A few years back, I got this book. I had read little bits here and there over the years about fermented foods, but what I really wanted to be able to do is make a crunchy pickle. How are these two related? Well, I looked up how to brine pickles, and that led to pickle crocks, which led to other things to do with crocks, which led to sauerkraut and fermenting cabbage. So here we are, trying out our first home made sauerkraut. We bought the cabbage since ours is still in the seedling stage. But let me get back to this book and several others that I have bought recently, which include Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods and Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen.
The more I read about fermented vegetables and their health benefits, the more interested I became in trying them. Then after we changed our eating habits to include less carbohydrates, more nutritional vegetables and better protein sources, I learned more about how fermenting foods such as kefir, sourdough and sauerkraut lowers the carbohydrate content of foods. Thus, the motivation for learning how to ferment vegetables increased even more. An article over at Cultures for Health describes some of these benefits in this article: Low Carb Fermented Foods. "Fermentation occurs when bacteria feasts off of the carbohydrates found in a food. In making kombucha that food is the sugar. In making sourdough bread that food is the flour. In making sauerkraut that food is the carbohydrates in the cabbage. In making yogurt that food is the lactose naturally occurring in milk."
All of my reading and research lead me to use a crock made for fermenting. Some of my fermenting books indicate that there is no need for a special crock, while others recommend it. I chose this kind of crock so I wouldn't have to deal with the scum, or bloom, that typically grows on top of a crock of vegetables and has to be removed periodically. Or that is what I have read anyway. I didn't want to have to guess whether it was the good scum or the bad scum. I was leery enough as it was without wondering if what I had perking away in the crock would make us sick. I liked the idea of having the crock closed.
A side note here. I found out the hard way to keep sourdough and kefir across the room from each other so their yeasts and bacteria don't have a little competition. The sourdough won at that time, and the kefir just about quit working all together. That meant that a week or so ago when I had all three out 'working', I placed them at the farthest three points on my cabinet that I could. The sourdough ended up stuck in the corner on top of the chicken scrap bucket, but it seemed to work and they all kept perking along.
We have hesitantly wanted to try fermenting vegetables for quite some time. I say hesitantly, because like anything, you have to be careful to produce a healthy instead of a deadly product. There are guidelines to follow when fermenting anything to make sure your finished product is edible, not something that will cause food poisoning. Neither one of us has ever eaten fermented vegetables before, and don't know anyone that does, except through things we have read both in books and on the internet. That goes back to why this isn't the first batch of cabbage we fermented.
The first batch I started went like this. Chop up the cabbage very fine. Put in a the crock in layers, sprinkling it with salt, and pounding it down to compact it and release some of the juices in the cabbage. I used one full head of cabbage. The crock will hold much more, but it was an experiment, so I didn't want to over do it. I followed the directions in one of the books that said to wait 24 hours, then check and see if the cabbage juices had covered the cabbage and the stones used to weigh it down. There wasn't enough juice, so I added some filtered water, then let it sit and do it's thing for several weeks. The problem I ran into was having baby goats and getting busy with other things. This allowed the
water in the 'moat' to evaporate, thus allowing oxygen to enter the crock. When this happens, as it would if you used an open crock, scum or bloom as some folks call it, forms on top of the liquid. As long as this bloom is white, it is supposed to be okay. You can skim it off and let the cabbage continue to ferment. Well......... I just couldn't bring myself to trust that this was healthy instead of unhealthy bloom. Even though when I opened the crock, outside since I didn't know if the smell would knock me down or smell good, it had a nice tangy smell, we still didn't eat it. I just dumped it out in the garden. Nothing else ate it either, it just sat there.
Then I started another batch of cabbage. This time, after I chopped it up, I put a little in a large stainless steel bowl, sprinkled it with sea salt and pounded the whey out of it with a wooden pestle. I used the pestle the first time, too, but didn't pound it near has hard since I didn't want to break the crock. After 24 hours I was rewarded with a good amount of cabbage juice, but not enough to quite cover everything, so I added some filtered water. Surprisingly to me, it takes about a month for the cabbage to develop a sauerkraut kind of flavor.
This is yet another new food adventure we have embarked on. I'm not sure how successful or long-term it will be, but it is something I thought was worth a try. It is another way to preserve food in a very healthy way. Fermented foods can be kept for years in a cool place according to my research. If this is something we can produce in the summer, when the garden is going great guns, then it will be yet another source of very good nutrition. If you have any information or recommendations for us, we would love to hear them. We learn a great deal from our friends out there in blog world, and appreciate all you regularly share with us.
Until next time - Fern