Anyone that’s spoken to me lately knows of my new-found love for all things fermented… Well, to be honest, until having children I always had an affinity for wine but that seems like a lifetime ago. Gone are my days of drinking alcoholic drinks but here are the days of eating and drinking fermented food and drink! 🙂
Like any busy Mama, I’m always trying to stock our fridge and pantry full of healthy, fresh foods. Here in the north, the window of opportunity for growing and purchasing fresh produce is quite narrow and so it becomes imperative to learn of ways to store some of the bounty for the cold winter months to come. Our dehydrator is typically running most nights (because it’s noisy and I find it annoying during the day), I blanch and freeze as much produce as I can, and, of course, I have lots of bubbling jars on my counter fermenting. Whenever I find that our produce is on the edge of what would normally be considered desirable/edible, I simply purchase a head of cabbage and my “Everything But the Kitchen Sink Sauerkraut” is born again. Each batch is different!
It was a time of desperation when I first discovered fermented foods and it’s now because of their healing properties that fermented foods have found a way into our day to day routines.
- 1 head cabbage (buy local and organic where possible! You can use green or red, Napa or Savoy, whatever is fresh!)
- Any other vegetables you have!
- 2-4 tbsp quality sea salt (We use THIS kind)
In this recipe, I used shredded carrots, cilantro, parsley, sliced red peppers, garlic, chopped green onions and a chopped cannonball variety cabbage (http://www.organicauthority.com/eco-chic-table/11-varieties-of-cabbage-how-to-use-them.html).
- Don’t wash your vegetables in any sort of antibacteria wash. You can use unchlorinated water to get off obvious dirt, but any sort of chemical wash will kill any of the beneficial bacteria living on the vegetables. We need the beneficial bacteria to start the fermentation process! This is why purchasing/using organic vegetables is so important.
- As you slice and chop your vegetables, add them to a large bowl and sprinkle them with sea salt. Use only about 2 tbsp of salt during this process.
- Once all your vegetables have been added to the bowl, use your hands to start mixing and bruising the vegetables. Traditionally, a wooden pounder of sorts would be used to bruise the vegetables but you’ll be using your hands as tools to get this job done. Taste the mixture as you’re doing this to gauge the salt content. If you can’t really taste any salt and there’s no liquid being released from the vegetables, then start adding more salt and continuing bruising.
- Let your vegetable mixture sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. During this time, you’ll probably notice liquid being released from the vegetables. This is liquid gold – don’t toss it away!
- After 30 minutes, pack your sauerkraut tightly into a fermenting vessel. I use an old pickle jar. Once the jar is packed, weigh down the sauerkraut mixture so that the brine/liquid rises above the top of the vegetables. The vegetables need to be completely immersed in the liquid for fermentation to place versus growing mold, yeast or other undesirables. If you don’t have enough liquid, you can make a brine of 2 cups water and 1 tbsp salt and add some of this to the sauerkraut.
- Wait. At least a week but, if you live in a colder climate like us, probably closer to a month. Fermentation does require some warmth to start the process but I’ve found it’ll still work even if my house is at a cool 64 degrees – it just takes longer. During the fermentation period you will start to see little bubbles coming to the surface of the brine. If you notice after a while that there isn’t enough brine, you can always add more to ensure the vegetables stay submerged. This type of fermentation requires an anaerobic environment, hence the need to keep the vegetables submerged throughout fermentation. Taste your sauerkraut throughout fermentation. Over time, the sauerkraut will develop a pleasing, sour taste. If it ever has an unpleasant taste, toss it in the compost.
- Once the initial fermentation is complete, move your sauerkraut to cold storage; e.g. the refridgerator or a cold cellar. The flavours will continue to develop over time. You could eat your sauerkraut right away or let it continue evolving for months to come prior to consuming. Whatever you decide, enjoy your creation and healing your gut! 🙂
Any questions about fermentation? Don’t hesitate to ask me in the Comments section below. I’m no master at it but I have learned from my own trials and errors 🙂