David Edmondson's Salt and Savour Sauerkraut
● By Melissa Mendonca
Tickling Your Tastebuds
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo: Taryn Burkleo
The tongue is sensitive to five tastes: sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savory. While many people find themselves drawn to salt or sweet, there's a particular delight to a meal balanced among the five.
“I always feel you're kind of cheating yourself if you don't incorporate all of those elements in your meal,” says David Edmondson of Dunsmuir. For his part, Edmondson is offering both the salt and savory elements in his three flavors of locally produced sauerkraut made from organic cabbage.
In just three short years, his Salt and Savour brand of sauerkraut has gained fans and distributors from Montgomery Meats in Central Point, Ore., to Corti Brothers in Sacramento. Whether choosing the classic version with caraway seeds, the horseradish with mustard seed or the more exotically colored red cabbage with ginger, fans are developing who once swore they couldn't stand the fermented food.
That's because there's a vast difference between shelf-stable, canned sauerkraut that is limp and soggy, which many people may have grown up on, and the bursts of fresh crunch that come from the jars of Edmondson's products. Watching people register their change in perception is one of the more joyful aspects of selling at farmers markets, where he and his wife, Kathay, offer sample after sample to passersby. “You can watch their faces change from being tentative to really liking it,” says David. “It's always fun to see the look of surprise on a parent's face when their kids like it.”
On Saturday mornings, David wakes at 3am to begin the trek from Dunsmuir to Sacramento to sell at the farmers markets in Midtown, Elk Grove and Carmichael over the course of a weekend. Kathay can get a little later start each Saturday to sell at Redding's City Hall farmers market. Over the summer, she was joined by the couple's young nephew, Aaron Barnhart, who spent time out from South Carolina before moving on to college.
While the weekend journey to the Saturday markets may be long for Edmondson, it is nothing compared to the journey he has taken to better health and to become an entrepreneur. “I needed to make some diet changes five or six years ago,” he says. “I was getting too heavy.” He began researching philosophies and switched to a mainly Paleo diet. “I was amazed at how much better I felt in just three days,” he says.
His research also had much to say about health benefits of fermented foods. Sauerkraut, made through a process of bacterial fermentation capitalizing on the naturally occurring bacteria on the cabbage, was one such food. “The idea of making it myself really appealed to me, so I started,” he says. After enough practice batches, he adds, “People convinced me they would buy it.”
While Kathay is a clear supporter of her husband's venture, she does laugh about the early stages, when he kept the experimental sauerkraut crocks in the house to control for room temperature. “I finally put an end to that because of the gasses and the smell. Now it doesn't even bother me,” she says.
Now, though, the sauerkraut is created in a shared commercial kitchen in 55-gallon tanks obtained through crowd funding with Kiva Loans. Edmondson paid back his initial loan four months early and is now working from a second Kiva Loan, which allowed him to buy a high-powered food processor to cut cabbage more quickly.
“My big hope and desire is to grow the business in Dunsmuir,” he says, noting that he appreciates the people, terrain, atmosphere, climate, and fact that it's a small town. The goal is to move to his own location where he will have enough space and time to add new and seasonal flavors. He'd also like to become an employer for the area.
David and Kathay moved to the town in 2005 from Los Angeles. “There was a big demand for appraisers at the time and it seemed like a really good move: fishing and available work,” says David. Changes in the economy eventually dried up real estate appraisal work and David moved his new interest in fermented foods into the small business, where he works seven days a week but with a sense of satisfaction never experienced before. Kathay has retired from work as a medical assistant.
As if seven days a week building his business weren't commitment enough, Edmondson maintains his diet goals with his own product, noting that he's fond of mixing sauerkraut in a bowl with eggs and kale, as well as tossing the kraut on a salad. “I love it for breakfast,” he says. “But I have it with just about every meal.”