From kombucha, to kimchi to sauerkraut, fermenting is all the rage. Lacto-fermented foods are part of the DIY resurgence in the food world because people are starting to pay attention to the health benefits of raw, non-pasteurized and naturally fermented foods.
Lacto-fermented foods are said to eliminate disease-causing bacteria and reintroduce friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, to the digestive system. Lacto-fermented foods can help boost metabolism, regulate blood pressure, strengthen the heart and fight disease. Not to mention, homemade fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, are alive with flavor. I was lucky enough to be invited to a sauerkraut-making party this weekend.
All you need to make your own kraut is cabbage, a non-reactive container and pure sea salt, without additives. Earthenware crocks are traditional, but you may use glass or food-grade plastic.
You can make 5 gallons in a large crock, or a quart of kraut in a mason jar in your kitchen. Our friends used Sandor Katz’s recipe from Wild Fermentation.
Basically, we shredded the cabbage on a wooden shredder, sprinkling salt between layers and tamping down each layer with a wooden tamper. If you don’t have a tamper, you may use your (clean) hands or a smaller pot that you push down over the kraut. When the crock is full, a weighted pot is placed on the surface to keep the cabbage submerged in the brine as the cabbage releases its liquid. The whole thing is covered with plastic or cloth to prevent contamination and left outdoors to ferment for about 6 weeks. This is about the right amount of time for San Francisco's average winter temperatures. A warmer environment will speed up the process and a colder one will slow it down. I did a tiny version on my counter in a quart jar, which took a week.
If you’re inspired to make your own kraut, here are some sources for supplies.
Wise Men Trading
A special board to hold down the kraut:
I was unable to locate a wooden tamper, so if anyone knows an online source, please post. Any Kitchen readers making your own lacto-fermented foods? Please share your stories.