Krispi Kraut keeps to basics
In a brown-painted building on Highway 3 outside of Lunenburg, the Rhodenizer family of Krispi Kraut carry on a regional tradition.
Two staff members stuff cartons with sauerkraut that’s sitting in large tubs. Each carton is weighed and then eventually delivered to stores.
Another machine helps assemble the cartons, although some customers buy sauerkraut by the bucket.
The production process here is the same as when it all started in 1976 with one recipe from Hovey Slauenwhite, who made sauerkraut with cabbages he bought from the Rhodenizers.
“He wanted someone to make sauerkraut like he did,” Kevin Rhodenzier says. “And the rest is history.”
The Rhodenizers started making Slauenwhite’s sauerkraut in 1976. They opened their current plant in 1978. Back then, they were growing about 6,000 cabbages a year. Now, they grow about 100,000 cabbages, with about 70,000 of those going to the production of sauerkraut.
Slauenwhite used to ferment his sauerkraut in wooden barrells. The Rhodenizers, however, mix all the ingredients into fiberglass tanks where it ferments for three weeks.
Kevin says they produce about 7,000 to 8,000 pounds of sauerkraut each week. Their sauerkraut is sold at Sobeys, Lo- blaws and small independent stores around Nova Scotia and at some stores across the Maritimes.
Krispi Kraut is a family affair. The company is owned by Paul Rhodenizer. Glen Rhodenizer, Kevin’s cousin, is filling in for Kevin, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered last summer. Glen’s adult children, Jessica and Justin help out, too, with Jessica filling the cartons and Justin making deliveries.
When he’s not at the sauerkraut plant, Glen grows the cabbage or milks the cows at the family’s dairy farm nearby.
Sauerkraut’s origins go back hundreds of years. Locally, farmers made it on Tancook Island where they grew their own
cabbage and made sauerkraut in wooden barrells. Each recipe is different, depending on the amount of each ingredient used and the process. Krispi Kraut’s recipe is all natural and a milder version of sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut has long had health benefits, first as a way to prevent scurvy amongst crew members on ships. But Glen says sauerkraut is a probiotic and great for gut health for those who’ve taken antibiotics. He ate it after a long course of antibiotics for Lyme disease. Sauerkraut is also high in vitamins A, K, C and B12 and folates.
Sauerkraut can be eaten raw or as a hot side dish. Glen’s mother, Althea, mixes it with brown sugar. Glen says there’s a chocolate cake recipe that includes sauerkraut, too. Traditionally, it’s known as a fall and winter food, but the Rhodenizers say their summer sales are now the same as their winter sales Kevin says when they first started making sauerkraut, they thought the demand would die off as older consumers did.
“The buy local movement really helped us,” Kevin says. “People want to know what they’re eating.”
The Rhodenizers inherited another recipe several years ago, this one for turnip kraut, which is made in a similar process as the sauerkraut, but has a different taste, thanks to the rutabaga. That recipe came from Charlotte Bach- mann, who lived on Heckman’s Island, who taught Kevin how to make it. Glen says turnip kraut doesn’t sell as much as the sauerkraut and its biggest fans seem to live on the South Shore.
“We run out of turnip kraut,” Glen says. “It seems like the people who like it really like it.”
Kevin says while sauerkraut is an acquired taste, he encourages the skeptics to give it a try.
“The first time you may not like it, but the second time you’ll think it’s great,” Kevin says.
Jessica Rhodenizer, left, packs Krispi Kraut sauerkraut into cartons while her father, Glen Rhodenizer, supervises the plant outside of Lunenburg.