Fermented veggies are your tummy’s BFF and a great source of probiotics, vitamins and minerals. Store bought sauerkraut tends to be pasteurized which means it lacks a lot of the benefits of sauerkraut in it’s raw form. Fermentation at home can be a bit scary if it’s your first time, but I assure you it’s not as hard as it looks! I prefer to make mine in small individual batches versus using large (also expensive) ceramic fermentation crocks. This way, if one of my jars becomes infected I can toss it out while keeping the other clean jars in tact. When done properly, fermentation is safe process and is how we get other delicious items such as cheese, yogurt and beer!
This week, Heidi from the farm bestowed upon me two giant heads of kraut cabbage – which is available as an addition to your weekly farm shares! Their cabbages are quite LARGE so be sure to weight your cabbage and salt measurements for the recipe offered below. I was able to get 2 half gallon mason jars filled with 2 large heads of cabbage from Boistfort, which equates to 4 quart jars.
How lactic acid fermentation works:
lactobacillus, which is required for fermentation lives naturally on cabbage leaves which is why it’s a fairly easy dish to produce. . By exploiting the actions of bacteria simple ingredients such as cabbage and salty water can be used to kill off the bad bacteria and leaves our little pal lactobacillus in tact. Lactic acid will continue to thrive in the high acid environment and will ward off any bacteria that cause the food to spoil.
The first stage of sauerkraut fermentation involves anaerobic bacteria, which is why the shredded cabbage and salt need to be packed in an airtight container. At this stage the surrounding environment is not acidic, just cabbagey. The bacteria, mostlyLeuconostoc species, produce carbon dioxide (replacing the last vestiges of oxygen in the jar) and lactic acid, which is a natural byproduct of anaerobic respiration. Eventually, the conditions within the jar become too acidic for these bacteria to survive and they die out, replaced with bacteria that can better handle the acidic conditions such as Lactobacillus species.
The lactobacillus further ferment any sugars remaining in the cabbage, using anaerobic respiration. This produces more lactic acid, until the sauerkraut reaches a pH of about 3. These bacteria are inhibited by high salt concentrations (so most sauerkraut contains around 2-3% salt) and low temperatures, which is why the fermenting jars should be left at room temperature rather than in the fridge. At pH3 the lactobacillus stop fermenting and the sauerkraut can be stored until needed.
All the these bacteria help to create the tangy acidic taste, however there are ways that microbial growth can go wrong. Overgrowth of the lactobacillus, for example if the jar is stored at too high a temperature during fermentation, can cause the sauerkraut to form the wrong consistency. Likewise if the sauerkraut gets too acidic too early thelactobacillus get in on the action early leading to soft sauerkraut. Although the finished sauerkraut is far too acidic for pathogens to live in, fungal spores may settle on the surface and spread, spoiling the food. via scientificamerican.com
- Chlorine free water (I use reverse osmosis or distilled water)
- Sea Salt
- A couple of large non-reactive bowls (Aluminum, cast iron, and copper are all “reactive.” Stainless steel, ceramic, glass and metal cookware with enamel coating are all “nonreactive.”)
- A good sharp knife or cabbage shredder
- Wide mouth canning jars (1 or 2 quart size)
- Kraut pounder or meat mallet (optional)
- Jar top fermenters *
- Crock rock or other glass fermentation weight
*Available in a few different styles/prices
https://www.wheatgrasskits.com/ ($20.99 for one fermentation lid)
http://primalkitchencompany.com/ ($8.99 for one fermentation lid)
http://primalkitchencompany.com/ (Glass fermentation weights)
TIPS AND TRICKS
SALT – Weigh your salt for best results. Also, I recommend using pink Himalayan salt will yield the best results as it is high in mineral content. All salt measurements below are for regular grind.
WATER – Always use chorine and fluoride free water. Never use city tap water. Using distilled or spring water is your best option.
OVERFLOW – If your kraut starts bubbling like crazy once it’s jared, its a sign of healthy fermentation! Clean up any overflow brine around the jar and cap but wait until ONE WEEK before you remove and clean your airlock valve. Each airlock may be different so follow the instructions included with your airlock system.
SIGNS OF SUCCESS – Carefully examine your batch when it’s done (I let mine sit for at least 4-6 weeks) Watch for signs of rot, sliminess and uncharacteristic odor (aka smells nothing like sauerkraut or has a stinky foot odor) Presence of any of this may indicate that your batch has spoiled and did not ferment out properly. There may be a white powdery sediment on the produce which is normal. There should be nothing growing on your kraut except for something called Kahm Yeast which looks like a wax layer on top of the brine. My rule of thumb is, when in doubt throw it out. A successful batch will have an unmistakable sauerkraut smell and taste sour, crisp and salty.
Check out these helpful tips on fermentations issues http://www.makesauerkraut.com/sauerkraut-fermentation-gone-bad-troubleshooting-tips/