Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making my own sauerkraut the lazy way!




I have a few friends who keep touting the good things about fermenting things the old fashioned way--beet kvass, gingered carrots, etc.. and it just never sounded that great.

Effervescent beets?

I could never get my family to like those and I tried making ginger carrots twice and um... ick! (I don't know if I was doing something wrong or it just is the inherent saltiness of fermenting that I never think of in combination with ginger and carrots. )

Then I thought of .. sauerkraut, well -- I love sauerkraut but the rest of the family sneers up their cute little noses at sauerkraut. With a chorus of "ewww..s". I however, grew up on sauerkraut, everyone in the house loved sauerkraut. Good sauerkraut. Our favorite brand was cosmic cukes brand of sauerkraut, my mom would buy it by the case from rainbow foods. I can't even imagine how expensive that kraut would be now-probably something obscene along the lines of 4$ a jar. But I do consider myself a kraut snob. No tin can sauerkraut--ick! Being the only one in the house that finds it edible creates a problem however. I can't quite justify spending good money on big jars of good kraut when I'm the only one who likes it. And the tinned stuff-- well it won't cut it. But do you know how much cabbage I can buy with $4? Well -- it's a lot!

Being that cabbage is cheap, that I can do. And salt-- yep got that too.. so I recently tried making my own fermented cabbage.

Now I know you're thinking I might have travelled down the wacko road now, you're probably thinking "isn't that a pretty lengthy terribly stinky process? ". Well the answer is -- NOPE!
not any more difficult or stinky than making coleslaw. Making coleslaw isn't wacky - you can make coleslaw can't you? And actually it's easier than coleslaw because there aren't as many ingredients in it. Four ingredients to be exact, three if you leave out the caraway or dill -- and if you are counting water as an ingredient.

Here is the process in a nutshell:

1. Chop up cabbage
(nothing monumentally difficult here, and to be honest I bet if you wanted to short cut this and just buy all ready cut up cabbage you could.)

2. Mix salt and either dill or caraway seeds into the cabbage
in a bowl and squish it up with a potato masher or I bet you could even do it in a Kitchen Aid style mixer and the paddle blade attached-- we just aren't talking about my KA mixer and how it doesn't work right now... :(. But either way this an excellent task for those days when squishing things and pounding would seem like a good idea--great for your stress if ya' know what I mean? wink wink.

3. Wait ten minutes ( I know you can do that!)

4. Put the cabbage into a clean jar with a lid-- squishing it down so it all fits.
A funnel makes it easier but you don't have to have one. (Oh and the jar just needs to be clean --not sanitized, hermetically sealed or anything fancy, just clean.) Make sure there is enough liquid to cover the sauerkraut if not add some water but leave about an inch of head space (that's canner speak for leave some room on top of the jar so it doesn't overflow.) (filtered preferably because the chlorine could make all the good bacteria die). And yes you want the good bacteria to live. They are your friends.

5. Set a small dish under the jar (in case it overflows)- And leave it alone on the counter or someplace warmish for four days with a lid on it. Leave it -- all alone for four days. This is when the magic happens! All the good bacteria come out to play and make tasty stuff. I am completely not interested in the science of it all -- but it's safe, and people have done it for centuries, and the salt or whey if you use whey is what protects it while the good bacteria have their party. More info on the science of it all can be found here.. http://www.rosicrucianfellowship.com/rays/lacto-fermentation.pdf
After four days you put it into the fridge and store it a long time (3 mo or so)if it lasts that long.

There ya' have it - 5 easy steps, four days of waiting, no stink, no wacko do it yourself stuff, and it's even cheap and better yet-- super duper healthy cause it has all that good bacteria in it! No fancy shmancy pickling crock, no lengthy process.. seriously 5 easy steps, tools you should all ready have in your kitchen, a canning jar-or for that matter, a re purposed jar and no big expense.
The recipe:
1 medium cabbage,shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds or dill weed ( I used caraway)
1 tablespoon sea salt ( I used 2T. of sea salt and no whey)
4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1
tablespoon salt)
Follow the directions above and you will have delectable coleslaw!
So -- you might be asking what is whey? It's the liquid that gathers in your yogurt. It's also a by product of making cheese. If you take any plain yogurt with live cultures you can easily harvest whey.
Here's how to harvest whey in the simplest way I know how:
You'll need a jar or catching container or bowl, a paper towel, old clean knit shirt, or a few layers of cheesecloth (if you wanna go all chef-like), some sort of colander or fine mesh strainer, and some plain live culture yogurt.
1. Put the catch bowl on the counter
2. Inside that put the colander or strainer that is lined with the paper towel or other item
3. Fill the colander with yogurt
4. Let it strain a couple of hours in the fridge
5. The clear liquid that gathers in the bowl is the whey and can be frozen or used for lacto-fermenting
**There are of course other ways to do this but this is what I do. Oh yes - and so you know the yogurt left can be spread or used like cream cheese or eaten like a Greek yogurt so don't you dare toss it!
Go forth and make sauerkraut!

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