My lovely friend Melissa, and I had the pleasure of spending a weekend last October in beautiful Black Mountain, North Carolina, at the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. During our stay we were introduced to a delightfully delicious treat known as lacto fermented sauerkraut. I believe it was our favorite food for the weekend!
Now, don't get me wrong ... I've made sauerkraut before. But *this* kraut, well, you'll just have to try it yourself to understand. Besides the immense health benefits it provides, lacto fermented kraut is fresh, crunchy, tangy, and I dare say more addictive (and better for you!) than potato chips. Cold or cooked, YUM. I am seriously sitting here eating a bowl of it right now, as I type this.
I'm not going to try and expound on lacto fermentation when you can read all about it from the master herself, Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (with Mary G. Enig, PhD), a well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods. I couldn't possibly do a better job of explaining the process, so read for yourself and then feel free to enjoy the photos of my very own adventures in lacto fermented sauerkraut making!
The process I used is just the one that works best for me. I find it incredibly simple and satisfying and I hope you give it a try. I started with a wide-mouthed gallon-sized glass jar with lid, a gallon-sized zip-lock bag, large wooden spoon, and a potato masher. I used one large head of cabbage, 2 carrots & 1 medium onion (these are optional), 2 T. sea or kosher salt, and 1/2 cup whey. So here goes ...
I picked a large head of green cabbage from my garden, feeding the sad looking outer leaves to the cows and chickens.
I quartered the head to make it easier to handle, then sliced each quarter into 1/4 -1/2 inch strips. You end up with what looks to be a ton of cabbage. The first time I made this I thought there was no way all that was going to fit into my gallon jar! But wait ...
I then cut the strips into thirds.
I took two large carrots, scraped & halved, then processed them in my snazzy 1970's model food processesor.
Coarsely chopped one yellow onion.
Mixed everything together and added 2 tablespoons kosher salt (sea salt is best but I was out),
and 1/2 cup whey. Our milk cow is dry, so I hung 16 oz of plain organic yogurt in cheesecloth over a bowl in my fridge overnight and got a cup of whey from it. (The leftover yogurt cheese is delicious on crackers with red onion.)
Mixed everything well to coat all the veggies with whey & salt.
Then pounded the crap out of it with a potato masher, every 10 minutes or so for about an hour. This allows some of the natural liquids to release from the cabbage, wilting it down a bit and reducing the volume considerably.
Spooned it into my gallon jar. The canning funnel made this much easier.
It looked like I was going to have to add water to cover the vegetables, but a good smash with the potato masher crammed everything down into the jar, covering all with the natural liquids.
Put the ziplock bag into the jar, leaving the zip-top hanging out the top. Then poured water into the bag to within about an inch of the top, making sure the bag completely filled the space above the kraut. The weight of the water helps hold the veg down below the liquid. Lacto fermentation only occurs in an oxygenless environment, so remember .. no air in the veggies!
Sealed the lid, leaving the top of the bag hanging over the sides of the jar.
Let it sit on the counter in my kitchen for three days (needs to be kept around 72 degrees fahrenheit) then, ta da! Lacto fermented sauerkraut! You can eat it now, like me, but it only gets better with time. Kept in a cool dark place (Sally suggests 40 degrees ... I just keep mine in the fridge), it should keep for many months. I just can't seem to keep it for that long.
Come on. You know you want it ;)