Kraut for Snacking
There are sauerkrauts meant to be braised — melted down with white wine, caraway, and a big hank of salted pork — and krauts to be savored alone, such as the horseradish-leek kraut from Farmhouse Culture. The Thursday Ferry Plaza market stand dispenses it straight from the barrel as well as paper cups of kraut-juice shots.
Kathryn Lukas, who owned a restaurant in Stuttgart for a spell before moving to Santa Cruz, began selling sauerkraut at a few farmers' markets and through a buyer's club in late 2007. In March 2008, she was accepted as a seller at Slow Food Nation, and it propelled her into pickling full time. Now Farmhouse has stands at nine farmers markets, sells packaged kraut to groceries around Northern California, and Lukas and her staff shred and salt 300 pounds of cabbage a week. (She currently sells three varieties: caraway, smoked jalapeno, and horseradish leek.)
Most of the cabbage comes from Route 1 Farms, and the other ingredients — carrots, apples, daikon, fennel — come from nearby farms. Lukas brings in coarse sea salt from a supplier on the Sonoma coast, and since she doesn't know anyone else who sells it, she's begun offering it at her farmers' market stands, too.
Her horseradish-leek kraut, a sort of Western kimchi, begins with the same gut-punch — that fermented cabbage funk, which roils out of the container the moment you crack the lid — and hits the tongue with an electric acidity that flashes all the way to the back of your throat but doesn't burn. Instead of kimchi's red-chile glow, each bite ends in a flare of horseradish; remarkably, the flavor that lingers isn't the cabbage, or the horseradish, but the whiskery, vegetal flavor of the leek. The kraut works as a relish, as an accompaniment to meats, and as the kind of snack that you eat straight from the tub, refrigerator door open, while you contemplate what you're going to make for dinner. Oh, and that kraut juice shot? It's supposed to have Viagra-like effects.
Farmhouse Culture: Thursday Ferry Plaza market and Sunday Jack London Square market, as well as Rainbow Grocery and a number of San Francisco Whole Foods branches.