It’s Easy, Tasty and Nutritious
By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
If you look around your local farmers market, you will almost certainly see large heads of cabbage. If your favorite organic farm doesn’t already sell them, buy whatever medley of root vegetables they have, and use those instead. Homemade sauerkraut, kimchi or fermented root vegetables are a treat, and with refrigeration can last well into fall and beyond.
For this project, a special piece of equipment that I use, and you should as well, comes in very handy: a fermentation crock. It is a vessel made out of clay that ideally has a water seal, and a good one will do the yeoman’s work for your fermentation needs. Sarah Kersten Studio in Berkeley, CA, has excellent, handmade and very functional fermentation crocks, one of which I have used for years.
Lacto-fermentation is a process that deserves far more discussion than this paragraph, as it is an integral part of many culinary traditions. Not only do they taste delicious, sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented foods also promote a whole host of health benefits, especially digestive health and detoxification.
Lactobacillus is a healthy and abundant bacteria used in sourdough bread and yogurt, among many other things, as well as in sauerkraut and kimchi. Its unique property is that it can survive and even grow in a salt-water medium, thus making it possible to select out the non-useful bacteria while keeping the necessary lactobacillus active and working. Lactobacillus is found in abundance on plant material, especially if the farmer you are buying produce from has rich soil.
For this recipe, you will need a fermentation crock and a wooden muddler.
- 2 very large or 4 medium heads of cabbage
- 2 to 3 Tbsp sea salt (depending on taste)
- Equipment: A six-quart fermentation crock
- Chop the cabbage into chunks and shred using the grater attachment of a food processor. Reserve the whole outer leaves. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add the salt and mash together with the muddler until juices release.
- Stuff the shredded cabbage into the fermentation crock. Once it is all inside (there should be enough to fill the whole crock), place the large, outer cabbage leaves over the top. Cover with the crock’s stone inserts and place the lid on top. Pour water into the water seal. Store in a safe spot for two to four weeks, depending on the heat of your kitchen. Keep an eye on the water seal; it should never go dry.
- You should hear bubbles within a day or so. When you decide to de-cant your sauerkraut, use large tongs to transfer it from the crock to mason jars. Store in the refrigerator. A six-quart crock should make four quart-size jars of sauerkraut.