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Behold the new micro craze

Forget about beer. Micro-batch sauerkraut is the new rage for Scappoose festival organizers


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: DARRYL SWAN - Sauerkraut Festival organizer Lisa Smith demonstrates the ease and simplicity of making small batches of sauerkraut at home. A new “micro” craze is born.

No, not for brews.

Sauerkraut Festival organizer Lisa Smith says the “celebrity” sauerkraut-making demonstrations at last year’s festival served as inspiration for this year’s small-batch approach.

The celebrity demonstrations involved local personalities, such as former Miss Oregon CC Barber and Scappoose Mayer Scott Burge, each in the task of making 5-gallon batches of sauerkraut.

Such quantities can be a tad much for the average household, Smith explains.

“I thought, ‘Really, that’s probably not what most people want in their house,’” she says, adding that the aroma reminded her of the days when Steinfeld’s sauerkraut production plant filled the sky over Scappoose with the scent of fermenting cabbage before closing in 2001.

Though the first sharp whiff can be a delight, the tart, omnipresent odor can overwhelm one’s senses over time.

“You’re home is going to smell like sauerkraut. I pretty much can guarantee that,” she says.

Thus was born the idea to explore micro-batch sauerkraut. Not only is it a healthy way to jump into the harvest season, it’s tailor-made for Scappoose residents who really want to dig into the spirit of the upcoming Sauerkraut Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Smith repurposed cylindrically shaped 5-quart ceramic pots used for slow cooking, such as those manufactured by Crock-pot, for the task. She used a food processor to shred two cabbage heads, dropping the preparation time down to mere seconds.

Next, she placed half the shredded cabbage in the pot, sprinkled on 1 tablespoon of non-iodized salt, added the final layer of cabbage and added the remaining salt.

She used her hands to press the cabbage-salt mixture firm into the pot. She then placed a plate atop the ingredients and added a 1-gallon sealable plastic bag filled with water on top of the plate to fill out the pot and keep the cabbage submerged. As she points out, the cabbage and its juices must stay completely covered to exclude air during the fermentation process.

And that’s about it. All that remains is to set the covered pot aside for a period of six weeks or so and — voila! — what results is homemade, high-quality sauerkraut that bears little resemblance to the watery, limp, processed product that comes in a sealed jar at an increasingly steep price in the grocery store.

“It’s also a really inexpensive way to get something that has become very expensive in the foodie market,” Smith points out.

It’s not surprising, really, to watch sauerkraut prices climb. With today’s talk and Internet chatter about so-called “super foods” and the blossoming awareness of how foods are grown and delivered to the table, sauerkraut is a veritable must-have.

As a result of the fermentation process, sauerkraut produces a lactic acid bacteria that aids digestion. Some studies have shown that fermented cabbage fights cancer, and it is known to provide a host of healthy vitamins and nutrients. Varieties of organic sauerkraut in today’s market can fetch as much as $27 for a 32-ounce jar.

Comparatively, for a little more than $2 in materials (excluding the container), sauerkraut enthusiasts can enjoy a supply of arguably the world’s greatest food. As Smith explains, once it’s in the pot, all you have to do is sit back and wait.

“You don’t have to do anything,” she explains.

Micro batch sauerkraut-making demonstrations will take place at the Scappoose Sauerkraut Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21.

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