Lacto fermentation… It’s what the cool kids are doing on Tuesday nights… Oh it’s not? Well it’s what I was doing last Tuesday 🙂 Sauerkraut is the most classic example of a lacto-ferment and that my friends is why I have decided to make it my first!
A little necessary background info…
Lacto fermentation is as old as the hill’s.. pretty much literally, people have been using this version of fermentation for the preservation of their harvests for hundreds of years. Traditionally our ancestors fermented vegetables with simply salt, water and spices – knowing that the lactic acid produced by the lactobacillus bacteria (they convert sugars into lactic acid and are all over the skins of vegetables) would prevent the putrification of their vegetable stores through the winter.
Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Beyond preservation advantages, lacto-fermentation also preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility. In addition, lactobacillus organisms are heavily researched as substances that may contribute to good overall health, and the healing of the gut.
Be advised…. this is my first attempt at this historic preservation method, I chose to use only salt and spices, just as my ancestors did. Seriously… it was so much fun 🙂
Here’s how I did it
Supplies needed: Mason Jars, Lids (plastic or metal), Two heads of cabbage, 1 1/2 Tbsp Sea Salt, 2 tsp carraway seeds (optional), cutting board, sharp knife, Something to push down the cabbage with, a weight of some kind to hold the cabbage under the brine.
I used one very large head of organic cabbage and a small head of organic red cabbage. I chose to chop by hand.. mostly because I don’t have a fancy mandolin gadget.. but also because I wanted to show that this can be done with very basic ingredients and tools. A very sharp sturdy knife works best and wastes less of the outer cabbage leaves. I began by washing the cabbage in cool water, and peeling off the outer wilted leaves. I chopped by halving the cabbage, coring it, then halving the halves again giving me cabbage quarters. I then thinly sliced each quarter, removing any of the core that was left. It really didn’t take me long and I didn’t loose a single finger.
Requires some hands on work… I used 1 1/2 Tsp of salt, sprinkled over the cabbage.. this is when the magic starts to happen folks! In a very large bowl, squeeze and swirl the cabbage by hand making sure to coat it all with the salt by continuing to squeeze and rotate the cabbage in the bowl. You will notice it beginning to wilt and soften. This is good! The process should take about 10 minutes, the goal is to begin the fermentation process, and produce enough liquid from the cabbage to use in the fermentation process. After the 10 minutes or so is up you will notice that the cabbage is beginning to resemble coleslaw more than the raw cabbage it began as.
My fermentation vessels are not fancy (big surprise) I chose to use mason jars, before all of you experienced fermenters jump on me read this (it’s a survey of the experts) —> http://www.foodrenegade.com/mason-jar-ferments-safe/
Using a canning funnel helps but it isn’t necessary, begin stuffing the cabbage in the mason jar and press it down hard.. I used my plunger from my vitamix but you can use anything you have to smush it down. Just keep scooping and smushing until you are out of cabbage and your mason jars are about 3/4 of the way full. I found that I filled my jars to much and had a few spillovers when I was “burping” my jars throughout the ferment, I left about two inches at the top and it wasn’t quite enough. If you are squeezing away and your kraut just is not producing enough juice, you can mix up a 2% brine solutions and pour that over the top. You will need to weigh your kraut down with something as it really needs to all stay submerged under the brine. I used a smaller mason jar place inside the wide mouth jar. You can also fold up some of your extra cabbage leaves and press it down a little. You can also buy weights specifically for fermenting vegetables..
Epic spillover :p oops..
If this happens, you will want to make sure to add some more of the 2% brine solution (one cup of filtered water with one teaspoon of sea salt) It is super important to keep all of the cabbage covered so mold doesn’t happen!
Step 4: WAIT!!
easily the hardest part! I let mine sit for 6 weeks in a cool dark place. After my initial explosion I was sure to burp at least once a week. Let me just tell you it’s torture!
Step 5: 6 weeks later…. Eat! 🙂
You guys it is so good… I am literally out of this stuff already. I love it on sandwiches, salads.. hot dogs even! It is amazing and was literally on our table for every meal until it was gone. It’s crunchy, just a little salty, and the caraway seed give it a really authentic kraut flavor YUM!!