Another one of my favorite fermented foods is sauerkraut. Pungent, salty and “pickley” It’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled sausage or roasted meat, it adds a nice bite to salads and is even good heaped on a plate and topped with a couple of poached eggs for breakfast.
The process that turns cabbage into kraut is the same as the process that turns milk into yogurt. Lactobacilli bacteria which are naturally present on the cabbage leaves, ferment the sugars in the cabbage into tangy enzyme rich kraut which is wonderful for your digestion and gut health.
In days before refrigeration, fermentation was one of the primary means of food preservation. Our ancestors rarely had to think about their digestion. They weren’t popping tums after every meal and they didn’t have the array of diet related issues that we have today. They simply ate fermented and pickled vegetables, cured or smoked meats, and fresh foods daily and thrived. While I wouldn’t want to go back to living without refrigeration, fermenting foods at home has become a conscious way to connect with a cultural tradition and create balance in world where it is all too easy to eat mindlessly.
I hope you have as much fun playing with this as I do.
Very clean glass or ceramic jar or fermenting crock
very clean weighting stone, or plate, or the bottom of a cabbage
2 heads of cabbage
high quality (unbleached and non-iodized) salt
juice from previously fermented vegetables (optional)
- Start by removing the outer leaves of your cabbage but don’t wash it. Your starter culture is alive on the leaves and we want to keep it there
- Shred the cabbage either with a mandolin slicer or a sharp knife making long thin strips
- Put shredded cabbage into your fermenting vessel and add about a tablespoon of salt per 2 lbs of cabbage
- If your vessel is more tall than wide like a mason jar, alternate a layer of cabbage with a sprinkle of salt until all the salt and cabbage have been mixed up
- massage and squeeze the cabbage and salt with your clean hands if you’re using a wide enough crock. Otherwise find a blunt object like the handle of a wooden spoon or a meat tenderizer and pound straight down on the cabbage. The goal here is to break down the structure and to release water.
- As the cabbage releases more and more water try to see if you can get the liquid level to rise above the cabbage or smash the cabbage compact enough so that it is completely submerged in the liquid. If you cant seem to generate enough liquid to do this you can pour some filtered water in at this point or the juice from previously fermented vegetables if you’re using it. The benefit of the juice over water is that it adds an extra boost of the needed bacteria and they can begin breaking down the sugars immediately.
- Once submerged, weight it down with your stone, your plate or wedge the cut off stem end of a whole cabbage in there to keep the cabbage below the liquid line
- Set cabbage in an undisturbed location and let it ferment for about 3 -6 weeks or until it tastes good.
You can leave it on the counter and scoop it straight out of the crock but it will continue to ferment. If you want to stop it from getting anymore sour you can store it in the refrigerator.