Sauerkraut, Olives and Pickles, Oh My! Adding Jewish Value to Foods
Recently, the phenomenon of value-added products has come to the forefront in the Jewish community, particularly through two innovative Jewish food businesses. The first, Adamah’s value-added lineup of dills, sauerkraut, pickled beets, and bomb jelly, has flourished in the New York area since its inception in 2007. The second line, comprised of the olive oils and jellies made by kibbutz Neot Smadar in the Arava desert, testifies to the business and marketing sense necessary for a small farm to succeed financially.
Before we dive deeper, let’s back up for a second and define. Value-added products are the result of engaging with a natural or cultivated resource like a vegetable or an olive and transforming it into something new and improved. Take sauerkraut, for example. By shredding a cabbage, smushing it down so that it sits in its own released juices, and adding a little salt, a fermentation process begins that adds to the shelf life, taste, and positive digestive bacteria of what once was just a cabbage. We’ve got a great side dish now to bring out at dinner, and from the producer’s point of view, this slight alteration provides a much nicer profit for the effort.
Currently, Adamah’s value-added program is relatively small. Though the farm has had success making and selling firekraut and kim chi, and running a boutique dairy. As Adamah continues to find its feet as an institution in the Jewish food world, the value-added line provides a glimpse of the future direction in which the organization might choose to grow.
NeotSemadar, on the other hand, is a relative success story in the world of value-added products. Operating their burgeoning value-added line that’s sold through New York based company Negev Nectars, and at a roadside restaurant in Israel (a whole other type of value-added operation), the relatively young kibbutz makes use of its business profits to remain one of the most successful kibbutzim in Israel. These products have also allowed it to focus on other parts of its mission, in particular an impressive artist colony that feeds some fun and innovative architecture, among other things.
While value-added products may look good on the balance sheet and at the dinner table, they are also, worth considering through the lens of the Jewish wisdom and tradition. As Jews, we are taught that not only were we put on this earth to enjoy the fruits of God’s creation, we are also compelled to reveal the light of creation through the consequences of our own actions. We have the idea that it is through our performance of mitzvot, or just actions, that we create the world we wish to see.
This is where value-added products, and really any act of “adding value” come in. What we do defines us. In this way, value-added products are a simple and direct way to practice true sustainability, using our actions to deepen our connection to the rich abundance of life all around us and within ourselves.
Whether or not you run a non-profit or have dreams of a big business plan, try chopping up some veggies and cabbage and let them ferment their way into kim chi or kraut. You can even follow these instructions, for sauerreuben — it’s easy. Wait a few days, and enjoy. Just be warned: that first tangy taste may get you hooked to something divine.
Adamah is currently looking to hire a new Value-Added Products Manager. If you’re interested in applying please visit the Isabella Freedman website.