Contrary to what most people think of what sauerkraut and pickles are, lacto-fermentation does not involve vinegar. In fact, vinegar kills the good bacteria that we are trying to grow and eat here! So in this fermentation process, the acid comes from the naturally occurring lactobacilli on the vegetables that have the ability to convert the sugars in the foods into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful and putrefying bacteria and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. It also increases the vitamin and enzyme levels of the foods.
In this sauerkraut recipe, only 2 ingredients are required - cabbage and salt.
It was April 2nd, my friends Liane and Emma came over for a sauerkraut making party.
We had 5 heads of cabbage. We patiently chopped them into thin shreds and put them in the biggest bowls I had in the kitchen.
We added sea salt to it (about 1-2 tsp for each head of cabbage) and gave the leaves a good massage. The salt draws the water out of the vegetables and creates a natural brine.
The fun part began - we started packing the cabbage down into a 1.5 liter ball jar with our fists to create an anaerobic environment by getting all air bubbles out. You can see that the cabbage was already softening and the moisture was coming out.
We were pushing and pushing until the brine started to rise to the top of the cabbage. Can you believe that we pushed almost 2 heads of cabbage into this 1.5 liter jar?
Finally after much muscle building exercise, we created these 3 little musketeers, 2 big and 1 small. To keep the cabbage under the brine so that no molds could form, we put a jar filled with water to weigh the content down.
Done! We covered each jar with a cloth secured by a rubber band so no bugs could get inside. The best temperature to ferment sauerkraut is 55-65 degrees and the ideal fermentation time is 2-4 weeks.
For the first couple of days, the cabbage was bubbling nicely - a good indication that the bacteria was feasting on the veggies, producing lactic acid to preserve the food. Now we'll just have to wait!
Summer Bock, a fermentation guru once said, "If I had to pick one thing, one assignment for everybody to go out and do, it would be to learn how to make your own sauerkraut."