Photograph by Damon Casarez
In this era of “fermenting degrees” (see Master Food Preservers), the Krüegermann family deserves an honorary doctorate. Spicy Hungarian-style uborka pickles, hand-peeled sweet Polish-style gurkens, and tangy pickled celeriac (celery root) are among the dozens of briny vegetables the family has preserved in its Frogtown factory for nearly 50 years.
The recipes date to 1896, when Kurt Krüegermann’s grandfather, Carl, began pickling cucumbers, cabbages, and beets in the German town of Lübbenau, southeast of Berlin. The business thrived until 1961, when the factory was taken over by the East German Communist Party. Kurt and his wife, Helga, fled to Los Angeles, where they began their fermenting life anew with two toddlers in tow.
Today fourth-generation pickling siblings Greg and Carl supervise the production of such specialties as rot-khol (pickled red cabbage with apples), but the entire family still gathers daily for Helga’s pickle-friendly lunches of cold cuts and salad at the small factory. “We’re lucky that cabbages and cucumbers grow at different times of year or else there’d be no lunch break,” says Greg, as he sits down for a bite.
“The traditional pickles are for our older German customers,” he adds. Longstanding immigrant patrons have come to depend on the Krüegermanns to satisfy cravings for such hard-to-find items as senf-gurken, which are handmade from a two-foot-long German cucumber variety and sold at establishments like Torrance’s Alpine Village Market, Beverly Hills’ European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen, and Glendale’s Schreiner’s Fine Sausages. Although his sons have automated the factory’s assembly line, Carl still insists on hand-packing some pickles. Says Greg: “Who wants a broken pickle?” > kruegermann.com