A Resurgence Of Interest In Fermented Foods, Both In Restaurants And By Home Cooks.
Fermentation takes time, but the actual time spent in actual preparation is almost negligible. The cost of ingredients is also next to nothing: the input supplies are among the cheapest foods available. There are really only two ingredients needed for lacto-fermentation: a vegetable containing natural lactobacillus and the perfect amount of salt.
As far as fermenting supplies, those are just as easily found: a knife and cutting board for the vegetables, a scale for the vegetables and salt and a fermenting vessel.
Most reactive metals such as steel, cast iron, copper and brass interfere with fermentation. Glass, plastic and porcelain are ideal.
Careful preparation will result in great fermented sauerkraut; sloppiness can allow unwanted contaminants into the fermentation. At best, this will result in off flavors. At worst, food-borne pathogens can turn your project into literal poison.
To sanitize equipment, immerse everything in boiling water and allow to air-dry before use. Brewing supply stores sell sanitation chemicals that are cheap and easy to use.
Hand washing and sanitizing in a bleach-water solution is also an option, but might interfere with the fermentation. Running everything through a dishwasher is the best, as even home dishwashers can sanitize the contents with water heated up to 190 F.
Yield: about 3 quarts
Equipment: Cleaned, sanitized gallon glass jar (pickle jars are easy to find)
Large plastic bowl
Plastic food wrap
Wooden or plastic utensils
Glass or ceramic soufflé dish that will fit in jar neck as a weight
Ingredients: 1 large head green cabbage
2 percent by weight non-iodized salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted
1-2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
Remove outer leaves of cabbage head and rinse well. Cut out the root core and cut cabbage head into wedges. Using a large, sharp knife, slice the cabbage very thin, or use a food processor to shred the cabbage.
Toss the shredded cabbage in a bowl with the weighed salt and flavorings.
Pack the cabbage in the gallon jar. Press down using food wrap and weigh down with a ceramic or glass soufflé dish.
Fill the headspace with filtered water and either cap or cover with more film. Place the vessel in a dark place at room temperature (65 to 75 F). Fermentation rate will vary with temperature.
Cooler temps can give a more mellow and complex flavor, but temps over 70 F will give a quicker result.
Check twice daily to ensure the salt and weight are expressing the moisture that will create the fermenting brine. If, after three days, the liquid does not cover the kraut, top off with filtered water and replace the film and weight. Do not allow air to contact the top of the kraut.
After the first few days, just agitate the ferment a bit once daily and check for off colors.
Three weeks in, sample the ferment using a non-metallic utensil and smell the kraut. It will probably take at least another two to five weeks for a complete ferment. The kraut is done when it has an acidic, salty flavor and a tender but squeaky texture.
Home-fermented products always carry the risk of food-borne illness. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems should not eat home-fermented products. Only careful attention to food safety and sanitation principles can result in safe and tasty fermented foods.
Rinse or toast any flavorings before adding to the sauerkraut ferment. Used and sanitized jars may have rusted lids; prevent contact with the kraut by using food wrap film or food-grade paraffin. Sanitize all equipment and supplies.
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