Friday, April 20, 2012


Today's recipe has been several weeks in the making. Sauerkraut is cabbage fermented in brine made with salt and cabbage's own juices. Fermentation is a natural process that results from encouraging desirable bacteria to grow in foods.

Sauerkraut is made by encouraging the growth of naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria. The bacteria consume the sugars in cabbage and produce lactic acid which causes delicious changes in taste, texture, and appearance.

These bacteria are anaerobic, which means they prefer an environment free of oxygen, so it's important to keep the chopped or shredded cabbage submerged during the fermentation. Strands of shredded cabbage exposed to air are good vehicles for introducing undesirable bacteria into the mix resulting in a product with off flavors.

Sauerkraut can be made in many different types of containers. Ceramic crocks are traditional. However, a large glass jar, such as a two-quart, wide-mouth canning jar allows you to observe the changes in the cabbage over time. Food grade plastic or an unchipped, enamel-lined pan will work as well. What's important is that you can weight down the cabbage so that it stays submerged.

I've been using an airlock lacto-fermentation kit made by Le Parfait which is available at the Farmer's Kitchen near the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

Today's recipe comes from Chef Ernest Miller at the Farmer's Kitchen. It's a basic sauerkraut recipe that's flavored with rich caraway, spicy mustard, and sweet celery seeds. Of course, you can use whatever seasonings you like, or none at all. Just be sure to start with the freshest cabbage and use a scale to measure the cabbage and the salt.

For a 3 liter or 3 quart vessel, use the quantities below. For a 1.5 liter or 2 quart container, cut these quantities in half:

3 lbs shredded or thinly sliced cabbage
1 oz canning, pickling, kosher, or sea salt (do not use iodized table salt for fermented products)
2 t caraway seeds
2 t yellow mustard seeds
1 t celery seeds

You may need a little extra brine which can be made by bringing 1 oz of salt and 1 qt of water to a boil.

1. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage. Rinse the head under cold running water and drain.

2. Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the cores. Shred or slice the cabbage thinly.

3. Put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl and toss with the salt and spices using clean hands.

4. Pack the cabbage firmly into your clean jar or other fermenting vessel until the salt draws the juices from the cabbage.

5. Place a clean weight on top of the cabbage to force the water out of the cabbage and keep it submerged in its own brine. You can use a clean jar filled with brine or a plastic Ziploc bag filled with brine as a weight. Just be sure that all the cabbage is submerged. If the cabbage hasn't exuded enough liquid to cover itself, then add enough brine to cover the cabbage.

6. Cover the jar and twist on the airlock. Add a little brine to the airlock. Keep at a temperature of 70-80 degrees F for 2-4 weeks until fully fermented. Kraut stored at 60-65 degrees F might take a little longer. Kraut stored at temperature below 60 degrees F may not ferment.

It's normal for the sauerkraut to produce some bubbles during fermentation. 

Today's bounty included:
From Weiser Family Farms: Russian Banana potatoes; 
From Jaime Farms: Cabbage, celery, radishes, hot-house zucchini, free range eggs, hot-house red peppers, romaine, cilantro, and parsley;
From Sage Mountain Farm: Scallions, green onions, spinach, spicy greens mix, and rainbow chard; From JR Organics: Baby carrots abd Red Russian kale.



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