There are certain foods that come and go, others have been around for a long time and are here to stay. Or at least, they should be. Be honest, how often have we heard that including fermented foods like yogurt, miso, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut are nutritious and have healing powers benefiting our overall health? Well, it’s time to step up the game by learning how to make simple sauerkraut. While some readers might be well versed in the art of fermentation – such as my parents – we invite others to dip their tow into fermented foods by following this simple recipe of sauerkraut. Come and cook with us!
As Sandor Ellix Katz points out in his excellent book “Wild Fermentation”, fermented foods have been around since there have been humans. Whether in the form of mead, beers and wines, or miso and tempeh, vegetable krauts and kimchis, yogurt and cheese or sourdough bread, one can literally go “wild” when it comes to creating foods that are packed with good bacteria. While I’ve only flirted with fermented teas, aka kombucha, I’ve been successful in baking sourdough bread and making sauerkraut. Sandor invites readers not to be intimidated by the mystique surrounding fermented food. Don’t be afraid and don’t let perfectionism and the cult of expertise get in your way of doing-it-yourself.
All kinds of vegetables can be fermented. What helps fermentation is brine, simply water with salt dissolved. Mostly, the water is extracted from the vegetables through the process of osmosis, but can also be added if there isn’t enough brine to cover the vegetables. Brine serves as protection against the growth of bad microorganisms and favors the growth of good bacteria, lactobacilli. But too much salt isn’t good either, as it will prevent any microorganisms from surviving and, thus, fermentation will not occur at all.
Unlike my parents who stock up sauerkraut for winter, I usually make it in small batches: one head of cabbage at a time. Just enough for a few days either on its own, with a little onion and olive oil or along with fresh vegetables in a tasty mixed salad. Don’t throw out the water that’s left-over. It’s like an elixir that is packed with live cultures ready to fire up your digestive system.
This week, don’t shy away from the do-it-yourself movement and make some sauerkraut. It’s fun, it’s tasty and it feels empowering! Come and cook with us!