local

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!

October Monthly Muse: Brianna Klingensmith

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By Mary, Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

Just as our internal organs digest nutrients from the food and beverages we consume, our skin, the body's largest organ, absorbs the vitamins, minerals, chemicals, and toxins that are found in personal care products. However, the soaps, lotions, and scrubs on the market in the US are not nearly as regulated as the guacamole and hemp hearts we devour. At Cambridge Naturals, we strive to offer the cleanest and safest products for our customers throughout each of our departments. We’re especially excited when those safe products come from businesses right here in Massachusetts.

In the middle of our wall of soap sits a product that always catches my eye. The natural and distinct shape of Brianna’s Handmade Soap is just as pleasing and unique as its delectable smell. It inspires daydreams of having my own house with a beautiful guest bathroom prominently featuring a wooden soap dish on which I could strategically place Brianna's Oatmeal Agave soap... All that from a bar of soap, who knew?

Brianna’s soaps are handmade at her home in Arlington. Completely free of animal products, synthetic dyes and fragrances, they cleanse, moisturize, and soothe without stripping our skin of beneficial oils. An added bonus is that buying local allows our store to cut down enormously on excessive emissions from distant deliveries. Brianna even hand delivers her orders to the store!  Read on to learn more about this savvy soap maker who we have so enjoyed getting to know, and see why she’s our October Monthly Muse.

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

My husband and I live right on the Minuteman Bike Path in Arlington and on a sunny day I love taking my bike out and riding out to the end of the path where there is an adorable little park. I’ll bring a snack and just relax on a bench and people watch before turning around and riding home. The last time I trekked out there, there was a man singing old railroad songs and playing his guitar. It was lovely!

On nice Sunday afternoons, my husband, Martin, and I like to take long walks in the city.  We usually end up at one of the breweries in Cambridge or Somerville.

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

It has actually been quite a long time since I found a book I couldn’t put down. In the past year I have been increasingly interested in reading blogs and there are two which I can’t stop reading. One is Frugalwoods  and the other is Cait Flanders. Both blogs talk about minimalism and conscious consumerism, among many other topics. The Frugalwoods actually used to live here in Cambridge and now own a homestead in Vermont. I find following them both to be very inspiring. The idea of simplicity in all aspects of life really resonates with me.

How did you first learn to make soap yourself?

My sister-in-law and very good friend, Liane, showed me how. She used to be a chemist working for a drug company and saw, first hand, how many ordinary chemicals found in most mass-produced bath and body products can affect us. For example, most “soap” that is sold is not actually soap, but a mixture of detergents, many which will strip the skin's natural oils. Soap is only allowed to be labeled as soap if it is made with some sort of fat or oil and lye. When other chemical detergents are added, it is no longer considered soap. 

Liane made me aware of labels and encouraged me to look up the products that I use on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website. This website contains a large database of just about any mass produced bath and body product you can find. It assigns a health safety grade to each product based on available scientific research data. This was very eye opening as well as disturbing! She taught me how to make my own soap and skin cream both of which contain only natural, healing ingredients. Once I started to make my own, I never went back.  

What inspired you to start your own company and sell handmade soap full time?

Once I began making soap, I could not stop! I find it to be extremely creative and fun and with this new found hobby, I was producing lots and lots of soap. My husband one day told me that enough was enough and that we couldn’t have all these bars of soap all over the house! When we were out to dinner one night we saw an ad for a small artisan market that was looking for vendors. He urged me to apply to it hoping I’d get rid of some of my supply. At first I didn’t feel like I was ready and wasn’t sure others would like my soap as much as I did, but I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

How do you go about creating the different scents?

To be honest, I pick my favorite scents and I play with different combinations and see what I come up with. One of my favorite combos is orange and clove. It’s tricky to get the ratios of this blend correct without it being overpowering. I was very satisfied when I finally came up with one that was just right!

What are your top three Cambridge Naturals products?

I have been faithfully buying Rainbow Light vitamins and I can actually tell the difference with the energy boost these give me.

