Fermenator X to the edge of panic: time to Kraut.
Okay, no panic, just cabbage – lots of cabbage.
I’ve been fermenting foods on and off for about a decade, and by far the fermentable I return to the most is Sauerkraut. It’s so simple and reliable – Slice cabbage, massage with salt, and pack away in a crock for a few weeks, and the results are consistently amazing!
Getting into fermenting can be a little daunting at first because it’s something that hasn’t been a part of North American Culture since refrigeration became widespread, so not many of us (myself included) have much experience with – as a result, we don’t know what to expect when fermenting. What’s that funky smell? Should it bubble like that? When is it done? How do I store it?
My favourite book on the subject is Sandor Katz‘s Wild Fermentation, the biggest criticism lobbed at the book is that it isn’t precise, and it’s a legitimate criticism – there’s a lot of wiggle room in the “recipes,” but I think that’s really the most important takeaway; think of fermenting as a process and an attitude more than a recipe.
Still, it’s certainly more fun to ferment with Friends than solo, so my friend Chrissy and I are diving back into fermentation.
Last week my friend Chrissy and I packed up our Kraut – 3 heads of green cabbage sliced in my food processor (which is a messy pain in the ass), and punched down in a big wide mouthed crock with salt and dill seeds. After slicing and massaging the cabbage with the salt it will start to seep and that liquid will become the brine. Depending how moist the cabbage is you may need to top up with some water 12-24 hours after you crock it. It’s important to keep the cabbage under the brine – if it breaches the surface you can get mould (which you can usually just skim off), but if the slices of cabbage lead down into the body of fermenting cabbage then you’ve lost the batch. We let this batch ferment about 3 weeks. Note that you are always aiming to have a salt content in the brine of between 2-3%, more salt and you’ll inhibit the good bacteria, less salt and you won’t inhibit the bad bacteria enough.
It’s important to let the fermenting cabbage breathe, so I cover it with a scrap of fabric from an old summer-weight men’s dress shirt, that I soak in pickling vinegar to keep it clean without negatively affecting the bacteria that we’re relying on to digest the cabbage. I sourced a perfectly sized plate to hold down the cabbage by scouring thrift stores for about a year. and I use some heavy fishing weights in a sealed glass jar on top of the plate to keep it all in place.
This post bounces around a bit, and doesn’t serve as step by step instructions on how to Kraut, but I’ll be making some more detailed fermenting posts in the near future, and like I said – Sauerkraut is a great introduction.
As a final thought let me leave you with a cover of my favourite song: