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Fun with fermentation

September 18, 2010

I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE fermenting stuff.

Jon is in the kitchen right now, feeding his fermenting sourdough starter. I’m deliberately trying not to drink the cider I got from the McMinnville Farmer’s Market so that it gets all fizzy and delicious. A vessel of kombucha is kombucha-ing on the counter. It’s all microbes in action. (Kind of like compost, which is the thing I love the most in this world.)

Anyway, I wanted to share a  fun thing to try at home this week, especially if you don’t know what to do with the head of cabbage in your CSA box.  It’s very easy. I made 5lbs of this stuff last week, because I love it, and because I don’t know yet how to make kimchee, which is probably the greatest fermented food ever made.

Sauerkraut! (the REAL sauerkraut! not that vinegar-y junk from the supermarket).

  • Coarsely shred your cabbage with a big knife, or with a food processor.
  • In a large ceramic crock or glass container (do NOT use plastic or metal!), combine your whole head of cabbage with about 2-3 tablespoons of pickling salt and mix well. Pickling salt has a finer grind to it and is purer than table salt, and usually performs better for this kind of thing. But you could get away with using regular salt.
  • Wait about 15 minutes until the juices start to flow and the cabbage wilts.
  • Press down on the cabbage (use your hands!) until all the juices come up to the surface and your cabbage is completely submerged.*  (Make sure you have at least 4 inches of space between the cabbage and the rim of the crock or you will get overflow. )
  • Add about 1/4 cup more pickling salt on top. **
  • Put a clean, inverted plate over the cabbage and weigh it down with a few quart jars filled with water and capped.
  • Keep the cabbage under brine throughout the fermentation. Cover with a towel and let stand in a cool place.
  • Check it every day… if scum forms on the top, just scoop it out and discard it. You’ll see gas bubbles until the fermentation is complete, usually 5-6 days.

You can actually can it at this point, or just put it in a jar in your fridge and eat it right away (better this way). Eating the “raw” fermented sauerkraut is a lot better for your belly than hot-packing and processing it and denaturing all those good enzymes. But if you make a LOT of it, by all means. It’ll last longer.

* If you don’t get enough juices out of your cabbage to fully submerge it, make a brine by boiling 4 1/2 tsp pickling salt and 4 cups water until salt is dissolved, and pour it over the cabbage.

** I like to add garlic cloves and hot peppers to the mix. But this is totally optional. I keep wishing it’ll end up as kimchee, but it never does.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob permalink
    September 20, 2010 1:47 am

    Okay, I have a dumb question that I should’ve asked a long time ago … how do you tell the difference between hot peppers and “sweet” (is that the right term?) peppers?

    • nadinelew permalink*
      September 20, 2010 4:48 am


      there are two long-ish pepper varieties that look similar. one is hot and the other is not really that hot. The milder one is called “Jimmy Nardello”, and are the greener ones. The hotter ones are “Hot Portugal” peppers, and they’re red, or turning red. These are the only two that are confusing, and you might have to just taste them to tell the difference. Other than that, there are mild “Alma Paprika” peppers, which are yellow-ish white and round, “Ancho”, which are dark green (mild), “Little bells”, mild small bell peppers and “Chocolate bells”, larger darker bell peppers. The HOT ones are the Jalapenos (which you know), and the tiny “Thai” peppers. This week, I clipped off a section of the plant with the peppers on them to put in your box. These are really, really hot.

      There’s also a variegated pepper called “Fish pepper” that is striped green and yellow, but there haven’t been many of those in the boxes yet. Not a great producer. also mild.

      hope that helps!


  2. Cat permalink
    September 21, 2010 5:43 pm

    eee! I’m so sad I didn’t sauerkraut my cabbage! I creamed it instead which makes me feel like it’s wintertime and my mommy and my gramma (you can see why I creamed by cabbage):
    cut up yer cabbage (save a corner of it to go into salads)
    put it in a pot
    add water up about half way to the top (you don’t need a ton, the cabbage will wilt and give juices too)
    salt and pepper lots and lots
    simmer that puppy until your cabbage is just tender
    pour out extra water/cabbage juice until it’s just juicy in the bottom, not standing water
    add several glug-glugs of half-and-half (or heavy cream)
    add a pat of butter
    turn heat down to low and let the cream and butter reduce (it may separate, no worries, it’s tasty regardless)
    eat er up. it reheats really well.

    Incidentally, you can do the same thing with carrots, and it’s outta this world. it’s the only way I enjoy carrots unless they’ve been roasted under your potroast all day…then they’re good. (guess what I’ma do with my carrots this week).

    • nadinelew permalink*
      September 21, 2010 6:19 pm

      are you saying you want me to bring over a pot roast?

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