I am humbled…
As I sit down to write, for some reason, the space around my table has suddenly filled with the delicate wing flutters of multiple red admiral butterflies; courageously venturing into the Doberman zone. These wild Kamikaze kites are unendingly impressive, not just because of their innate beauty, but because of their shrewd ability to exit via an open window before falling prey to the stalking black beast. The house has been inundated with warm-weather guests; flies, bees, bluebottles and beetles, and none of them seem blessed with the butterfly’s shrewd precision for relocating their entrance to transform it into an exit. The sounds of summer nature fill the air around me as the birds sing proudly above the leaves that slice through the gentle breeze. The winds swell and disperse like sea water flowing endlessly across sands.
I want to take this moment of relative peace to say a huge thank you to everyone who stopped by to read my last post. I have received a huge amount of love and support, and I am humbled. It hasn’t been easy for me lately but there are an awesome amount of you out there who are considerate and caring in a genuinely touching way. I want to repay you for your love and support, so I figure, what better way to do that than to share my method for concocting sauerkraut!
- Veggies of your choice:
White or purple cabbage are great, and I will generally include some carrot.
You are a queen, and you can ferment whatever veggies your heart desires, so go free and experiment. Typically for your first few krauts try to use ingredients with a tougher constitution. The softer fruits & veggies (peppers, tomatoes, courgette etc.) can descend into a bit of a “mush” that may not be a pleasant texture if you’re just getting acquainted with fermenting.
I typically use 1.5 – 2 tsps. per pound of veg but this can be adjusted depending on how salty you are and how you like your finished product. Kosher salt or non-iodised salt is best but don’t sweat it. Just use what you can put your fabulous hands on.
This definitely will come down to personal preference but as a married woman who has a very tolerant husband, I am a big fan of garlic. So, I will include a couple of bulbs in my kraut. It will make for a more fragrant ferment, so be warned!
- Spices, girl:
If U Can’t Dance, Never give up on the good times and just Spice Up Your Life. Or if you aren’t into the Spice Girl puns, then say Goodbye to them and Holler at your spice rack and whatever you like, throw it into your mix!
For this I used coriander and cumin seeds. Fresh herbs will turn to mush and can affect the flavour so dried herbs or spices are going to be best.
Knife, grater, big bowl, chopping board, pestle or large muddling paddle and a kilner jar or similar for the ferment.
- Hot water:
I don’t sterilise per se, but I do make sure that all items have been thoroughly cleaned with hot water and some soap. The kilner jar particularly will get a good steep in boiled water before use.
- Weigh your veg, and based on this weight separate out the correct amount of salt (see above for a rough guide). Don’t worry if you aren’t quite sure, you can adjust the salt content later in the journey. The best thing to remember is that none of this is an exact science! Don’t sweat it…save your energy for mashing your veg.
- Coarsely chop & grate your veggies. This doesn’t have to be a precise science at all, in fact, the less uniform the better.
- Load up your chopped veg, herbs etc. and layer it with the salt gradually. The salt will start working straight away drawing moisture out of your veggies. Osmosis, hennny, but we’ll get it working properly in the next few steps.
- This is the bit where you get to take out all the pent up energy on your kraut. You need to kick the shit out of it. Get aggressive. Call it names. Do what comes naturally. Basically, what you need to do is exert pressure to break down the cell walls of the ingredients so that the moisture comes out of the veg and creates a brine with the salt.
- This can take a bit of time so I mix it up, sometimes using the pestle and sometimes using my hands and squeezing the liquid out. This is why it’s best to use a heartier ingredient as they become crisper and firmer as the liquid is forced out.
- Here you can see the liquid is starting to build up around the veg. This can take time so have your fave podcast on in the background. Protip…my current listen is the Deliciously Ella Podcast.
- This photo gives you a good idea of what you are aiming for. The veg on top has been bashed up and the liquid has been released, while the below is the before.
- Salt content:
Taste as you go! If towards the end you are finding it too salty, simply add a bit of water and rinse off the veg a little. If it’s not salty enough, just add more salt in gradual increments. Genuinely, it couldn’t be easier. The main thing is that you have enough salt to extract the liquid from your chosen ingredients. Everything else comes down to your own preference.
- Now it’s time to load the veg into the jar. Using your hands or your pestle you mainly want to ensure that your ferment is packed in under the liquid. The bacteria you want in your ferment are anaerobic lactic acid bacterias (for you nerds these are mainly Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus brevis, Pediococcus pentosaceus and Lactobacillus plantarum) so they will start to colonise underneath the water level. If you have veg sitting above a water line you run the risk of growing moulds (which can be scraped off if they do appear).
As you push your veg down you will see air bubbles rushing upwards. Keep shoving until you’ve worked out all the air.
- This step requires heavy pressure to shove the ingredients down, but if you find you simply don’t have enough liquid, simply make up some briny water and add it to the mix. It doesn’t need to be swimming, just enough that the veg is covered.
- Fermentation Time:
Sit your kraut on a shelf out of direct sunlight and leave the yummy bacteria to work away for roughly 14 days. If it’s very warm, this time will reduce, if it’s wintery cold then leave a little more time. Taste as it goes, burp your jar regularly to make sure no pressure is building up.
- When you are happy with the flavour of your ferment, simply move it to the fridge to slow it down or stop it entirely. You don’t have to do this; a ferment can keep for a long time outside the fridge as long as you keep an eye on it and scrape off any mould that might appear.
- Food poisoning:
We have been conditioned to think bacteria = bad, so if you are afraid of getting sick from accidentally growing the wrong bacteria, then just remember this point…Foods have been fermented by countless tribes and nations for literally thousands of years. In this time there has been no reported incident of food poisoning from fermentation…ever! So if you do manage to get sick from your ferment, you will be the first. Well done you!
- Where can you learn more?
I highly recommend The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Eliz Katz. This book (pictured above) is the bible, and contains everything you could possibly want to know.
Please, don’t try to be too precise or let fear put you off. Fermentation is a lot of fun, and similar to making wine every batch is different because the conditions will always be unique. What’s living on your hands or in the air will all slightly affect your end result so keep muddling around and embrace this weird and wonderful new hobby! Your gut will love you for it.
Love to you all, and happy fermenting xxx
Tamara is the self-proclaimed Unqualified Blogger. She is a freelance Copywriter and Marketing Communications / Brand Strategist and Creative Generalist. She is available for speech writing, tattoo conventions and karaoke parties or would love to work with you on your latest marketing or creative challenges. Stay in touch on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or Contact her directly.