From salad dressing and jam to coffee and chocolate, it’s easy to find a new favorite or three by simply scrolling their feed and commenting “sold!” But their love of food and involvement in the industry began long before Instagram started. Read on to learn more about out January Muses!

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area (together or apart)?

There are many but a favorite go-to activity when friends are visiting is hitting up Sofra Bakery and strolling through Mt. Auburn Cemetery. The food at Sofra is unlike anything around and so, so good. Get the mezze plate with crick cracks no matter what you do. And Mt. Auburn is the perfect place to work up an appetite or walk it off. Sometimes people think it's odd when you suggest visiting a cemetery but it's wonderful. There are miles of walking trails, the landscaping is gorgeous, and from Washington tower there are phenomenal views of the city.

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy  Small Batch Foods .

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What is the last book you couldn’t put down?

Do cookbooks count? Tripp just got me the Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and that's what's currently on my bedside table. It was published in 1987 and definitely has an Ina Garten vibe. In the non-food department I'm absolutely loving Jessica Klein's 'You'll Grow Out of It'. She's a writer for Inside Amy Schumer.

You’re both very involved in food and nutrition, how did that passion grow?

We both grew up in central Massachusetts in apple country and always loved all the seasonal food traditions we have here in New England. After college we each made our way to food through different paths. Tripp did a few stints on Alaskan salmon and crab fishing boats before moving on to the gourmet cheese world at Formaggio Kitchen where he worked for 8 years. Most recently he's traded cheese for beer and now works as Outreach Director for Mystic Brewery. After college I went on to Tufts to do a master's in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition. Since completing that degree I've worked at Tufts in childhood obesity prevention.

We love following the Small Batch Daily instagram account! What inspired you to start this company?

It was absolutely inspired by all the makers we met through Tripp's work in the cheese world. We met dozens of folks who'd quit their 9-5 to make jams, honey, chocolate, cookies, cheese, butter, etc. Many of them became our friends and I began experimenting a bit with helping to promote their products on the food blog I was writing at the time. When that was successful we had the idea to try and more regularly showcase small-batch products and hopefully introduce them to a larger audience.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What are some of the highlights of running a company together from your home? Have there been any unforeseen or humorous struggles to that venture?

It has been so much fun! The biggest highlight has been all the new makers we've met and connections that have been forged as a result. Makers learn about us on Instagram or through other makers and reach out. Those are always the most exciting emails to get. As for unforeseen struggles, sure things always pop up. We rely on Instagram which is always changing its algorithm but it keeps us on our toes.

As a couple that works together, do you have any tips for balancing work and home?

It's nothing special but just carving out specific time for work and setting it down when that time runs out. Otherwise it just bleeds into every part of your day.

Last but not least, what are each of your top 3 favorite Cambridge Naturals products?

This is an easy one:

  1. Counter Culture coffee! I love that Cambridge Naturals carries such excellent coffee. It's my go-to spot to find new brews.
  2. Caleb introduced Tripp to the John Masters Hair Texturizer. It's awesome stuff and I admit I even use it once in awhile too.
  3. Palo Santo incense. Emily and Caleb first introduced us to this wood you can burn as incense and it's divine. I love burning it at home especially around this time of year as winter sets in.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Emily and Tripp! To see more, follow @smallbatchdaily on instagram!

Let's Do Brunch!

By John B, Grocery Buyer, CN Blog Contributor, and Brunch Aficionado

Ah, brunch.  Not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, but a perfect excuse to gather with friends and catch up ahead of your afternoon plans. But what about the weekend crowds? The waits? The lines? These can be frustrating, especially for the brunch-goers among us who are just trying to nurse their hangovers with some fried food and a little hair of the dog in peace. Too bad it would be such a hassle to organize a brunch get-together at your own place, right? WRONG! With a little help from the Cambridge Naturals grocery section, you can put together a full vegetarian brunch spread, with appetizer, main course, dessert, and cocktails, that will be easy to prepare, not to mention much more nourishing and healthful than anything at your local greasy spoon.

Let's start with the first course. This one is as simple as it comes: Smear our Lundberg Brown Rice Thin Stackers with some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend and top with a sprinkling of Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon. This vegan sweet-and-savory combo will be sure to wake up your taste buds. Even connoisseurs of “real” bacon will find it irresistible!

For the main course, let's talk Tex Mex. I was in Austin recently, and a brunch staple there which the northeast sorely lacks are migas, a fantastic scrambled egg and tortilla dish. For a somewhat non-traditional take, start by frying some diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and onion in our Dr. Bronner's Coconut Oil. Rather than frying day-old tortillas, just have some of our Jackson's Honest Tortilla Chips nearby. Add the chips and some well-beaten eggs into the pan with the veggies, shred in some of our Neigborly Farms Savory Pepper Cheddar Cheese and scramble it all up! For a little added heat, our Los Roast X-Hot Chile Sauce makes a great condiment. Serve with a side of black beans or home fries, if that strikes your fancy.

Photo of migas via  Pinch of Yum

Photo of migas via Pinch of Yum

After those hot and spicy eggs, your guests are sure to want something cool and sweet. Try making a parfait of our Organic White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt with thin layers of Fiordifrutta fruit spreads and any of our delicious granolas. 

Now that you've got a good, strong base of delicious brunch treats in your belly, it's time for that post-meal cocktail. Mix 3/4 oz of Bushwick Kitchen's Trees Knees Cinnamon Maple Syrup, 3/4 oz dark rum, and 8 oz of our Slingshot Cold Brew Coffee. Stir and pour over ice. Voila! The perfect cap to a great meal. Your guests will think you are a culinary genius, I guarantee it.

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These are just a few ideas to get you started based on what we have in our always changing, expertly curated grocery section. Come on in or get in touch for more ideas; or tell us some of your own!