Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Fermentation: Part 1, Sauerkraut
I've been awaiting this time of year when the cabbage would be less than a dollar a head at the farmer's market to start my first batch of old fashion sauerkraut. It's not a particularly common food these days, but it's something I've always liked, along with pickles and hot peppers. What I always missed out on as a kid were the billions of live active cultures that should be present in "real" sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented foods. Before pressure canning was invented last century people had to team up with microbes like yeast and lacto-bacillus bacteria to preserve food. Today canning is all the rave, and it's great, we do a lot of it. People feel like they're getting back to basics by learning to preserve their home grown produce. But, there are some things that can be fermented instead of canned. Canning is used to kill everything so that the vegetable or fruit it can be preserved and protected from microbes, usually for about a year. Fermentation does the opposite, friendly microbes are encouraged to grow which kill the bad ones. Of course sauerkraut that you buy at the store has been fermented, but it has also been heated to kill the good microbes and then canned. There's no life left in it. These friendly microbes that make things ferment add their own strong flavors and preserve the food - not for years, but often for months into the winter. The benefit of fermented foods for our nutrition is something I'm still learning about and something I'll post on later - some of the claims are amazing. For now I'll enjoy the bubbling coming up through the brine. Teah and Micah love this stuff too, can't wait to share it with them. Alyssa... well that's another story. I hope she doesn't flush it down the toilet due to the smell.
Ingredients: three heads of cabbage, salt (seriously, that's it)
Equipment: a very old crock from my grandmother, a plate, a jug of water. The crock is about a gallon and a half. The plate is placed inside the crock with the lid and water jug placed on top to provide pressure to keep the cabbage under the brine as it forms.
For full details on how to do this yourself check out: http://www.wildfermentation.com/resources.php?page=sauerkraut