Daniel Walker estimated he shredded 10,000 pounds of cabbage a year to make the products offered by his business, the Blue Ridge Brinery.
“I know I’ve gone through thousands of pounds of cabbage. I’m going to guess it’ll be around 10,000 pounds. It’s probably the most I processed in a year, which is still pretty small compared to some big companies. But it’s a lot for me,” said Walker.
Beginning Blue Ridge Brinery in 2014, Walker has put more than a decade of sauerkraut knowledge into his business. Walker first started making sauerkraut 15 years ago after learning how in a nutrition class.
Before starting the brinery, Walker worked in sales. He said that he was looking for his next professional step when he realized he could make a living with his kraut making.
“I’d been making sauerkraut for my own personal use at home as a hobby, and I just realized there wasn’t any local kraut, and I thought maybe it would be a good way to make a livelihood. You know, promoting a product that I believe in that I believe offers a good service to the community for the health benefits,” said Walker.
The brinery is the only one around. The closest competition, said Walker, is in Asheville, North Carolina, and in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
Blue Ridge Brinery offers a range of five flavors of sauerkrauts as well as kimchi, kombucha, pickles and kvass — all fermented products offering something different.
Kimchi is a Korean fermented dish used very much like a relish of sorts for different dishes and made with various vegetables. Kombucha is fermented tea, and kvass is fermented beverage from Eastern Europe that Walker makes with beets.
Walker rents space in a commercial kitchen where he cleans and cuts all his vegetables. He packs the kraut and kimchi into fermentation crocks for several weeks until each product reaches the right amount of fermentation. Walker also tests the pH of the sauerkraut, since the Department of Agriculture requires it to have a pH of 4.6 or lower. He’ll also taste to make sure it’s not underdone and that it’s not too pungent.
“I want to make sure it’s not too raw tasting. I want to make sure it’s got the pickled flavor,” Walker said. “There’s a sweet spot.”
Walker sells his products online as well as in shops across the Upstate. In Greenville, you can find Blue Ridge Brinery items at Oak Hill Cafe’s Gift Market, Pure on Main and Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery.
Walker said he finds satisfaction in being able to use local ingredients in his products.
“I’m proud that I use organic as much as possible,” Walker said. “My mission statement is to make the healthiest fermented vegetable products that I can with the best-quality products that are ethically produced to provide the customer with the healthiest, tastiest product that I possibly can.”