April 9, 2012
Fermenting cabbage into a cultural delicacy such as sauerkraut or kimchi is an age-old practice that is still appreciated today; indeed is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. The good folks at Cultured in Berkeley plus the popularity of a class we’re teaching at Workshop in SF on April 28 can attest to this new-found love of sour things. How could we help but be inspired to write this post on how to make delicious fermented kraut and kimchi?
Perhaps you read our earlier post about fermentation and the benefits of raw, fermented foods or maybe you’ve just always known you love kraut with your dogs. Either way, home fermenting is way easier than you think, is a project that can be ignored for weeks, and yields delicious results!
While it’s true that the basis of fermenting is adding salt to cut up meat or produce, submerging under brine then weighting and waiting, there are lots of ways to finesse the process to yield superior results. Here are our recommendations.
Some tools you’ll need and others you’ll want:
Gorgeous hand-made fermenting crock
Fermentation Vessel – fermentation can happen in almost any type of wide-mouthed container. We love this gorgeous hand-made crock, created by an American artist and endorsed by Sandor Katz himself, but don’t limit yourself to just the beautiful receptacles. You can easily use a wide-mouthed glass mason jar, a deep dish or even a plastic food-grade bucket, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the risk of BPA-leaching when using plastic. For a simpler and more economical option, check out this inexpensive DIY fermenting set made from a mason jar and ReCAP lid.
- Sharp knife or mandoline – I personally think that finely chopped cabbage and other produce make the best kraut so make sure your chef’s knife is sharp or you have a nice mandoline, which make things easier as long as you can avoid chopping your own fingers off.
Tamper for packing cabbage down tightly
Tamper - This is a tool you’ll use to firmly pack down your kraut, drawing out its natural juices and submerging it under the brine. It’s not totally required since we assume you can make your own personal tamper out of a fist but this is a tool I find incredibly handy in most cases and actually quite necessary when you’re fermenting in wide-mouthed mason jars which you can’t fit a fist into without recruiting a child (and who wants their fingers in your food?).
- Follower and weight – a follower an object that fits within your fermenting vessel to hold the kraut submerged under the brine. it can be fancy like the one that comes with [our hand-made crock] or it can be humble like these smaller jars filled with water (the weight) which we’ve set into our larger fermenting jars.
Cabbage bound for greatness
5 lbs cabbage and/or other add-ins (see below for add-in suggestions)
3TB sea salt or pickling salt
Process for Sauerkraut:
- 1. Slice cabbage and other produce to the thickness you prefer (thin is traditional)
- 2. Sprinkle salt in layers as you go.
- 3. Pack into a crock and press down to extract juices
Thinly sliced kraut is traditional
4. Weight the crock
- 5. Press every few hours to extract juices
- 6. Add additional salt water (1TB salt to 1 cup water) after 24 hours if the juice doesn’t fully cover the produce
- 7. Cover with cheese cloth to keep out flies and dust then store out of the way at room temperature.
- 8. Wait – taste after about a week. You might prefer it after 4 weeks or more! Cooler temps ferment more slowly than warmer temps and over time water may evaporate to the point where you want to add more salt water to keep the cabbage submerged.
- 9. Eat or refrigerate once its reached your preferred level of sourness. Fermentation will show down, though the flavor will continue to mature even while refrigerated. You can store this way for months on end.
Some tasty additions to kraut:
Add apple and ginger to kraut for a fresh zing
- Mixed red with green cabbage
- Onions or leeks
- Caraway seeds
- Seaweed (cut up small and soaked in warm water at least 30 min)
- Anything you want!