Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lacto Fermented Sauerkraut

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.

Processed carrots.

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 ;)

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Unknown said...

Hi! I don't think I have ever left a blog comment but I found your site while I was making my own lacto fermented sauerkraut..I was also inspired to do this by the herbal conference last October =)I hope yours turned out well. My only concern for mine is the heat. My 80 yr old house tends to get pretty hot this time of year...def shouldn't take long to ferment.

I am going back to the conference again this year. I loved it so much last time and am so so excited to see that Susun Weed
will be there.

Oh I love your music too. I listened to it while I worked on the kraut =)
Happy Fermenting,

Unknown said...

I'm happy to say my kraut turned out very well! Unfortunately, the entire gallon is already gone (I found myself even eating it for breakfast). I did share a little with my mother-in-law, but selfishly hoarded the rest. I hope yours turned out well, too.

Wasn't the conference wonderful? I don't think I'm going to make it this year .. my baby will be six months old. Not sure how she would handle the weekend. I'm really bummed about it because I'm taking one of Susun's correspondence courses and I'd love so much to see her again. I was lucky enough to catch her Womb Wisdom Workshop in Wildwood, Georgia, year before last. It was a small group and I was honored to actually have conversations with her. She is a force of nature!
And thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the music ;)

Unknown said...

Thank you, thank you for explaining how to keep the veggies below the liquid. I don't like the idea of the plastic touching the veggies as they ferment, but went without for my second try at cucumber pickles, and they've all molded on the top. :(
They don't smell bad, though, so I'm going to let them go the full 3 days (tomorrow). If the bottom sections pass the smell test, I might try them. Good idea or not?
Thanks again!
Patti in Indianapolis

Unknown said...

Patti, you're welcome! I'm not all that thrilled about the plastic, either, but it's only three days and it works like a charm when you don't have a churn ;) I guess if you were *really* against the plastic you could use some glass beads or pebbles tied up in a cloth bag (all very clean, of course) on top of the veggies. The cloth would soak up the juice, but maybe not enough to matter .. ? Just a thought. As for the mold, I really don't know! I personally wouldn't have a problem eating the pickles from the bottom if they tasted okay, but I can't advise you to do it, in case you were to eat them and grow a second head or some such terrible thing ;)

Kate said...

Thank you for this walk through. I'm going to use this information to start my first batch of sauerkraut today - from homegrown cabbage! Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Sylvie said...

Leanne - thanks for the ziplock bag tips and the suggestion to Patti about using marbles in a cloth. Both are really good idea. I do only small batches of sauerkraut and in some of my jars, i have troubles keeping the veggies under the liquid.

This is my first year and I have been having fun with lacto fermenting, chiles, daikon radishes, cabbage & carrots. Carrots are absolutely yummy with ginger and spices. They don't last here!

Lora said...

Your blog is incredibly entertaining! I am not a fan of sauerkraut of any sort ... too tangy for me ... but I absolutely love your style of writing! I may give this a try, just because you make it sound so darned fun ... and my husband does lie sauerkraut. Who knows? Maybe this one I'll like ...

Anonymous said...

The cloth would mold. Instead, use a straight-sided, wide-mouth jar. Then, use a glass jar about an inch less in diameter, filled with water, to weigh down the vegetables. A hardwood or ceramic disc is traditional for a large crock and makes it easier to skim off the scum; try a round cheese box lid or a saucer.

uno said...

I am very fond of German food. especially the food. I will try to make at home. thank you, your articles are very helpful