Have You Tried This Beginner Fermenting Project?
One of my food storage goals for the new year is to incorporate fermenting into my plan. This process has been done for thousands of years and is an excellent way to get beneficial Lactic Acid Bacteria into your diet. In addition to freezing food, canning, and dehydrating, it is another preservation method I can use to provide for my family. Once I understood the process my first ferment went extremely well.
“Lacto-fermentation can reasonably be called ‘nature’s pickling’ because of the pH lowering effect of this lactic acid, despite the fact that there is no vinegar involved in lacto-fermentation. The acidification of the ferment is a byproduct of creating the right environment for the right microbes.” See NW Edibles for a detailed discussion of the benefits of fermenting food.
I already do a bit of fermenting when I make my own yogurt, but my husband won’t eat yogurt, and he’d still like to have the probiotic benefits. Sauerkraut is the answer.
What About Mold?
The process for turning cabbage into sauerkraut is so simple that anyone, with just a few tools, can do it. And while I know that people have been using crocks and cloth coverings for thousands of years, I decided to take the plunge and purchase some airlocks so I would not need to worry about mold growing on top of my kraut.
This article from Food Renegade “The 3 Biggest Fermenting Mistakes You’re Already Making,” was my deciding factor. When asked by a reader about scraping off the mold Lea responds with this “mold has roots. Far before you can see the mold on the top of your kraut, the spoilage has begun. I have experienced this myself — spoilage in the brine samples before I saw them with my eyes.”
Well – yuck! Mold can make you sick and scraping the mold off the top does not sound appealing to me. Ultimately it does not rid your kraut of it. I figure – why take the chance – especially as a beginner?
I purchased an airlock system
This kit with airlocks lets the kraut release carbon dioxide and keeps oxygen from coming in. This helps keep my sauerkraut ferment mold-free and there is no need to burp them daily. After 14 days on the counter, there was not one hint of mold growing. These are certainly handy for small batches.
Using an airlock is really simple. After your recipe is packed in the jar, you attach the airlock to the plastic lid opening so it is upright and secure.
Remove the white cap and add water to the fill line. The separate plastic float inside the airlock will rise with the water level. That’s all there is to it.
My First Ferment
I started with one small to medium head of cabbage, that had been washed and cored, and 1.5 teaspoons of sea salt.
Clean hands and supplies are important. Using a knife or mandoline vegetable slicer, shred the cabbage into smallish pieces. Place half the cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle half the salt over it. Add the second half of the cabbage and the rest of the salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
After it has had time to sit, take your clean hands and gently massage the cabbage until the leaves are wilted and a sea salt brine forms. When a briny liquid has been achieved, pack the cabbage into a mason jar.
You need to push it down and pack it in there tightly. Some people use their hands, a spoon or the handle of a meat tenderizer mallet. Whatever you use to pack it down just be sure that there is not any cabbage above the brine or it will have a higher chance of mold growing on top. If your brine does not cover the cabbage add some salt water until it is submerged. The ratio is 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water.
Place your Go Ferment Kit on the jar and ferment for 7-10 days at room temperature. You may need to check the liquid level for the first few days and add extra to keep the cabbage submerged. It’s important that the cabbage remains submerged in its liquid during fermentation. This will allow airflow, but prevent dust or insects from getting into the sauerkraut.
A bit of white foaminess is normal and after about a week the cabbage will begin to change color. It loses its green color and becomes translucent. This is what you are looking for!
Really, that’s all there is to it. You can begin tasting the fermenting sauerkraut after 3 days and see what level of ferment fits your tastebuds. After 7 days I thought mine was still too salty and 14 days seems to be the magic number for us. From The Kitchn – How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar: “the best rule of thumb is to keep tasting the kraut and refrigerate when it tastes good to you. The sauerkraut is safe to eat at every stage of the process, so there is no real minimum or maximum fermentation time.”
Once it tastes the way you want it to, remove the airlock, close the lid and keep your kraut in the refrigerator. Sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months, and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be.
This was such a success that going forward, I think we will always have a jar of sauerkraut fermenting on the counter. It is tasty, healthy and something I can get my family to eat. I call that a big win all around!
You can also purchase fermentation glass jar weights to keep the vegetables under the brine, but I did not find that this was necessary for my cabbage project. Perhaps it will be helpful when I start fermenting other vegetables.
There are affiliate links in this post. I received the GoFerment Kit at a 20% discount in exchange for using it and writing about my experience. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. I would recommend this product as an inexpensive way to begin fermenting.