Back in March of 2008 I found myself captivated by a discussion on KCRW's Good Food between the show's host Evan Kleiman and Local Forage co-editor Steven Fineberg about lacto-fermentation: a method of pickling vegetables that uses neither heat nor vinegar but rather natural fermentation processes. This method produces food that not only tastes delicious, but is also full of living microorganisms that are supposed to promote digestion, health, and overall well being. Plus it is simple and easy.
While Steve Fineberg uses whey from yogurt as a starter for his version, I did some additional reading and settled on a method given by Sandor Katz, self proclaimed "fermentation fetishist":
- 1 head of cabbage (preferably from your garden)
- medium size crock
- plate (slightly smaller than the crock)
- weight ( I used a mason jar filled with water and capped)
- clean kitchen towel to cover the crock.
- Get a good chef's knife or mandolin and shred the cabbage as fine as you can get it.
- Take a handful of the cabbage and toss it in to your crock.
- Add a few pinches of salt and mash the cabbage with a potato masher or drink muddler.
- Repeat until all your cabbage is in the crock. Taste a piece. It should be briny but not overwhelming.
- Pack your cabbage well and place your plate down inside the crock on top of the cabbage. Place your weight on top of the plate and then cover the your crock with a towel. Place somewhere out of the way on your kitchen counter.
- Now this next point is critical: check your crock after 24 hours. The salt should pull enough moisture out of the cabbage to completely cover the cabbage and plate. If not mix some water and salt and add to the crock to cover the cabbage and plate by an inch or two. Check occasionally and skim any "blooms" off the surface. Don't worry, this is a natural part of the process.
- Wait a few weeks. Take some out to try - the flavors will continue to develop over time. You can take a little bit out at a time and place in a separate jar in the refrigerator.
- Gold Mine Natural Foods - This is where Rachel purchased my crock - she also has a cousin who works here.
- KCRW Good Food - March 29th 2008 - this is a link to the webcast - scroll about halfway down for the segment.
- Wild Fermentation - this is Sandor Katz's website. I would really like to get his book.
- Boing Boing - Making Sauerkraut is Easy - I've been a regular Boing Boing reader but only came across the post when I was putting together this list of resources. It has photos and explanations of the process. Any similarities are entirely coincidental.