Last year my husband and I went on a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail where we hiked 400 miles through the mountains. We both discovered GoMacro Macrobars which gave us the nutrients needed to keep us going. Around 3pm each day we would inevitably hit a slump and need the pick me up. These worked like a charm.

My favorite chocolate ever is Taza chocolate! I absolutely love the taste and texture of this stone ground chocolate bar and they are my go-to gift for any occasion. 

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Brianna! We carry all four soaps from Brianna’s growing line including: Unscented, Oatmeal Agave, Green Tea Lemongrass, and Lavender Blossom. They’ll make the perfect stocking stuffer for this holiday season!

 

Monthly Muse: Gianne Doherty

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

By Mary, Body Care Buyer and Blog Contributor

You may have noticed some new things around the store lately. New faces, new sales, and most exciting of all: NEW PRODUCTS! We recently stocked some of the shelves in our body care department with a line we’ve been eager to share with our customers.

Organic Bath Co. is owned by Gianne Doherty, a Medford resident, natural skin care aficionado, and all around wonderful human being. We now carry the OBC body scrubs, body wash, and body butters in both full and travel size. Each product comes in a variety of scents, using only organic essential oils, to suit any preference. Not only are you supporting a local company with each OBC purchase, you’re also supporting a bigger cause. With each and every purchase, 1% is donated to charity. As Gianne says, “true beauty begins with giving back.” But Gianne’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She is also the founder of W.E.L.L. Summit, an annual event bringing together and empowering the wellness community. Read on to learn more about Gianne, her work, and how all of this got started.

CN: What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

GD: We just spent Sunday walking around and exploring different neighborhoods in Boston, sat on the Esplanade and I loved it! It doesn’t cost a thing, the people watching was great and I found myself seeing the same places with new eyes. The exercise I got from walking off and on for 3 hours was an added bonus! :-)

CN: What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

GD: Ohh, I am a voracious reader and read a few books a week. The last book I read that I couldn’t put down was Natchez Burning by Greg Iles.  I love mysteries!

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN: Can you tell us about how Organic Bath Company got started?

GD: A  few years ago, when my skin began reacting (by way of hives!) to mainstream lotions I had been using, my boyfriend Jay and I ended up making a pure, unscented, shea butter-based body butter for me that my skin still loves to this day. As I learned more about the personal care industry and its lack of regulation, the more determined I was to make safe products for myself and family and friends. Organic Bath Co. began out of necessity with that shea butter-based body butter (now known as “Drenched”), and we’ve donated a portion of our proceeds to charity since day one!  

CN: What inspired you to found the W.E.L.L. Summit and where do you envision it going in the future?

GD: The W. E. L. L. Summit was created through conversations with our customers, friends & family. We are constantly asked for advice about questions that are often a bit outside of our scope such as: What natural deodorants should we use? Why should our products contain essential oils and not fragrance? Etc. Ultimately, we recognized that there was a need in our community and a larger community to bring the best of the wellness industry together in a space of empowerment and learning for all!  

CN: We love that OBC donates 1% of each purchase to those in need! Which organizations are you currently working with?

GD: We donate to Charity Water which we love because they build wells and provides access to clean water across the globe to others who may not have had it. What's amazing is that 100% of the donations go to funding the water projects.

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN:  What are your top three essential products from Cambridge Naturals?

GD: This is a hard question because I can and have spent hours browsing Cambridge Naturals shelves. I LOVE that there is something for everyone and all aspects of your life... from beauty, home, gifts & to your kitchen. We always pick up a few packets of 2 Dogs Treats for our dog Bruschi. The tea selection is fantastic and you carry my favorite, Rishi Tea. My sweet tooth demands that I pick up some bars of Taza Chocolate or some [Apotheker's] Mallows. YUM.

Thank you so much to Gianne for taking the time to share her story with us. W.E.L.L. Summit will be taking place next month in New York City on October 21-22. If you’re interested in learning more about this year’s speakers or attending, visit www.wellsummit.org. Let us know in the comments what your favorite Organic Bath Co. product is!