Almost all traditional cultures from across the globe feature some form of fermented vegetable product as part of their cuisine.
Fermentation was originally used to preserve vegetables throughout the winter months. It has now largely gone out of fashion, replaced by modern less time consuming techniques such as the use of preservatives, canning and refrigeration.
This is an unfortunate change however, as a side effect of the fermentation process is that it turns the unexpecting vegetables into one of some of the most nourishing foods available!
The fermentation process has two main beneficial effects:
Provides a plentiful source of “good bacteria” which live symbiotically in our guts, helping us to digest food and fight infection thus boosting immunity.
Make the nutrients in the vegetables more available for digestion.
Plus they taste great of course!
As I mentioned before, there are loads of different varieties of fermented foods from across the world, but I’m going to start you off here with sauerkraut as 1) It’s probably the best well known and 2) It’s super easy to make.
*Obligatory Health Warning!*
Please bear in mind that although the risks of contamination from pathogenic bacteria are low, it is still possible, and you try this recipe at your own risk. Please take every care to ensure all your surfaces, utensils and equipment are thoroughly clean, as are you when you handle them. Use your senses – If the finished products looks or tastes off, it probably is!
Sharp Knife or Food Processor
Rolling Pin or Similar Blunt Object
Chop, shred or food process the cabbage. Whether you prefer big chunks, or finely shredded to a mush, the consistency is up to you.
Shake some salt over the cabbage. Don’t ask me exactly how much, as I’m not that kind of cook! I just liberally sprinkle it over as you might do over a plate of chips if you wanted them very salty (don’t lie and tell me you’ve never done such a thing!). Though I practice the addition of salt to my kraut as an art – Really it is more of a science. The right amount of salt prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria, while allowing the good bacteria to proliferate. To little salt and you might get some nasties growing in there, to much and it won’t ferment at all.
Stick the salted cabbage in your jar.
If you have some whey, you’ll have a little more leeway, as you can purposefully add a little less salt, but the whey will help the lactobacilli get established quickly and prevent any funky fungi taking root. Again, I add a dash.
Take your rolling pin or similar blunt object and pound the cabbage in the jar to release the juices (if you’ve food processed it you may be able to skip this step).
Ideally you should end up in a situation where the liquid submerges the cabbage. If not, simply top up the jar with some filtered water with a couple of teaspoons of salt mixed in until it is all covered.
Seal the jar and stick it in a cupboard.
Keep checking the jar every couple of days to ensure everything stays submerged. Sometimes the cabbage will unpack itself and rise above the level of the water. If it does, pack it back down using clean hands to the rolling pin and reseal the jar.
After a couple of weeks or so (maybe longer if its cold/you used a lot of salt) the sauerkraut should be ready. You can tell two ways:
1) The lid should open with a pop/fiz due to the build up of gas during the fermentation process (if not don’t worry though, your jar may just have a slight air leak, which is also no major worry)
2) The sauerkraut should have a sour taste (sauerkraut does literally mean sour cabbage after all).
The kraut goes great with strong cheeses, sausage and mash and smoked fish. You don’t want to be adding huge piles of it to your meals, but rather use it as a condiment. The sharpness helps cut through the tasty fat in your Primal meals.