Here is part 2 of my ‘Storing the Seasons’ collection of recipes, using traditional methods of food preservation to make delicious and healthy ‘jarred’ foods which turn abundant seasonal fruits and veggies into long-life condiments. Last month I shared with you my new favourite chutney, my ‘Sweet, sour and spicy chutney’,perfect for picnics, bbq’s and sandwich spreads. Today I am going to share with you another of my staple ‘jars’ in our house. I eat this traditional food practically every day, and if you know me personally, you will probably have received a jar as a gift at least once before! I’m talking Sauerkraut, and it’s got to be the the easiest, cheapest and tastiest condiment to a meal you will ever make. Are you ready to get started on the fermentation train? Who could resist looking at these lovely jars in your fridge or pantry each day??
What is Sauerkraut and why is it so sensational?!
Lactic-acid fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut have been made for centuries as a way of preserving, using the natural bacteria found on the skins of vegetables as a natural starter for fermentation. Not only are fermented veggies far tastier than pickled cooked ones, they are extremely good for you and you can get creative with the herbs and spices you add. Each batch is unique!
The same natural microorganisms that create lactic acid in our colons are found naturally in cabbage, and these increase dramatically when we start a fermenting process. When we increse our colonies of good bacteria by eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods, the harmful bacteria are outnumbered which means healthier happier tummies!
Sauerkraut is really simple to make, is a brilliant way of preserving cabbage and other vegetables throughout the year. It tastes great on its own, but I love to use it as a base for salads, mixing it with sea vegetables such as dulse and nori, adding freshly grated roots, and adding a dressing of tahini or avocado.
You can add any hard vegetables into your kraut: beetroot, carrot, squash, turnip, onions. The more vegetables you add, the wider the variety of beneficial microflora in your finished sauerkraut, as the process uses the microfloras that reside on the skins of the vegetables. Try also adding ginger, garlic, juniper berries, fennel seeds, caraway, dill seeds, celery seeds, cumin, chilis… be creative and come up with your own variations. I love to mix red and white cabbage for a ‘pink’ kraut, and add fennel seeds for a mild tangy mix, leaving it for about a week to ferment. The longer you leave your kraut, the stronger it becomes, so taste it every few days to see how you prefer. The main points to remember are that the salt acts to inhibit putrefying bacteria in the early stages of fermentation until the pH is lowered sufficiently to inhibit them, so make sure that you put enough salt in. It is possible to cut down on the salt if you use a starter culture to get the fermentation process going more quickly. You can use a probiotic capsule opened and added to the kraut, or some of the juices created from previous batch of kraut to get the fermentation process started and add even more beneficial bacteria’s to your kraut.
Makes 1 large jar
1 large white cabbage (or half each of red and white cabbage)
1-2 tbsp sea salt
Firstly, remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and set aside. Cut the cabbage in half and cut out a wedge of the core. Make sure you keep this; it will become clear why at the end!
Finely slice the cabbage using a sharp knife into thin strips, and put into a large mixing bowl. I like to use the slicing blade on my food processor for nice even, fine strips, though using a simple sharp knife and steady hand is fine! Sprinkle the cabbage with 1-2 tbsp salt, depending on the size of your cabbage. You can also add herbs such as fennel or aniseed, or juniper berries for traditional krauts at this stage. Now it’s time to massage your cabbage. This is where you can get friends and family involved. The more people who touch the kraut, the more different energies and bacterias which will be present in the final product. It also makes it much easier for you, as it can take a good 10 minutes in all to get the juices releasing from the cabbage. Once it feels like it is softening, almost like cooked cabbage, the colour becomes darker and you can hear and feel the juices releasing, it’s time to pack the cabbage into a sterile jar.
Pack it into your sterile 1 litre Kilner jar, using your fist to push it down tightly, so you can see the juices rising up above the top layer. Stop when you are an inch below the top of the jar. Place one of the outer leaves on the top, then a chunk of the core reserved from the cabbage. This will act as your ‘weight’, so that when you flip down the kilner lid, it presses down the top of the core and presses the cabbage under the juices.
Pack the cabbage in tight, leaving a 5 cm gap at the top of the jar to allow for the juices to rise. Plate one of the outer leaves on top of the cabbage, then place the core of the cabbage that you saved on top of the leaf. It needs to be at a higher level than the cabbage, so that when you clamp down the jar, the juices rise up above the cabbage.
Place the jar somewhere not to cold. It doesn’t need to be as warm as an airing cupboard, but cold rooms will make your kraut ferment very slowly.. Taste it after 4 days; it should taste mildly tangy. If so, you can eat it then, or carry on fermenting it for a week or two, depending on how strong you like it to taste. Once you are happy with it, transfer to the fridge to stop the fermenting process. It will keep for many months in the fridge.
You can find more of my raw fermentation recipes in my ebook here, written with Amy Levin of Ooosha. Whats your favourite fermented food? Check out #storingtheseasons for more of my fermented recipes!