Martha Stewart Living (October 2011)
Well, it's finally happened: We are rotting vegetables (but with purpose!).
We had never had much interest in fermenting vegetables ourselves, but we had two run-ins with kraut-devotees (kraut-heads?) over the summer. The first was at a farmers market near our house, where North Mountain Pastures sells a variety of fermented vegetables. We sampled and then immediately purchased "shiozuke" -- a jar of fermented vegetables including turnips, radishes, carrots, red onions, garlic, ginger, mustard seed and Himalayan sea salt. We loved the sample we had at the market. We have yet to use it at home, but we think it will be great on its own or with fish.
Our other kraut-meister was Zach's mom, B, who has been fermenting a traditional sauerkraut in her basement this summer. She packs it in water and brine and then stores it at room temperature for several weeks while it ferments. Clay hasn't made it to Tennessee to sample B's recipe, but Zach had a taste when he was visiting home a couple weeks ago. It was sharp, pungent and incredibly tangy. (Although he's still trying to decide if he'd say it was "good.")
Before this, we had never even considered making kraut ourselves. We're all for pickling and canning and other methods of preservation, but it hadn't really dawned on us to make sauerkraut.
Well, Martha Stewart Living's October feature on Farmhouse Culture, a small business in Santa Cruz, California, was all the inspiration we needed to get to fermenting.
The bad news about this post is that we can't tell you how this sauerkraut tastes. It's still fermenting and we haven't yet hit the timing of the first tasting, but here's what we've done so far.
Following the method in the magazine, we decided to vary the recipe for basic sauerkraut with caraway by adding apples and fennel. Mostly we did this because we had some fennel that needed to be used, but it was also the recipe variation that sounded best to us. (Horseradish-Leek was a close second).
To prep the kraut, we shredded the cabbage, tossing it with salt and caraway seeds, and then massaging it so that it releases liquid. We then tossed in the apples and fennel, and transferred the mixture to jars. We found that our cabbage, even after a lengthy massage, didn't release nearly enough brine to fill the jars (maybe because of the addition of the fennel and the apples?). So we augmented it with a salt water brine.
And now it's sitting on a shelf in our closet, slowly fermenting. We plan to diligently do as the recipe suggests, opening the jars every five or so days to release any pressure.
Though we're well aware that cooks have been fermenting cabbage this way for much longer than we've been around, we do have to say that it's a little unnerving, the thought of rotting cabbage sitting on a shelf in our closet. But then again, we're excited to taste it.
Why don't you play along at home! We've included the recipe below. And we'll post Part 2 of our adventure later this month, once our kraut is ready for consumption.
Are you a kraut friend or foe? Ever made it yourself? Please share!
Active Time: 30 minutes:
Total time: About 3 weeks
1 head green cabbage (3 pounds), shredded (14 cups), 3 whole small leaves reserved
2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly
2 green apples, cored and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Coarse sea salt
Combine cabbage, caraway seeds, and 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes. Massage to release liquid from cabbage (forming a brine), about 5 minutes. Mix in the fennel and apple.
Pack cabbage mixture into 3 pint-size canning jars, making sure brine covers cabbage by at least 1 inch and leaving 1 to 2 inches of space at the top. Fold and push 1 reserved leaf into each, filling the top space (leaves do not need to be fully submerged).
[Note from The Bitten Word: We found that our cabbage did not release enough brine, so we augmented it with a quick salt-water brine, dissolving 2 tablespoons of kosher salt into 2 1/2 cups water, and adding what was needed to the jars.]
Close jars tightly, and transfer to a glass baking dish or a nonreactive container with 2-inch-high sides. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days.
Slowly open and quickly close the jars to release built-up pressure, being careful not to let the liquid bubble out. Let stand for 5 more days. Reopen jars to release pressure.
Let stand for 5 more days. Taste to determine if kraut is sour enough. Let stand until kraut is to your liking (we like a 21-day ferment), continuing to open jars every few days to release pressure.
Kraut can be refrigerated submerged in brine for up to 6 months.