Local Producer: Firefly Kitchens

Our local forager in the Pacific Northwest, Denise Breyley, shares the story behind Firefly Kitchens’ naturally fermented foods and how their Local Producer Loan helps grow their business.

Whole Foods Market Local Forager Denise Breyley travels around the beautiful Pacific Northwest meeting the amazing farmers, ranchers and producers who supply our tables with fresh, locally grown food.

Fermentation isn’t just for wine and beer anymore.

Naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi have become all the rage in restaurants and on dinner tables around the US. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re lucky to have one of the best producers of fermented veggies around: Seattle-based Firefly Kitchens opens in a new tab.

Owners Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage use ingredients sourced from local farms to make sauerkraut, kimchi and other assorted fermented vegetables.

They’ve only been in business since 2010, but they’re already successful.

How successful? They won the prestigious Good Food awards for their Yin Yang carrots in 2011 and their Cortido Sauerkraut in 2012! In my travels as the Pacific Northwest’s Local Forager opens in a new tab, I’ve gotten the grand tour of their production facility and been able to see cabbage fermenting in stainless steel tanks.

I’m pleased to report that through Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program opens in a new tab, Julie and Richard are now able to purchase additional equipment to help them increase production (which means Firefly products could soon be available in stores beyond the Northwest!).

Richard has been dreaming about purchasing a Tumble Drum Mixer for over a year.

It’s a 130-gallon stainless steel tank. Cut vegetables are loaded and then “tumbled” inside (end to end) to combine. This only takes a couple of minutes to mix a batch, rather than the much longer process when they were mixing it all by hand. 

After the veggies are mixed, the staff rolls the fermentation drum under the tumbler to be filled. In total, this will save about three hours of production time per batch.

The tumble drum mixer is currently being built and they hope to receive it this month. The loan will also help them purchase a jar labeler, which will save the team about an hour of labor per run while improving the consistency of the placement of labels on jars. They will also be purchasing additional fermentation drums to allow for increased production.

Overall, the Local Producer Loan will allow Firefly Kitchens to improve their entire production process — from saving labor to improving product consistency.

Okay, but enough about the equipment — what about the food?

I have to tell you that these are not just condiments, but real food that can be used in great-tasting dishes like white bean dip, spring rolls and scrambled eggs.

And the products are not just for adults — Richard’s kids, Emily and Charlotte, especially love the gingery carrots and the ruby kraut. A touch of Cortido is a fantastic way to jazz up a turkey or tuna sandwich.

Do you like fermented dishes like these? Have you tried Firefly Kitchens’ products? We’d love to hear what you think.

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