Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sauerkraut: An experiment in fermentation

I love sauerkraut. So, when my organic food co-op had extra heads of cabbage last week, I grabbed a couple of extra to try to make some at home.

I did a bit of research a few weeks ago and to my surprise, sauerkraut isn't pickled as I originally thought, but it is fermented in brine. (Don't tell my husband's German family that I didn't know that!!)

I've never fermented anything. Well, I take that back... I've never successfully fermented anything. I tried several years ago to make a sourdough starter, aptly named "Fermie" but it was a failure. I don't even remember what happened; I must have blocked the trauma out of my memory.

Anyway, so this will be an experiment and a somewhat long-term one at that since it takes a few weeks for the cabbage to fully ferment.

I found a neat website - Wild Fermentation - and used their sauerkraut recipe as a base for my kraut.

Here's what I did:

I shredded one head of cabbage and put it into some Grapefruit Seed Extact water in the sink to clean it.

Then, I washed a glass bowl (the original recipe says to use a crock or a food grade plastic bucket, neither of which I have). To sanitize the bowl (fermentation freaks me out a little, honestly), I poured in some boiling water and dumped it out.

I put the cabbage in my salad spinner to spin the water out, then put a layered it into a plastic bowl. I sprinkled sea salt after each layer. I also threw in some black peppercorns for funzies. After all of the cabbage was layered in, I mixed it all with my fingers.

Then, a little at a time, I put the sauerkraut into my glass bowl. I tamped each layer with my hands to pack it down tight. This helps draw the water out of the cabbage.

I put a plate on top of the cabbage, then put on my weight - a glass jar filled with water.

I covered it with two towels (to make sure all sides of the bowl were covered) and placed it in a corner of my kitchen. I was surprised (yet again!) that it didn't go in the fridge.

I'm supposed to press down on the plate every couple of hours until the water covers the plate. Then, I'm supposed to check it (i.e., taste it) every day or two. When it tastes good, it's ready!

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